I. Towards a Logic of Subtractive Agency: from Texture to Subjects
A) THE OCCULTATION OF THE SCULPTURE: SCULLY AND LACAN
Let’s begin by way of a short detour through two apparently asymmetrical domains to politics: architecture and cinema, paving the way back to our discussion of Badiou’s theory of subjective types. Looking back at Žižek remarks on the African situation and the Western humanitarian retort, we are thinking how democratic materialism perversely hides its effects through a depoliticizing gesture in favor of the humanitarian protection of human life. We have thus identified ‘bio-ethics’ as the operation whereby the subject is reduced to the status of a plain living body and the contours of his world made to disappear. A fitting analogy to the homogenization of the ‘victim’ through bio-ethics can be made here through Vincent Scully’s celebrated distinction between delimitation and population apropos the understanding of plane and sculpture in architectural theory. For Scully, what defines the sculpture is its independence from the texture of the plane which it inhabits; it is the sculpture which allows the notion of population to emerge in a second moment: “Through the art of sculpture human beings populate that environment, that space, with their own creatures, embodiments of their own perception of the quality of being alive, which is above all the quality of being potentially able to gesture or to act.” [Scully, Vincent, Architecture and Environment, Pg. 198]
Crucial here is the definition of the sculpture from the consideration of potentiality to act or the capacity of gesturing; that which is properly an inhabitant, individual and distinguished is sculptural in essence. The sculptor is thus, in his creation of living potency “godlike”, bringing into existence that which is observably animated, at least potentially. Whereas a plane delimits a space merely occupied by objects; the sculpture is self-subsistent, populating the plane, and not properly part of the plane itself. This means, of course, that a sculpture is always relatively defined in relation to the plane, so that the same thing which was a sculpture can, from another perspective, become a plane (a good example here might be the Trojan horse, where from the perspective of the outsiders was perceived as a sculpture, whereas for the insiders it merely delimited a particular space or cavity). The presence of the sculpture is thus something like an anomaly, a notable exception to that which merely furnishes a territory: “The sculptor has created not life but something more than an image of life, certainly not a “representation” or even a “sign” of life. He has embodied life, and his creature becomes mysteriously more real than the other creature.” [Ibid, Pg. 203]
Scully avows the glorious erection of man in the Greek temple, the astounding promise of movement and life which, induced by the sculpture’s verticality, like Athena at the Paestum, opposes the immobile horizontal plainness of the surface. But this paradigm of man as worthy of being the symbol of living potency in the image of the Gods is rather maudlin, and far from today’s cynical ‘post-modern’ exploration of the ambiguity between the texture and the sculpture. Today it is not the triumphant exposition of the figure which lingers, but perhaps its unbearable horror which demands occultation, or reintegration into the surface. Here we are close to the Lacanian designation of lamella as ‘the Thing’: the traumatic kernel of the Real as an image which shatters our symbolic coordinates if confronted directly, and which must thereby be perpetually deferred, hidden, as an impossible point thought from the order of the Imaginary. The full force of this effect, widely popularized by Žižek’s foray into Cinema, is exemplarily visible in H.R Giger’s work for the Alien series. In its first version, we see a terrifying scene where the investigating crew of passengers explore the alien hive’s corridors, which display an ambiguous rib-caged structure undecided between the living matter (of what would be a living entity, aliens themselves) and the lifeless walls of the hive. It is thus never clear whether what we’re looking at is simply a wall or an altar, a part of the texture of the corridor or the sculptural figure of the Alien itself. It is this uncanny symbiosis between the horrifying observing creature and the lifeless space in which the passengers dwell which works to elevate the tension, since one never feels safely alone in the room; the monster threatens to have been always too near, already apparent, just camouflaged to pass unnoticed.
