Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 12, No 1 (2016)

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

"Can Politics be Thought in Interiority?" (Translation)

Sylvain Lazarus, Tyler Harper

Abstract


“Can Politics be Thought in Interiority” is an essay from The Intelligence of Politics, one of two book-length works published by French anthropologist and political theorist, Sylvain Lazarus. The English translation of Lazarus’ first book, Anthropology of the Name, is set to come out in August 2015, and while that work can rightly be considered his magnum opus, “Can Politics be Thought in Interiority” provides a comprehensive, yet succinct statement of the concepts outlined in this much longer text. Broadly speaking, the central concern for Lazarus in this essay, as well as in his work as a whole, is to rehabilitate a form of leftist theory that maintains the radical edge of previous discourses, all without either descending into the violent pitfalls that plagued the various socialist and communist projects of the 20th century, or capitulating to the dominant neo-liberal or “parliamentary” regime. According to Lazarus, both the (failed) communist project and the current parliamentary-democratic project—though they espouse widely different ideologies—fall prey to and ultimately fail because of the same underlying structure. For Lazarus, this structure is what he terms “politics in exteriority,” which he defines as any mode of political organization that identifies politics in relation (and only in relation) to a specific “object” or set of objects, whether they be conceptual or empirical. The task of contemporary politics is not, according to Lazarus, to find new “objects” for politics to identify with (to use a current example, to maintain that the site of politics is not the nation-State but in “global citizenship” or the “global society”), but to move toward a non-dogmatic and praxis-oriented “politics in interiority,” which this essay outlines in detail. 

It is also worth noting that Sylvain Lazarus’ work has been of crucial importance to the developement of the philosophical and political project of Alain Badiou, and is, alongside with Lacan, Plato, and Sartre, one of the most important influences on Badiou’s thought. Key terms and phrases in Badiou’s project, such as “the name,” “politics without the party,” and “politics at a distance from the State,” as well as assertions such as “politics is rare,” are ideas that have been developed in concert with Lazarus (during their many years of political and theoretical labour together), and in many cases, that have been culled directly (without alteration) from Lazarus’ body of work. As such, “Can Politics be Thought in Interiority”—outside of its substantial independent merits—will also be an invaluable resource for the ever-growing legion of Badiou scholars, who until now, have had almost no direct English-language contact with Lazarus’ work, and as such, have not been able to get a foothold on one of Badiou’s primary influences.


Full Text: PDF