Conference Report: 'Is The Politics "Truth" Still Thinkable?'
I don’t know how useful this article will be. Reports, transcripts and downloads have been available since shortly after the conference. I am a bit late to fulfil this function and the conference is no longer a ‘current event.’ I want to offer both reportage and also thoughts and conclusions in some form. It was a vital and happening occasion, with Zizek dramatizing the whole thing with his statements, and this may need to be critically evaluated and reflected upon. It was of course a ‘celebrity’ event, one where Zizek described his relationship with Alain Badiou (who was in the audience at the time) as akin to that between analyst and patient. He, Zizek, was the hysteric and Badiou the calm analyst. This gave it a genuine sense of authenticity so that one had to be careful not surrender critical judgement to the lure of the spectacle.
Therefore, as I remarked at the beginning of my review, posted on this site, of a talk by Ranciere, one cannot escape the inevitable thrill and awe of hearing living and ‘famous’ philosophers speak. This is impossible given that what happens is mediated by such auras in our culture. Also, we find that the events of thought have become inextricably attached to certain names. On the one hand thought is not personal and psychological and yet it comes from this mouth and through these oratorical gestures. Yet beyond these inevitable worries it was the experience of the direct manifestation or presentation of currents of thought which are shaping a certain direction of thought today. The conference, held on 25-26th November at Birkbeck college, was organized by Slavov Zizek. My view of him is heavily influenced by his book 'Organs without Bodies.' Here he attempts to set up an encounter between Deleuze and Hegel. His desire for encounter instead of dialogue (in this way affirming Deleuze) was disappointing because it lacked the rigor and 'fine differential mechanisms' of Deleuze's own practice of encounter. It seemed a grand gesture but without being convincing or structured. It seemed to me as if Deleuze was lost in the allure of a less rigorous creativity. The man himself was uncontrollable as a speaker - a ceaseless flow that no chairman could really control - and a great comedian. However, he ultimately justified this by feeding in ideas that were effective (without being worked out at length) in the discussions and by telling jokes that were extremely good.
Zizek opened the conference by describing the event as a 'closed conference.' This fed out of his dislike of ‘debate’ (as defined in liberal democracy and the relativistic equality of all ‘opinions’). Yet it also expressed decisively the whole tenor of European philosophy. Instead of thinking difference or within the limits of ethics, there is a determination that resistance and political subjectivity must now be thought without limits. As such this grand gesture was not necessarily empty but necessary and direct, setting the ground for a conference that had now to develop with rigorous interventions into the contemporary malaise. Thus he said 'We have nothing to say to the world.' The world demands tolerance and caution and yet Zizek calls for a wager or leap of faith. The new field of thought establishing itself takes as its condition that nothing is forbidden, that there be no compromises and that democracy is not an absolute. 'We just do it', he cried.
Alberto Toscano developed, in 'A Brief History of Fanaticism', Foucault's writing on the Iranian revolution. He explained that Foucault was writing during period when he was critical of Marxism. In this spirit he suggests that religion is not a mask or vehicle for other forces but a veritable 'crystallising force.' Here was developed a defence of the relationship of politics of truth by in this way combating the inevitable charge of fanaticism that is levelled against it. Religion represents a mode of social relations, a common will. For Toscano the aim seemed to be to do justice to the instance of egalitarian politics. This would be to treat the political subject in terms of its specific conditions of emergence and organization. However, for Foucault political practice can intensify thought and in the case of the Iranian revolution politics was not grounded in truth. Spiritual plebeian intervention, that of the common will, takes Foucault beyond historical materialism to fanaticism. This meant no determinate thinking of the nature of politics and a Rousseauean scene in Islamic government. This is non-teleological and non-political. Following the analysis of Foucault it was argued that the truth of the subject and dense historicality of the world must not be separated. The non-totalization of being diffuses fanaticism - as in Zizek's finitude and Badiou's mathematical secularization of finitude - to the extent that the enthusiast may become only a spectator. Yet the politics of truth - in the form of the political subject - overcomes this. Beyond the non-political to the event and its specific conditions. The conclusion was that the politics of truth must not be over-determined by fear or terror of fanaticism. If politics of truth is to be limited it needs to do this through itself rather than being limited in advance by a debilitating concern with the dangers of fanaticism. The reactionary concern with responsibility blunts political intervention and Toscano developed this through the history of thought.
