Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)


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Empire versus Imperialism

A theory of mixed constitution is a theory of difference within the constitution that allows for various separations of powers within the framework of a single order. The challenge then for our notion of the contemporary Empire as a mixed constitution is to discover what the various powers are and how they interact and negotiate with or dominate each other, in concert and in conflict. But I hope it gives you a first approach to the framework in which we conceive Empire. The declining sovereignty of nation states and their increasing inability to regulate economic and cultural changes is in fact one of the primary symptoms of the coming of Empire.

The sovereignty of the nation state was the cornerstone of the imperialisms that European powers constructed throughout the modern era. The boundaries defined by the modern system of nation states were fundamental to European colonialism and economic expansion: the territorial boundaries of the nation delimited the centre of power from which rule was exerted over external, foreign territories through a system of channels and barriers that alternately facilitated and obstructed the flows of production and circulation.

Imperialism was really an extension of the sovereignty of the European nation states beyond their own boundaries.

Whatever modern sovereignty took root, it constructed a transcendent Leviathan that overarched its social domain and imposed hierarchical territorial boundaries, both to police the purity of its own identity and to exclude all that was other. The passage to Empire emerges from the twilight of modern sovereignty. In contrast to imperialism, Empire establishes no territorial centre of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers. It is a decentered and deterritorialising apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers.

Empire manages hybrid identities, flexible hierarchies and plural exchanges through modulating networks of command. The distinct national colours of the imperialist map of the world have merged and blended in the imperial global rainbow.

Italian politics

No territorial boundaries limit its reign. Second, the concept of Empire presents itself not as a historical regime originating in conquest, but rather as an order that effectively suspends history and thereby fixes the existing state of affairs for eternity. From the perspective of Empire, this is the way things will always be and the way they were always meant to be. In other words, Empire presents its rule not as a transitory moment in the movement of history, but as a regime with no temporal boundaries and in this sense outside of history or at the end of history.

Third, the rule of Empire operates on all registers of the social order extending down to the depths of the social world. Empire not only manages a territory and a population, but also creates the very world it inhabits. It not only regulates human interactions, but also seeks directly to rule over human nature. The object of its rule is social life in its entirety, and thus Empire presents the paradigmatic form of biopower. Finally, although the practice of Empire continually bathered in blood, the concept of Empire is always dedicated to peace — a perpetual and universal peace outside of history.

The relationship between Italian politics and French philosophy is an interesting one, specifically the relationship between the Italian tradition of operaismo and autonomia on one hand and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze on the other.

Review: Empire - Andrew Flood

There is a central point of commonality here and that is a methodological point, or really an axiom of research. Resistance is temporally and ontologically prior to power. Technological development: Where there are strikes, machines will follow. We will present an example of this methodology or this axiom in the relationship between social struggles and globalisation, or rather, the relationship between international cycles of struggles and capitalist globalisation.

Flirting with Hegel, one could say that the construction of Empire is good in itself but not for itself. One of the most powerful operations of the modern imperialist power structures was to drive wedges among the masses of the globe, dividing them into opposing camps, or really a myriad of conflicting parties.

Segments of the proletariat in the dominant countries were even led to believe that their interests were tied exclusively to their national identity and imperialist destiny. The most significant instance of revolt and revolution against these modern power structures therefore were those that posed the struggle against exploitation together with the struggle against nationalism, colonialism and imperialism.

Marx and the philosophy of time

Through these events, humanity appeared for a magical moment to be united by a common desire for liberation and we seemed to catch a glimpse of a future when the modern mechanisms of domination would once and for all be destroyed. The revolting masses, their desire for liberation, their experiments to construct alternatives and their instances of constituent power have all at their best moments pointed toward the internationalisation and globalisation of relationships, beyond the divisions of national, colonial and imperialist rule.

In our time this desire that was set in motion by the multitude has been addressed in a strange and perverted but nonetheless real way by the construction of Empire. The multitude called Empire into being. Saying that Empire is good in itself , however, does not mean that it is good for itself. Although Empire may have played a role in putting and end to colonialism and imperialism, it nonetheless constructs its own relationships of power based on exploitation that are in many respects more brutal than those it destroyed.

The end of the dialectic of modernity has not resulted in the end of the dialectic of exploitation. Today nearly all of humanity is to some degree absorbed within or subordinated to the networks of capitalist exploitation. We see now an ever more extreme condition of radical separation of a small minority that controls enormous wealth from multitudes that live in poverty at the limit of powerlessness. The geographical and racial lines of oppression and exploitation that were established during the era of colonialism and imperialism have in many respects not declined but instead increased exponentially.

Despite recognising all this, we insist on asserting that the construction of Empire is a step forward on order to do away with any nostalgia for the power structures that preceded it and refuse any political strategy that involves returning to that old arrangement, such as trying to resurrect the nation state to protect us against global capital. We claim that Empire is better in the same way that Marx insists that capitalism is better than the forms of society and modes of production that came before it. In the same way today we can see that Empire does away with the cruel regimes of modern power and also increases the potential for liberation.

