Politics and Philosophy in the Red Years: Badiou, Sartre, Althusser and the Problematic of Suture


This essay approaches Alain Badiou’s theoretical production during the period of militant fury commenced by May ‘68 in terms of his conflicted relationship to Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser. Badiou’s Maoist convictions at the time precipitated a return to Sartrean subjectivized Marxism as well as a detachment from Althusserian theoreticism. Echoing Sartre’s philosophy of engagement, Badiou’s militant interventions of this period exhibit an unflinching commitment to the philosophico-political suture defined as a subordination of philosophy to its sole (political) condition. I propose that Badiou’s subsequent transition towards post-Maoism can be apprehended in terms of a desuturation of philosophy from politics. This gesture of desuturation not only distances Badiou from Sartre’s philosophy of praxis, but also leads him to adopt Althusser’s definition of philosophy as an act that lacks a proper object.

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