The Truth of Politics in Alain Badiou: ‘There Is only One World’
Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy 12 (2011): 82-93.
12 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019
Date Written: 2011
In recent years, the growing number of persons to whom basic human rights have been explicitly denied—stateless persons, refugees, undocumented workers, sans papiers and unlawful combatants—has evidenced the logic of contemporary nation-state politics. According to this logic, the state defines itself by virtue of what it excludes while what is excluded is given no other recourse than the state for its protection. Hannah Arendt elucidates this logic when she observes that the stateless and the refugee can only be recognized as human beings when they have already been recognized as citizens. Their appeal to human rights for protection was fruitless because they needed to have citizen rights, the recognition of a government, or of other citizens who can appeal to that government, in order to invoke these rights. In the terms Arendt uses to name political action, one needs to be seen and heard already, the privileges of those who are citizens, in order to appeal to be seen and heard. Just as political life (bios), in order to be free, was only possible once the necessities were accounted for in natural life (zoē), so citizenship is recognized to the exclusion of the non-citizen, that is, the merely human.
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