chapter 3
Infinite by Prescription: The Mathematical Turn

The impasse of Badiou's early work, we saw, lay in its partial delegation of philosophical autonomy to historical development. His early conception of truth, like that of Hegel or Marx, was ultimately cumulative, ultimately coordinated with the singular movement of History as a whole. The expression of confidence, though maintained as a militant “confidence in confidence, ” was still filtered through an at least partially substantial or objective mediation. In short, Badiou had yet to develop a fully subtractive theory of the subject.

In the wake of 1968, Badiou was determined not to repeat the mistakes of ultraleft “dogmatists” such as the Maoists of the Gauche prolétarienne, who in identifying themselves with the popular movement had persisted in their misplaced belief that “political consciousness was coextensive with the brute, purely 'objective' reality of revolt.” When the movement faltered in the late 1970s such ultraleft convictions faltered along with it. “What allowed me and my friends to avoid this kind of intellectual liquidation, ” Badiou explains, “was our conception of politics, not as an activism carried by the transitory objectivity of a movement, but as subjectivity, as thought, as prescription.” 1 Although they do not add up so as to lend a continuous meaning or direction to History, 2 sequences of such thought or commitment retain an “eternal” force even in the absence of any objective consequence. From now on confiance dans la confiance will be carried by the rigor of a self-sustaining prescription with a minimum of direct historical mediation. For a more

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