Badiou, Rousseau, and the Social Contract
Justin Dominic Clemens (University of Melbourne)

September 20, 2021, 8:00pm - 9:30pm
Arts, Monash University



  • Australian Research Council


Monash University

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Monday 20 September 2021, 8-9.30pm Melbourne; 6-7.30am New York; 11am-12.30pm London

The question of the transition between a pre- or non-political situation and a properly political situation has proven a frustrating enigma for the greatest of the social contract theorists themselves. How does one move from a ‘state of nature’ to ‘a state of obedience’? How can authority be implemented on the basis of natural freedom? What sort of residues of nature survive in the new order or orders? Such questions have proven intractable, not least due to their circularity. Rousseau himself admits it: ‘How did this change come about? I do not know.’ In his own meditation on Rousseau in Being and Event, Alain Badiou reuptakes the question, focusing on the peculiarities of the ‘general will.’ In doing so, he makes a distinction between what is apparently a functioning contractual situation, for instance, the actuality of sovereignty and its structures, and the power of establishment, that is, the event of the general will that founds the chance of politics. This distinction has significant consequences for thinking the state, as it confirms that ‘the State is not founded upon the social bond which it would express, but rather upon un-binding, which it prohibits.’ This talk will introduce and discuss these distinctions and claims in some detail.

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September 20, 2021, 8:00pm +10:00

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