We are well aware that in affirming this thesis we are swimming against the current of our friends and comrades on the Left. In the long decades of the crisis of the communist, socialist and liberal Left that has followed the s, a large portion of critical thought, both in the dominant countries of capitalist-development and in the subordinated ones, has sought to recompense sites of resistance that are founded on the identities of social subjects or national and regional groups, often grounding political analysis on the localisation of struggles.

From this perspective, the real globalisation of capital and the constitution of Empire must be considered signs of dispossession and defeat. We maintain, however, that today this localist position, although we admire and respect the spirit of some of its proponents, is both false and damaging. It is false first of all because the problem is poorly posed. In many characterisations the problem rests on a false dichotomy between the global and the local, assuming that the global entails homogenisation and undifferentiated identity whereas the local preserves heterogeneity and difference.

Often implicit in such arguments is the assumption that the differences of the local are in some sense natural or at least that their origin remains beyond question. Local differences pre-exist the present scene and must be defended or protected against the intrusion of globalisation. This view can easily devolve into a kind of primordialism that fixes and romanticises social relations and identities. What needs to be addressed, instead, is precisely the production of locality , that is, the social machines that create and recreate the identities and differences that are understood as the local.

The differences of locality are no pre-existing nor natural but rather effects of a regime of production. Globality similarly should not be understood in terms of cultural, political, or economic homogeneisation. Globalisation, like localisation, should be understood instead as a regie of the production of identity and difference, or really of homogenisation and heterogenisation. The better framework, then, to designate the distinction between the global and the local might refer to different networks of flows and obstacles in which the local moment or perspective gives priority to the reterritorialising barriers and the global moment privileges the mobility of deterritorialising flows.

It is false, in any case, to claim that we can re establish local identities that are in some sense outside and protected against the global flows of capital and Empire. The Leftist strategy of resistance to globalisation and defence of locality is also damaging because in many cases what appear as local identities are not autonomous nor self-determining but actually feed into and support the development of the capitalist imperial machine. The globalisation or deterritorialisation operated by the imperial machine is not in fact opposed to the localisation or reterritorialisation, but rather sets in play mobile and modulating circuits of differentiation and identification.

The strategy of local resistance misidentifies and thus masks the enemy. We are by no means opposed to the globalisation of relationships as such — in fact, as we said, the strongest forces of Leftist internationalism have effectively led this process.

Reward Yourself

The enemy, rather, is a specific regime of global relations that we call Empire. More importantly, this strategy of defending the local is damaging because it obscures and even negates the real alternatives and the potentials for liberation that exist within Empire. We should all be done once and for all with the search for an outside, a standpoint that imagines a purity for our politics. It is better both theoretically and practically to enter the terrain of Empire and confront its homogenising and heterogenising flows in all their complexity, grounding our analysis in the power of the global multitude.

There was a time, not so long ago, when internationalism was a key component of proletarian struggles and progressive politics in general. The Internationale was the hymn of revolutionaries, the song of utopian futures. We should note that the utopia expressed in these slogans is in fact not really internationalist, if by internationalist we understand a kind of consensus among the various national identities that preserves their differences but negotiates some limited agreement. Rather, proletarian internationalism was anti-nationalist, and hence supranational and global.

Workers of the world unite! Internationalism was the will of an active mass subject that recognised that the nation states were the key agents of capitalist exploitation and that the multitude was continually drafted to fight their senseless wars — in short, that the nation state was a political form whose contradictions could not be subsumed and sublimated but only destroyed. International solidarity was really a project for the destruction of the nation state and the construction of a new global community.

This proletarian program stood behind the often ambiguous tactical definitions that socialist and communist parties produced during the century of their hegemony over the proletariat. If the nation state was a central link in the chain of domination and thus had to be destroyed, then the national proletariat had as a primary task destroying itself insofar as it was defined by the nation and thus bringing international solidarity out of the prison in which it had been trapped.

Proletarian internationalism constructed a paradoxical and powerful political machine that pushed continually beyond the boundaries and hierarchies of the nation states and posed utopian futures only on the global terrain. Today we should all clearly recognise that the time of such proletarian internationalism is over. That does not negate the fact, however, that the concept of internationalism really lived among the masses and deposited a kind of geological stratum of suffering and desire, a memory of victories and defeats, a residue of ideological tensions and needs.

Furthermore the proletariat does in fact find itself today not just international but at least tendentially global. It is more accurate to say, following the William Morris quote that serves as one of the epigraphs for this book, that what they fought for came about despite their defeat, but then turned out to be not what they meant — and perhaps now we have to fight for what they meant under another name.

The practice of proletarian internationalism was expressed most clearly in the international cycles of struggles. In this framework the national general strike and insurrection against the nation- state were only really conceivable as elements of communication among struggles and processes of liberation on the internationalist terrain. A cycle was constructed as news of a revolt was communicated and applied in each new context, just as in an earlier era merchant ships carried the news of slave revolt from island to island around the Caribbean, igniting a stubborn string of fires that could not be quenched.

In other cases it is much more direct: how the factory council movement in Turin, Italy, was immediately inspired by the news of the Bolshevik victory in Russia. Rather than thinking of the struggles as relating to each other like links in a chain, it might be better to conceive of them as communicating like a virus that modulates its form to find in each context an adequate host. It would not be hard to map the periods of extreme intensity of these cycles.

