The Verso blog has a new interview with Alain Badiou in which he discusses the the Nuit Debout movement and his idea that when it comes to the historical project of emancipation, we are currently in an “interval” period. By this he means that an old form of revolutionary politics has grown obsolete, but a new form has yet to take hold. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s been a lot of talk about France and the Nuit Debout movement. Is there room for optimism in this regard? Are we seeing a reactivation of politics, here?
I’ll give you an ambiguous answer. Personally I am always happy when there is a movement. Naturally, I prefer there to be a movement and not just nothing. So from that perspective we should recognise that this movement exists, that it has already endured for a while, that a lot of people are coming by, stopping to take a look at it or remaining part of it, and that there is still a good general climate of discussion. All this is positive. On the other hand, I think that this probably isn’t something that’s going to deeply transform the French political situation, which I would call a very difficult or even frozen situation. And the reasons for that are not a matter of the good or bad faith of the actors involved. Rather, they have to do with the fact that the search for a new politics in the current context – something that also tears down the existing politics – will be a fairly long process, I think. So while this movement is positive, we shouldn’t expect it to have immediate results of a general order.
All the same, we’re at the beginning of a process?
That’s what I’m hoping. I hope that we are at the beginning of a process, for this type of movement always leaves traces. There are people coming out of it with a strengthened conviction that we need to do something and to have new ideas. There are little groups forming and local experiences spreading. Nuit Debout has now had echoes in provincial towns. Well, we don’t know very well how this can perpetuate itself. But all this will leave traces. And from this point of view I hope that it is a kind of precursor of something. I hope the bells sound for something to happen …
Are the bells sounding somewhere else? Are you thinking of anywhere in particular?
At the worldwide scale we are currently in what I call a historical ‘interval’. That is, the great historical experiences of the twentieth century are over, as is the period of the great socialist states. But we do not know what the future of all this is going to be. We are in between the two. And I think that in interval-situations things get going with small signs, movements, rebellions. And also with the historical arrival of a new youth that hasn’t been through the past experiences, and thus has different starting points. So that’s what’s manifesting itself today. This has some novel elements in terms of the question of politics, of political life, of the organization of social life… etc. All this takes place amidst a great, searching uncertainty, but I am convinced that it is preparing the way for something. And we do have very important movements in the world today. From Turkey to Cairo and Hong Kong, there have been enduring occupations with great public discussions. All that will bear some fruit.
Image of Alain Badiou via liberation.fr.