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  • Logic of the Site
  • Alain Badiou (bio)
    Translated by Steve Corcoran (bio) and Bruno Bosteels (bio)

The Commune Is a Site
1. Ontology of the Commune

Take any world whatsoever. A multiple that is an object of this world—whose elements are indexed by the transcendental of this world—is a site, if it happens to count itself within the referential field of its own indexation. Or again: a site is a multiple that happens to behave in the world with regard to itself as with regard to its elements, in such a way as to be the support of being of its own appearance.

Even if the idea is still obscure, we can begin to see its content: a site is a singularity, because it convokes its being in the appearing of its own multiple composition. It makes itself, in the world, the being-there of its being. Among other consequences, the site gives itself an intensity of existence. A site is a being that happens to exist by itself.

We will ask: can we give a more concrete idea of what a site is? Is there a site?

Let us consider the world "Paris at the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870." We are in the month of March 1871. After a semblance of resistance, and shot through with fear of revolutionary and worker Paris, the interim government of bourgeois "Republicans" capitulates to Bismarck's Prussians. In order to consolidate this political "victory"—very comparable to Petain's reactionary revenge in 1940 (where preferring an arrangement with the external enemy to exposure to the internal enemy)—it has an assembly with a royalist majority hastily elected by a frightened rural world, an assembly that sits in Bordeaux.

Led by Thiers, the government hopes to take advantage of the circumstances to annihilate the political capacity of the workers. But on the Parisian front, the proletariat is armed in the form of a National Guard, owing to its having been mobilized during the siege on Paris. In theory the Parisian proletariat has many hundreds of cannons at its disposition. The "military" organism of the Parisians is the Central Committee, at which assemble the delegates of the various battalions of the National Guard, battalions [End Page 141] that are in turn linked to the great working-class quartiers of Paris—Montmartre, Belleville, and so forth.

Thus we have a divided world whose logical organization—what in philosophical jargon could be called its transcendental organisation—reconciles intensities of political existence according to two sets of antagonistic criteria. Concerning the representative, electoral, and legal dispositions, one cannot but observe the preeminence of the Assembly of traditionalist Rurals,1 Thiers's capitulard government, and the officers of the regular army, who, having been licked without much of a fight by the Prussian soldiers, dream of doing battle with the Parisian workers. That is where the power is, especially as it is the only power recognized by the occupier. On the side of resistance, political intervention, and French revolutionary history, there is the fecund disorder of Parisian worker organizations, which intermingles with the Central Committee of the twenty quartiers, the Federation of Syndicate Chambers, a few members of the International, local military committees. In truth, the historical consistency of this world, which had been separated and disbanded [délié] owing to the war, is held together only by the majority conviction that no kind of worker capability for government exists. For the vast majority of people, including often the workers themselves, the politicized workers of Paris are simply incomprehensible. These workers are the inexistent aspect [l'inexistant propre] of the term "political capacity" in the uncertain world of the spring of 1871. But for the bourgeoisie they are still too existent, at least physically. The government receives threats from the stock exchange of this sort: "You will never have financial operations if you do not get rid of these reprobates." First up then, an imperative task, and a seemingly easy one to carry out: disarm the workers and, in particular, recuperate the cannons spread throughout working-class Paris by the military committees of the National Guard. It is this initiative that will make...