Tendance Coatesy

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Badiou Studies Hit by Sokal-style “Intellectual Impostures” Affair.

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This recently appeared: Badiou Studies Volume Four, Number One. Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being Benedetta Tripodi. Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Iasi, Romania.


Unfortunately, as this just published piece explains, Un « philosophe français » label rouge. Relecture tripodienne d’Alain Badiou,  the article is a pastiche and satire –  albeit with serious intent.

Which reminds us of this: the Sokal Affair.

The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax, was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.

The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[3][4] On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics.

Last autumn the ‘peer reviewed’ academic journal  Badiou Studies called for papers for a special issue, “towards a queer badiouian feminism “.

The merry pair,  Anouk Barberousse & Philippe Huneman,   sent their text off and it was accepted.

We hear that the learned Badiou Studies has just now rumbled the prank.

Badiou is, as they observe, highly regarded not just in France (where he is at the pinnacle of a certain academic establishment, while being cordially loathed by those in different camps) but in the world of Cultural Studies, Film Studies, White Studies, Heritage Studies, Postcolonial Studies and one could add Verso books who publish his ponderings. Terry Eagleton has called him The Greatest Philosopher since Plato and St Ignatius of Loyola” – the latter no doubt not without a ring of a certain ‘truth regime’.

Badiou is also known for his ‘Maoist’ past, his support for the Khmer Rouge, and the bullying of other leftist and academics by his 1970’s groupusucle the Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCFml).

He remains unwavering in his glorification of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This apparently is one of the Events that demonstrate the Truth of the Communist Idea to which he remains faithful.

As Barberousse and Huneman remark, most of Badiou’s admirers like his politics – his ‘Communist Hypothesis’ – while grasping little or nothing of his metaphysics (“Badiousiens « politiques » se satisfont de savoir que cette métaphysique est profonde, mais ils n’y comprennent rien.”)

Their approach is the following,

Aussi incroyablement irritantes que puissent être certaines des postures d’Alain Badiou, entre mégalomanie et violence verbale réminiscence des plus belles heures de feu la gauche prolétarienne, c’est sa place et son aura intellectuelles qu’il s’agit de déconstruire ici. Nous n’avons pas tant voulu produire une argumentation à charge, qu’une illustration par l’absurde de certaines failles dans son système de positions comme dans l’engagement de ses sectateurs.

As unbelievably irritating as certain of Alain Badiou’s posturings may be, between megalomania and a verbal violence which recalls the incandescence of the glory days of the gauche prolétarienne (French ultra-Maoist group of the early 1970s), its his position and intellectual aura which we aimed to deconstruct. We did not want  to produce a charge-sheet but show by illustration the absurdity of certain weak points in his system and seize them with a pair of secateurs.

Pour clarifier le projet Tripodi, il faut tout d’abord décrire en

They contest what is in effect a legitimation of philosophy by an abstract ontology (une légitimation pour la métaphysique du philosophe). Or to be more clearly, the idea that you can produce a rational picture of the world by intellectual fiat while concealing  the many difficulties it involves.

The parody is designed to undermine the foundations on which the ontology of the ‘Master’ rests, its use to determine how social relations work, how radical politics can be based, and, apart from anything else, is highly amusing.

The ‘paper’  Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non)Being  begins:

As established by Badiou in Being and Event , mathematics – as set theory – is the ultimate ontology. Sets are what gender in g processes by reactionary institutions intend to hold, in contradiction to the status of the multiplicities proper to each subject qua subject. This tension between subjectivity and gender comes to the fore through the lens of the ‘count as ‘one’, the onto logical operator identified by Badiou as the fluid mediator between set  belonging and set existence. After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the “many” that is negatively referred to through the “count as  one” posited by the gendering of “the” woman. Maintaining the openness of this “many” is an interweaving philosophical endeavour. It is also a political task for any theory receptive to the oppressive load proper to the institutions of sexuation, as deployed through modern capitalism that is, any queer theory. In its second step, the paper will therefore expose the adequacy of the Badiousian ontology to provide theoretical resources for articulating the field of a genuine queer nomination. It will finally appear that “non gender” structurally corresponds in the field of a post capitalist politics of the body to what Francois Laruelle (1984) designated as non philosophie within the field of metaphysics.

