NOTES FROM : Badiou, A (2012) 'The philosophical concept of change within politics’ EGS video.

  The state must continue the law.  The state changes the law if necessary.  This makes political change more complex than change in science or arts, because repetition is strongly supported.  The struggle against state power can also find itself involved in repetition.  The state exists precisely to repeat.  It imposes repetition on any attempts to change, which explains the common failure of revolutionary movements [so we have a social reproduction theory here at last —but no mention of sociology.  Presumably Marx will do—well, better than nothing, and a great improvement on Deleuze].

Political action requires a theoretical effort to generate creative possibilities, as we see in all the great political works.  It requires a knowledge of the history of politics, of repetitions, and of those rare creations.  It should study the nature of the state and its relation to change, through a dialectics of repetition and change.  It should recognize that there is a general law between the possession of power and repetition.  The state even prescribes and proscribes what is possible: it defines possibilities, and this is its true power [as in S. Lukes’ famous analysis—he also had agenda setting and coercion as the two lower levels].  The state can be oppressive and violent or work through the law, but it pursues its common role of prescribing.  It is the centre of repetition.  We can see this in art if for example there is a strong academy which insist that art must imitate nature or it is not art [but this misses the issue of legitimate force?].

The state describes possible actions, and if we accept, we are bound by a repetition.  Political subjectivity itself can be affected, and can be inside state prescriptions.  There is only one creative possibility, and that is to do the impossible as defined by the state and its laws, to both affirm and do the impossible.  The state accept some possibilities, such as a general strike, but these are really realized, so the first step might be to realize what is possible but rare—but we would still be inside the state.

We have seen the creation of the impossible more commonly in science, art or maths—the creation of irrational or imaginary numbers, for example.  Most important scientific developments are creative like this.  They represent a forcing of possibility [forcing has its origin in particular set theory too I gather].  Art has similarly affirmed new forms, as in Schoenberg for example.  We must do the same in politics.

There are different points of view in politics, and a relation between change and the contexts of change.  The structure of state power is repetition and the laws of repetition, and the context is changes in the world.  True change is an event—which opens new possibilities, not just realizing existing ones.  Change must affect the structure of the world, for example the structure of the state in the political field, and the general structure of repetition, and it must be opposed by the event.  The event is outside the laws of the world.  Truth expresses the connection here, what happens when events happen, and the possibilities for new forms of truth that emerge.

So we need to understand the world (the place of change and the structure), the event (which is a localized rupture, where creation in art and science is its general form, the creation of possibilities), and change (the realization or creation of possibility).  In artistic creation, for example, a new vision appears, a new possibility for art and there is then exploration.  A truth [and Badiou insists on the singular and says there are many truths—presumably all of the same form as in his earlier lecture, though? ] is the consequence of an event inside the world.  It expresses the logic of change and is a consequence of change.

There is no place in the normal world for events.  They create a new place and therefore a new world.  The existing possibilities in the world, those provided by its structure, change because new possibilities emerge.  This has been at the bottom of the whole question of revolution, the avant-garde, the emergence of new science and so on.

There was a definite project to create a new world in the last century by destroying the old one, ‘a great and terrible passion’.  Then a reaction to this project, to avoid too much negativity and destruction, to accept the world to some extent, and to accept its limits.  This involved a turn to the theoretical notion of change through the inside, through the event, without complete destruction.  We need to find the point where we can go beyond repetition.  This is more than an academic question, since we all now know of the terrible consequences of projects aimed at absolute change.  Destructive change like this was mistaken anyway, since the world is a structure, a law of repetition [not a simple single social formation that can be swept away].  We can only pursue change inside by going to the limit point of repetition, thinking of the structure and of creation as a dialectical vision, not the complete rejection of structure followed by massive violence.  We still need rejection, and possibly some violence, but not so much.

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