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French philosopher Alain Badiou on the Canadian student movement.


François Gauvin: What do you think of the student conflict in Québec?

Alain Badiou: What I find interesting is the scale and determination of the phenomenon. Basically, what is happening in Québec is a sudden and widespread resistance to a global phenomenon, which is trying to apply the business model to every kind of human activity. Like a business, the university is supposed to become self-financing, whereas historically it was built up according to quite different rules. The conflict obviously took the particular and very localized form of a fight against the planned rise in university fees, which then spread to an opposition to the government’s handling of the crisis. But it is clear that at the core of the uprising is a subjectivity in revolt against the idea that business should be the paradigm for everything. And this point of resistance is now mobilizing a large-scale debate which concerns us all, and the outcome of which is not predictable.

François Gauvin: Would you make a comparison with the student revolt of May 1968, when you were a Maoist leader calling for revolution?

Alain Badiou: Yes, in terms of its ways of acting, its style, its inventiveness. That is the first reminder of May ’68, the first great echo of an active, joyful subjectivity that does not shy away from conflict when this is needed – even if it is dividing Québec society. It was just the same in 1968. The students attracted sympathy, but as we saw in the June 1968 legislative elections, which were won by the party of General de Gaulle, French society was completely divided.

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