Peter Hallward's paper, entitled 'Where is a Political World', began with a defence of spatiality. He wanted to revive the term 'front' as an operator that situates a political world. It divides and orientates the objects composing it. The concern was to supplement a politics of time with one of space, giving rise to an adaption of Marx's words: We must not just try to understand the world but attempt to ‘split it’. Biopolitics was critiqued for losing 'political edge' because it does not divide or draw into grasps. It distributes around the norm, in a fluid political space. Hallward made the significant claim that Ranciere, Deleuze and Badiou keep this 'political edge' only within an abstract space. As opposed to this alleged abstraction he wants to show how the subject takes on a body in a political space. Space is dense and full of points - which means that there is not just event and non-event but gradations and levels. Points structure a subject and Hallward argued that Badiou only includes this in his later work. Only the subject can 'connect the dots in its militancy' in 'Being and Event.' This neglects the structuring of territory as a basis of connecting. This analysis shows what kind of reader of Badiou Hallward is. His independent thought provides a productive counterpoint in his elaborations of Badiou's thought. The need for a ground for a 'front' launched the paper into an elaboration of the various meanings of the latter term. Being 'out front' - not behind, on the sides, on top or somewhere inside - is how the political world operates. Effrontery and shamelessness follow from this. It exposes something in it truth but also disguises and masks when it is a case of 'pitting on a brave front.' The offensive strategies of world war one show a front being draw in a place, connected to a particular territory. Yet the place is oriented towards the future and is mobile. This is attack and not defence, always moving forward. It is not just local, it is a front of something else. Hallward then moved to the weather fronts and their properly relational antagonism. Significantly, and continuing his critique of established and allegedly more temporal thinking, these terms are not created by their relations. They have distinct properties. He suggests that while Manuel Delanda would get ‘carried away’ with the fluidity of weather, the two fronts in the relation do not change that much. Moving to the character of a politics of truth, he suggests a ‘common front’ is formed out of the need to understand fronts that divide the situation. Forming a front is the ongoing commitment of crossing and holding a line. This front must be a cover because only particular people can take up universal equality. This is putting up a front - an outward appearance. This is called duplicity which divides how power works. It is opposed to enthusiastic spectators who form nothing distinct. In this way the operator, which is the political subject, requires spatial conditions opposed to fluidity because the latter does not allow the determination of such an operator in the first place. Resistance relies upon this determination and in this way connects with space in order to effect political truth. Given difference in ontology, there must be an operation of identity and Hallward brings in the spatial aspect of this with critical and productive effect.
During the questions Hallward added that the Stop The War movement suffered from having no location. It was too general because it was uncoupled from 'effective insertion into a political space.' In this sense it couldn't resist the continuation of this policy. Perhaps this means that a front must divide power not simply by opposing a policy with argument but in denying the operation of a whole system of power. Debate cuts protestors off from power because they can be integrated into its space. They need to effect a concentration that, in its singularity, effects a disruption of all power in the name of the universal. If everyone if different, everyone has their own difference, this perhaps seems to be only a state of consumerism that works through an integral disruption, satisfying the need to feel political. He went on to add to his remarks upon the deficit of spatial thinking in recent thought. He found that Badiou's evental site has no location and no content. This means that it can't be situated in relation to anything else. One wonders whether this might not be a strength that avoids the event being swallowed into a dialectic of the opposition of actual and given terms or concepts. However, this paper was a highlight of the conference. Alberto Toscano questioned whether the emphasis upon place tied the universal down to one place, as the only one where it could come through. He argued that Badiou's evental site was mobile and wondered if independent political activity was being precluded by limiting events to particular places. Zizek added that in Deleuze and Negri we have the celebration of the site which is not a site. But for him this misses the need for the filthy, real and fully embodied individual. Hallward developed this by suggesting that you can only choose the war if you dominate the enemy. This is making the best of the terrain you have, the reality of having little room for manoeuvre means that a politics of truth mustn't abstract from social conditions. In answer to further questions Toscano identified the etymological link between fanaticism and hallucination. This leads to the denial of political subjects. He pointed to the danger that this attitude leads to the political subject being the only one who is not doing anything.
