The Case of Alain Badiou
By Slavoj Zizek
In the history of Marxism, the reference to psychoanalysis played a precise strategic role: psychoanalysis was expected to "close the gap" by explaining why, despite the presence of "objective" conditions for the revolutionary transformation, individuals willingly persisted in their enslavement to the ruling ideology (i.e., why they desired their subordination and even found a perverse satisfaction in it). Why did the masses prefer the Fascist temptation to the Communist revolution in the 1930s? Why did they let themselves be lured into dull satisfaction by the Sirens of the late-capitalist "society of consumption" in the 1960s? In short, psychoanalysis functioned as an ambiguous (necessary but dangerous) pharmakon invoked in order to supplement the inherent insufficiency of the Marxist theoretic edifice.
Today, however, with the apparent demise of Marxism, the entire situation has changed: the emerging post-Marxist "radical" political philosophy as a rule insists that psychoanalysis cannot provide access to the specific dimension of the political; useful as it is in clarifying the libidinal foundation of a multitude of "regressive" phenomena (from ethnic violence to the "apolitical" passivity of the postmodern subject), psychoanalysis cannot account for the miraculous emergence of an egalitarian democratic enthusiasm-of an unconditional demand for what Etienne Balibar called egaliberte. For that reason, the political use of psychoanalysis has always wound up in a justification of failure, in an explanation of why things had to go wrong.
The author who has provided the ultimate formulation of this critique of psychoanalysis is Alain Badiou. He deserves special attention insofar as his "post-Marxism" has nothing whatsoever to do with the fashionable deconstructionist dismissal of the alleged Marxist "essentialism"; on the contrary, he is unique in radically rejecting the deconstructionist doxa as a new form of pseudo-thought, as a contemporary version of sophism. Since Badiou is not yet well-known in Anglo-American academia, the basic outlines of his philosophy will be rehearsed here prior to offering a Lacanian response to his depiction of the limits of psychoanalysis.
The axis of Badiou's theoretic edifice is, as the title of his main work indicates, the gap between Being and Event.1 "Being" stands for the positive ontological order accessible to Knowledge, for the infinite multitude of that which presents itself in our experience, categorized by genus and species in terms of its properties. At bottom, as it were, lies the pure multiple, the not yet symbolically structured multitude of experience, that which is given; this multitude is not a multitude of Ones, since the counting has not yet taken place. What Badiou calls a "situation" is any particular consistent multitude (e.g., French society, modern art): a situation is structured, and it is its structure which allows us to "count" it "as One." Here, however, the first cracks in the ontological edifice of Being appear: in order for us to "count" it "as One," the reduplicatio proper to symbolization (symbolic inscription) of a situation must be at work, that is, in order for a situation to be "counted as One," its structure must always already involve a metastructure which designates it as One. (The signified structure of the situation must be redoubled in the symbolic network of signifiers.) When a situation is thus "counted as One," identified by its symbolic structure, we have the "state of the situation." (Badiou plays here on the ambiguity of the term state-"state of things" versus "State" in the political sense; there is no "state of society" without a "State" in which the structure of society is re-presented/redoubled.) This symbolic reduplicatio already involves the minimal dialectic of Void and Excess. The pure multiple of Being is not yet a multitude of Ones, since, as we have just seen, to have One the pure multiple must be "counted as One"; from the standpoint of the state of a situation, the preceding multiple can only appear as nothing, so nothing is the "proper name of Being as Being" prior to its symbolization. "Void" has been the central category of ontology from Democritean atomism onward: "atoms" are nothing but the configurations of Void. The "Excess" correlative to this Void takes two forms. On the one hand, each state of things involves at least one excessive element which, though clearly belonging to the situation, is not "counted" by it, properly included in it (e.g., the "nonintegrated" rabble in a societal situation): this element is presented, but not re-presented. On the other hand, there is an excess of re-presentation over presentation: the agency which brings about the passage from situation to its state (State in society) is always in excess relative to what it structures. In contrast to the impossible liberal dream of a State reduced to a service of civil society, State power is necessarily "excessive," that is, it never simply and transparently re-presents society, but acts as a violent intervention in what it re-presents.
This, then, is the structure of Being. From time to time, however, in a wholly contingent, unpredictable way, out of reach for the Knowledge of Being, an Event takes place which belongs to a wholly different dimension-that, precisely, of non-Being. Take, for example, French society in the late eighteenth century: what is accessible to Knowledge is the state of society-its strata, economic, political, and ideological fights, and so on; no Knowledge, however, enables us to predict or account for the properly unaccountable Event which consists in the so-called French Revolution. In this precise sense, an Event emerges ex nihilo. But the fact that it cannot be accounted for in the terms of the situation does not mean that it is simply an intervention from Outside or Beyond: it attaches itself, precisely, to the Void of every situation-to its inherent inconsistency and/or its Excess. The Event is the Truth of the situation, that which renders visible/readable what the "official" state of the situation had to "repress," but it is also always localized, that is, the Truth is always the Truth of a specific situation. The French Revolution is the Event that renders visible/readable the excesses and inconsistencies, the "lie," of the ancien regime; and it is the truth of the ancien regime situation-what is localized, or attaches to it. An Event thus involves its own series of determinations: the Event itself; its denomination ("French Revolution" not being an objective-categorizing designation but part of the Event itself, the way its participants or adherents perceived and symbolized their activity); its ultimate Goal (the society of fully realized emancipation, of freedom-equality-fraternity); its "operator" (the political movements struggling for the Revolution); and, last but not least, its subject (the agent who, on behalf of the Truth-Event, intervenes in the historical multiple of the situation and discerns/identifies in it the signs-effects of the Event). What defines the subject is his fidelity to the Event: coming after the Event, the subject persists in discerning its traces within the situation. "Subject," for Badiou, is thus a finite contingent emergence: not only is Truth not "subjective" in the sense of being subordinated to the subject's whims, but the subject himself is "serving the Truth" which transcends him; since he is never fully adequate to the infinite order of Truth, the subject always has to operate within a finite multiple of a situation in which he discerns the signs of Truth. Take, for example, Christianity (perhaps the example of the Truth-Event): the Event is Christ's advent and death; its ultimate Goal is the Last Judgment (the Redemption); its "operator" in the multiple of the historical situation is the Church; and its "subject" is the corps of believers who intervene in their situation on behalf of the Truth-Event, searching for the signs of God in it.
When Badiou speaks of "cette torsion symptomale de l'etre qu'est une verite dans le tissu toujours total des savoirs" (this symptomal torsion of being which is a truth in the always total texture of knowledges),2 every term bears weight here. The texture of Knowledge is always by definition total, that is, for the Knowledge of Being, there is no excess (a situation's excess or lack being visible only from the standpoint of the Event). From within the standpoint of the knowing servants of the State, of course, "problems" can be seen, but they are automatically reduced to local "difficulties" or contingent "errors": what Truth does is to render visible that (what Knowledge misperceives as) marginal malfunctionings and points of failure are a structural necessity. With regard to the ancien regime, for example, what the Truth-Event of the Revolution renders visible is that injustices are not marginal malfunctionings but effects of the very structure of the system, which is essentially "corrupt." Such an effect, when misperceived by the system as a local "abnormality," condenses the global "abnormality" of the system as such, in its entirety (what, in the Freudo-Marxian tradition, is called symptom). In psychoanalytic terms, lapses, dreams, compulsive formations and acts, and so forth, are "symptomal torsions" that render the Truth of the given individual inaccessible to Knowledge, which sees them as mere malfinctionings; in Marxist terms, an economic crisis is such a "symptomal torsion."
