In a comment at Khukuri John copied in some excerpts from Alain Badiou’s recent remarks on Tunisia. I’m pasting in some of this below along with a few thoughts so I remember to get back to it.

“the framework of a historical periodisation” which he defines using what he calls “interval periods [périodes intervallaires]. What is an interval period? There is a sequence in which revolutionary logic is clarified and where it explicitly presents itself as an alternative, succeeded by an interval period where the revolutionary idea has not been passed on to anyone [déshérence], and in which it hasn’t yet been taken up, a new alternative disposition has not yet been formed.”
So – there are sequences and there are intervals. Sequences include the clarification and presentation of revolutionary logic. Intervals consist of a lack of worked out revolutionary ideas or of revolutionary ideas that are not really rooted anywhere significant.
“In intervallic periods, discontent exists but it can’t be structured because it is unable to draw its force from a shared idea. Its power is essentially negative (“make them go away”). This is why the form of mass collective action in an intervallic period is the riot. Take the period 1820-1850: it was a grand period of riots (1830, 1848, the revolt of the Canuts of Lyon); but it doesn’t mean they were sterile, they were haphazard [aveugle] but very fertile. The great global political orientations that were the hinge [vertébré] of the next century emerge from that period. Marx says it well: the French workers’ movement was one of the sources of his thought (beside German philosophy and English political economy)…..”
Badiou here in my view is mixing up descriptive and explanatory, or can be read as doing so. “discontent exists but it can’t be structured because it is unable to draw its force from a shared idea. Its power is essentially negative (“make them go away”). This is why the form of mass collective action in an intervallic period is the riot.”
If “this is why” means causality then this is a mistake. It is not the case that a lack of a shared idea *causes* this form of action. That formulation strikes me as pretty mechanical and undialectical. Knowing what I do about Badiou I suspect this is just a matter of him speaking quickly and not something he’d set out this way in a finished piece of writing. It seems to me that what sounds here like a causal claim (“this is why the form…”) is actually just another description of the same events in a different register, making the causal claim here tautologous.
Badiou continues, talking about riots as having an important “negative power, the hated power collapses at least symbolically. But what is affirmed? The Western press has already responded by saying that what was expressed there was a desire for the West. What we can affirm is that a desire for liberty is involved and that such a desire is without debate a legitimate desire under a regime both despotic and corrupt as was that of Ben Ali. How this desire as is a desire for the West is very uncertain. (…) there is nothing expected from the analysis of the state’s process which, through long and torturous necessity, will eventually result in elections. What is required is a patient and careful inquiry among the people, in search of that which, after an inevitable process of division (…) will be carried by a fraction of the movement, namely: declarations [des énoncés]. What is stated can by no means be resolved within Western inclusion. If they are there, these declarations, they will be easily recognisable. It is under the condition of these new declarations that the development of the organisation of figures of collective action can be conceived.”

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