Talk:Étienne Balibar

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Étienne Balibar (born 1942) is a French Marxist philosopher.

Life and work

Balibar first rose to prominence as one of Louis Althusser's pupils at the École Normale Supérieure. Balibar was a participant in Althusser's seminar on Marx's Capital, which resulted in a book called Lire le Capital (Reading Capital) coauthored by Althusser and his students, among whom Althusser considered Balibar's contribution the foremost.

After Althusser's death, Balibar quickly became the leading exponent of French Marxist philosophy.

Balibar is known in France as much for his famous actress daughter, Jeanne Balibar, as for his philosophy, however.

In Masses, Classes and Ideas, Balibar argues that in Das Kapital, the theory of historical materialism (or rather, the radical political economy that Marx developed in his early writings that would latter be referred to as "historical materialism") comes into conflict with the critical theory that Marx begins to develop in Capital, particularly in his analysis of the category of labor, which in capitalism, becomes a form of property. This conflict involves two distinct uses of the term "labor": labor as the revolutionary class subject (i.e., the "proletariat") and labor as an objective condition for the reproduction of capitalism (the "working class"). In The German Ideology, Marx conflates (or rather assumes a "mimetic relation" between) these two meanings of labor, and treats labor as, in Balibar’s words, the “veritable site of truth as well as the place from which the world is changed..." In Capital, however, the disparity between these two senses of labor becomes apparent. One manifestation of this is the virtual disappearance in the text of the term "proletariat". As Balibar points out, the term appears only twice in the first edition of Capital, published in 1867: in the dedication to Wilhelm Wolff and in the two final sections on the "General Law of Capitalist Accumulation". For Balibar, what this problem implies is that "the emergence of a revolutionary form of subjectivity (or identity... is never a specific property of nature, and therefore brings with it no guarantees, but obliges us to search for the conditions in a conjuncture that can precipitate class struggles into mass movements...". Moreover, "[t]here is no proof… that these forms are always and eternally the same (for example, the party-form, or the trade union)".

Racism

Excessive, non-functional cruelty

The more general point to be made here is the Hegelian lesson that global reflexivization/mediatization generates its own brutal immediacy, whose figure was best captured by Étienne Balibar's notion of excessive, non-functional cruelty as a feature of contemporary life: a cruelty whose figures range from 'fundamentalist' racist and/or religious slaughter to the 'senseless' outbursts of violence by adolescents and the homeless in our megalopolises, a violence one is tempted to call Id-Evil, a violence grounded in no utilitarian or ideological case. All the talk about foreigners stealing work from us, or about the threat they represent to our Western values, should not deceive us: on closer examination, it soon becomes clear that this talk provides a rather superficial secondary rationalization. The answer we ultimately obtain from a skinhead is that it amkes him feel good to beat up foreigners; that their presence disturbs him... What we encounter here is indeed Id-Evil, that is, Evil structured and motivated by the most elementary imbalance in the relationship between the Ego and jouissance, by the tension between pleasure and the foreign body of jouissance at the very heart of it. Id-Evil thus stages the most elementary 'short circuit' in the subject's relationship to the primordially missing object-cause of his desire: what 'bothers' us in the 'tother' (Je,w, Japanese, African, Turk) is that he appears to enjoy a privileged relationship to the object - the other either possesses the object-treature, having snatched it away from us (which is why we don't ahve it), or poses a threat to our possession of the object.[1]

Supérieure]]. Balibar was a participant in Althusser's seminar on Marx's Capital, which resulted in a book called Lire le Capital (Reading Capital) coauthored by Althusser and his students, among whom Althusser considered Balibar's contribution the foremost.

After Althusser's death, Balibar quickly became the leading exponent of French Marxist philosophy.

Balibar is known in France as much for his famous actress daughter, Jeanne Balibar, as for his philosophy, however.

In Masses, Classes and Ideas, Balibar argues that in Das Kapital, the theory of historical materialism (or rather, the radical political economy that Marx developed in his early writings that would latter be referred to as "historical materialism") comes into conflict with the critical theory that Marx begins to develop in Capital, particularly in his analysis of the category of labor, which in capitalism, becomes a form of property. This conflict involves two distinct uses of the term "labor": labor as the revolutionary class subject (i.e., the "proletariat") and labor as an objective condition for the reproduction of capitalism (the "working class"). In The German Ideology, Marx conflates (or rather assumes a "mimetic relation" between) these two meanings of labor, and treats labor as, in Balibar’s words, the “veritable site of truth as well as the place from which the world is changed..." In Capital, however, the disparity between these two senses of labor becomes apparent. One manifestation of this is the virtual disappearance in the text of the term "proletariat". As Balibar points out, the term appears only twice in the first edition of Capital, published in 1867: in the dedication to Wilhelm Wolff and in the two final sections on the "General Law of Capitalist Accumulation". For Balibar, what this problem implies is that "the emergence of a revolutionary form of subjectivity (or identity... is never a specific property of nature, and therefore brings with it no guarantees, but obliges us to search for the conditions in a conjuncture that can precipitate class struggles into mass movements...". Moreover, "[t]here is no proof… that these forms are always and eternally the same (for example, the party-form, or the trade union)".

Selected Readings

See Also

External links

  • Žižek, S. (2000) The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For, London and New York: Verso. p.