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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous little book, 28 Dec 2006
This review is from: Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Paperback)
There are many reasons why I like this book, but the most significant of these must be that it confronts the reader and challenges him or her to think differently about the politics of Christianity (and hence, perhaps, politics itself). It is not blasphemous (unless one considers atheism blasphemous a priori) and nor, by and large, does it seek to conspiratorially debunk Christian doxa (unless one counts a fine eye for political context as 'debunking'). Rather, it attempts to wrest the political content of Paul's gospel away from the historical ephemera, out of the hands of the reactionaries, and into a position where we can ask what he can teach us about present cultural entanglements and political impasses. As such I personally think it to be of benefit to the reader almost regardless of whether one is theistic or not: the secularist is asked to consider what Christianity can teach, the Christian is asked to reconsider how to be 'faithful' to their belief. One could even go so far as to say that when set against a backdrop of rising cultural tension, in which religion, faith and 'identity' are increasingly conflated, Badiou provides a rough sketch of how to go about breaking down the barriers.

On an academic level, I believe this book has a unique place in Badiou's oevre too. It provides the reader, through its mix of politics and poetics, with a supplement to the far more opaque and logically based book Being and Event. Indeed, I'm tempted even to say that - although I'm sure Badiou and his more militant followers wouldn't agree - it offers a challenge to the axiomatic schema drawn up in his more weighty offerings.

Lastly, regarding the unfamiliar reader, I would urge them not to be put off by other people's reactions to Badiou's teminology. It's certainly understandable that, when faced with Badiou's description of someone as a 'poet thinker of the event,' a commonsensical individual might reasonably respond with a frustrated "qua?!" Nonetheless, the idea that he seeks only to obfuscate, or even does so unintentionally, is tantamount to character assasination. At his acerbic best Badiou writes angrily, wittily, relevantly, passionately and with uncommon concision. In particular, his short shrift for the marriage between consumerism and identity politics leads him early on in this book into a nigh-on hilarious rant about the limitless ability of the profit-motivated to 'create' identititarian categories of "disabled Serbs, Catholic paedophiles" and "prematurely aged youth," among others. The book is, to my mind, quite possibly worth the cover price for the chance to have a chuckle at that bit alone.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars St Paul without religion!?, 12 Jan 2006
This review is from: Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Paperback)
I found this to be an excellent read. It helped having a prior knowledge of Badiou's work (Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil is a good place to start. Badiou's project in this book is to show that Paul was a theoretician of truth, not truth as revelation but truth as Truth in good old philosohical terms.
After a short introduction to St Paul, Badiou gets stuck into the meat of his theory. Where the resurrection (for Badiou nothing more than a fable) is the good news of Paul, nothing new here. What Badiou does however is remove the religious aspects of Paul to show that what he was really doing was explicating and founding universal truth. In the end though because Paul is basing his truth upon a fable Badiou claims that Paul is in fact an antiphilosopher. A very interesting book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Badiou gets unstuck on his road to Damascus, 9 Sep 2008
By 
Mr. N. Coombs (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Paperback)
Contrary to a reviewer below how describes this work as a 'pastiche of fashionable philosophical talk' or whatever, this is in fact the easiest read I have come across in Badiou's output. It is paradoxically both the best introduction to his system and its potential undoing.

The intrigue starts with that subtitle: 'the foundation of universalism.' According to Badiou's system of ontological multiplicity and the non-ontological logic of events, no foundation of universalism should be possible. So what is going on?

Badiou attempts to prove that in St. Paul he has discovered a perfect example of a Badiouian truth procedure in action. Pure positivity. No Christ dying on the cross, only the fidelity of Paul to the resurrection.

Badiou is fully aware of the critiques that his theory of the event looks an awful lot like repackaged Catholicism, so by adopting St. Paul he is in a way adopting that old trick of turning defence into attack. Like the homosexual who wears the title 'fag' with pride, Badiou hangs St. Paul round his neck as if to further provoke and defuse his detractors.

But this is a secular appropriation. As a taunt against the prevailing politically correct orthodoxy, or traditional Marxists: fine. But as work ontologically consistent with his system: I'm not so sure.

Foundations mean fixed predicates. And doesn't the idea of Christian universalism in the end work against the very tenets of Badiou's system that claim no true predicates can be fixed?
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