“Beyond representation as it is in its monstrosity, lamella nonetheless remains within the domain of the Imaginary, although as a kind of limit-image: the image to cancel all images, the image that endeavors to stretch the imagination to the very border of the irrepresentable… As such, lamella stands for the Real in its most terrifying dimension, as the primordial abyss which swallows everything, dissolving all identities” [Žižek, How to Read Lacan – Troubles With the Real: Lacan as a Reader of Alien]
The perversion of this logic of disguising the horrific image in its dissolution into texture is easily extended to the political terrain we wish to analyze. We ask: what happens when the horror of the Thing becomes man himself, in his worldly and bodily existence? What happens when it is an unfathomable Real of human social reality which presents itself as the point of impossibility which threatens to shatter the coordinates of the symbolic order and with it all experience of meaning? If our provisional foray into democratic materialist ideology has any sense, it is that that the moralistic conception of the subject is nothing but the operation of the occultation of the Real; the apathic scepticism against any positive vision of emancipatory politics in favour of a conservative and slothful reduction of man to life, and to the democratic guarantee of freedoms. Something demands to be hidden for things to remain as they are. But the transition here is enforced not to inscribe the ‘looming monster’ permanently into the texture of our social life, haunting us with a mortifying presence and unease in order to trigger action. The dead in the virtual cemetery do not threaten with the prospect of climbing out of walls to assail; they are led to disappear at the margins of a distant report.
To put matters in Hegelese, repeating Žižek’s formal exercise from The Ticklish Subject [Chapter II]: what we must accomplish in order to overcome the sedative of the victim is the transition from in-itself to for-itself, to recognize how the perceived solution to the problem is actually part of the problem itself. In the first stage, the normal functioning of liberal capitalism perceives itself as advancing the freedoms exempt from the primitive authoritarian political rule (the Congolese tragedy is but a deviation or exception to the normal liberal capitalist process). In a second moment, this exception is then confronted by the moralistic claim to horror inducing us to assume responsibility and engage in a direct intervention (charity is encouraged as the humanitarian ethical duty of the Western world to those who suffer the whims of violence outside of it). What this perspective misses is how what it perceives as a solution (assistance by charity, moralistic outrage) is already included in the problem itself; the Congolese tragedy does not occur because of its failure to incorporate itself to the normal capitalist dynamics, but exactly the opposite, because it did in fact accomplish this incorporation (warlords effectively doing business with private companies which provides their military sustenance…). The third necessary stage is thus to acknowledge that in the sought for liberation gained from the prospect of aiding the victims of the humanitarian tragedy by capitalist means we merely repeat the very gesture that provoked the tragedy to begin with; it is not apart from capitalism that the crisis is generated but along with it, so that what we must do is negate the framework which filters the moral ‘horror’ through the perspective of the capitalist reintegration.
Žižek has formally expressed this transition in the Hegelian ‘negation of the negation’ as “…that of a process of passage from state A to state B; the first, immediate negation of A negates the position of A while remaining within its symbolic confines, so it must be followed by another negation, which then negates the very symbolic space common to A and its immediate negation…” [TS, Pg. 72]. In our example, the first negation would constitute the foreseen prospect of reintegrating the victims to the democratic life through capitalist means (charity, volunteer work…), while the sought for second negation acknowledges in the very form of the capitalist dynamics the source of the problem as such. In Lacanese, the failure to reach the goal of our desire imagining a world without victims is the very realization of the drive’s true aim: keeping those excluded perpetually ‘victimized’ as those longing for integration to the capitalist-democratic activity, never calling it into question. To supplement this ‘negative’ movement in the dialectics, however, we will see how Badiou proposes the subject’s affirmative production in what he calls ‘truth-procedures’, and which properly begins a new sequence for the activity of subjects in the wake of an event, a radical rupture with the established situation and the State which legitimizes it. Only then will we be able to enter politics once again.
B) THE VOID: BEING OR SUBJECT, BADIOU OR LACAN?
