Must an emancipatory politics of antagonism steal its tools from the laboratories of its nemeses (Hobbes, De Maistre, Heidegger, Schmitt, Junger...)?
Though persuaded that there is often more to be gained from an (abstract) acquaintance with revolutionary conservatives than with reformists liberals, I think it also remains imperative to, as it were, draw the line between "our" way of drawing the line and theirs.
Badiou puts the point persuasively, if somewhat elliptically, in this excerpt from The Century:
I have insisted on the singularity of the theory of the Two, which drives the intellectual life of the century in all its domains. This is an anti-dialectical Two, a Two without synthesis. Now, in every demonstration of fraternity there is an essential Two: That of the ‘we’ and of the ‘not-we’. The century arranges the confrontation between two manners of conceiving the not-we. Either one sees it as a polymorphous formlessness – a disordered reality – or else one sees it as an other we, an external and consequently antagonistic subject. The conflict between these two conceptions is fundamental, setting out the dialectics of the anti-dialectical. If in effect the ‘we’ relates externally to the formless, its task is that of formalising it. Fraternity becomes the subjective moment of the in-formation of its formless exterior. According to this model of antagonism, one will declare things like: The apathetic must be rallied to the Party; the left must unite with the centre to isolate the right; the artistic avant-garde must find forms of address perceivable by everyone. But then the century sees itself as a formalist century, in the sense that any we-subject is a production of forms. In the end this means that access to the real is secured through form, as was argued by the Lenin of What is to be Done? (the party is the form of the political real), by the Russian ‘formalists’ after the Revolution, by the mathematicians of the Bourbaki school, or, as we’ve already demonstrated, by Brecht and Pirandello. If, on the contrary, the ‘not-we’ is necessarily always already formalised as antagonistic subjectivity, the first task of any fraternity is combat, the object of which is the destruction of the other. One will then announce that whoever is not with the Party is against it, that the left must terrorise the centre to defeat the right, or that an artistic avant-garde must seek out dissidence and isolation so as not to be ‘alienated’ within the society of the spectacle.
At the heart of the century, and for reasons pertaining to the anti-dialectics of any primordial duality, the properly dialectical contradiction between formalisation and destruction plays itself out. It is this contradiction that Mao gave shape to, in an altogether innovative text, by distinguishing the antagonistic contradictions – which are in fact anti-dialectical or without synthesis – from the contradictions within the people, which bear on how the antagonistic contradictions themselves are to be dealt with, and in the end concern the choice between formalisation and destruction. Mao’s essential directive is never to treat the ‘contradictions at the heart of the people’ in an antagonistic manner, to resolve the conflict between formalisation and destruction by means of formalisation.
This is perhaps one of the most profound lessons, but also one of the most difficult, that the century has bequeathed to us.