This is priceless.

“To sum up, non-gender cannot but only be thought of, by a radical philosophical gesture, as a supplement of this philosophy itself. As such a supplement, non gender hasto be where philosophy is not meant to be, even when it shows instead of saying(according to the well known Wittgensteinian distinction) or, shows through its non saying that this situation is a non situation, or, in Badiousian words, that we have the situation of a condition that is a non condition.”


What matters to this truth is a faithfulness to the “many” that was unnamed but arising in the event of feminism. It is the faithfulness to the Impensé of the gendering institutions proper to late capitalism – in other words, a faithfulness to the (non) gender (Bersanti 1987; Magnus 2006). Here, we reach the limits of what philosophy – conceived of in Badiousian terms, as exposing the conditions of an authentic event of truth through the subjectification of a subject– can frame, or, more generally, can utter.

The suggestion that Jacobin was about the publish an interview with Benedetta Tripodi has been denied.






Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm

15 Responses

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  1. Hello
    What did Badiou actually KNOW about Cambodia – lots or just a littleor was he just a know-it-all posturing ninny like Chomsky, runninghis mouth about things of which he knew nothing at all?
    I am in Cambodia. My wife, a Khmer, has a minor shrapnel wound from the post-1979 period, whenthe regrouped and rearmed KR were raiding from across the Thai border (aided by the venal Thais,the ever-clever Americans and the vengeful PRC and a tiny cameo role for Margaret Thatcher*.)
    * She felt that there were probably some “moderate” KR – like Bow Groupers as opposed toMonday Clubbers, blithely unaware that Brother Number One had “smashed” (the term thenused) all his actual or potential opponents within the KR.


    Date: Sat, 2 Apr 2016 15:06:18 +0000
    To: billycorr@hotmail.com

    Bill Corr

    April 3, 2016 at 3:21 am

    • And what did he know about the Cultural Revolution and the mass killing and persecutions there.

      ” A new book on the period by Dutch historian Frank Dikötter reveals the grotesque catalogue of violence inflicted upon alleged “class enemies” and intellectuals as teenage Red Guards fanned out across urban China with orders to “sweep away monsters and demons”.

      Victims were beaten, flogged, stoned and scolded by “Mao’s Little Generals” or forced to swallow nails and excrement as jeering crowds looked on. Homes and places of worship were ransacked, pillaged and burned. One teacher killed himself after being set upon by students who forced him to drink ink. Another was doused in petrol and set alight. Others were electrocuted or even buried alive.

      “[It was] a demented environment, an Alice-in-Wonderland world, governed only by its mad logic,” Percy Cradock, then a senior British diplomat in Beijing, recalls in his memoirs. “The country was in the grip of a nightmare.”

      Among the estimated two million people who lost their lives over the coming decade was Yang Le’s father, Wang Yuguo, a lecturer in industrial economy at Beijing’s prestigious Renmin University.

      “My father was persecuted and he killed himself. He jumped from the roof of a building,” the singer said.

      “At Renmin University you heard of professors killing themselves every day. It was horrible. I would hear someone crying and we would wonder who was crying and whose family was suffering those bad things.”

      The premature death of Yang’s father devastated his family. His mother was forced to sell her dead husband’s belongings – and even her own blood – to feed the couple’s four children. Yang’s three siblings were packed off to the countryside for “re-education” as part of an attempt to rein in Mao’s marauding Red Guards.”


      The man is more than a fool: he is a criminal apologist for murder.

      Andrew Coates

      April 3, 2016 at 11:01 am

  2. Badiou is a fool, he doesn’t support Stalin.


    April 3, 2016 at 9:58 pm

  3. Confused by the Jacobin jab at the end – has Jacobin been a forum for this kind of nonsense?


    April 5, 2016 at 10:51 am

    • For Jacobin he is an expert on European politics and the Euro as well: Alain Badiou & Stathis Kouvelakis: Dangerous Days Ahead
      on Syriza and whether a radical break from the eurozone is possible.


