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In David Hume’s science of human nature every self is located by passions that bind it to groups, repel it from other groups, and rank it on a hierarchy: we call this discovery a ‘topology of the passions’. These bound and ranked selves and groups form the matter of what he called ‘government’, a supposedly neutral model of political action designed to avoid the malady of faction and catapult Scotland out of feudalism into a glorious future as a commercial society, assisted by the application of the new discipline of political economy, a discipline blind beyond its functional measures of privileged variables – the growth of trade, interest rates, wage levels – measures that justify the destruction of all obstacles to the wholesale liberation of the commercial passions. To govern – a new kind of action for a new epoch – is to destroy and liberate. But ever since Hume, government has fallen apart because it fails to take into account the complexity of society as a topology of the passions. It is through a close analysis of Hume’s account of the English revolution and its aftermaths in The History of England that we begin to glimpse the emergence of what we mistakenly see as ‘fate’ in politics: models of political action woven together, unravelling, rewoven, any ‘ought’ and any ‘necessity’ foundering in a sea of contingency. We see how the efficacy of a politics is sown together by speech acts and by how they shape time in a topology of passions.


Chapter 1: From Torrents to Patterns

Chapter 2: Passion Locates the Self

Chapter 3: From Patterns to Configurations of Appearance

Chapter 4: What Does the Other Want?


Chapter 5: Locating Action

Chapter 6: Conflict as Process and Models of Political Action


Chapter 7: The Problem of Faction and Three Partial Solutions

Chapter 8: Schema of Justice, Political Economy

Chapter 9: Theory of Government


Chapter 10: Critique of Government

Chapter 11: Theory of Democratic Enthusiasm

Oliver Feltham is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the American University of Paris.. His publications include Anatomy of Failure (2013) and Alain Badiou: Live Theory (2008). He is the translator of Alain Badiou's Being and Event (2006) and co-translator (with Justin Clemens) of Infinite Thought (2003).

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