A politics of regulation: Haussmann’s planning practice and
PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
This thesis is concerned with empirically determining whether a particular political sequence can be interpreted through Badiou’s philosophy. It focuses on the public works that transformed Paris in the middle of the 19th century, and more specifically on Haussmann’s planning practice. From an epistolary exchange between property owners, Haussmann and the Minister of the Interior during Haussmann’s first years as Prefect of the Seine, the thesis draws out a political event: the playing out in a singular context of an opposition over a political practice predicated on equality. In this case, the opposition is in the field of planning as regulation: the sanctity of property rights against a planner’s efforts to break the complacency of the planning apparatus towards property owners. The thesis argues that Haussmann was a Saint-Simonian state revolutionary that sought to make property owners contribute to the public works in equal relation to the benefits they extracted from them. In the face of sustained opposition, this planning practice was ultimately sacrificed by the imperial regime. Haussmann’s first years as Prefect are shown to have taken place in the temporality of Badiou’s events, while the commonly invoked process of Haussmannisation best describes the situation that followed the demise of Haussmann’s planning practice. Badiou’s notion of the state revolutionary gives us a way to think through the difficulty and evanescence of regulation. It can help us understand those fleeting moments when political will was used to break hierarchies of power and capital. Badiou’s philosophy is shown to be compatible with a social science that is concerned with isolating and singularising particular political sequences, of which early Haussmann is one.
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