If we are to gravitate back into politics, then it seems that we must first devise a new figure of subjectivity which can ‘give shape’ to action outside democratic materialism’s operations. The subject cannot be the mere animalistic victim worthy of aid, awaiting democratic freedoms in some underprivileged world. The character of the subject rather seems to be a declaration of singular potency, an exceptional affirmation which acquires, like the Greek temple, an independent voice in the participation of a new process for truth. We should thus approach the de-objectification of the subject closer to the Lacanian imperative ‘Do not objectify the subject’, in which the subject is an incision in the realm of the objective, properly immersed in it, but never directly identical to it. “If there are no ethics ‘in general’, that is because there is no abstract Subject, who would adopt it as its shield. There is only a particular kind of animal, convoked by certain circumstances to become a subject – or rather, to enter into the composing of a subject. This is to say that at a given moment, everything he is – his body, his abilities – is called upon to enable the passing of a truth along its path. This is when the human animal is convoked to be the immortal that he was not yet.” [E, Pg. 40]
But to avoid further confusion, let us make some distinctions. It might seem that we are moving between two philosophical registers here which are at least not coextensive intuitively. On the one hand we have anticipated in our introduction a strict application of Badiou’s theory of subjective types in relation to the subject’s participation in truth-procedures. We also designate, following Lacan, the Real as experienced in the association with the experience of ‘horror’ in cinema, and then exhibit a parallel to the symbolic placing of the victim within democratic materialism’s effective ideology and politics. However, Peter Hallward (2003), among others, has pointed out that a gap separates Badiou from the Lacanian conception of the Real, since truth concerns the subject’s engaged transformation of the Real in a (local) process of fidelity, whereas the Lacanian Real seems assigned to its immoveable resistance to the effects of the Symbolic, thus to a kind of perpetual inaccessibility from the realm of nomination. This is why Hallward suggests that the Lacanian associations with “…horror, brute materiality, mystery, and fixity” [ST, Pg. 15] must be dropped from Badiou’s ascription of the Real. In the end, for Badiou, it is this very inaccessibility of the Real which becomes transformed into a possibility for the subject incorporated in truth. Or in Badiou’s more poetic language: “Miracles do happen.”
In the concluding chapter of his book, Hallward furthermore underlines Badiou’s greatest achievement as precisely having been the systematic “…separation of the merely ineffable, insignificant horror of death from the generic destitution demanded by any subjectivation” [Pg. 262]. The Real for Badiou is re-placed by the subject’s interventional link to a truth-procedure, and so not as the mere ‘limit-experience’ of a fixed point against the ontic order, in which the subject can be nothing but the gap between its own void and the internally excluded object of desire, with the excess of death-drive founding its libidinal thrust (ultimately a ‘nothing counted for something’; the proper barred subject: $) [Ecrits, Pg. 861]. It is in this excess from symbolic appropriation, in which Žižek (2003) finds nothing but ‘an indivisible remainder’, that Badiou finds the potency intrinsic to every situation for an evental change, or as Bruno Bosteels (2002) adequately put: “Pinpointing the absent cause or constitutive outside of a situation, in other words, remains a dialectical yet idealist tactic, unless this evanescent point of the real is forced, distorted, and extended, in order to give consistency to the real as a new generic truth.”
Contra Žižek’s support for such a Lacanian ‘excremental’ view on the subject, Hallward takes sides with Badiou and thinks in such a view the Real is ‘…incapable of provoking the slightest reaction from within either the domain of purely multiple being as being on the one hand, or the domain of an immortal subjectivation on the other.’ [Ibid] In this way, he anticipates Badiou’s own opposition to the Lacanian (and Žižek’s) Real in a brief note to Logics of Worlds, where it is designated as an obstacle ‘…so ephermal, so brutally punctual, that it is impossible to uphold its consequences. The effects of this kind of frenzied upsurge, in which the real rules over the comedy of our symptoms are ultimately indiscernible from those of skepticism.” [LW, Pg. 563] This is why for Badiou, no matter how nearly it approaches the materialist dialectic, Lacan’s obsession with the Real as impasse thwarts the possibility of approaching truths, or as Bosteels puts it “…as though the end of analysis were the mere recognition of a structural impasse, maybe accompanied by an identification with the remaining symptom of enjoyment, but without the actual process of a subject conditioned by truth.” [Ibid, Pg. 182]. Finally, to pass the limit of the Real as limit, Badiou seeks a theory in which the real is not experienced as lack, but “…that which passes with force” [TOS, Pg. 41].
