Badiou (ii): Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics
The account of Badiou’s philosophy that I have given so far raises an obvious question. Being is irreducibly inconsistent. In an actually infinite universe, there is always what I have called a wobble or a play in Being. This is what makes the event possible. But why, then, is Badiou’s world not more like Deleuze’s? Why are events rare? Why is the world not as full of events in Badiou’s later as in his early work?
The answer lies in the concept of the State. This has both an ontological and a political significance. Badiou does not define it solely in political terms: Spinoza’s God is an example of it. As we have seen, nature is another. But, not surprisingly, the concept of the State becomes starkly clear in relation to the political sphere. I shan’t be offering an exhaustive account of Badiou’s politics. Hallward has already done so. But the pathos of intermittency cannot be separated from politics. Here, I shall follow through a particular—and particularly relevant—strand in Badiou’s political thought. This will lead on to brief accounts of his ethics and aesthetics. These, too, are compressed and precisely focused. They are focused, above all, towards the discussion of Badiou’s reading of Beckett, in Chapter 3. We cannot go any further, however, without first referring to what Hallward calls the ‘simple foundation’ of Badiou’s whole ontology (BA, 85), the distinction between belonging and inclusion.
Hallward provides an admirably clear account of this.1 On the one hand, a set is a collection of elements. The elements belong to the set, the relationship of belonging being written ∈. Hallward provides the example of ‘a national population’ (let’s say, French). This is the set defined by of all those elements that are ‘counted for one in a particular census’ (ibid.). On the other hand, the elements in a set can be grouped as parts or subsets of it. They
1 See BA, 82–6.