Any liberation begins with an act of negation: it negates the prevailing conditions. This negativity defines liberation as eminently historical. For in its classical, i.e. modern understanding, history – in contrast to nature – is the field of change which takes place via acts of negation.
The talk will address the question of how this basic idea of modernity can be understood and reformulated in view of the current skepticism concerning the difference between nature and spirit (or history). It will do so with reference to the “crisis of negation” (Alain Badiou) which is perhaps most visible in the political field where it affects the idea of fundamental political change (or revolution). I will argue that the classical modern understanding of such change runs into insoluble problems when it comes to the formation of the subject via processes of habituation. These problems, however, should not lead to the relinquishment of the idea of – political, liberating – negation. Rather, it should lead to its fundamental re-conceptualization. The proposal is to understand the liberating negation no longer as a logical operation, but as an ontological operation.