The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic is the last in a trilogy of political-philosophical essays, preceded by Theory of Contradiction and On Ideology, written during the dark days at the end of the decade after May ‘68. With the late 1970’s “triumphant restoration” in Europe, China and the United States, Badiou and his collaborators return to Hegel with a Chinese twist. By translating, annotating and providing commentary to a contemporaneous text by Chinese Hegelian Zhang Shi Ying, Badiou and his collaborators attempt to diagnose the status of the dialectic in their common political and philosophical horizon. Readers of Badiou’s more recent work will find a crucial developmental step in his work in ontology and find echoes of his current project of a ‘communist hypothesis’. This translation is accompanied by a recent interview that questions Badiou on the discrepancies between this text and his current thought, on the nature of dialectics, negativity, modality and his understanding of the historical, political and geographical distance that his text introduces into the present.
‘Publishing The Rational Kernel of the Hegelian Dialectic today, in the meticulous edition provided by Tzuchien Tho, has the value of an event. This means that the great importance of this publication is not exhausted by its historic value, by documenting the early stages of what would become one of the most influential philosophies of our era. It has the value of an event by not being simply a moment in a narrative of development, but as a reiteration of a locus of thought, commitment, engagement and division. To say that this is ‘early Badiou’ is to raise the usual academic defence of periodization against the power of intervention and universality.’
Mladen Dolar, author of A Voice and Nothing More
Alain Badiou was born in Rabat, Morocco in 1937. He studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in the 1950s and, from 1969 until 1999, taught at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint Denis) before returning to ENS as the Chair of the philosophy department. Much of Badiou’s life has been shaped by his dedication to the consequences of the May 1968 revolt in Paris. Long a leading member of Union des jeunesses communistes de France (marxistes-léninistes), he remains, with Sylvain Lazarus and Natacha Michel, at the centre of L’Organisation Politique, a post-party organization concerned with direct popular intervention in a wide range of issues, including immigration, labor, and housing. Alain Badiou is the author of several successful novels and plays, as well as more than a dozen philosophical works.
Tzuchien Tho has recently defended a Ph.D. dissertation on Leibniz and infinitesimals. He has published in many areas of philosophy and has participated in earlier translations and editions of Badiou’s texts (The Concept of Model with ZL. Fraser also by re.press). He is currently associated researcher at Centre International d’Etude de la Philosophie Française Contemporaine at l’Ecole Normale Supérieure where he continues to work on historical and contemporary intersections between mathematics and philosophy.