the guardian Sat 07 February 2009
In this enjoyably bilious essay, Badiou reads the coming-to-power of Nicolas Sarkozy as the latest episode of "black reaction" to May 1968. His election is to be compared with "Pétainism", the preference for a quiet life under Nazi occupation; the only possible alternative to Sarkozian society is, apparently, "the communist hypothesis". The best sequence of the book is a stirring defence of immigrants: "We must [. . .] say: 'Foreigners are an opportunity!' The mass of foreign workers and their children bear witness, in our tired old countries, to the youth of the world, its widespread and its infinite variety. Without them we would sink into nihilistic consumption and an order imposed by the police."
As for Sarkozy himself, he is variously abused as "a servant of the stock-exchange index", "a man obsessed by policing", "the fidgety mayor of Neuilly", "little Sarkozy" and, repeatedly, "the Rat Man". This latter appellation brought, on the book's first publication in France, some silly charges of antisemitism; but what is really disappointing about it is the juvenility of its abuse. By the end of the book, one has learned next to nothing about the man except that he is not very tall.