We should certainly agree in that the fixity of the Real in Lacan is 'dynamized' by putting it in reach of the subject within the inventive production of truth, thereby displacing the strict psychoanalytic conception’s constraint to its encounter as limit (say, through the experience of anxiety). However, there is no reason why both ‘versions’ of the Real cannot overlap in what sustains the association to experiences of horror and brute materiality (the question of mystery remains undecided for me). This is because those experiences relate to the Real in both Lacan and Badiou by virtue of their ‘traumatic dimension’, their mark as points outside the situation’s symbolic appropriation or nomination, as sort of ‘limit experiences’ to what can be incorporated in the field of meaning. This status of the Real as the experience of something ‘traumatic’ is not by any means excluded from Badiou’s dynamic approach. It is ultimately just the fixity of the Real and the precise form of the subject’s relation to it which separates both conceptions. So we can say, that while Lacan offers two options to cope with the Real in humanistic disavowal and the capitalist integration, Badiou’s insertion of the subject to the rare displacement of the Real in an event can allow us to see how contemporary ideology organizes a juncture of these two options under the obscuring gesture of indexing to victims the democratic fetish.
Finally, we can agree with Žižek in that the barred subject’s permanent split from the Real remains a point of excess to our symbolic life, and with Hallward in that Badiou’s theory of the event and participation of truth allows for a precise inventive contact with it at the indiscernible point of any situation. Since this point is clearly discernable in the ontological situation (as parts of generic subsets, in excess of the naming resources of the encyclopedia of knowledge) Badiou can preserve the evanescent character of the Real and admit the power of subjective intervention in the consequences of an event. So to Žižek’s qualification: “…a Truth-Event can operate only against the background of a traumatic encounter with the undead/monstrous Thing.” [TS, Pg. 162] Badiou could simply retort a triumphant ‘Yes! But it is precisely the form of action in sight of monstrous limit-‘Thing’ that decides between a subject’s emergence in an inventive faithfulness to the truth-event, reactive denial, or obscurantist occultation’. Or, as Bosteels (2002) phrases it, for Badiou it is insufficient for the production of truth that we recognize the Real as impasse, since what is ultimately at stake is its sequential displacement: “Can any new truth actually emerge in a couple from the sole recognition of the real that is their constitutive impasse? For Badiou, the truth of love or politics is neither this impasse nor its symptomatic outbreaks in the moments of crisis. The formal impossibility of the sexual or social bond, which certainly reveals itself in such a crisis, is at best a site for a possible event, but the truth of a love encounter or a political manifestation consists only in whatever a dual or collective subject makes happen afterwards, on the basis of this event as being generally applicable to the entire situation.” [Bosteels, Pg. 182]
From the side of the subject, the fixity of the Real assigns the subject to the constancy of its libidinal structure, identifiable as the gap sustained by the fantasy towards the embodied impossible object-cause of desire (objet a). On the other hand, the possible displacement of the Real marks the subject’s definite rarity to truth-procedures: “The choice is here between a structural recurrence, which thinks the subject-effect as void set, thus identifiable with the uniform networks of experience, and a hypothesis of the rarity of the subject…both returning the void to, and reinsuring it within a function of suture to being…”[BE, Pg. 432] Robert Hughes (2007) does well to remind us, however, that this ‘contact of the Real’ is not strictly its ‘transformation into a consistency’ as Žižek (2007) remarks (the void as such is never a positive term of the situation, outside ontology), but more like a displacement. Put differently, in Badiou’s own words, “…what we know of truth is merely knowledge” [Conditions 192f]. For more on this separation see Hughes’ objection to Žižek “From Purification to Subtraction: Badiou and the Real”, where he writes: “Badiou seems well aware that the status of the truth as real is lost in that very process and that has instead relapsed into mere knowledge…” [Pg. 177]