Today, when even the most radical intellectual readily succumbs to the compulsion to distance himself from communism, it seems appropriate to reassert the October Revolution as a Truth-Event defined against the opportunistic leftist "fools" and conservative "knaves." That revolution also allows us to clearly identify three ways to betray the event of Truth: (I) a simple disavowal, with a corresponding attempt to follow old patterns as if nothing had happened, as if it were just a minor disturbance (the reaction of the "utilitarian" liberal democracy); (2) the false imitation of the event of Truth (the Fascist staging of the conservative revolution as a pseudo-event); and (3) a direct ontologization of the event of Truth, with its reduction to a new positive order of Being (Stalinism).3 One can clearly grasp here the gap that separates Badiou's "Truth" from the deconstructionist notion of the "multitude of truths" (or, rather, "truth-effects"); for Badiou, truth is contingent, hinging as it does on a concrete historical situation-of which it is the truth. Nevertheless, in every concrete and contingent historical situation, there is one and only one Truth, which, once articulated, functions as the index of itself and of the falsity of the field subverted by it.
One of Badiou's main theses is that the pure multiple lacks the dignity of the proper object of thought: from Stalin to Derrida, the philosophical common sense has always insisted on infinite complexity (everything is interconnected, reality is so complex that it is accessible to us only in approximations, etc.); deconstruction is the latest version of this commonsense motif of "infinite complexity." Advocates of "anti-essentialist" identity politics, for example, tend to stress that there is no "woman in general," only White middle-class women, Black single mothers, lesbians, and so on and so forth, but such "insights" should be rejected as banalities unworthy of being considered objects of thought. The problem for philosophical thought resides precisely in how the universality of "woman" emerges from this "infinite" multitude, a problem that also enables one to rehabilitate the Hegelian distinction between bad ("spurious") and true infinity: the first refers to the commonsense infinite complexity, while the second concerns the infinity of an Event which transcends, precisely, the "infinite complexity" of its context. A homologous distinction can be drawn between historicism and historicity proper: historicism refers to the set of circumstances (economic, political, cultural, etc.) whose complex interactions allow us to account for a given event, while historicity proper involves the specific temporality of the Event and its aftermath, the span between the Event and its ultimate End (between Christ's death and the Last Judgment, between the October Revolution and communism, between falling in love and the accomplished bliss of living together).
Badiou is clearly and radically opposed to the postmodern anti-Platonic thrust whose basic dogma is that the era when it was still possible to ground a political movement in a direct reference to some eternal metaphysical or transcendental truth is definitely over, and, the experience of our century having proved that such a reference to some metaphysical a priori leads to catastrophic "totalitarian" social consequences, the only solution is to accept that we live in a new era deprived of metaphysical certainties, an era of contingency and conjectures, and in a "society of risks" that renders politics a matter of phronesis, of strategic judgments and dialogue, not of applying fundamental cognitive insights. What Badiou is aiming for, against this postmodern doxa, is precisely the resuscitation of the politics of (universal) Truth in today's conditions of global contingency. He would thus rehabilitate, in the current conditions of multiplicity and contingency, not only philosophy but the properly meta-physical dimension: the infinite Truth is "eternal" and meta relative to the temporal process of Being; it is a flash of Another Dimension which transcends the positivity of Being.
However, an Event does not entail any ontological guarantee: its status is radically undecidable; it cannot be reduced to (nor deduced or generated from) a (previous) situation, since it emerges "out of Nothing" (the Nothing that was the ontological truth of this previous situation). On that account, there is no neutral gaze of Knowledge which could discern the Event in its effects. A Decision for the Event is always already here (i.e., one can discern the signs of an Event in the situation only from a previous Decision for Truth), just as in Jansenist theology divine miracles are readable as such only to those who have already opted for Faith. A neutral historicist gaze will never see in the French Revolution a series of traces of the Event called "French Revolution," but merely a multitude of occurrences caught in the network of social determinations (and to an external gaze, Love is only a succession of psychical and physiological states).4 The engaged observer perceives positive historical occurrences as parts of the Event of the French Revolution only insofar as he observes them from the uniquely engaged standpoint of the Revolution. In Badiou's terms, an Event is self-referential in that it includes its own designation: the symbolic designation "French Revolution" is part of the designated content itself, since, if we subtract this designation, that content turns into a multitude of positive occurrences available to Knowledge. It is in this precise sense that an Event involves subjectivity: the engaged "subjective perspective" on the Event is part of the Event itself.
The Marxist thesis that the entire hitherto history is the history of class struggle already presupposes such an engaged subjectivity, for it is only from its partial point of view that the entire hitherto history appears as such-only from this "interested" perspective can traces of the class struggle be discerned in the entire social edifice, up to the highest cultural products. The answer to the obvious counterargument (that this very fact proves we are dealing with a distorted view, not with the true state of things) is that the allegedly "objective," "impartial" gaze is not neutral, but rather is the partial gaze of the winners, of the ruling classes. (No wonder the rhetoric of right-wing historical revisionists includes so many constructions like "let's approach the topic of the Holocaust in a cool objective way," "let's put it in context," and "let's look at the facts.") A theorist of the Communist revolution is not the one who, after establishing on the basis of objective study that the future belongs to the working class, decides to take its side and place his bets on the winner; the engaged view permeates his theory from the very outset. Within the Marxist tradition, this notion that partiality is not a positive condition of Truth was most clearly articulated by Georg Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness, as well as in a more messianic or proto-religious mode by Walter Benjamin in "Theses on the Philosophy of History." The "truth," for them, emerges when a victim, from his catastrophic position in the present, gains a sudden insight into the entire past as a series of catastrophes leading up to the victim's current predicament. So, when we read a text of Truth, we should be careful not to confuse the level of Knowledge with the level of Truth. In Marx himself, although he mainly used "proletariat" as a synonym for "the working class," one can nevertheless discern a clear tendency to conceive "the working class" as a descriptive term belonging to the domain of Knowledge (e.g., that class as the object of "neutral" sociological study, as a social stratum subdivided into components, etc.), whereas "proletariat" designates the operator of Truth, namely, the engaged agent of the revolutionary struggle.
