Liberal Modernity and Nihilism - Alain Badiou on Evil
Alain Badiou’s thoughts on evil and associated matters in an interview from 2001.
Today we see liberal capitalism and its political system, parliamentarism, as the only natural and acceptable solutions. Every revolutionary idea is considered utopian and ultimately criminal. We are made to believe that the global spread of capitalism and what gets called “democracy” is the dream of all humanity. And also that the whole world wants the authority of the American Empire, and its military police, NATO.
In truth, our leaders and propagandists know very well that liberal capitalism is an inegalitarian regime, unjust, and unacceptable for the vast majority of humanity. And they know too that our “democracy” is an illusion: Where is the power of the people?
We live in a contradiction: a brutal state of affairs, profoundly inegalitarian — where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone – is presented to us as ideal. To justify their conservatism, the partisans of the established order cannot really call it ideal or wonderful. So instead, they have decided to say that all the rest is horrible. Sure, they say, we may not live in a condition of perfect goodness. But we’re lucky that we don’t live in a condition of evil. Our democracy is not perfect. But it’s better than the bloody dictatorships. Capitalism is unjust. But it’s not criminal like Stalinism. We let millions of Africans die of AIDS, but we don’t make racist nationalist declarations like Milosevic. We kill Iraqis with our airplanes, but we don’t cut their throats with machetes like they do in Rwanda, etc.
The refrain of “human rights” is nothing other than the ideology of modern liberal capitalism: We won’t massacre you, we won’t torture you in caves, so keep quiet and worship the golden calf. As for those who don’t want to worship it, or who don’t believe in our superiority, there’s always the American army and its European minions to make them be quiet.
There is no contradiction between the affirmation that liberal capitalism and democracy are the good and the affirmation that evil is a permanent possibility for any individual. The second thesis (evil inside of each of us) is simply the moral and religious complement to the first thesis, which is political (parliamentary capitalism as the good). There is even a “logical” connection between the two affirmations, as follows:
1. History shows that democratic liberal capitalism is the only economic, political, and social regime that is truly humane, that truly conforms to the good of humanity.
2. Every other political regime is a monstrous and bloody dictatorship, completely irrational.
Liberal capitalism is not at all the good of humanity. Quite the contrary; it is the vehicle of savage, destructive nihilism.
The full interview can be found here
Is evil a useful philosophical and political concept? And in what ideological ways is the notion of evil used within the narratives of liberal modernity? What conceptual obfuscation, mystification or indeed clarification can the idea of evil be used for?
At the core of liberal modernity, and present in all of it’s forms and expressions, is a radical form of nihilism at work?
Why does liberal modernity seem to be a phenomenon in which “All that is solid melts into air”?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but half-witted responses about ‘cultural-Marxism’ - mostly from fans of Glenn Beck - would seem somewhat historically and analytically inadequate to the task of answering them.