Johnston’s Book on Badiou, Zizek, and Political Transformations

I’m writing an essay in the next day or so, with a deadline to have it done before the holiday. The surgery early this week gave me the chance to finish up the book, albeit while taking Vicadin (especially during the Badiou sections). It’s good, and it’s one of those great, contemporary reads where I spend quite a bit of time writing in the margins. I have some questions, but overall I think I’m lucky to be coming up in an era where a certain type of precise philosophical analysis is prized over poetic invention. I can think of quite a few others in my generation or thereabouts that fit this description. I’ll probably post here some extra thought I have that won’t work for footnotes or fit into the text. One thing immediately:

Johnston mirrors a shared critique among Hallward, Srnicek, and a few others on a lack of a coherent account of the pre-evental in Badiou. I’m not a defender of Badiou, so I would appreciate someone steering me correctly on this one, but it seems to me that this critique is based on a thinking of pre / present / post “statist” time that Badiou himself critiques. In other words, if Badiou provides an account of a disciplined “fidelity” to the event after the event, this does not mean simply what we should take to be literally “after” the event, like gearing up to be faithful to the event of the French Revolution (that bourgeois affair!) on July 15, 1789, the day after the storming of the Bastille. No, the point is to think a step out of time such that one is faithful to the event that one could then, by discipline, redeem in the past. This strikes me as quite a different claim, and one not amenable to Johnston’s critique. In other words, I think ultimately this is about right in terms of its emphasis on the “pre-evental” (in fact, I would have argued such this past weekend at the Sartre Society had I been able to go), but since Badiou is rethinking the temporality of political transformation we can’t fault him for not considering how to bring about the event. Rather, he’s saying, stop putting off the event to the future, to the “to-come.” Bring it about not just now, but in fact make it have happened, by disciplining oneself to bring about the revolt from events that have already occurred. I think Johnston accounts for this in his own way, but by the end of the book, even though he stipulates exactly this kind of temporality, he says it’s missing Badiou. I’m not sure.