Zizek added that if the proper moment for revolution has to be prepared for this can mean that nothing happens. This was very much the spirit of his remarks, ones made with spirit and great passion, throughout out the conference. It did leave one wondering whether these gestures stood up against the points put, particularly by Peter Hallward, concerning the need to contextualise situations. He added that ironical distance which avoids identification is part of the game of liberal capitalism. Postmodernism was given a hammering throughout the conference. This was the spirit of the moment and Zizek made this come alive dramatically. Yet in wanting to avoid ironic theatre Zizek was utterly theatrical – the grand gesture that perhaps became ironic in the face of Hallward's rigor. Perhaps that is why some criticise Zizek's popularity – how he is prone to be integrated into popular culture. Hallward defended his thesis further by saying that whilst you have the freedom to make something of what is given there is not the room for manoeuvre that Zizek claims. He pointed to the changing of spatial conditions and mechanisms over time in Palestine and areas of conflict. Spatiality changes and is pressing. Zizek ended the first day by declaring that the place of truth is here – adding to the gestures that had battled with Hallward's sober analysis.
The second day began with Lorenzo Chiesa speaking on 'Remarks Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Lacanian Truth and Marxian Materialism.' He set up Lacan's aim for a materialistic science of subject divided between knowledge and truth. The split of the cogito was opposed to unifying the subject as a closed set of knowledge. Knowledge does not bother much about the foundation of truth. Truth is the other of knowledge. Thus it is not a paradox to say 'I am lying.' Language is structurally incomplete, making truth unconscious enunciation. This the sentence becomes 'It says I am lying.' The question of a politics of truth was being opened up through the subject and not prior to its production. Chiesa thus sets up the encounter with knowledge as lack, something that is domesticated by science. The productivity of lack now emerges, truth is cause and psychoanalysis acts as a hope, giving it a privileged position. Lacan talked about 'men of truth' who were sustained by the lack, truth acting as a cause, and carry out the revolution of truth. This opening onto pure structure sets Lacan against the Marxists writing at the time. Chiesa showed how they closed any lack with knowledge and thus continued the concern articulated by Zizek that truth and the resistance that relies upon it may be lost if given, empirical conditions are allowed to dominate. Thus Marx is said to have failed to give rise to a new collectivity of Marxian subjects because of how he often came to be interpreted, in terms of economic science that stifled a Marxist power of truth. This reading was said to be the source of the reactionary dogmas of 'really existing socialism.' The singular emergence of truth as material cause must be combined with a politics based upon it.
Zizek's paper followed and opened by sketching the post-ideological era in terms of the events of New Orleans and Paris. These protests have no program and there was no positive vision. He affirmed the point (perhaps made by nearly all philosopher at all times) that the first task of philosophers is not to answer the questions set to it but to shift them. There is violence and counter-violence. Trying to understand terrorist beliefs from within is inevitably racist, according to Zizek. The other is made ridiculous. Resentment against inequality cannot be suspended. Zizek operated in this way a reduction of solutions to contemporary questions to their absurdity and failure. This being also the function of humour we can see this as the method at which he excels. In this way he seemed to be making a case for the 'untimely' in that only questions not posed and not given by present conditions could create change because they alone could overturn and overcome the stifling facts of the situation defined as contemporary or as ‘the real world.’
