Alain Badiou’s Perspective on the Strauss-Kahn Affair

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This extract is from a seminar given by Alain Badiou on 25 May 2011, according to notes taken by Daniel Fischer. In it, he comments on the construction of events surrounding the initial accusations towards the then head of the IMF.


What interests me in this affair is precisely its theatrical essence. The great writer of this would have been Jean Genet. We have here, as in “The Balcony” and “The Blacks,” allegory. We are in the representation, even in the representation of representation, the representation of the mechanisms of representation (what is a president, what is a police chief?).
We have in effect the Powerful Man at the head of the most fundamental institution of the Western world, the favorite of all the polls etc., who in “The Balcony,” was the role of the Chief of Police – who Genet indicated should arrive in the form of a big cock in the third act (you see that this was already previewed ...). On the other hand, there is the symbol of weakness: The Black Immigrant Woman who comes from Africa, which has a terrible job etc.. The meeting of these two figures can only be sexual, because there cannot be any relation between them: she is totally nonexistent for him, and reciprocally. Sex is the element that causes unlikely collisions from the point of view of the general icons of the world. There is also the role, magnificent, of the Sublime Wife who announces the inappropriateness of the couple; I salute her, seriously, because if she loves him more than ever, this has shown everyone something of human weakness.

My theatrical hypothesis - the “political “ implications in this case does not make me hot or cold, to be honest, I was not among the voters of Strauss-Kahn, nor in his non-voters - is that he did not want to go. It’s his entourage who created around him this morbid desire to be president of the republic. His wife may have hoped that he would settle down in the necessities of representation, the PS chose their candidate solely on the basis of the polls (though everyone knew he could not help jumping on a woman when he finds himself alone with her in a closed room), which is even so extravagant: it shows how the ideological degeneration of this body is total ("win the vote, and then we'll see"). In short, everyone wanted Strauss-Kahn, except one person: Strauss-Kahn. Since he is not very brave, he did not want to go, but he did not say he did not want to go, he would not publicly say "it bothers me" (thinking, moveover, "I know how I will appear in history"). His unconscious found the solution to this dilemma. He won’t do it, and for that he has only to say yes to his drive, which is very economical. This is what makes him happy because he will not do what he does not want to do and also because he told the whole world who he really was. If I were him, I would experience an ironic joy, because I would say to myself: "Idiots! Here is the one you all wanted to vote for! "And this, that’s a marvelous position. The wife is happy too, as she is in a sublime role, she will show people what it means to love. I'm glad too, because Strauss-Kahn, I didn’t want it. You must really search in the bowels of the PS to find unhappy people.

This symbolic collapse between absolute power and absolute powerlessness, I think that's what interests everyone and explains the fascination with this case. Strauss-Kahn’s decision reveals a secret element of humanity one must call bestial in the iconic head of the IMF.

One appendix. We see enter the stage Christine Lagarde [DSK’s successor as head of the IMF]. We imagine the following story: Madame Lagarde is in the hotel, she leaves the shower, and a Filipino groom jumps on her. This is what Husserl called eidetic variation (*). The guy is caught, he is handcuffed and photographed handcuffed. What does the press say? It stigmatizes those dreadful American morals consist of presenting people in handcuffs? I guarantee not. The press said: "Justice is done, this bastard has gotten what he deserved." It's proof that this story is profoundly a story of class. If we do an eidetic variation in the other direction, it is clear that the construction of Strauss-Kahn as a victim can only be explained by the unpredictable crossing between sexual determination and the determination of class.

By Alain Badiou 

Translated by Andrew Ryder.