An Event is thus circular in the sense that its identification is possible only from the standpoint of what Badiou calls "an interpreting intervention," meaning the perspective of those who accept the "wager" that such an Event exists. An intervention is any "procedure by means of which a multiple is recognized as Event." Moreover, "it would remain forever doubtful if there had been any Event at all, except for the intervening one [l'intervenant], who determined his belonging to the situation." 5 Fidelity to the Event consists of continually attempting to traverse the field of Knowledge from the standpoint of Event, of intervening in it and searching for the signs of Truth. Thus the difference between Event and its denomination: Event is the traumatic encounter with the Real (Christ's death, the historic shock of a revolution, etc.), while its denomination is its inscription into language (Christian doctrine, revolutionary consciousness, etc.). In Lacanese, Event is objet a, while denomination is the new signifier that establishes what Rimbaud called the New Order-for Badiou, the new readability of the situation on the basis of Decision.
Badiou calls the language in which the Truth-Event is purportedly denominated the "subject-language [[[langue]]-sujet]." This language is meaningless from the standpoint of Knowledge, which judges propositions according to their referents within the domain of positive Being (or according to the proper functioning of speech within the established symbolic order). When confronted with the subject-language of Christian redemption, revolutionary emancipation, or love, for example, Knowledge dismisses it all as empty phrases lacking any proper reference (i.e., as "political-messianic jargon," "poetic hermeticism," etc.). Imagine a man in love describing the features of his beloved to a friend who, not being himself in love with that particular person, will simply find this enthusiastic description meaningless-he will not get "the point" of it. In short, subject-language involves the logic of shibboleth, of a difference which is visible only from within. This, however, in no way means that a given subject-language involves another, "deeper" reference to a hidden, true referent; it is rather that subject-language "derails" or "unsettles" the standard use of language on the basis of its established meanings and leaves the reference "empty," but with a "wager" that this Void will be filled when the Goal is reached, that is, when Truth actualizes itself as a new situation (the reign of God on Earth, the emancipated society, etc.). The denomination of the Truth-Event is thus "empty" precisely insofar as it refers to the "fullness" yet to come.
From this brief description, one can already get a presentiment of what one may be tempted to term, in all naivete, the intuitive power of Badiou's notion of the subject, which effectively describes the experience each of us has when fully engaged, subjectively, in some Cause that is "our own." Isn't that when, in those precious moments, I fully am a subject? And doesn't this very feature make it ideological? That is to say, the first thing that strikes anyone versed in the history of French Marxism is how uncannily close Badiou's notion of Truth-Event comes to Althusser's notion of (ideological) interpellation. Is the process Badiou describes as Truth-Event not that of an individual interpellated into a subject by a Cause? Is the circular relationship between Event and subject (i.e., the subject serving the Event, which is itself only visible as such to an already engaged subject) not the very circle of ideology? Prior to constraining the notion of subject to ideology, that is, identifying the subject as such as ideological, Althusser briefly entertained the idea of subjectivity as comprising four modalities: the subject of ideology, the subject of art, the subject of the unconscious, and the subject of science. Badiou's four "generics of truth" (love, art, science, and politics) would seem to clearly parallel these four modalities of subjectivity (with love corresponding to the subject of the unconscious-the focus of psychoanalysis-and politics, of course, to the subject of ideology).
Is this identity between Truth-Event and ideology not further confirmed by futur anterieur as the specific temporality of generic procedures? Starting with the denomination of the Event (Christ's death, the Revolution), the generic procedure is to search for signs of the Event in the multiple with a view to the ultimate Goal, which will bring about full plenitude (Last Judgment, communism, or, for Mallarme, le Livre). Generic procedures thus involve a temporal loop: fidelity to the Event enables the historic multiple to be judged from the standpoint of the plenitude to come, but the arrival of this plenitude already involves the subjective act of Decision, or the Pascalian "wager." Take, for example, the democratic-egalitarian political Event: its reference to the Democratic Revolution enables history to be read as a continuous democratic struggle aimed at total emancipation, so the present situation is experienced as fundamentally "dislocated" or "out of joint" (the corruption of the ancien regime, the class society, the fallen terrestrial life) relative to the promise of a redeemed future. "Now," in subject-language, is always a time of antagonism, split between the corrupted "state of things" and the promise of Truth.
Badiou defines as "generic" the multiple within a situation that has no particular properties, the referent of which would enable us to classify it as its subspecies; the generic multiple belongs to the situation but is not properly included in it as its subspecies (the "rabble" in Hegel's philosophy of right, for example). Of course, Badiou simultaneously mobilizes the association of "generic" with "generating": this generic element is what enables us to generate the propositions of the subject-language in which Truth resonates. Generic is thus a multiple element/part of the situation that doesn't fit into it, that sticks out precisely insofar as it gives body (as it were) to the Being of the situation as such, subverting the situation by directly embodying its universality. With regard to this point, isn't it significant that Badiou's ultimate example of the Event is religion (Christianity from Paul to Pascal), as the arch-model of ideology, and that this Event, precisely, does not fit any of his four generiques of truth (love, art, science, and politics 6)? If we take Badiou's thought itself as a "situation" of Being, subdivided into four generics, however, doesn't religious ideology occupy precisely this generic place? Isn't religion itself his "symptomal torsion," the element which belongs to the domain of Truth without being one of its acknowledged parts or subspecies? This would seem to confirm that the Truth-Event consists in the elementary ideological gesture of interpellating individuals (parts of a "situation" of Being) into subjects (bearers/followers of Truth). It is tempting to go one step further, given that Badiou's paradigmatic example of Truth-Event is not religion in general but Christianity in particular, the religion centered on the Event of Christ's advent and death. (As was pointed out by Kierkegaard, Christianity inverts the standard metaphysical relationship between eternity and time, with eternity in a sense hinging on a temporal event, Christ.) Perhaps, then, Badiou can also be read as the last great author in the French tradition of Catholic dogmaticists that began with Pascal and Malebranche (suffice it to recall that two of his key references are Pascal and Claudel). The parallel between revolutionary Marxism and messianic Christianity was a commonplace among liberal critics like Bertrand Russell, who dismissed Marxism as a secular messianic ideology; Badiou, by contrast (following a line from the later Engels to Fredric Jameson), fully endorses this homology.
Badiou passionately defends Paul for having articulated the Christian Truth-Event-Christ's Resurrection-as the "universal singular" (a singular event which interpellates individuals into subjects universally, irrespective of their race, sex, social class, etc.), along with the conditions of fidelity to it.' Of course, Badiou is well aware that today, in our era of modern science, we are no longer inclined to accept as the form of the Truth-Event the fable of the miraculous Resurrection, although the Truth-Event invariably designates the occurrence of something which, from within the horizon of the predominant order of Knowledge, appears to be impossible (as witness the laughter with which Athenian philosophers greeted Paul's announcement of the Resurrection upon his arrival there). Today, any positing of the Truth-Event at the level of the supernatural or the miraculous necessarily entails a regression to obscurantism, since the Event of Science is irrefutable and cannot be undone. Today, we can accept as Truth-Events (i.e., intrusions of the traumatic Real, which shatters the predominant symbolic texture) only those occurrences that take place in a universe compatible with scientific knowledge, even if they happen at its borders and place its presuppositions in question. The "sites" of the Event are now scientific discovery itself, as well as political act, artistic invention, and psychoanalytic confrontation with Love. Apropos of Paul, Badiou tackles the problem of locating his position relative to the four generics that generate effective truths. His solution is to propose Paul as the antiphilosophical theoretician of the formal conditions of the truth-procedure, since he provided the first detailed articulation of how fidelity to a Truth-Event operates in its universal dimension: the excessive (surnumeraire) Real of a Truth-Event ("Resurrection"), emerging by means of grace (i.e., it cannot be accounted for in terms of the constituents of the given situation), sets in motion-in those subjects who recognize themselves in its call-the militant "work of Love," or the struggle to propagate, with persistent fidelity, this Truth in its universal scope (i.e., as concerning everyone).
