Matthew Taunton reviews Alain Badiou’s Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy for New Statesman:
The thinkers discussed in this neat little book had grand ambitions for philosophy. Sartre, Foucault and Deleuze saw political commitment as part of the job description. Those less directly involved in political activism – such as Lacan and Derrida – nevertheless sought a philosophy that would, to paraphrase Karl Marx, change the world and not simply describe it.
Pocket Pantheon does not really serve as an introduction to these thinkers, because their ideas are always refracted through the lens of Alain Badiou’s rather idiosyncratic thought. He is known for drawing on the Anglo-Saxon tradition of analytical philosophy, but this collection confirms him as an heir to the Continental line, despite his differences with its chief protagonists.
Part of the interest of Pocket Pantheon is in the portrait it paints of the institutional context for French philosophy in the 1960s, which revolved around the École Normale Supérieure. It is salutary to note that Georges Canguilhem and Jean Hyppolite, figures from the previous generation who are less well-known in Britain, played a vital role in making possible that great flowering of French thought in this period. The personal relationships of the next generation, of which Badiou is the youngest and last surviving member, also form an intriguing subplot in this collection.”
Read the full review here.