Monday, February 12, 2007

Badiou on "evil"

Alain Badiou, a contemporary French thinker, offers this comment about how the concept of "evil" is handled in politics and media today:
In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our "democracy" is an illusion: Where is the power of the people? Where is the political power for third world peasants, the European working class, the poor everywhere? We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian-where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone-is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect Goodness. But we're lucky that we don't live in a condition of Evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it's better than the bloody dictatorships....That's why the idea of Evil has become essential. No intellectual will actually defend the brutal power of money and the accompanying political disdain for the disenfranchised, or for manual laborers, but many agree to say that real Evil is elsewhere. Who indeed today would defend the Stalinist terror, the African genocides, the Latin American torturers? Nobody. It's there that the consensus concerning Evil is decisive. Under the pretext of not accepting Evil, we end up making believe that we have, if not the Good, at least the best possible state of affairs-even if this best is not so great.
It might be worth thinking about how this characterization of a view of evil compares -- or contrasts -- with what Purgatorio presents. Do we see the kind of demonizing of Evil in Dante that Badiou finds in certain present-day political rhetoric?

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