A first wave might be seen as beginning after with the political agitation of the First International, continuing in the s and s with the formation of socialist political and trade union organisations, and then rising to a peak after the Russian revolution of and the first international cycle of anti-imperialist struggles. A second wave arose after the Soviet revolution of , which was followed by an international progression of struggles that could only be contained by fascisms on one side and reabsorbed by the New Deal and antifascist fronts on the other.

And finally there was the wave of struggles that began with the Chinese revolution and proceeded through the African and Latin American liberation struggles to the explosions of the s throughout the world. These international cycles of struggles were the real motor that determined the development of the institutions of capital and that drove it in a process of reform and restructuring. Proletarian, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist internationalism, the struggle for communism, which lived in all the most powerful insurrectional events of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, anticipated and prefigured the processes of the globalisation of capital and the formation of Empire in this way the formation of Empire is a response to proletarian internationalism.

There is nothing dialectical nor teleological about this anticipation and prefiguration of capitalist development by the mass struggles. On the contrary, the struggles themselves a are demonstrations of the creativity of desire, utopias of lived experience, the workings of historicity as potentiality — in short, the struggles are the naked reality of the res gestae. A teleology of sorts is constructed only after the fact, post festum. The struggles that preceded and prefigured globalisation were expressions of the force of living labour, which sought to liberate itself from the rigid territorialising regimes imposed on it.

As it contests the dead labour accumulated against it, living labour always seeks to break the fixed territorialising structures, the national organisations and the political figured that keep it prisoner. With the force of living labour, its restless activity and its deterritorialising desire, this process of rupture throws open all the windows of history. When one adopts the perspective of the activity of the multitude, its production of subjectivity and desire, one can recognise how globalisation, insofar as it operates a real deterritorialisation of the previous structures of exploitation and control, is really a condition of the liberation of the multitude.

Michael Hardt

But how can this potential for liberation be realised today? Does that same uncontainable desire for freedom that broke and buried the nation state and that determined the transition toward Empire still live beneath the ashes of the present, the ashes of the fire that consumed the internationalist proletarian subject that was centred around the industrial working class? What has come to stand in the place of the subject? In what sense can we say that the ontological rooting of a new multitude has come to be a positive of alternative actor in the articulation of globalisation? We need to recognise that the very subject of labour and revolt has changed profoundly.

The composition of the proletariat has transformed and thus our understanding to it must too. In conceptual terms we understand proletariat as a broad category that includes all those whose labour is directly or indirectly exploited by and subjected to capitalist norms of production and reproduction.

In a previous era the category of the proletarian centred around and was at times effectively subsumed under industrial working class , whose paradigmatic figure was the male mass factory worker. That industrial working class was often accorded the leafing role over other figures of labour such as peasant labour and reproductive labour in both economic analyses and political movements. Today that working class has all but disappeared from view. It has not ceased to exist, but it has been displaced from its privileged position in the capitalist economy and its hegemonic position in the class composition of the proletariat.

The proletariat is not what it used to be, but that does not mean it has vanished. It means, rather, that we are faced once again with the analytical task of understanding the new composition of the proletariat as a class. The fact that under the category of proletariat we understand all those exploited by and subject to capitalist domination should not indicate that the proletariat is a homogeneous or undifferentiated unit — it is indeed cut through in various directions by differences and stratifications. Some labour is waged, some is not; some labour is limited to eight hours a day and forty hours a week, some expands to fill the entire time of life; some labour is accorded a minimal value, some is exalted to the pinnacle of the capitalist economy.

We argue in our book that among the various figures of production active today the figure of immaterial labour-power involved in communication, co-operation, and the production and reproduction of affects occupies an increasingly central position in both the schema of capitalist production and the composition of the proletariat.

Our point her is that all of these diverse forms of labour are in some way subject to capitalist discipline and capitalist relations of production. This fact of being within capital is what defines the proletariat as a class. Empire and the multitude A dialogue on the new order of globalization Antonio negri and danilo zolo danilo zolo For a long time I resisted the calls, from many quarters, to publicly debate Empire, the book you co-authored with Michael Hardt, which has prompted a debate of exceptional scope and intensity on both sides of […].

The reappearance of various religious categories and concepts in recent political philosophy and philosophical ethics is unmistakable. Moreover, given that much of this writing emerges from the vicinity of Marx, if not directly from Marxism […]. Documenta 11 was one of the most radically conceived events in the history of postcolonial art practice. Refiguring the multitude From exodus to the production of norms Timothy rayner The fundamental faith of the metaphysicians is the faith in antithetical values.

But for many this book will seem a strange successor. Empire, for all […]. First there is Descartes, who, following an explosion of […]. How, for example, might it reconfigure the relationship between the historical, analytical […]. Can this be done? The postmodern, a fundamental category in regard to Koolhaas, which he had already inaugurated in his retroactive manifesto for Manhattan, Delirious New York, is here defined as an irreversible category and as a way of seeing the present.

Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)
Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism) Reading Negri: Marxism in the Age of Empire (Creative Marxism)

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