Alain Badiou begins his Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism by describing the simultaneous homogenization and fragmentation of late modern civilization. The homogenization he links to the globalization of capitalism economic structures: there is free circulation, but free circulation of “what can be counted” (10). “Everything that can circulates falls under the unity of the count.” On the other hand, contemporary civilization is marked by the fragmentation of culturalist, identitarian, and relativist ideologies.

The two tendencies look contradictory, but Badiou rightly says that they are two sides of the same movement. Each new identitarian and culturalist movement provides a new niche market for the expansion of capitalist homogenization:”What inexhaustible potential for mercantile investments in this upsurge - taking the form of communities demanding recognition and so-called singularities - of women, homosexuals, the disables, Arabs! And these infinite combinations of predicative traits, what a god-send! Black homosexuals, disabled Serbs, Catholic pedophiles, moderate Muslims, married priests, ecologist yuppies, the submissive unemployed, prematurely aged youth. Each time, a social image authorizes new products, specialized magazines, improved shopping malls, ‘free’ radio stations, targeted advertising networks, and finally, heady ‘public debates’ at peak viewing times” (10). Identities only look for the right to be “exposed in the same way as others to the uniform prerogatives of the market” (11).

More on: History

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

Loading...