When the president of The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS), Alain Badiou gave his first seminar for the school, entitled, “Badiou on Badiou” he kept reiterating the seminal foundation on which a struggle for our time could be built.
“The question for our time, is always the question of ideology and organization,” Badiou would say. For Badiou, ideology, within the Marxist tradition, is central. Louis Althusser was Badiou’s teacher, and the former defined the term thusly, “Ideology is the system of the ideas and representations which dominate the mind of a man or a social group”. Philosophy for Badiou is always a question of breaking with the dominant ideological structures. This rupture or “break” is crucial for building an affirmative struggle today. But a singular break, although necessary, is not sufficient in and of itself. What is necessary is organization, that is, a way of sustaining an alternative to dominant ideology.
The question before us thus surrounds the question of organization. What is needed to be done and how? How do we organize ourselves in our time, in the time of riots and uprisings the world over?
The Need for a Common Idea.
Badiou makes it clear in his book, The Rebirth of History, that there is a great need for an Idea! “If riots are to signal a reawakening of History they must indeed accord with an Idea.” So according to him, “[T]here needs to be a strategic vision—an idea common to all actors.” Today, the vastly diversified struggles signals the great need to create a common vision for all. Although the reigning regime of power works against the formation of a “common vision of life” we must see direct democracy as the universal Idea, an Idea that Badiou calls Communism.
Then, there are the details of organization: “And this is always the most obscure question in the field of politics because it’s the question between action and thinking.” Badiou continues, quoted by Joe Gelonesi:
We must invent a new paradigm, a new conception of the organisation which is less military, less strict, and less centralised. It needs to nearer to the movement, but being close to the movement is not to be confused with the movement. The organisation cannot disappear into the movement. We know that. And we know also that if the organisation is without the movement, the organisation and the movement will become the same thing: this is [the failed] history of socialism.
Following Badiou, what we are proposing here is a dialectics between organization, on the one hand, and social movements on the other hand. And the name we give to this space between insurrections and organization is an emancipatory-educational space committed to an Idea: equality, a commons and solidarity in which new epistemological structures are formed, explored and shared.
Fostering Solidarity and Uniting Struggles
This won’t happen overnight, but we believe it must happen; indeed there are recent attempts of uniting struggles for the common destiny of all, Ferguson solidarity with Palestine being one of them. Many other examples are there too. The need for this to emerge in the heart of the global Empire, the United States is crucial, as Tariq Ali says, “If nothing happens in the United States, if nothing new is created to challenge systemic excesses and empire, it will be a bad situation for all of us.”
Revolutionary education as a terrain of empowerment and emancipation through the transmission of new knowledge that takes place in a community can be linked between these two since it combines both whilst embodying all existing struggles. It creates the rising of class-consciousness, “conscientization” as Paulo Freire called it, and includes the molding of subjectivity through organizing solidarity and unity precisely by being faithful to an Idea.
By uniting and empowering the organic intellectual, with workers, activists, artists and others, a school can be a catalyst for an organization that Badiou directs our attention to, with the aim for justice. The power asymmetry between the 1% and the rest of society is too strong to change without organization, and when that organization is a space of empowerment and emancipation it grows in strength and power.
Finally, we must be courageous enough to not only realize that the neoliberal strategy seeks to dissolve any counter-unifying base that hold’s them in check, but to also be bold enough to start organizing. Failure to do so will only precipitate the extinction of democracy, even in its obscured representative form.
Maria Nikolakaki, (PhD) is Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Educational Policy at the University of Peloponnese & the Directs The Institute of Critical Pedagogy at The Global Center for Advanced Studies. She has published seven books including Critical Pedagogy in the New Dark Ages: Challenges & Possibilities and is the author of Revolutionary Pedagogies and Debtocracy with Leonidas Vatikiotis, forthcoming with Routledge.
Creston Davis, (PhD) is the Founding Director of The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS). He is the co-author with Slavoj Zizek & John Milbank of Paul’s New Moment and the editor of The Monstrosity of Christ, co-editor with Slavoj Zizek & Clayton Crockett of Hegel and the Infinite, and with Marcus Pound & Clayton Crockett, Theology after Lacan: A Passion for the Real. He is the co-editor of Insurrections, a book series published by Columbia University Press.
The GCAS will be hosting the Democracy Rising Conference in Athens from July 16 – 19. Find more information on the website of the conference.