Chapter Eleven: Alternative directions? Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri and Italian Autonomist Marxism, Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello

Remaining within the European context, with which Social theory and social work has largely been concerned, the contributions of Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri and the Autonomist Marxists, and Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello present, at times, thematic continuity with other theorists examined in the book. For example, from a different angle than the recognition theorists, Badiou examines questions relating to ‘diversity’ and ‘difference’. Negri and Autonomist Marxist theorists dwell on issues connected to work in contemporary capitalist societies. This is also the case with Boltanski and Chiapello, who, although not operating within a specifically Gramscian perspective, ‘offer a classic analysis of the mechanics by which hegemony is exercised’ (Couldry et al, 2010, p 110). Importantly, despite the fact that all these writers remain largely unknown within the field, the range of their theoretical interests is of great relevance to key concerns in social work (see Table 11.1).

Badiou’s major books are Being and event (Badiou, 2005a) and, what is sometimes referred to as ‘Being and Event 2’, The logic of the worlds (Badiou, 2009; see also Hallward, 2008). These represent his ‘defiant riposte to the post-modern condition, a condition which claims that philosophy has exhausted its universal history’ (Barker, 2002, p 4). Badiou’s perspective is entirely antithetical to postmodernist theorising, which, as mentioned in Chapter Two, had an impact within the academic literature of social work in the 1990s. His own philosophy hinges on the concept of ‘the “event” as a form of momentous change … in the realms of science, art, love, and emancipatory politics’.

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