He then went on to give a powerful critique of facts, going against the concern to present these in the media. The unconscious knows no negation and this means that the signification of something that is true depends not merely upon itself. Facts are not neutral. Facts stated about a hated racial group might be true in certain cases but considering this alone fails to relate them to the implicit beliefs that give them their significance. Lying can be practiced in the guise of truth when it is produced by the beliefs of the situation. In this way Zizek built towards a critique of Laclau, for whom populism is a neutral matrix. The subject is constituted performatively by this matrix through the opposition of 'us against them.' Thus different struggles are part of a global antagonistic struggle. Particular groups stand in for the universal but none is privileged. Populism works by displacing the antagonism and constructing the enemy as positive. Demand is the ultimate horizon of politics. For Zizek Laclau neglects the concrete character of the figure of the enemy. Politics at its most radical, he argues, does not depend on demand. The political subject or agent does not precede the political process. The agent is constituted through its politicisation. The excess of antagonism over institutional democracy, in a post-political age, cannot be limited to the term 'populism.' This energetic attack upon Laclau continued as his view of political economy as an 'ontic science' was considered. This was taken to reduce the political to an epiphenomenon, ontology being a 'science of ghosts.' This he further characterised as a theological dimension at the heart of political economy. Laclau's populism was thus made to seem an inauthentic attempt to embody the excess of antagonism, one making it not the production of a subject but an ineffectual imagery. Cut off from the concrete and the external antagonism it reproduced a theological escape from thought and action.
He went on to describe capitalism as a formal transcendental matrix, thus siding with structuralist readings of Marx. In this light he read Badiou's notion of the transcendental as being for him what capitalism is for Marx. This was the horizon of a certain field of reality. Referring to a case where the excess of antagonism did not have the horizon needed for its realisation, where the conditions of this were not grasped, Zizek points to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He is a populist (claiming to be the voice of the people) because he cannot and does not dare to intervene radically into the social fabric. Nothing exceeds the limits of populism except the epiphenomenon it designates as ontological and outside of the friction of the concrete and its possibility for explosion. The left, he concluded, needs a political space outside the populist domain.
The questions began with Zizek being desperate to know what Lorenzo Cjiesa’s position was? Where are you? This need to take a stand was a demand to bury postmodernism in the rubble of an explosive intervention. Chiesa replied that he is asking what happens after the encounter with lack of material cause. How do we reinscribe the symbolic? This, he said, is where I am. The chairman, Costas Douzinas, wondered if Zizek's question was a good one to ask. This seemed a good point because the need to take a stand seemed empty if no groundwork had been done. It might be argued that Zizek was promoting a question or imperative of ungrounding, an dice-throw or aleatory point in the spirit of Deleuze. Yet Deleuze, as I read him, demanded critique preceded creation. The rigorous work that grounds the ungrounding question or imperative – this perhaps was what Chiesa was doing in his analysis, making Zizek's gestures seem empty, perhaps turning his criticism of Laclau upon himself. What if this is the wrong question because it repeats what is given, having failed to clear the ground. However, it is unfair of me to condemn Zizek in this way since this groundwork may be done in parts of his work with which I am not familiar.
Chiesa emphasised how, for Lacan, reinscription must be more profound than 'really existing socialism.' This reflected a key imperative of the conference: to recognise that the politics of truth was still open and in a way that the baggage of previous thought was not essential to it. It could only be an ungrounding (to continue the Deleuzian motif I am reading into this) if it was capable of being a repetition of difference, beginning again every time and this requiring an active forgetting. Zizek continued this theme by tackling belief as something 'outsourced.' Beliefs are located in others, they are objectified and this means our universe is not post-theological. In this sense they are seen as given rather than produced. Identity is not the enemy. He pointed to Lukács and his thinking of supreme sensitivity for grasping the moment, as opposed to universality of perspectives and consensus. This allows us to reassert truth out of conditions of contingency allowing universal truth to be approached only through subjectively engaged oppositions. Thus Zizek proclaimed we need an end to leaders who employ self-mocking and irony, not taking themselves seriously. We need not distrust leadership in all cases and circumstances, he argued.
