Having now read about the first one hundred pages of Badiou’s Logics of Worlds, I confess that I’ve been pleasantly surprised. In the past I’ve remarked that I didn’t find Badiou’s theory of the event, truth-procedures, and subjects very interesting. The reason for this was that Badiou seems to entirely detach the subject and truth-procedures from the world in such a way that reigning circumstances don’t matter. In other words, Badiou’s subject sometimes looked to me like an account of the proverbial Japanese soldier on a Pacific island that refuses to acknowledge the end of the war, i.e., an attempt to maintain militant political fidelity at all costs, even when it becomes counter-productive. I was wrong.

When I first picked up the second volume of Being and Event I thought about skipping the first book and proceeding directly to his discussion of appearing, being-there, and the transcendental. That would have been a mistake. Badiou has significantly complicated his theory of the subject, developing a new category that he calls “the body”. In addition to subjects that maintain fidelity to the event we now have two additional figures of the subject: the reactive subject and the obscure subject. Badiou’s description of the obscure subject– a subject that completely tries to deny the even in the name of some “full body” of truth that has existed for all time and can never change –is absolutely inspired. Badiou writes:

Things stand different for the obscure subject. That is because it is the present which is directly its unconscious, its lethal disturbance, while it de-articulates in appearing the formal data of fidelity. The monstrous full Body to which it gives fictional shape is the atemporal filling of the abolished present. Thus, what bears this body is directly linked to the past, even if the becoming of the obscure subject also crushes this past in the name of the sacrifice of the present: veterans of lost wars, failed artists, intellectuals perverted by bitterness, dried-up matrons, illiterate muscle-bound youths, shopkeepers ruined by Capital, desperate unemployed workers, rancid couples, bachelor informants, academicians envious of the success of poets, atrabilious professors, xenophobes of all stripes, Mafiosi greedy for decorations, vicious priests and cuckolded husbands. To this hodgepodge of ordinary existence the obscure subject offers the chance of a new destiny, under the incomprehensible but salvific sign of an absolute body, whose only demand is that one serves it by nurturing everywhere and at all times the hatred of every living thought, every transparent language and every uncertain becoming. (61)

That’s a passage for the ages. I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered such figures of subjectivity. Nope, not ever once.

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