Badiou: The question of the political process is always a question that goes beyond identities. It’s the question of finding something that is, paradoxically, a generic identity, the identity of no-identity, the identity which is beyond all identities. For Marx, “proletariat” was the name of something like that. In the Manuscripts of 1844, Marx writes that the very nature of the proletariat is to be generic. It’s not an identity. It’s something like an identity which is non-identity; it’s humanity as such. That’s why for Marx the liberation of the working class is liberation of humanity as such, because the working class is something generic and not a pure identity. Probably that function of the working class is saturated. We cannot substitute a mere collection of identities for the saturated generic identity of the working class. I think we have to find the political determination that integrates the identities, the principles of which are beyond identity. The great difficulty is to do that without something like the working class. Without something that was a connection between particularity and universality, because that’s what the working class was. The particularity of the working class was its location in a singular place; the working class was generic. The solution of the problem for Marxism was the human group which is not really an identity, which is beyond identity.
We have to do the same thing, but probably without that sort of solution. We cannot say that today this group is the generic group and that the emancipation of this group is also the emancipation of us all. So we have to find something more formal. Why formal? Because it’s less inscribed in the singularity of a group. It’s a relation between principles, between the formalism of the new discipline and all identities in the social field. It’s a problem now for which we don’t yet have the solution.
Marx’s solution is a sort of miracle: you find the group which is also the generic group. It was an extraordinary invention. The history of this Marxist invention, in its concrete political determination, was not so much the history of the generic group, of the working class as such, but rather history of the representation of this generic group in a political organization: it was the history of the party. The crisis now is the crisis of representation, and also the crisis of the idea of the generic group.
When you see that a sequence of politics of emancipation is finished, you have a choice: you can continue in the same political field, or you can find the fidelity to the fidelity. It’s the same thing here: If the idea of the working class as a generic group is saturated, you have the choice of saying that there are only identities, and that the best hope is the revolt of some particular identity. Or you can say that we have to find something much more universal, much more generic. But probably without the representative generic group.