One version of truth has it that a truth is a correspondence between a proposition or judgment and a state-of-affairs that this judgment represents. If I say that “the sun is shining”, then this judgment is true if and when the sun is shining. Another version of truth has it that truth is what reveals itself, shows itself, or is unconvered. When I grasp my coffee cup to take a sip of coffee, this entity discloses itself in a particular way as a coffee cup, evoking an entire world of relations, projects, and activities. For me Badiou’s formulation of truth is one of the more inspiring and provocative concepts of truth to be put forward in recent memory. In his interview with Carceraglio, Badiou remarks that,

During the first years of my political activity, there were two fundamental events. The first was the fight against the colonial war in Algeria at the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s. I learned during this fight that political conviction is not a question of numbers, of majority. Because at the beginning of the Algerian war, we were really very few against the war. It was a lesson for me; you have to do something when you think it’s a necessity, when it’s right, without caring about the numbers.

The second event was May 68. During May 68, I learned that we have to organize direct relations between intellectuals and workers. We cannot do that only by the mediation of parties, associations, and so on. We have to directly experience the relation with the political. My interest in Maoism and the Cultural Revolution during the end of 60s and the beginning of the 70s, was this: a political conviction that organizes something like direct relations between intellectuals and workers.

I’ll recapitulate, if you like. There were two great lessons: It’s my conviction today that political action has to be a process which is a process of principles, convictions, and not of a majority. So there is a practical dimension. And secondly, there is the necessity of direct relations between intellectuals and workers.

When Badiou refers above to “political action” he is referring to a truth-procedure (the others would be love, art, and science). Without getting into all the intricate details of his account of truth, in suggesting that truth is a process Badiou is arguing that a truth is an active intervention in a situation that seeks to transform the situation. That is, a truth is not something that represents some state of affairs in a situation, nor is it something that discloses something in a situation. Rather, a truth-procedure is something that actively strives to transform a situation. A truth-procedure does something. It is for this reason that Badiou attaches a subject to truth-procedures as the subject of a truth-procedure that engages with the elements of a situation as it strives to reconfigure them according to the axioms of the truth in question.

Every situation is populated by elements. In a social situation the elements consist of the various identities and social configurations that populate that situation– different organizations such as Republicans and Democrats, different identities such as male, female, middle class, wealthy, black, white, hispanic, gay, straight, married, single, different institutions, different interests, and so on. If the axiom of my truth-procedure is egalitarianism, then my activism, my action, consists in struggling to transform contemporary social configurations and institutions in egalitarian terms. This requires discourse, the production of messages, struggles against established forces of power, and so on. Egalitarianism must be made to appear where it is not, and this requires a certain gregariousness, a formation of communities, a formation of collectivities and a broadcasting of messages… Something outside the academy.

I’m led to think of how the Lacanian movement has grown since the beginning of the first seminars that took place in the living rooms of people’s flats, to the formation of the World Psychoanalytic Association (WPO) today, which now has a sizable contingent across the globe, that offers seminars (which have become ever more frequent in the United States since 2004 when J.A. Miller first decided to make efforts here, spearheaded by Tom Svolos) and training. It is through these activities that a movement is created. Where before psychoanalysis has a very low degree of intensity in the United States– being regulated primarily to lit programs –increasingly psychoanalysis becomes a genuine practice throughout the United States. Small, “irrelevant” organizations such as the Affiliated Psychoanalytic Workshops (APW) and the WPO come to function like missions, seducing new members, generating new work, dissimenating concepts, slogans, and most importantly growing practices. Progressively clinical practice begins to change throughout the world as a whole. This doesn’t entail that everyone becomes a Lacanian. However, as the movement grows victories take place. Clinicians land respectable positions in university departments (Bruce Fink, Tom Svolos), clinics come to be formed, journals are published, analysands are treated, articles and books come to populate the presses… Those who disagree increasingly find themselves in a position where they are forced to take these communicative events (publications), these material traces of practice, seriously and respond. In responding they are forced to both learn the positions and concede certain points. Theoretical hybrids begin to come into being and the nature of the field as a whole changes. Yet none of this would have taken place had it not been for the engagement of the subjects working on the elements composing the situation characterized by clinical practice. None of it would have existed.

Galileo declares that all of nature is mathematical. He declares this in an institutional setting dominated by an Aristotlean bent, where numerical differences are understood to make no difference, to give know genuine insight into the world, and where scientific praxis is understood to consist in the investigation of qualitative differences, essential differences, natural kinds, and relations among kinds. The Galileans are fruitcakes, idiots, those who lack the common sense to see that something possesses one and the same essence regardless of whether it moves at this speed or that speed, regardless of whether it is in this position or that position. Great scholastics plead with their students not to pursue this fruitless line of thought. Fathers plead with sons not to bother with this nonsensical thesis. Yet the Galilean persists, asking again and again how this particular phenomenon (element) can be mathematized. What before lacked a very low degree of intensity in the situation (the Galileans) progressively comes to transform the very configuration of knowledge itself through its active intervention and investigations in terms of its initial axiom. Yet none of this would have existed had it not been for those courageous interventions and continued acts of fidelity to the inaugural declaration: All of nature is mathematical.

I read a lot of social and political theory that perpetually investigates relations of power, the influence of the signifier on social organization, and the omnipotence of social relations. While this social theory is certainly progressive, I increasingly find myself wondering if it isn’t, in fact, deeply conservative in filling us with sad passions such as the belief that all that we do is at the behest of some hidden or secret power of which we are not aware, that all interventions are doomed to simply reinforce existing social systems. If Badiou fills me with inspiration, then this is because he allows me to mouth powerful words once again: Courage, fidelity, enthusiasm, and action. Badiou declares that we ought to end the infinite labor of critique, and should instead intervene… And he emphasizes that intervention is not an all or nothing equation, where everything changes in a moment, but a project that spans days, months, years, and centuries. Increasingly I find myself filled with disgust at the critics, the concern trolls, the pessimists, and those who see defeat everywhere. My body recoils, my lips tighten. They see defeat so they find defeat. They perpetually express disappointment that things do not turn out precisely as predicted, that their fantasy is not delivered, and use this as an excuse to withdraw altogether. I loath this weakness, and I am disgusted by the all-knowing critics that see a conspiracy behind every success. There is no quicker way to insure that something shall be barred from becoming intense or present in a situation… Yet perhaps this is the goal, to maintain desire and avoid drive at all costs.