Badiou added to the discussion by reading revolt not as the creation of a new subject but of a new problem, a national one. Adding to comments on the Paris riots he characterised the protestors as saying 'This country is my country but this state is not my state.' Revolt thus created a new visibility of the problem. In this was he drew the thinking of the event away from those things that are well recognised media 'events.' The Paris riots do not explain and exhaust a politics of truth. To think this is to exceed actual states of affairs. The state is not a state of the people and this contradiction is productive. Yet it is part of a process, one exceeding the terms of what happened in this case or a dialectic of actual cases. Zizek added that this visibility will be automatically integrated into liberal solutions. If we see these media events as problems they do indeed lose their singular power by becoming related to what is established and possible. Knowledge helps us to sort out the problem by relating them to what is known. Truth – to which the revolt is connected by expressing it in making it visible – would overturn these solutions and problems. Truth becomes the singular as opposed to the ordinary.
Zizek declared that he would never give up the idea of the minority standing for the 'voluntary will.' Given the limited time and many questions he certainly couldn't develop this but it opens onto questions concerning the politics of truth. In what sense is a will voluntary when it is a production that proceeds individual beings? The minority 'stands for' this will such that the voluntary is the exception, the place without place and by this mode it is authentically voluntary and true. It is the potential ‘becoming-minoritarian’ that makes genuine creation possible.
The last question of this session came from the chairman. He asked Zizek whether, in his popularity, he was the 'obscene other' of the bourgeoisie. This reflected not just Zizek's status but the danger that in his gestures he fails to break with how society works. Perhaps his Ideas are open to re-integration because they took a stand without clearing the ground. He reflected that his popularity is used against him, finding little comfort in it and feeling that what he was saying wasn't listened to. He complained of being reduced or nullified as the lone player, eccentric and not taken seriously, such that he was amusing and entertaining rather than effective. He pointed out that he worked as part of a team at his university, being not the caricature of a lone thinker.
The final session of the conference began with Alenka Zupancic presenting 'The Case of the Leaking Finitude: Remarks on Hegel and Comedy.' This was an account combining clarity with a broad reach. Taking Hegel's high valuation of comedy as something unusual, a Deleuzian approach where the neglected style and operation of thought effects a radical rethinking. Comedy invokes the physical residue, the human side of representation that is revealed by its failure. All the figures of the universal essence and its powers are exposed to laughter by Hegel, from the standpoint of the subjective and concrete. Because this is the work of the negative, Zupancic shows that comedy has necessity, universality and substantiality within Hegel's system. Its undermining of absolute power means that it becomes the only absolute power. It takes forward dialectic because it is not represented as being action but is the action itself. Zupancic argues that here the universal is revealed, where the negative power of comic movement, undermining the universal, is the universal itself. Added to this was the indestructibility of the comic universe such that it is not stopped by accidents. The comic also represents the loss of immediate self-identity where identity becomes absurd and self-defeating. This realises the becoming substance of subject because it splits and starts relating to itself. The comic relation becomes the movement of dialectic, offering masks rather than the tragic fusion of acts and their character. The subject emerges in another place because this 'comic subjectivity' is a gap through which the subject is related to itself and representing itself.
Zupancic references this to tragedy, a movement starting with the significant individual with a proper name. However, in comedy the subjective work of the universal must produce an object to which all spectators can relate. This, Zupancic argued, makes comedy’s materialism the materialism of the spirit. She referred to the movement of the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ as the production of the concrete universal. She developed this by taking the chapter titles from the book as reading like comedy titles. In this way Hegel was worked upon from inside, upon the basis of a thorough (within the limits of the time) and rigorous reading of his system. Comedy becomes a way of recognizing and dealing with the limits of human finitude. She then diagnosed our contemporary conditions on this basis as a great narrative of finitude. It is the new master signifier, allowing us to say ‘you are only finite so give yourself a break.’ If nobody is perfect then this implies nobody should worry or seek to the authenticity (whether in infinitude or the overhuman) when it cannot be achieved, nor should be. For Zupancic comedy is the antidote because it shows finitude corroded, something won’t go away and persists. She made use of Lacan’s contradicted finitude, where the radical negativity of desire makes it as a failed finitude. It has a leak in it, with Lacan locating the leak in incidents of the signifier and all phenomena that draw their life from the leak.
