Alain Badiou. 2008, October 17. Le Monde. partial translation at Infinite Thought.
We see, and this is what it means to see, simple things that we’ve known for a long time: capitalism is nothing but robbery, irrational in its essence and devastating in its development. Its few short decades of savagely unequal prosperity have always been at the cost of crises in which astronomical quantities of value disappear, bloody punitive expeditions into every zone that capitalism judges either strategically important or threatening, and world wars that brought it back to health.
I can hear your skepticism now: hold on there, SN, there have been no wars as a result of this latest crisis!
Haven’t there? You are not looking closely enough. I will not contend that the new administration will be more adventurous as a result of this latest calamity. McCain would go into Iran regardless. I do, however, suspect that Obama may suspend the withdrawal longer than he would have had the crisis not happened. The withdrawal will be deadly and will bring blame on Obama, and in the midst of the crisis he will be more cautious to risk his mandate.
What is missing from Badiou’s argument, however, is that the current war was precisely the fix capitalism needs to sustain itself. And it is this war which caused the very crisis. The war jacked up oil prices. The war devalued the dollar, forcing interest rates to rise which is why people in their fancy ARMs became unable to finance their payments. From there it was an easy tumble into the current morass. And here is where Badiou’s argument fails: wars do not revive a failing capitalism because of a Keynesian infusion of capital (read: confidence) but rather the wars resuscitate because the people know the story and buy into it. Note the path of the status quo’s morass Badiou traces, in the beginning of the piece, from the cinema to the political.
This is not capitalism’s collapse because people see similarities with the Hollywood blockbuster. Just as Ah-nuld or Matt Damon save the day, so too will Paulson and Sarkozy and the other usual suspects. And this is all without analyzing the disastrous effects this has had on individuals: people thrown out of work, thrown out of their homes, a coming financial crisis among state receipts and the concominant social services funding cuts, etc…