Emblems and Cuts: Philosophy in and against History

Alain Badiou’s theory of the subject has consistently opposed a vision of History as meaning and totality, for the sake of an internal, subjective and discontinuous grasp of the periodisation of political “sequences.” This article examines the theoretical trajectory that leads Badiou to dislocate the historical dialectic, generating a comprehension of political time which is no longer bound to an ordered matrix of expression and development; it also considers Badiou’s relation to various strands of anti-humanist anti-historicism and tackles the theoretical tensions that inhere in his disjunction of nature and history. The article concludes by discussing the effect of Badiou’s notion of periodisation on the very historicity and mutability of his own philosophical apparatus, and the immanent threat posed to his thinking of the event by an ‘absolute historicism.’