This is a paradoxical finitude which erodes finitude from within. Perhaps this the limit of the exercise of finitude. Zupancic referenced Badiou’s reading of Beckett as a writer of comedy. Immanence must mean including the whole or leak in the finitude (of course this reminds us of the Lacanian’s affection for Deleuze’s ‘Logic of Sense’). This was developed in terms of a topological space that generates physical notions. We are not infinite but also we are not even finite. Are we then ‘in between’? Between two terms of a circuit? Zupancic wants to oppose irony to comedy, the former pointing out the limits of the universal, of its concrete place of enunciation. Yet the comic spirit cuts across this opposition in order to attain the concrete universal. It includes the point of enunciation in the very statement. The leak, the paradox, functions within finitude – this seems to draw upon it is an infinite resource with a finite functioning. The place of enunciation is therefore what is universalizable.
Badiou’s paper was perhaps the most impressively presented because he alone stood at the lectern and he also delivered it with a gravity and style that wasn’t matched. He began with our suggesting that we are today beyond ‘classical revolutionary politics.’ A politics of truth must operate in ways that are not outmoded. It is expressive dialectics that are to be left behind. These are the modes of struggle, insurrection, revolution. The concentration of social contradictions in the moment, as purely singular and universal. The name of the big chief is then the symbolic expression of the becoming of classes. Badiou opposed to this the non-expressive political dialectics that would be without the ‘becoming-proper-name of the action of the masses.’ This new way of thinking and doing political actions was no longer to be the expression of the concentration of political contradiction. The political process is taken not to express but to separate. Perhaps the political ontology of Deleuze is being attacked here because there is no room for expression and no room for being cautious about political action. Badiou pointed to the separation of truth from perception in Plato. This was to take thought beyond contradiction, negation or becoming, to its separation as a politics of truth.
To further this critique the contemporary opposition or identity of law and desire was another limit to get beyond. A politics of truth seems to be blocked. Badiou sought to unblock using the model of a dish of fruit. This is a set, its elements are fruits. We have the good and delightful in the bowl. He added that this was a real object of desire after the fish and chips he had endured that day. If we add to the elements of the set also stones, dry mud, dead frogs etc., the bad and disgusting are present to. Now what can be said about the set. What are its subsets? All strawberry’s are a part of the dish, as are all the dead frogs. They are clear predicates or predicative parts. Yet what about the mix of contents? It is a part but without a clear name. You can give a list of elements but no synthetic name. Badiou then defined a law as the prescription of reasonable order. As a decision to accept as really existing only some parts of the dish of collective life. Parts with no name are forbidden by the law. The law says what exists and what does not. The latter is an unnameable part of the practical totality. A law, then, is always, a decision about existence. What exists is that which has a clear description. Desire is always of what does not exist. This makes true desire the desire of a monster – it affirms pure singularity across and beyond the normality.
Badiou then accepted that maths is very often linked to terror and claimed to always speak from a non-terrorist conception of maths. He brought in the theory of pure multiplicity in order to further unblock a politics of truth, perhaps, we might say, to liberate it from ‘the clamour of being.’ The constructible sub-set of a set has a clear description. This leads to the law of laws, of what is the possibility for a law. This axiom of constructability formulates a decision about existence. All multiplicity is under the law but the law is not a restriction of life and thinking. We don’t lose anything when we say this using mathematics. All parts of a clear definition are constructible. It makes one think of the opposition between art as law governed and art as ‘free expression’. One is reactionary and the other a desire satisfaction supposedly without direction but in fact directed by the creativity of capital. It is a false dichotomy. This point, I think, went beyond politics to the present need for philosophy to engage with mathematics, a pressing case being the need in this country for Deleuze’s scholars to put his use of mathematics at the heart of their readings.
