In its unreserved frankness, this seminar-turned-book is a breath of fresh air for anyone who feels disenchanted by the seemingly ‘senseless’ bloodshed that has recently punctuated the global narrative, perpetrated by those who have apparently gone rogue with religion. Unlike many other commentaries that play the blame game with late capitalism and festering inequality, Badiou’s analysis offers a more methodical investigation into what’s really transpiring at a systemic level. To make sense of the ‘senseless’—against our first intuitions that such attacks are irrational—is precisely what he sets out to do in this short monograph on the underlying cause(s) of last year’s Paris shootings, and the rise of the terrorist enterprise. ‘We can’t leave anything in the register of the unthinkable’, he says.
Despite the unmistakably continental posture that Badiou adopts in his prose, he remains incisively analytical in his systematic dissection of the global capitalist problem. His argument is distinctly structuralist in nature, as he explores the ordering of the contemporary world around and against capitalism and its cognates. True to his French learning, Badiou also makes occasional but striking allusions to psychoanalytic theory where appropriate, in so doing contextualising the contemporary problem within a broader system of desire.
Yet perhaps the most redemptive feature of his seminar is the humanising outlook he offers towards the end, where he tells of the need to understand and know the societal other that the capitalist machine has inevitably created and marginalised. This is, I think, the powerful message that his argument ultimately endeavours to convey to his (presumably middle class) readers—at once both jolting them into an acute consciousness of this sprawling, monolithic problem of (post)modernity, as well as charting a hopeful recourse that involves a fundamental paradigm shift at the level of the individual.