Badiou despre tineri

As defendant, Mr. Badiou — profession, philosopher — do you admit having wanted to corrupt the youth, together with your accomplice Socrates?

Yes, if by “corruption” we mean proposing to the youth that it seek out its own way, by itself, by discussing it, thinking about it and reflecting on it rather than following the path already traced out by its predecessors, by governments, by the authorities and by tradition. The philosopher is supposed to corrupt youth — in a sense that is his job, his professional task.

But, let us be sure, that does not mean corruption by sex or money?

No, no, no. That’s another question. Philosophy is a more profound, radical, essential corruption than that. Fundamentally the more ‘ordinary’ corruption you mention is part of the state of things, whereas the corruption the philosopher aims at is more uncertain and more difficult to obtain.

What is it to be young today, Alain Badiou? Does it just mean — as Hugo had it — having “triumphant mornings”?

No, that was a rather voluptuous reference to certain aspects of youth [laughter]. And obviously that’s something you have to have … I am suggesting that to be young today is to be caught in a sort of contradictory difficulty, a sort of principal contradiction. On the one hand, fundamentally the dominant tendency is to say that to be young is to prepare your integration into society, to seek a good position in the world such as it is…

To study well, the way to get a good job…

Well yes, exactly, today studying well is preparation, a way of getting ahead professionally. And then ultimately it means being a “winner” and not a “loser” in a fundamentally competitive society. It means setting up a start-up that ends up making profits on the stock markets etc. That’s one version of things. And as against that, evidently, there is a classic nihilist reaction, “No Future,” I’ll do what I want, and ultimately I’ll burn through life…

You’re going to annoy people, anger them…

Why?

Because you’re telling them that sex, that shitty spliffs in the housing estates, games…

Well don’t make out I’m on the side of an imbecile puritanism. To tear through your life, to burn through it, can be something rather grand. That was what the early Rimbaud was before he became a colonial trafficker — like everyone I might say. But before that he burned through life and that had a creative dimension. It is simply that such a youth consuming itself does not prepare any adult life, any professional life etc. I think that the very visible choice today made by youth — which I know through my children and my students — between either finding a good position or else stagnating a little in a kind of eternal adolescence that eats itself up — well, that’s the situation, and that is the situation that philosophers try to corrupt.

You don’t go jogging, to the gym — you’ve never been to a plastic surgeon?

No…

Not yet?

No, perhaps that’s a pity, you tell me…

Not at all, you’re an eternal youngster. But it’s surprising what you write, that society has a cult of youth but we’re also afraid of it

Yes, what is striking today is that our cult of youth, the will to be forever young, is inherent to the whole society — you have to be able to remain a fighter your whole life, and even at my age you still have to keep presenting yourself as someone who can fight in a harsh and competitive society and win successes, and so you have to run, jog, play tennis and all that, you have to debase yourself a bit to remain presentable. That’s one thing. But on the other hand youth causes fear, as we well know…

In what sense?

The terrible youth in the working-class districts…

But that’s not just any youth

Well even so I think it’s mainly the youth of the famous “banlieue,” this mysterious place from which anything might arise at any moment — torched cars, terrorists, etc. And this combination is very striking. A cult of youth that fundamentally applies to the dominant, to celebrities, the people we see every day, and on the other hand considers the mass of youth, the most numerous and the most real, with suspicion. Often meaning a policing suspicion.

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