So, although Paul's particular message may no longer be operative for us, the terms in which he formulated the operative mode of Christianity apply to every Truth-Event. Each Truth-Event leads to a kind of "Resurrection," that is, by means of fidelity to it and a labor of love on its behalf, one enters another dimension irreducible to a mere service des biens (the smooth running of affairs in the domain of Being)-the dimension of Immortality, of Life not encumbered by death. Nevertheless, the problem remains of how it was possible for the first and still most pertinent description of the operation of fidelity to a Truth-Event to occur apropos of a Truth-Event that was a mere semblance, not an effective Truth. From the Hegelian standpoint, there is a deep necessity to this, confirmed by the fact that the twentieth-century philosopher who provided the definitive description of an authentic political act (Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit) got seduced by a fake political act, that is, one which was not an effective Truth-Event (Nazism). So it is as if rendering the formal structure of fidelity to the Truth-Event means doing so apropos of an Event which is merely its own semblance. Perhaps the lesson in this is more radical than it may appear: What if what Badiou calls Truth-Event is, at its most radical, a purely formal act of decision, not only not grounded in an effective Truth but ultimately indifferent to the precise status (effective or fabulous) of the Truth-Event to which it refers? What if we are dealing here with a key component of the Truth-Event, notably, that true fidelity to the Event is "dogmatic" in precisely the sense of unconditional Faith, of an attitude which, not needing any grounds, cannot be refuted by any argument?
Paradoxically, this topic of Pauline Christianity is crucial to Badiou's confrontation with psychoanalysis.7 In adamantly opposing the Truth-Event to the death drive, to what he repeatedly calls the "morbid obsession with death," he is at his weakest, succumbing to the temptation of the nonthought. It is indeed symptomatic that Badiou is compelled to identify the liberaldemocratic service des biens, the smooth running of things in the positivity of Being where "nothing effectively happens," with the "morbid obsession with death." One can easily see the element of truth in this equation: the mere service des biens, deprived of the dimension of Truth and far from able to function as the "healthy" everyday life that is not bothered by "eternal" questions, necessarily regresses to nihilistic morbidity. In Christian terms, there is true Life only in Christ, so life outside the Event of Christ sooner or later turns into its opposite, a morbid decadence; when one's life is dedicated to an excess of pleasures, these very pleasures are sooner or later spoiled. At the same time, it is important to emphasize here what Lacan calls the space or distance between the two deaths: in order to be able to open oneself up to the true life of Eternity, one's attachment to "this" life must be suspended for entry into the domain of ate, the domain between the two deaths, the domain of the "undead."
This point is worthy of a more detailed examination, since it condenses the gap that separates Badiou from Lacan and psychoanalysis in general. Badiou, of course, is well aware of the two Deaths (and two Lives) entailed by the Pauline opposition of Life and Death (or Spirit/Life vs. Flesh/Death), one that has nothing to do with the biological distinction between life and death as stages of the generation-corruption cycle, or with the standard Platonic opposition of Soul and Body. For Paul, "Life" and "Death," Spirit and Flesh, designate two subjective stances, two ways of living one's life. This leads Badiou to interpret Christianity as radically dissociating Death and Resurrection: not only are they not the same, they are not even dialectically interconnected in the sense that the price of Eternal Life is the suffering which redeems our sins. For Badiou, Christ's death on the crossGod's having had to become man and die (to suffer the fate of all flesh) in order to be resurrected-simply signals that Eternal Life is accessible to humanity, to all men qua finite mortal beings, that each of us can be touched by the grace of the Truth-Event and enter the domain of Eternal Life. Badiou is openly anti-Hegelian here: there is no dialectic of Life and Death, no emergence of the Truth-Event of Resurrection as the magic that turns negativity into positivity once we are fully ready to "tarry with the negative," to assume our mortality and suffering in its most radical form. This Truth-Event is simply a radical New Beginning, accompanied by the violent, traumatic, and contingent intrusion of Another Dimension that is not "mediated" by the domain of terrestrial finitude and corruption.
One must accordingly avoid the pitfalls of the morbid masochist morality which perceives suffering as inherently redeeming; this morality, remaining within the confines of the Law (which demands that a price be paid for admission to Eternal Life), has thus not attained the level of properly Christian Love. As Badiou sees it, the Truth-Event is not Christ's death in itself, which just prepares the site for the Event (Resurrection) by asserting the identity of God and Man, that is, if the infinite dimension of Immortal Truth is also accessible to a finite/mortal human being, then what ultimately matters is only the Resurrection of the dead (mortal/human) Christ because it signals that every human being can be redeemed and can participate in the Truth-Event. Therein resides the message of Christianity: the positivity of Being, the Order of Cosmos regulated by its Laws, which is the domain of finitude and mortality, is not "all there is." (From the standpoint of Cosmos, of the totality of positive Being, we are just particular beings determined by our specific place in the global order, with the Law ultimately another name for the Order of Cosmic Justice which allocates to each of us our proper place.) Rather, there is Another Dimension, that of True Life in Love, accessible to all of us through divine grace. Christian Revelation is thus an example (the example) of how we, human beings, are not limited to the positivity of Being, since from time to time, in a contingent and unpredictable way, a Truth-Event can occur which opens up the possibility of our participation in Another Life by means of a persistent fidelity to that Event. The interesting thing to note here is how Badiou inverts the standard opposition of universal Law and accidental Grace (or charisma), that is, the idea that we are all subject to divine law, whereas only some of us can be touched by grace and thus redeemed. In Badiou's reading of Paul, it is rather law (however "universal" it may appear to be) that is ultimately "particularist" (a legal order always imposing specific duties and rights on us, as well as always defining a specific community at the expense of excluding members of other communities), while divine grace is truly universal (i.e., nonexclusionary), available to all human beings regardless of race, sex, or social status.
