On two occasions now, Alain Badiou has cancelled a trip to China – at the last minute. To be sure, he had good immediate excuses, such as his adopted son being in prison. But by the time he cancelled, the date and appearance had been fixed, notices had gone out, and people awaited his arrival. So what is going on with the old polemicist? Why can he not bring himself to go to China? Badiou remains in many ways a Maoist, and holds that the path to communism largely came to an end with the death of Mao and the end of the Cultural Revolution. That way he can hold to an ideal communism that has not really been achieved as yet (he also rubbishes the communist states in eastern Europe). Is it perhaps because the old bugger fears facing his own Real? What if he actually came to China and experienced a very different form of socialism, with plenty of life in it yet? Could he continue to deride it, or would it challenge the basis of much of his thought and politics? Better to cancel before facing such a moment.

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