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Topography and structure

Jason Barker, Writer and Translator

The Marxist topographical framework consists in a determinate relation of two levels. Overall, the Marxist ‘problematic’ is to evaluate the action of the base on the superstructure and, vice versa, the ‘reciprocal action’ of the superstructure on the base. From this perspective the task of Marxism, including, above all, the force of its politics - which always implies a certain intellectual effort - is to understand the full extent of the effectivity of economic processes, their hold over society, the masses, individuals, including the ‘relative autonomy’ of their practices.

As for the philosophy of Alain Badiou (here I shall merely be dealing with the structures, or structural conditions, of his philosophy), one takes it for granted that the liberal economy, in the form of "Capital unchained", "is neither measurable nor fixed". The infinite excess of economic and statist power, both synonymous in Badiou’s conception, means that there is no determinate relation between base and superstructure. In other words, what is involved in this (non)relation is the indeterminacy of statist excess, or the representation of public space. For Badiou, politics alone determines the event, which means that, ultimately, politics tends toward the absolute autonomy of the superstructures. There is no ‘ground’ of radical action because politics is opened up in the aftermath of an event which enacts a decisive rupture with the space of representation. The event is unforeseeable, it cannot be predicted through a knowledge, and there is certainly no anticipatory dimension, of would-be prophetic communism, for what goes on politically. However, the question I want to pose is the following: despite its singularity, does the political event imply a much more determinant (more globalising) structural framework than one might imagine?
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