Corresponding to the two lives (the finite biological life and the Eternal Life of participation in the Truth-Event of Resurrection) are two deaths: (biological) death and Death, in the sense of going the "way of the flesh." How does Paul determine this opposition of Life and Death as two opposing subjective, existential attitudes? Here we get to the crux of Badiou's argument, which also pertains to psychoanalysis, for the opposition of Death and Life overlaps with the opposition of Law and Love. For Paul, succumbing to the temptations of the flesh does not simply mean indulging in unbridled worldly pursuits (of pleasure, power, wealth, etc.), heedless of the Law (or moral prohibitions). On the contrary, his central tenet, elaborated in what is probably the (deservedly) most famous passage in his Epistles (Romans 7:7-I8), is that there was no Sin prior to or independent of the Law, that what preceded the Law was the simple, innocent prelapsarian life once and forever lost to us mortal human beings. The universe in which we live, our "way of the flesh," is one in which Sin and Law, desire and its prohibition, are inextricably twined, and it is the very act of Prohibition that gives rise to the desire for its transgression, or fixes our desire on the prohibited object:
What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.... I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
The direct result of the intervention of the Law is thus to divide the subject, introducing a morbid confusion between life and death, between the (conscious) obedience of the Law and the (unconscious) desire for its transgression that is generated by the legal prohibition. It is not me, the subject, who transgresses the Law but (nonsubjectivized) "Sin" itself, the sinful impulses in which I do not recognize myself and that I even hate. Because of this split, my (conscious) Self is ultimately experienced as "dead," as deprived of living impetus, while "life," the ecstatic affirmation of living energy, can only appear in the guise of "Sin," of a transgression which gives rise to a morbid sense of guilt. My actual life-impulse, my desire, appears to me as an autonomous foreign automatism which insists on and follows its own path regardless of my conscious Will and intentions.
Paul's problem is thus not the standard morbid moralistic one (how to crush my transgressive impulses, how finally to purify myself of sinful impulses) but its exact opposite: How can I break out of this vicious cycle of Law and desire, of the Prohibition and its transgression, within which I can assert my passion for life only as its opposite, a morbid death drive? How would it be possible for me to experience my "life drive" not as a foreign automatism, a blind "compulsion to repeat" which compels me to transgress the Law (with the unacknowledged complicity of the Law itself), but as a fully subjectivized, positive yes! Here, Paul (like Badiou) seems to fully endorse Hegel's point that there is Evil only in the gaze that perceives it, while it is the Law that not only opens up and sustains the domain of Sin, of sinful impulses to transgress its prohibitions, but also finds a perverse and morbid satisfaction in making us feel guilty for such transgressions. The ultimate results of the Rule of Law are thus all the well-known twists and paradoxes of the superego; since I can enjoy only what I feel guilty about, I can find enjoyment only, in (a self-reflective) turn, in feeling guilty, in punishing myself for sinful thoughts, and so on and so forth. When Badiou speaks of the "morbid fascination of the death drive," therefore, he is not resorting to platitudes, but articulating a specific Pauline reading of psychoanalytic notions to do with the complex entanglement of Law and desire, this morbid intertwinement of life and death in which the "dead" letter of the Law perverts my very life-enjoyment, turning it into a fascination with death. In this perverted universe the ascetic who whips himself on behalf of the Law enjoys himself more intensely than anyone who takes an innocent pleasure in worldly delights, for it is not only the illicit sinful desires (i.e., those that are against the Law) which Paul considers "the way of the flesh" (as opposed to "the way of the Spirit"). "Flesh" includes both what is against the Law and the excessive self-torturing, self-mortifying, morbid fascination with the flesh that is begotten by the Law. As Badiou emphasizes, Paul comes unexpectedly close here to his great detractor Nietzsche, whose problem was also that of how we can break out of the vicious cycle of a morbid, self-mortifying denial of Life: the Christian "way of the Spirit" is for Nietzsche precisely the magic rupture, the New Beginning which delivers us from this morbidly debilitating deadlock and enables us to open ourselves to the Eternal Life of Love without Sin (i.e., without the Law and the guilt induced by the Law).
Here we have two divisions of the subject, which are not to be confused. On the one hand, the subject of the Law is divided between his conscious ego, which adheres to the letter of the Law, and his decentered desire, whichoperating against the subject's conscious will, "automatically"-compels him to "do what he hates," to transgress the Law and indulge in illicit jouissance. On the other hand, we have the more radical division between this entire domain of the Law/desire, of the prohibition that generates its own transgression, and a properly Christian Love, the New Beginning of which means breaking out of the deadlock of Law and its transgression.
Where does the Lacanian "divided subject" stand in relation to each of these divisions? At first glance, the answer to this question may appear to be simple and straightforward: psychoanalysis is the theory that conceptualizes-brings to light-the paradoxical structure of the first division. Isn't Badiou's description of the intertwinement of Law and desire full of implicit (and even some explicit) references to or paraphrases of Lacan? Isn't the ultimate domain of psychoanalysis the intersection of the (symbolic) Law and desire? Isn't the multitude of perverse satisfactions the form in which that very intersection is realized? Isn't the Lacanian division of the subject one that concerns precisely the subject's relationship to the symbolic Law? Furthermore, isn't that ultimately confirmed by Lacan's Kant avec Sade, in which the Sadean universe of morbid perversion is posited as the "truth" of the most radical assertion of the moral weight of symbolic Law in human history (Kantian ethics)?8 However, the crucial question with regard to psychoanalysis here is whether it remains within the confines of this morbid/masochistic obsession with death, this perverse intermingling of Life and Death that characterizes the dialectics of a prohibitory Law generating a transgressive desire. Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to start with Lacan's own recourse to that same passage from Paul's Epistle to the Romans in elaborating the link between Law and desire, where he refers to the availability of "the Thing" (the impossible object of jouissance) via only the prohibitory Law, as its transgression:
Is the Law the Thing? Certainly not. Yet I can only know of the Thing by means of the Law. In effect, I would not have had the idea to covet it if the Law hadn't said: "Thou shalt not covet it." But the Thing finds a way by producing in me all kinds of covetousness thanks to the commandment, for without the Law the Thing is dead. But even without the Law, I was once alive. But when the commandment appeared, the Thing flared up, returned once again, I met my death. And for me, the commandment that was supposed to lead to life turned out to lead to death, for the Thing found a way and thanks to the commandment seduced me; through it I came to desire death. I believe that for a little while now some of you at least have begun to suspect that it is no longer I who have been speaking. In fact, with one small change, namely, "Thing" for "sin," this is the speech of Saint Paul on the subject of the relations between the law and sin in the Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 7, paragraph 7.
