Inertia of the negative: the generic set in Alain Badiou's Being and event

Clarke, Evan
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University of Guelph

This thesis examines the role of the generic set in Alain Badiou's ' Being and Event' (1988). The generic set arises in the context of set theory and is distinguished the fact that it does not conform to any of the categories that characterize the set theoretic 'universe'. Applying this concept to politics, Badiou attempts to show that just as the generic set presents 'nothing' from the standpoint of the set theoretic universe, it is possible to bring about a political singularity that presents ' nothing' from the standpoint of the political situation. I show that in transposing this concept from mathematics to politics, Badiou is obliged to introduce a series of relations that are grounded in nothingness alone, and that this relational deployment of negativity contradicts the notion of negativity as non-relational; that is, as a kind of absolute barrier between the generic set and the universe from which it emerges.

generic set, Alain Badiou, Being and Event, set theory, politics