Below we will see how the horrific contact with the real (the Lacanian lamella designated above in film) can be also the very site which needs to be bereft of its evental potency, insofar as both descriptions describe within a specific situation the impossible point which demands deferral and occultation, outside the confines of the symbolic. Horror cinema uses this for the elevation of suspense and tension; the impending appearance of the traumatic image guarantees this experience in the anticipatory suffering of fear as an experience of the proximity of the Real. In politics the deferral is accomplished to substitute the experience of the Real, to obscure (in Badiou’s precise sense) the unbearable image which threatens the symbolic and its revolutionary (evental) potency, thus avoiding contact with it, pacifying the unease of foreseeing it. From this it is a short walk to the conception of mortification as a category for politics; the imperative to rebel against the democratic materialist obscuring of the horrific Real which pacifies the emancipatory potency of evental sites in an ideological blackmail advertised as the struggle for ‘democratic peace’ and against violence.It is to this purpose that Badiou has forged the bedrock for a new typology for describing the distinct forms of subjective constitution, which renders palpable the exceptional character in which a subject can appear in a concrete situation, and towards concrete ‘destinations’ with respect to truth. We will show how Badiou’s framework allows us to observe a concrete political juncture from the recent killings in the Peruvian Amazon in Bagua, and show how it works as a first step towards a new thinking of the subject in political situations, rescuing it from the ruse of democratic materialism.
 Ibid, Pg.203.
 The classic example, advanced by Agamben (1999) (and frequently underlined by Žižek), is the ascription of ‘post-traumatic subjects’ or the ‘musulman’ as the ‘living dead’; those who suffer the complete breakdown of the symbolic order (concentration camp victims, individuals under extreme conditions, resisting all possible integration to a universe of meaning…)
 The difficult question linking Badiou and Lacan has been furthermore signaled by Bruno Bosteels (2001, 2002) whose two part paper published in Pli, "Alain Badiou's Theory of the Subject: The Recommencement of Dialectical Materialism ?insists on the necessity of a reading of Theory of the Subject is made in conjunction to that of Being and Event, for an adequate understanding of what separates the two positions.
 As Bruno Bosteels (2002) shows, elsewhere Badiou designates on the other hand the Lacanian dialectical fixation on the primacy and indivisibility of the symbolic in the logic of place, blocking the path towards the production of new truths, and thus indexing it (along Mallarmé) to the risk of idealism. Bosteels writes “…the problem of this doctrine is precisely that, while never ceasing to be dialectical in pinpointing the absent cause and its divisive effects on the whole, it nevertheless remains tied to this whole itself and is thus unable to account for the latter’s transformation” (Pg. 179) In this ‘oscillation’ between the priority of the symbolic (as the site for an algebra of the subject) and the primacy of the Real, Badiou’s Theory of the Subject rescues the materialist necessity to take sides with the latter (materialist) nearness to the Real within a transformative theory of agency; to ask finally whether the real ‘…cannot also on rare occasions become the site for a newly consistent truth’. [Ibid, Pg. 181]
 Žižek (2003) gives this distinction before outlining what separates Badiou and Lacan on this point.
 For the substantive exposition on these concepts the reader should refer to Being and Event (Part VII, Meditations 27-34)
 Again, these designations will be thoroughly explained in the next section.
 Which is perhaps also suggested by an earlier formulation in Theory of the Subject, where Badiou links the algebraic and topological capture of the ‘…real as consistency’ [TDS, Pg. 243-244]
 We will see below how Badiou articulates this concept of ‘subjective destinations’ as a result of the basic relation that subjects may have to the truth-event