The relationship between the Thing and the Law could not be better defined than in these terms.... The dialectical relationship between desire and the Law causes our desire to flare up only in relation to the Law, through which it becomes the desire for death. It is only because of the Law that sin . . . takes on an excessive, hyperbolic character. Freud's discovery-the ethics of psychoanalysis-does it leave us clinging to that dialectic?9
Crucial here is the concluding question, which clearly points toward there being, for Lacan, "a way of rediscovering the relationship to das Ding somewhere beyond the Law." The whole point of "the ethics of psychoanalysis" is to formulate the possibility of such a relationship, which would avoid the pitfalls of superegoic culpability and "morbid" enjoyment in sin, while also avoiding what Kant called Schwarmerei, the obscurantist claim to give word to (and thus legitimize one's position by reference to) spiritual illumination, or direct insight into the impossible Real Thing.10 The desire to which Lacan refers in his maxim of psychoanalytic ethics, "ne pas ceder sur son desir" (not to compromise, or give way on, one's desire), is no longer transgressive or, consequently, involved in a "morbid" dialectic with the prohibitory Law; it is rather one's own desire, to which one owes fidelity-desire elevated to the level of ethical Duty. Thus "ne pas ceder sur son desir" is ultimately another way of saying "do your duty!"11
It would thus be tempting to risk a Badiouan/Pauline reading of the end of psychoanalysis-which is to say, a New Beginning or symbolic "rebirth"-with the analysand's subjectivity radically restructured such that the vicious cycle of the superego is suspended, left behind. (Doesn't Lacan himself drop many hints that the end of analysis opens up the domain of Love beyond Law, using the same Pauline terms as Badiou? 12) Nevertheless, Lacan's way is not that of Paul or Badiou: psychoanalysis is not "psychosynthesis"; it does not posit a "new harmony," a new Truth-Event, but merely wipes the slate clean for it. This "merely," however, should be put in quotation marks because it is Lacan's contention that, in this negative gesture of "wiping the slate clean," something (a Void) is confronted which is already "sutured" with the arrival of a new Truth-Event. For Lacan, negativity-a negative gesture of withdrawal-precedes any positive gesture of enthusiastic identification with a Cause, functioning as its condition of (im)possibility, that is, laying the ground or opening up the space for it, but simultaneously being obfuscated by it and undermining it. For that reason, Lacan implicitly shifts the balance between Death and Resurrection toward Death, which at its most radical stands for not merely the passing of earthly life but the "night of the world," the self-withdrawal, the absolute contraction of subjectivity in which its very links with "reality" are severed-this is "wiping the slate clean," which opens up the domain of the symbolic New Beginning and enables the emergence of the "new harmony" sustained by a newly emerged Master-Signifier.
Here, Lacan parts company with Paul and Badiou: God not only is dead, but was always already dead. After Freud, one could not place one's faith in a Truth-Event, since every such Event ultimately remains a semblance obfuscating a prior Void whose Freudian name is death drive. So where Lacan differs from Badiou is in the determination of the exact status of this domain beyond the Rule of Law. Like Badiou, Lacan delineates the contours of a domain beyond the Order of Being, beyond the politics of service des biens, beyond the "morbid" superegoic intersection of Law and its transgressive desire. However, for Lacan, the Freudian concept of death drive cannot be accounted for in terms of this intersection; the death drive is not the outcome of a morbid confusion of Life and Death caused by the intervention of the symbolic Law. The uncanny domain beyond the Order of Being is what Lacan calls the domain "between the two deaths," the preontological domain of monstrous spectral apparitions, which is "immortal" yet not in Badiou's sense of the immortality of participating in Truth, but rather in the sense of what Lacan calls lamella-the monstrous "undead" object-libido. This domain, in which Oedipus (or King Lear, to take another exemplary case) finds himself after the fall, when his symbolic destiny has been fulfilled, is for Lacan "beyond the Law." In his reading of the Oedipus myth, the early Lacan was already focusing on what the standard version of the Oedipus complex leaves out of sight: the first figure of what is "beyond Oedipus," which is Oedipus himself after he has fulfilled his destiny to the bitter end: the horrifying figure of Oedipus at Colonus, that embittered old man with his thoroughly uncompromising attitude, cursing everyone around him. Doesn't this figure confront us with the inherent deadlock, the impossibility of jouissance, concealed by its Prohibition? Wasn't Oedipus the one who transgressed the Prohibition and paid the price for it in having to assume this impossibility? Lacan exemplifies the status of Oedipus at Colonus by comparison with that of the unfortunate Mr. Valdemar, the famous Poe character who, via hypnosis, is put to death and then, reawakening, implores the observers of this horrible experiment: "For God's sake!-quick!-quick!-put me to sleep-or, quick!-waken me! quick!-I say to you that I am dead!" Upon being awakened, Mr. Valdemar, says Lacan,
is no more than a disgusting liquefaction, something for which no language has a name, the naked apparition, pure, simple, brutal, of this figure which it is impossible to gaze at face on, which hovers in the background of all the imaginings of human destiny, which is beyond all qualification, and for which the word carrion is completely inadequate, the complete collapse of this species of swelling that is lifethe bubble bursts and dissolves down into inanimate putrid liquid.
That is what happens in the case of Oedipus. As everything right from the start of the tragedy goes to show, Oedipus is nothing more than the scum of the earth, the refuse, the residue, a thing empty of any plausible appearance.l3
The ultimate object of horror is this sudden emergence of the "life beyond death," of the undead-indestructible object, of Life deprived of any support in the symbolic order. This is perhaps not unrelated to today's phenomenon of cyberspace: the more our (experience of) reality is "virtualized"-changed into a "screen phenomenon" or interface encounterthe more the "indivisible remainder," that which resists integration into the interface, appears as the horrifying remainder of the undead Life. No wonder images of such a formless "undead" substance of Life abound in today's science fiction/horror narratives, from Alien on. Let us recall the scene from Terry Gilliam's Brazil in which a waiter in a high-class restaurant recommends the daily specials to his customers ("Today, our tournedos is really special!"), yet what they get is a dazzling color photo of the meal they've ordered on a stand above the plate, and on the plate itself a loathsome excremental, pastelike lump. This split between the food's image and the real of its formless excremental remainder perfectly exemplifies the disintegration of reality into an interface image, ghostlike and insubstantial, and the raw stuff of the remainder of the Real-our obsession with which is the price we have to pay for the suspension of the paternal Prohibition/Law that sustains and guarantees our access to reality. And, of course, Lacan's point is that, if one exploits to the limit the potentials opened up by our existence as parletres ("beings of language"), one sooner or later finds oneself in this horrifying in-between state, the threatening possibility of which looms over each of us.