      Andrew Coates

      April 5, 2016 at 11:20 am

      • That seems to be a fairly straight discussion of current events, though. I don’t think Jacobin is prone to publishing the kind of ‘theory’ found in Badiou Studies or anything like it.


        April 5, 2016 at 12:55 pm

  4. Badiou Studies Hoax gets in le Monde.

    Andrew Coates

    April 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm

  5. […] Barberousse explain (in French) why they submitted the fake paper to Badiou Studies. The blog Tendance Coatesy summarizes the purpose in […]

  6. Hi Andrew,
    Has this much to do with how the writers invoked Laruelle’s non-philosophy in their piece? As a reader of Laruelle, who has been seen as “trolling” philosophy but has extremely relevant material on queer theory (see his introduction to Katerina Kolozova’s book, Cut of the Real), his critique of Badiou (Anti-Badiou) and his work on victimhood (General Theory of Victims), I can only sense a coming “Laruelle-is-Sokal” kind of situation that does no justice to his own work. I even think Laruelle has written on Sokal on the ONPhI website, but this hasn’t been translated into English yet (or properly, really). I’m curious to see if there is any sort of relation going on here, especially how the authors of the prank suggest “the Master’s (Badiou’s) ontology.” In any case, I’m hoping that this doesn’t bring it back to any of us who are very much drawn to and involved in Laruelle’s work – what are your thoughts on this?

    Jeremy R Smith

    April 9, 2016 at 5:14 pm

  7. Laruelle looks extremely interesting (I saw reviews of the Anti-Badiou), but I am more concerned directly in the Badiou’s faults in his ethics, social and political ontology as part of a general interest in French left intellectual life than in more specialised philosophical issues.

    Thanks for making this point, which is important: there are just so many books out there!

    Andrew Coates

    April 10, 2016 at 12:03 pm

  8. […] ところがこの論文は、フランスの哲学者フィリップ・ユヌモン(パリ第一大学)とアンノク・バルベルース(リール第一大学)が、いかにもバディウやバディウ主義者たちが使いそうな言葉を散りばめた文章を並べてでっち上げたインチキ論文でした。そしてアレクサンドル・イアン・クザ大学に「ベネディッタ・トリポディ」という研究者はいません。『バディウ・スタディーズ』編集部は、きっかけは不明なのですが、いずれかの段階でその事実に気づき、この論文を撤回しました。現在、同誌第4巻1号の目次にこの論文の題名はありません。ユヌモンとバルベルースは、このようなことを行なった理由を「ジルセル(Zilsel)」というウェブサイトにおいてフランス語で表明したようですが、それを「テンデンス・コーテジー(Tendance Coatesy」というウェブサイトが英語で要約しています。 […]

  9. Some belated thoughts on the “Badiou Hoax” as self-hoax: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/the-badiou-dictionary/


    August 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

  10. Interesting point about the politics as a “truth procedure”, and the ontology of events, not to mention set theory.

    It is an arbitrary construction without the kind of “foundation” in some kind of synthesis of the natural sciences, notably physics, that most ‘ontologists’ are fond of.

    I imagine it’s the way ‘events’ are said to arise, almost as arbitrary as Onfray’s “hapax existentiel”, soemthign wholly new that juist p[ops up, which gave rise to a loose association with the post-modernism’s rejection of ‘grands narratives’.

    Onfray’s concept is just an amateur’s footnote to David Hume’s analysis of causation and the lack of ‘necessary binding’ between events.

