The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shockwaves across the globe. How was such an outcome even possible? In two lectures given at American universities in the immediate aftermath of the election, the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou helps us to make sense of this extraordinary occurrence. He argues that Trump’s victory was the symptom of a global crisis made up of four characteristics: the triumph of a brutal form of global capitalism, the decomposition of the established political elite, the growing frustration and disorientation that many people feel today, and the absence of a compelling alternative vision. It was in this context that Trump could emerge as a new kind of political figure that was both inside and outside the political order, a member of the Republican Party who, at the same time, represents something outside the system. The progressive political challenge now is to create something new that offers people a real choice, a radical alternative based on principles of universality and equality.
This concise account of the meaning of Trump should be read by everyone who wants to understand what is happening in our world today.
French philosopher Badiou (In Praise of Love) hypothesizes about how Donald Trump could be elected into the highest office of the United States in two speeches Badiou delivered shortly after the election. Unlike others who have written about Trump, Badiou focuses less on the person than his role as avatar of the trend of far-right "gangster" leaders, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy included, being elected. Badiou's first major claim is that Trump's victory is a victory for global capitalism and an ostensible failure for "the great socialist states" such as Russia and China. From this foundation, he argues that the current moment is defined by the myth that free market capitalism is the only "path for the future of humanity." After this explanation, Badiou gives prescriptions: he defines two societal paths that he says have existed throughout modern history the capitalist orientation and the communist orientation defines communism as "the making in-common," and argues it is the side humanity should turn toward for "communist emancipation," in which equality "exists across differences." This is both approachable and insightful, and will satisfy both general readers and readers more knowledgeable about political theory.