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The Korean Thermidor: on political space and conservative reactions



In Metapolitics, French philosopher Alain Badiou uses the concept of a Thermidorean to denote a political subjectivity constituted through the termination of a political sequence. For Badiou, the actual Thermidor that followed the Jacobin insurrection of the French Revolution was not just a singular event but is a general type of political reaction. Badiou argues that a Thermidor is a reaction that is based on a corruption of political will and disarticulation of the political demands that inform a sequence of emancipatory politics. This article applies Badiou’s concept of Thermidorean politics to show how conservative forces in South Korea have targeted the political spaces of the Korean democracy movement. The afterlife of cold war representations of social space, the role of reform forces in the disarticulation of radical demands of the democracy movements, as well as the role of ‘renegade’ (formerly oppositional) intellectuals in the creation of a chimera of ‘pro-North’ Left are analysed here as sources of a Korean Thermidor.

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