Badiou described how the mathematician desires to go beyond the order of constructability to a mathematical monster. They want a law but their desire takes them beyond it. To find the object which is without name – how can I find a non-constructible set? Finding mathematical object without clear description of it. He refers us back to Paul Cohen’s set without specific predicates. This was a victory of desire over law. Like many other victories of this type, he proclaimed, this happened in the 1960s. Generic sets were then one of the revolutionary actions of the 1960s. Generic humanity is humanity in the movement of its emancipation in Marx. It is the becoming of the universality of human beings. The truth of sets is generic because the pure universality of multiplicity is not on the side of clear description. The divide between desire and genericity, on the one, and law and constructability, on the other, is not one that sets each against the other. It is a formal division only and we are complex compositions between the two. He characterized fascism as being on the side of giving meaning or classification to the situation and yet also being the complete destruction of the law in favour of a destruction of other objects through desire. Laws of death through genericity and constructability.
If revolutionary desire is a realization of the universal there is a fusion of law and desire. This is as a creative affirmation of humanity as such. Thus we have a law of life. This legalization of desire produces nomad desires. This is read by Badiou as a reactionary conception of desire, a dictatorship of normal desires. Democracy is a constructible conception of desire. In this way Badiou shows the need to inject a rigor into political thinking – free desire being always vulnerable to an expression of the forces they seek to escape. Democracy was thus the imposition of the construction of a completely clear political name everywhere. Badiou pointed to Iraq as a situation where this is made visible.
Badiou drew from this what he described as the most important political problem today, that of a new fiction. The process of truth is also, he said, the process of the new fiction. In Paris he saw no great fiction and therefore no real belief. This is not to be the historical moment of the masses under a proper name. We need another composition than the proper descriptions of twentieth century politics and fiction. The other composition was to be a final belief in the local possibility of finding something generic. This new form of courage created the real possibility of our new fiction, of a new localisation. This courage is reducible neither to law or desire and is the place of political action and not of political theory. It creates the local place for something generic, a generic will. He expressed his hope in this possibility of a place for our new fiction.
In answer to questions he added to this by describing the 'new courage' which we are after as different to that of contradiction, struggle, the negative and radical opposition. Instead it is the courage of the local experimentation of genericity. The classical is saturated and the masses, classes, parties and other proper names are ended. Global integration of action and proper names is to be left behind. We have neither truth or a fiction and we therefore need a form for the process of truth. Local events are pieces of truth. He saw the obligation to seize this newness in something having finished. Yet we cannot say absolutely that proper names have finished, the sequence of truths having come to an end. This I interpreted as the necessary modesty of a philosopher of events who did not want to claim to know which things are events. Otherwise we are lost in claims about whose opinion or reading of events is correct. He could not claim to know that this series of truth (as proper names) was finished but only to grasp the emergence of a different series. Badiou sees the need not to seem to be a prophet claiming to give out an approved list of events and to name the point at which certain series have ended. He returned to the Paris riots and the creation of a new visibility for inexistence, for which we have no place.
Zizek ended the conference by proclaiming that we would all be back like the Lacanian real, ‘in the spirit of separation.’
I think that what had really made the conference a success was the vitality of the theme along with the rigor of such notions as front, comedy, proper names and lack. I think it says a lot about the need for caution in the thought of a politics of truth. Postmodernism, liberalism and relativism cannot gag all thought, claiming it is fanatical, dangerous or cut off from the real world. Yet, if in taking a stand the rigor of thought is lost, the imperative and its potential will be betrayed. Philosophers should not abandon the future to the direction that capitalism is giving, one making even Marx a commodity for the shopping basket of leisurely, down to earth and accessible thought. Yet in opposing this thought must have the rigor that was at work a great deal during this conference.