Wanting more: ‘In Praise of Love’ by Alain Badiou.

This short book was the consequence of an extended conversation between the philosopher Alain Badiou and the writer Nicolas Truong. It was translated by Peter Bush in 2012. It was an odd book for Badiou in that it seemed simple. However, perhaps that simplicity was somewhat deceptive.

‘In Praise of Love’ was not just the record of a conversation. It had been polished after the event. Nonetheless, it confirmed that Badiou has a gift for making the complex seem simple. This was evident when Badiou discussed Lacan’s idea that there “is no such thing as a sexual relationship.” This provocative conclusion of Lacan had been reached in a particular context. Regardless of the veracity of Lacan’s thought in this area, Badiou explained it, and used it to elevate love above sex. Similarly, Badiou had the ability to explore and take on some Surrealist thinking about love. Specifically, he appreciated the contribution of Breton while making it apparent that love is hard work.

At times, Badiou seemed to manipulate ‘love’ to promote revolutionary politics. Some readers might object to the ‘politicisation’ of love. However, love is inherently political. In a capitalist society of dating sites, marriage, and Valentine’s Day cards, love is political whether we like it or not. Hence Badiou has not produced a self-help book. Instead, he has started a conversation to foster love. In a cynical age, love arguably required a champion. Badiou has never forgotten that he is a person as well as a philosopher. Therefore he was well-equipped to rise to the challenge. The only meaningful flaw in this exquisite work was that it was too brief.   

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