This "indivisible remainder," this formless stain of the "little piece of the real" that "is" Oedipus after the fulfillment of his symbolic Destiny, is the direct embodiment of what Lacan calls plus-de-jouir, the "surplusenjoyment" or excess that cannot be accommodated by any symbolic idealization. In Lacan's use of the term, of course, there is a play upon the French ambiguity of "excess of enjoyment" versus "no longer any enjoyment"; on this model, it is tempting to speak here, apropos of this formless "indivisible remainder" that is Oedipus, of a case of plus d'homme: "excessively human," he has lived, to the bitter end, the "human condition," realizing its most fundamental possibility, and, on that very account, he is in a way "no longer human," having turned into an "inhuman monster" bound by no human laws and considerations. As Lacan emphasizes, there are two main ways to cope with this "remainder": on the one hand, traditional humanism disavows it, avoids confronting it, covers it up by means of idealizations (i.e., concealing it with noble images of Humanity); on the other hand, the ruthless and boundless capitalist economy, as it were, puts this excess/remainder to use, manipulating it in order to keep its productive machinery in perpetual motion (as they usually put it-there being no desire, no depravity, too low to exploit for capitalist profiteering). At this point, when Oedipus has been reduced to the "scum of humanity," we again encounter the ambiguous relationship (or, in Hegelese, the speculative identity) between the lowest and the highest, between the excremental scum and the sacred, for now, all of a sudden, messengers from different cities appear and vie for Oedipus's favor, asking him to bless their hometowns with his presence, to which the embittered Oedipus responds with the famous lines:
Am I to be counted as something according to some readings: as a man only now, when I am reduced to nothing when I am no longer human? Don't these lines expose the elementary matrix of subjectivity: you become "something" (you are accounted a subject) only after going through the zero-point, after being deprived of all those "pathological" (in the Kantian sense of empirical, contingent) features that support your identity, thus being reduced to "nothing"-"a Nothingness counted as Something," which is the most concise formula for subject.14
We are now in a position to precisely determine how much of a gap separates Badiou from Lacan. For Badiou, what psychoanalysis provides is insight into the morbid intertwining of Life and Death, of Law and desire, insight into the obscenity of the Law itself as the "truth" of the thought and the moral stance which limit themselves to the Order of Being and its discriminatory Laws; as such, psychoanalysis cannot properly render thematic the domain beyond the Law, that is, the mode of operation of fidelity to the Truth-Event. The psychoanalytic subject is the divided subject of the (symbolic) Law, not the subject divided between Law (which regulates the Order of Being) and Love (as fidelity to the Truth-Event). (The logical consequence for Badiou is that psychoanalysis remains constrained by the field of Knowledge, unable to approach the properly positive dimension of Truth processes: in the case of love, psychoanalysis reduces it to a sublimated expression of sexuality; in the cases of both science and art, psychoanalysis can only speak to the subjective libidinal conditions of a scientific invention or a work of art-such as that an artist or a scientist was driven by his unresolved Oedipus complex or latent homosexuality, and so on-conditions which are ultimately irrelevant to the work's truth dimension; in the case of politics, psychoanalysis can only conceive of collectivity against the background of a Totem and Taboo or Moses and Monotheism problematic of primordial crime and guilt, so is unable to think a militant "revolutionary" collective that is not bound by parental guilt, but rather freed by the positive force of Love.) For Lacan, on the other hand, the Truth-Event operates only against a background of traumatic encounter with the undead/monstrous Thing, and what are Badiou's four generiques if not four ways of reinscribing the encounter with the Real Thing into the symbolic texture? In art, beauty is "the last veil of the Monstrous," while science, far from being just another symbolic narrative, endeavors to formulate the structure of the Real beneath the symbolic fiction; love, no longer merely the narcissistic screen obfuscating the truth of desire in the later Lacan, is the way to "gentrify" and come to terms with the traumatic drive, while militant politics is a means of putting the terrific force of Negativity to use in restructuring our social affairs. So Lacan is not a postmodern cultural relativist with respect to the authenticity of the Truth-Event: there really is a difference between an authentic Truth-Event and its semblance, and it can be traced to the fact that in a Truth-Event the Void of the death drive, of a radical negativity that momentarily suspends the Order of Being, continues to resonate.15
This difference between Badiou and Lacan turns precisely on the status of the subject: Badiou's main point is that the subject should not be identified with the constitutive Void of the structure, since such an identification already ontologizes the subject, though in a purely negative way, turning the subject into an entity that is consubstantial with the structure and thus belongs to the order of the necessary and a priori ("no structure without a subject"). To this Lacanian ontologization of the subject, Badiou opposes its "rarity"-the local-contingent-fragile-transient emergence of subjectivity. When a Truth-Event (contingently, unpredictably) occurs, a subject emerges and exercises fidelity to it by discerning its traces in a Situation the Truth of which is this Event.ls Lacan, however, introduces a distinction between the subject and the gesture of subjectivization (or what Badiou describes as the process of subjectivization, in which the subject's engagement with and fidelity to the Event occurs, versus subject as the negative gesture of breaking out of the constraints of Being that opens up the possibility of subjectivization). The subject prior to subjectivization is the pure negativity of death drive prior to its reversal into identification with some new Master-Signifier.
In Lacan, act is a purely negative category, which (in Badiou's terms) stands for the gesture of breaking out of the constraints of Being, for the reference to the Void at its core, prior to the filling in of this Void. In this precise sense, act involves the dimension of death drive which grounds the decision (to exercise fidelity to a Truth), but it cannot be reduced to it. The Lacanian death drive is thus a kind of "vanishing mediator" between Being and Event, a "negative" gesture constitutive of subject that is then obfuscated in "Being" (the established ontological order) and in fidelity to the Event.16 One should insist here on the irreducibly vicious cycle of subjectivity: "the wound is healed only by the spear which smote it," that is, the subject "is" the very gap filled in by the gesture of subjectivization. In short, the Lacanian answer to the question asked (and answered in the negative) by such different philosophers as Althusser, Derrida, and Badiou- Can the gap/opening/Void which precedes the gesture of subjectivization still be called "subject"?-is an emphatic yes! The subject is at once the ontological gap (the "night of the world" or madness of radical self-withdrawal) and the gesture of subjectivization that closes, or heals up the wound of, that gap (in Lacanese: the gesture of the Master which establishes a new harmony). Subjectivity is a name for this irreducible circularity, for a power that does not fight an external, resisting force (say, the inertia of the given substantial order) but an obstacle that is absolutely inherent, which ultimately "is" the subject itself." In other words, the subject's very endeavor to fill in the Gap is precisely what both generates and sustains it. "Death drive" is thus the constitutive obverse of every emphatic assertion of Truth irreducible to the positive order of Being, that is, the negative gesture which clears the way for creative sublimation; the fact that sublimation presupposes death drive means that a sublime object by which we are enthusiastically transfixed is effectively a "mask of death," a veil that covers over the primordial ontological Void. (To will this sublime object effectively amounts to willing a Nothingness, as Nietzsche would have put it.) If there is an ethicopolitical lesson to be learned from psychoanalysis, it consists of the insight that the great calamities of our century (from the Holocaust to the Stalinist desastre) resulted not from our succumbing to the morbid attraction of this Void but, on the contrary, from our endeavoring to avoid confronting it and to impose the direct rule of Truth and/or Goodness.17
The political consequences of reasserting psychoanalysis in the face of Badiou's critique are the very opposite of the standard psychoanalytic skepticism about the final outcome of the revolutionary process (i.e., the revolutionary process has to go wrong and end up in self-destructive fury because it is unaware of its own libidinal foundations, of the murderous aggressivity which sustains its idealism, etc.). It is tempting to claim instead that Badiou's resistance to psychoanalysis is part of his hidden Kantianism, on account of which he also ultimately opposes the full revolutionary passage a l'acte. That is to say, although Badiou is adamantly anti-Kantian and, in his political stances, radically leftist (rejecting not only parliamentary democracy outright, but also multiculturalism or "identity politics"), at a deeper level his distinction between the order of the positive Knowledge of Being and the wholly different Truth-Event remains Kantian. When he emphasizes how, from the standpoint of Knowledge, there simply is no Event (i.e., that its traces can be discerned as signs only by those who are already engaged with the Event), doesn't he thereby echo Kant's notion of signs as announcing the noumenal fact of freedom without positively proving it (e.g., the enthusiasm for the French Revolution)?
