A timely contribution from arguably one of the most important philosophers of our time, Alain Badiou’s The Communist Hypothesis develops directly from his earlier works The Meaning of Sarkozy (2009) and an article in the New Left Review from a year previously, also entitled ‘The Communist Hypothesis’.
The central premise of the present book is to reassert the ‘idea of communism’ as a fundamental necessity in all revolutionary politics. Put simply ‘the word “communism”, which was for a long time the name of that power, has been cheapened and prostituted. But if we allow it to disappear, we surrender to the supporters of order, to the febrile actors in the disaster movie.’
Badiou’s project, therefore, is to show that, despite the ignominy towards the term over the past 20 years, the idea of communism – whatever we may call it – is the leitmotif of every historically significant struggle we care to think of. The book reflects on three moments of revolutionary upheaval – 1968, China’s cultural revolution and the Paris commune – to illustrate this thesis. While these events may by now seem tired caricatures, they nonetheless serve to illustrate that despite their respective failures, each contributed to the development of the communist idea – of a world other than capital. The task at hand, according to Badiou, is not for us to repeat these historical events and their failures but to find (many) ways to manifest the communist hypothesis appropriate to contemporary conditions.
The book is dense in places, as Badiou has a tendency to insert his often obscure philosophical concepts where they are perhaps unnecessary. Furthermore, his account of the cultural revolution perhaps serves more as an attempt to reconcile the failings of his own Maoist past than it does to develop upon his argument. Nonetheless, the central premise of this book is persuasive and is arguably important in understanding and developing a new wave of politics capable of confronting and going beyond capital. Perhaps it’s time for us to start calling ourselves communists again?
#228 Climate Revolutions ● Transitioning beyond climate and Covid-19 crises ● Conservation without colonialism ● Prisons, profits and punishment ● Surveillance capitalism in India ● The uses of comedy ●Simon Hedges ● Book reviews ● And much more!
And you choose how much to pay for your subscription...
Anna Clayton reviews Natalie Olah's book, which explores how upper middle-class pop culture has affected British politics
Suchandrika Chakrabarti reviews Wendy Liu's proposals to reclaim technology's potential for the public good
Connor Beaton reviews Daniel Finn's account of the politics and personalities which drove the IRA
As apocalypse rhetoric spreads during Covid-19, James Hendrix Elsey explores what 'the end of the world' really means under racialised capitalism – and what comes next
The BBC hit drama shows the complexities of class mobility, but can’t avoid class and gender stereotypes, says Frances Hatherley
Mask Off offers a toolbox of explanations and arguments to question and challenge toxic masculinity, writes Huw Lemmey