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Journal of Continental Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 2, 2020

Alain Badiou, Alex LingOrcid-ID
Pages 187-200

In Search of the Lost Real

The real invariably functions today as a means of intimidation and constraint. That we consistently fail to overcome this static conception stems from the fact that we do not know what the real actually is, nor do we know how to access it. To address this shortcoming, Badiou looks first to the well-known story of the death of Molière to show how all access to the real necessarily entails division—not only a division of the real from semblance, but also a division of the real itself. Staying with theatre, Badiou then turns his attention to Pirandello to pursue the idea that, since the real is always manifested within semblance, its exposure demands not simply that its “mask must be torn off as semblance,” but moreover that “the mask itself demands that it be taken as real.” Applying these principles to our present situation, Badiou proceeds to isolate the contemporary semblance of real capitalism—the crucial mask that needs to be torn off today—as nothing other than democracy itself, noting that, as with all access to the real, its division will necessarily entail a measure of violence.