‘The Meaning of Sarkozy’ by Alain Badiou

Published by Verso in 2009. Download link updated on 6th August 2021.

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When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of the France in 2007, the world was shocked. Could this out and out right-winger really be the new leader of the Republic? Alain Badiou, in this sharp and focused intervention, claims that, in and of itself, the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as President is not an event, nor is it the cause for wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.

To understand the significance of ‘Sarkozy’, we have to look behind the insignificance and vulgarity of the figure and ask what he represents, namely a reactionary tradition which goes back to the early nineteenth century.

To escape from the ambience of depression and fear that currently envelops the Left, Badiou casts aside the slavish worship of electoral democracy and maps out a communist hypothesis that can lay the basis for emancipatory politics in the twenty-first century.


Alain Badiou is a French Marxist philosopher, novelist and playwright. Born in Rabat, Morocco, Badiou completed high school in Toulouse before moving to Paris for undergraduate studies at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure (ENS), where he worked closely with Louis Althusser, but was never one of the select group of disciples who came to be known as Althusserians. After completing his obligatory military service, Badiou taught in Reims, first at a lycée, then at the university. In 1968 he was invited by Michel Foucault to join the department of philosophy at Vincennes (University of Paris VIII), where his colleagues included Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean-François Lyotard. After spending 30 years at Vincennes, Badiou left in 1998 to return to his alma mater ENS. The primary philosophical system developed by Alain Badiou is constructed in Being and Event, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II, and the forthcoming Immanence of Truths: Being and Event III. Badiou’s model of praxis is usually described as subtractive because it operates on the premise that political action can only work if it subtracts itself from the power and processes of the state. Throughout his career, Badiou has been actively involved in politics. During the events of May ’68 he was a member of highly vocal Maoist groups. In more recent times he has been involved with L’Organisation Politique, a politicized group he helped found. Because of its powerfully political texture, Badiou’s philosophy is increasingly widely read today, a measure both of the volatility of the times and the lucidity of his thought.

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