“Periodise and Pass Beyond”: Maoism as Marxism’s Third Period in Alain Badiou’s Theory of the Subject
An important article emphasizing the political thought of Alain Badiou, so often obscured in the Anglophone reception under a complex philosophical system whose character as aninterventionis inexplicable without this context. By focusing on the 1970s seminars published asTheory of the Subjectin 1982, this article sets up the reader to understand the contradictions of Badiou’s peak Maoist period – how “one divides into two,” novel insights alongside the residues of an old language – just before his rupture to a new approach, still faithful to the legacy of emancipatory politics, inCan Politics Be ThoughtandBeing and Event.
A French Maoist Experience in Brazil. Robert Linhart’s Investigation of Sugarcane Workers in Pernambuco
This article carefully investigates an underappreciated figure of French Maoism, Louis Althusser’s student Robert Linhart, whose study Lénine, les paysans, Taylor (Lenin, the Peasants, Taylor) was a crucial analysis of the history of socialist transition, and whose memoir of working and organizing in an auto factory has been translated into English asThe Assembly Line. Linhart considered his 1980 book,Le sucre et la faim. Enquête dans les régions sucrières du nord-est brésilien (Sugar and hunger. Investigation in the Sugar-Producing Regions of the Brazilian Northeast), though it is perhaps less well known, to fit into a complementary set with his other work, a series of investigations in “resistance to exploitation.” This article studies Linhart’s contributions as part of the history of the Maoist practice of “militant investigation” and invites further translations from this tradition.
Generating a Violent Insurgency: China’s Factional Warfare of 1967–1968
An article written from the standpoint of “mainstream” social science – or more precisely, without any political sympathies for Maoism – nevertheless sheds light on the complexity of the Cultural Revolution, not only contesting the standard anticommunist narrative of a totalitarian, manipulative power play by Mao, but also troubling any equally simplistic apologism. Using “a national data set of 17,319 political events extracted from 2,246 city and county annals” to formulate “a theory about factions as emergent properties of contingent interactions,” it provides indispensable empirical raw materials to come to terms with this explosive and contradictory episode that brings the period of revolutionary politics centered on the party-state to a close.
Philosophical Discourse and Ascetic Practice: On Foucault’s Readings of Descartes’ Meditations
Against the prevailing wisdom that a thinker like Michel Foucault represents a revolt against Descartes and everything that the latter represented in philosophy, this article draws on unpublished 1966-8 lectures to argue that Foucault developed an interpretation of Descartes that would anticipate his own later reflections on “askesis” as “care of the self.” This convincing analysis is especially relevant when reductive readings of Foucault’s philosophy are used instrumentally to argue that he was actually a reactionary neoliberal, etc.; it brings out his rigor and nuance as a scholar of the history of thought, who was prepared to let his findings dictate his conclusions rather than score points.
Surface Critique: Althusser, Foucault, and the Problem of Ricardo
While there is an extensive literature on the dialogue between Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault, this article distinguishes itself by focusing on their respective readings of David Ricardo, who for Althusser in Reading Capital was the exemplary figure of bourgeois thought diagnosed by Marx’s method of reading, and for Foucault inThe Order of Things represented the episteme to which Marx, despite his intentions, also belonged. But while Althusser’s reading has largely been forgotten, Foucault’s has been overemphasized despite his many subsequent caveats and qualifications. The clear and precise reading of this article is a valuable contribution to correcting the record.
Rethinking Romanticism With Spinoza: Encounter and Individuation in Novalis, Ritter, and Baader
Countering the reception of Novalis as a poet and an idealist philosopher of subjectivity belonging to Jena Romanticism, this article instead traces a different tendency – one anchored around Freiberg – which better describes Novalis and his interlocutors’ place around 1800. This astute reconsideration of German Romanticism shows how Novalis, together with Johann Ritter, the Silesian chemist, and Franz Baader, the neo-Scholastic theologian, take after Spinoza in their materialist understanding of immanence and transindividuality.
Against a Fatal Confusion: Spinoza, Climate Crisis and the Weave of the World
If our way of seeing the world is indeed connected to our history, then Western views of the climate crisis must stem from the particular rhythm of contemporary life. Starting from this premise, and thinking with a Spinozist temporal sensibility, this article incisively critiques Graham Harman and Timothy Morton’s writing about climate. If they had engaged with Spinoza with more care, perhaps they would have never ignored how the climate today is intertwined with the contingencies of the past.
Foucault's Concept of Illegalism
This paper shows the conceptual importance ofillégalisme, or illegalism, to Foucault’s genealogies of modern punishment and racial formation, published during the first half of the 1970s, his most militant period. Often mistranslated, illegalism is a term distinct from illegality, with its roots in the individualist wing of the anarchist tradition. Foucault uses the concept to describe a ruling class tactic for managing inequalities, and to put his finger on a crucial vein of resistance from subjugated knowledge systems.