What a true Leninist and an authentic political conservative have in common is the fact that they both reject what could be called liberalleftist "irresponsibility" (advocating grand projects of solidarity, freedom, etc., yet ducking out when their price proves to be concrete and often cruel political measures); an authentic conservative, like a true Leninist, is not, however, afraid to pass to the act and bear all the consequences, unpleasant as these may be, of realizing a political project. Kipling, for example (whom Brecht admired very much), despised British Liberals who advocated freedom and justice while silently counting on the Conservatives to do the necessary dirty work for them; the same can be said of the attitude of liberal leftists (or "democratic Socialists") toward Leninist Communists: "democratic Socialists" reject the social-democratic "compromise," wanting a true revolution yet shirking the price to be paid for it; they thus prefer to adopt the attitude of a Beautiful Soul and keep their hands clean. In contrast to this false liberal-leftist position (pro-democracy for the people so long as there are no secret police to fight and no threat to their academic privileges), a Leninist is, like a conservative, authentic in the sense of fully assuming the consequences of his politics, of being fully aware of what it actually means to take power and exert it. Therein lies the fatal weakness of those who, like Badiou, rely on a proto-Kantian opposition between the positive order of Being (or of the service des biens) and the radical, unconditional demand for egaliberte that signals the presence of the Truth-Event-an opposition, that is, between the global social order and the dimension of universality proper, which cuts a line of separation into this global order-their unconditional demand for the Truth remains at the level of a hysterical provocation directed at the Master, testing his limits ("Can he reject-or meet-our demands and still maintain the appearance of omnipotence?"). The test of the true revolutionary stance, as opposed to this game of hysterical provocation, is the heroic readiness to endure the subversive undermining of the existing System as it undergoes conversion into the principle of a new positive Order that can give body to this negativity-or, in Badiou's terms, the conversion of Truth into Being.
1 Alain Badiou, L'etre et l'evenement (Paris, I988).
2 Ibid., 24-25.
3 Another Badiou example of Truth-Event, the atonal revolution in music accomplished by the Second Viennese school (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern), also exemplifies three ways to betray the event of Truth: (I) the traditionalists' dismissal of atonal music as an empty formal experiment, which allowed them to continue to compose in the old ways, as if nothing had happened; (2) the pseudo-modernist fake imitation of atonality; and (3) the tendency to change atonal music into a new positive tradition.
4 Perhaps therein resides the negative achievement which brought such fame to Francois Furet: the de-event-ualization of the French Revolution, that is, adopting an external perspective toward it and thereby turning it into a succession of complex historical facts.
5 Badiou, L'etre et l'evenement, 224, 229.
6 As Badiou perspicuously notes, these four domains of Truth-Event are increasingly displaced in the public discourse of today by their non-evenemential fake doubles. We speak of "culture" instead of "art," of "sex" instead of "love," of "know-how" or "wisdom" instead of "science," of "management" (gestion) instead of "politics," and thereby reduce art to an expression/articulation of historically specific culture, and love to an ideologically dated form of sexuality, while science is dismissed as a falsely Westernuniversalized form of practical knowledge equal to many forms of prescientific wisdom, and politics (with all the passion of struggle that this notion involves) as an immature ideological version or forerunner of the art of social management.
7 See Badiou's unpublished 1995/96 seminar, "Saint Paul: La fondation de l'universalisme."
8 An irony worth noting here is Foucault's conception of psychoanalysis as the last link in the chain beginning with the Christian confessional mode of sexuality, which thereby links it to Law and guilt. However, Paul, the founding figure of Christianity, does exactly the opposite (at least on Badiou's reading) by endeavoring to break the morbid chain that links Law and desire. 9 Jacques Lacan, "On the Moral Law" (1959), in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960, Bk. 7 of The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Dennis Porter (New York and London, 1992 ), 7I-84; quotation from 83-84.
10 Ibid., 84.
11 The status of the reference to Kant here is another matter. Insofar as Kant is conceived as the philosopher of the Law in Badiou's Pauline sense, Lacan's concept of Kant avec Sade retains its full validity, that is, the Kantian moral Law retains its status as a superego formation, so its "truth" remains the Sadean universe of morbid perversion. However, there is another way to conceptualize the Kantian moral injunction which delivers it from the superego's constraints; for a Lacanian approach to this "other Kant," see Alenka Zupancic, Die Ethik des Realen (Vienna, 1995).
12 For example, the very last sentence of Lacan's Seminaire XI speaks of the "signification of a limitless love [which] is outside the limits of the law"; Jacques Lacan, "In You More than You" (1964), in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York and London, 1978  ), 263-76; quotation from 276.
13 Jacques Lacan, "Desire, Life and Death" (I955), in The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis 1954-1955, Bk. 2 of Miller, ed., Seminar of Jacques Lacan, trans. Sylvana Tomaselli (New York and London, 199I ), 221-34; quotations from 23I-32.
14 The other famous quip of the embittered Oedipus is uttered in response to the claim by the Chorus that the greatest boon to mortal man is not to have been born at all; the well-known comic rejoinder, quoted by Freud and referred to by Lacan ("Unfortunately, that happens to scarcely one in a hundred thousand"), has acquired new meaning today amidst the heated debate over abortion: Aren't aborted children in a sense those who do succeed in not being born?
15 See Badiou, L'etre et l'Evenement, 472-74.
16 This difference between Lacan and Badiou also has certain implications for the appreciation of political events. The disintegration of East European socialism was not, for Badiou, a Truth-Event; apart from giving rise to a brief popular enthusiasm, the dissident fomentation never managed to transform itself into a stable movement of followers consistently engaged in militant fidelity to the Event, but soon disintegrated such that what we have today is either the resurgence of vulgar liberal-parliamentarian capitalism or the rise of racist/ethnic fundamentalism. However, if we accept the Lacanian distinction between the negative gesture of the act (saying no!) and its positive aftermath (i.e., locating the key dimension in the primordial negative gesture), then the process of socialism's disintegration can be said to have produced a true act nonetheless, in the guise of an enthusiastic mass movement of saying no! to the Communist regime for the sake of authentic solidarity-a negative gesture that counted more than its later, failed positivization did.
17 The first and still unsurpassed description of this paradox was perhaps Fichte's notion of Anstoss, the "obstacle/impetus" which sets in motion the subject's productive effort to "posit" objective reality; no longer the Kantian Thing-in-itself-an external stimulus affecting the subject from outside-the Anstoss is a kernel of contingency which is extimate: a foreign body in the very heart of the subject. Subjectivity is thus defined not by a struggle against the inertia of the opposing substantial order but by an absolutely inherent tension.