To the youth nowadays 

The True Life. A Plea for Corrupting the You
Forfatter: Alain Badiou
Forlag: Polity Press (UK)
The aging Alain Badiou has written an advanced confirmation speech about existential torment as an opening towards a better society. 


In his philosophy, Alain Badiou moves between psychoanalysis and Marxism. By the way, he builds on Heidegger's philosophy of existence, there sanne is to be found in the relationship between the individual and the world. In the main works, existential insights are mixed with deterrent formallogical arguments – in a fundamental study of the relationship between the potential and that real.

However, in a number of short and easily accessible writings, Badiou uses his concept of truth to shed light on general experiences and contemporary problems. The basic idea is that truth has the character of being an event where the possible takes place in the real. Grabbing the truth in a love encounter can radically shape reality – the moment turns into a relationship, maybe a lifetime. In the political it may be similarly: A sense of injustice makes you an active witness. By being loyal to this perceived truth, you can help shape a new political community and change the world.

Talk to the youth. The true life is written as a speech to the youth, and thus, it is dangerously close to the easy-acclaiming – and often paternalistic – wisdom words of confirmation. As a compensation for the somewhat saddened role of Wisdom Manager, Badiou begins with a reference to the wildest of all young poets, Rimbaud, as a melancholy complain that "true life is absent." Those who speak of the true and inspired life cannot fail to also speak of the life that is faded and false and corrupt.

Those who speak of the true and inspired life cannot fail to also speak of the life that is faded and false and corrupt.

As a deliberate provocation, Badiou has given the book the subtitle A prayer for corruption of youth ("A Plea for Corrupting the Young"). The subtitle is, of course, ironic and refers to Socrates' correspondingly ironic destiny. When he was sentenced to death by the citizens of Athens, it was especially under the charge that he had led the young men astray. Actually, Socrates had tried to pull the young people away from everything that was corrupt: power sickness, money craving – and an uncritical acceptance of what was going on.

Alluring escape routes. A clear-sighted and critical insight that society is in various ways corrupt is a fundamental experience for many young people. To stand as a witness of truth to such insane insights, however, has its price. As any existence philosopher would point out, the solution for most people is to escape – both from the election situation and from the truth. With a powerful simplification, Badiou points to two escape routes for the young:

The first is very similar to the path chosen by young Rimbaud: an intense life where wine flows and where life is lived in the moment. There is a rebellion here, but a life lived only for the immediate split of the life experience into a series of episodes without any overall plan: Life worship risks ending in emptiness. The alternative to burning life energy is for many young people to ration and invest it. The first option is similar to Kierkegaard's aesthetic stage, the other solution corresponds to Kierkegaard's bottom line of irregularity: the conventional life of the pointed citizen. Life's goal is to align itself best, to gain a prestigious, safe and lucrative position. This is undeniably constructive, but it is also dangerously close to what Badiou without the embrace mentions as "the trinity of corruption" – power, money and status.

Separately, the two life paths seem both characteristic and extreme, but Badiou sees nothing in the way of combining the two escape routes. With that, we also get a highly recognizable picture of a gang's youth – where travel, parties and distractions are linked to studies and social ambitions. If this life, which is undeniably the reality for most people, is false – then what should a poor youth do?

Boys and women girls. Obviously, the problem is not the young people, but the society they are thrown into. More than anything, the situation of the young is characterized by the consumer society and the free flow of global capitalism, which Marx portrayed in a famous turn as a force that makes everything melt and evaporate.

Badiou believes that the real contradiction is more than ever between capitalism and communism.

Badiou believes the weathering of the tradition and the old in the first place has made it easier to be young today, since the young are freer and do not have to go through conventional transitional rituals. Traditionally, the military service made boys men, while marriage and children made girls women. At the same time, the new situation is confusing. Without here-
archaic structures do not ever cure the young, especially the young men, of becoming adults. They remain children, with the teenager's desire, but an adult budget. Youth is becoming endless. On the other hand, childhood is disappearing, and this is especially true for the girls, who suddenly think and act like effective and independent women from their small age. Badiou seems to argue that as long as the boys and women girls work within the capitalist society, the mix of immaturity and sudden maturity will not do any good.

Reaction and revolt. The cynical insight Marx pointed out, and on which modern capitalist society is based, is that in all social relations there is self-interest and money. In compensation for the dissolving tendencies of individualism, many choose to retreat to religious identities, national communities, and reactionary patterns of roles. But the choice between a neckless pursuit of the West's capitalist principles and a retreat to anti-modern traditionalism is based on a false contradiction. Badiou believes that the real contradiction is more than ever between capitalism and communism.

But what does "communism" mean here? When the old Marxist Badiou allies with the generation of the undoms, communism is first and foremost a code word for a possible society, a future community. Here also Lacan's psychoanalytic concepts in the background, where man lives between, haunt the imaginary, the real og the symbolic. To swear to the possible means for Badiou not to escape into a political daydream into a fantasy world, but rather to refuse to fully adapt to the raw realities of capitalism. The goal is to contribute to "a new egalitarian symbolic order". The main message is more general: Living in line with the truth means to Badiou something quite different from "understanding the reality" and living with the world as it really is. True life is witnessed by a truth that truly requires something of us – and which, in turn, leads us to something possible and better that does not yet exist.

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