Politics and its time: Derrida, Lazarus and Badiou

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Calcagno, Antonio
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University of Guelph

Jacques Derrida, Alain Badiou and Sylvain Lazarus have devoted significant consideration to the problem of time and politics, especially in their more recent works. For Derrida, the relationship between and time and politics is articulated in his notion of the democracy to come and the undecidability that ensues from the double bind 'folded into' the democracy to come. Sylvain Lazarus argues that in order to think the "interiority" of politics we have to abolish the category of time altogether. Finally, Badiou develops a philosophy of the event. Political events come about through decisive subjective interventions that are described as temporal. Interventions may be seen as representing a theory of subjectivating ('la subjectivation') time. Ultimately, my thesis is this: emergent French thought on the nature of politics and time suggests that time conditions politics ('contra ' Lazarus) in such a fashion that time makes accessible the limits of political philosophy/thinking and political decision-making, both as simultaneously possible and impossible (Derrida). We find ourselves in a state of political undecidability. Yet, this undecidability also brings to light an aporia as evidenced by Derrida's decisive stands on certain political issues. The aporia consists in the fact that in the midst of such undecidability we are called upon or forced to make certain decisive political interventions. Though political situations may be undecidable, we are called to respond to these situations because of their injustice, inhospitality, irresponsibility and terror and violence. Following Badiou, we should think of such decisions as timely interventions that make political events appear and thinkable. Badiou's notion of timely interventions that yield political events can be employed to complete the philosophical account of the aporia. The aporia can never be resolved. It is the philosophical account of the paradoxical situation we find ourselves in and is a philosophical account of the relation that exists between time and politics. This relation is aporetic because it paradoxically brings together two fundamentally human realities, namely, the undecidability of the world we find ourselves in but also the very human reality of decisively thinking politically and making decisive political actions. Yet, such political events are not merely extensions of subjective volition, rather they are also conditioned by a sense of the 'kairos' or extra-subjective or pre-political sense of the "timely" occasion to act. The world may force or elicit us to act, forcing moments to their crisis--a crisis to which the Badiouan subject responds through her interventions.

Politics, Derrida, Lazarus, Badiou, Time