12.05.2014 Badiou – The Century

Badiou, A., 2007. The century. Cambridge: Polity.

Text chosen by Anne Douglas

The Century refers to the 20th Century. Badiou tries to challenge narratives that portray it as a period of terrorism . He  investigates what the 20th century says about itself  as a kind of careful listening that examines how the 20th century thought itself through its forms of production.   In so doing he interweaves events such as the rise and collapse of communism, the Holocaust,  with the politics of totalitarianism, of capitalism and the rise of the global market. By understanding that such histories result from thought, we can engage in them as political and begin to judge them.

I am interested in the way that Badiou interweaves the flowering of the arts at the beginning of the century such as Schonberg’s atonal music, with new disciplines such as psychoanalysis (Freud) and discoveries in science and maths (Einstein’s relativity)as well as  new forms of literature such as Joyce’s Ulysses . The 20 th century is exceptional in this sense of discovery and innovation. It is also exceptional  in its inhumanity and indifference to death and its single minded  preoccupation with profit.

I wonder about the relevance of Badiou’s method of investigating the thought/thinking of a century to our 21st century and possible trajectories of development, including the urgency of ecological thought. What does this tell us about the arts and design as ways of thinking?

In this reading group, we’ll focus on the first chapter (pp. 1-10) titled “Search for a Method”.

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