    Andrew Coates

    August 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

  11. The interesting point for me is the self-hoaxing. H&B have no idea of Badiou’s analysis of “Maoism”, the word is just an empty rubric in a list of stereotypes. Yet they accuse Badiou of using words as tags rather than concepts. They have no idea of Badiou’s lifelong struggle against postmodernism, of which his concept of Truths is a key aspect. They have no idea of the difference between Truth and knowledge, a basic conceptual distinction that can be found in Badiou’s influences (Foucault, Lacan, Heidegger) and also in his contemporaries (Bernard Stiegler, Bruno Latour). They have no idea that concepts can bear other names and that the Truth/knowledge distinction is present not only in Deleuze and Lyotard but also in someone like Thomas Kuhn, under the name of revolutionary science and normal science. They have no idea that an important achievement of Badiou has been to work out a new ontological system in such detail that he can address people like Heidegger and Deleuze, with whom it is difficult to argue, and bring them back into the field of argumentation. Yet H&B claim that one can’t argue with Badiou. They show no concern for the truth of Badiou’s claims, or even about the meaning of his key words. Their way of bringing Badiou back into the argumentative field is to hoax an online review that was in itself already a hoax. Badiou’s way of bringing Heidegger back into the argumentative field was to devote a year long seminar to him, to extract determinate hypotheses from his texts (in itself a difficult task), to propose alternatives to Heidegger’s hypotheses on every level of abstraction up to the highest, and to try to evaluate which hypothesis is more likely to be right in view of our current knowledge. This is why H&B’s actual procedure is much more “postmodern” than Badiou’s, and their hoax is a self-hoax.

    The point about Michel Onfray does not provide a good analysis of his notion of “hapax existentiel”, and the parallel with Hume is off the mark, because the hapax does have a long preparation behind it. On the other hand, your parallel of the hapax and Badiou’s truth seems justified to me, and opens up the way to a critique of Badiou that I would endorse. Badiou insists that philosophy is not a truth procedure, and so that it does not have the sort of events that Onfray’s hapax constitute.

    More generally, I do not like the widespread anti-Onfray snobbery, and I have very severely criticised Badiou for his mindless Onfray-bashing. In particular I think that Onfray’s book on Freud contains a lot of good arguments. Badiou belongs to a philosophical generation in France that thought it knew everything about the human psyche from reading Freud and Lacan and then modifying them slightly with some supposed epistemological and political sophistication. Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault, were unable to modify this model, and Onfray fared no better. Badiou, from this point of view, belongs to the intellectual reaction rather than to its avant-garde. But H&B do not take on this aspect of the French élitist doxa, and merely repeat other fragments of the simpler mediatic doxa.


    August 11, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    • Badiou was originally in the Parti Socialiste Unifié, in which he waged a factional war, advocating (according to the most recent history of the PSU, Quand la gauche se réinventait. Le PSU, histoire d’un parti visionnaire, 1960-1989, Bernard Ravenel. 2016) armed struggle.

      But in reality his faction was not unlike that of the more obscure groupuscles on the UK Trotskyist left. The group he eventually was part of l’Union des communistes de France marxiste-léniniste (UCF-ML) became, under his leadership, ruthlessly sectarian, but was essentially a band of gesticulating, screaming toffs.

      His ‘Maoism’ was pretty tangential to the history of the current in France, let alone the left.

      More here: Badiou: Deleuze, Guattari and the ‘fascisme de la pomme de terre’: https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/badiou-deleuze-guattari-and-the-fascisme-de-la-pomme-de-terre/

      The only book – I’ve read a heap of articles – I’ve read of Onfray is Traité d’athéologie which in interesting. Our French comrades loathe him for his ‘sovereigntist’ inclinations though as you say Terence there is a lot of snobbery about him. But the scathing reviews I’ve read of Le Miroir aux alouettes. Principes d’athéisme social, which I nearly bought, really put me off.

      On the wider philosophical issues, Badiou claims some influence from Althusser, somebody whose works I know well though I can;t see much of a link.

      I am also, perhaps, too irredeemably ‘analytical’ (Althusser’s rationalism can be interpreted in this way, as can the more purely political philosophies of people like Claude Lefort ) to have much sympathy for Badiou, or Heidegger for that matter, but I take your point about the hapex and post-modernism.

      I like your argument about Badiou and Freud/Lacan, as well as the more general point about the slippery use of the term ‘post-modernism’ – whatever happened to it incidentally?

      Andrew Coates

      August 11, 2016 at 5:01 pm

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