Having read many philosophical and political theorists across a spectrum from Heidegger, Plato, Schmitt, Zizek, Derrida, Marx etc, I never expected to find a philosophical text I could genuinely label "exasperating". There is something about Badiou's writing in Metapolitics (or possibly the translation) where one finds oneself starting to grasp an issue at the beginning of a paragraph, only to end it flailing in mid air, as if Badiou's thought had gone scurrying into a dark cave, never to reappear.
Even "difficult" thinkers such as Heidegger start in shallow water with simple concepts and take you on a journey, building arguments and challenging the writer's, and your own, assumptions. By the end of the journey, the writing points out areas for intellectual and emotional discovery. Difficult topics are approached cautiously and with precision.
Badiou relies on too many unexplained and weak assumptions along with huge leaps of faith. One can expect that a reader needs to bring with them some "basic principles" that don't bear repeating. However even here (or perhaps especially so) the great philosophers and thinkers put you to task, challenging key ideas or thought processes. In Metapolitics, there is something lazy and haphazard about how the thoughts are strung together with assumptions or concepts dangerously passed over, leading one to a feeling that the conclusions reached are suspect. Or worse, that the effort expended doesn't really bear any fruit.
In the case of Badiou's analysis and application of Sylvain Lazarus' work 'Anthropologie du nom (Des travaux)', my first question was "why Lazarus?" Yes, they are friends and political allies in L'Organization Politique but beyond that I found it very hard to agree with Badiou opening claim that "...it is no exaggeration to say that, today, philosophers cannot attempt any seizure of politics of thought without studying this [meaning Lazarus'] book..." Politically, this gesture is done in good faith but nothing that followed supported such a bold assertion. And ultimately, I felt that, contra Badiou, it was in fact an "exaggeration". So if there is exaggeration or a wilful blindness to the flaws carried by a friend (in this case Lazarus), what about other friends, human or ideological, approached by Badiou? And why stop there? One could, with complete peace of mind and even good conscience, exaggerate the "enemy". This dual suspicion haunts this work and weakens its impact.
Disappointingly, rather than finding key concepts such as "politics" and "democracy" being fundamentally challenged in this book, I found Badiou's thought being challenged. Let us say "autochallenged". As if inherent weaknesses in the text left it unable to sustain itself.
I would even have been happy to treat this as a polemical text (and there are some entertaining and powerful examples by Badiou and friends online) but I couldn't get engaged, let alone angry.
Rather than a meaty and challenging text, I found myself reading an intellectual soufflé that had overreached and then sunk under its own (lack of) weight.