At a time when representative democracies are in deep crisis, this article examines the debate over representation as it appears in contemporary Marxist and poststructuralist political thought. The article discusses, more specifically, Ernesto Laclau’s defense of political representation and pits this against Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s vision of an “absolute democracy” beyond representation, in order to chart a path between and beyond both contrasting positions. The crux of the argument is that in participatory democracies political governance becomes a common affair: a public good accessible to all members of a community on the basis of equality. Such a democratic regime contrasts with both representative democracies, where the assembled demos is excluded from any effective participation in the everyday exercise of major political power, as well as direct democracy, where the collective sovereign would be fully present to itself, total and undivided. Common political representation is open to all, inclusive, participatory, and accountable.
Political Representation beyond Representative Democracy
Anthropology and the radical philosophy of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt
The trilogy by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth (2009), is among the major works of political theory to emerge in this century, with specific relevance for anthropological analyses of global power. This introduction provides a synthetic overview of the conflicted encounter between anthropologists (John Kelly, Aihwa Ong, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako) and Hardt and Negri's vision that is staged in this thematic cluster of Focaal. It reviews the anthropologists' three main critiques of the Empire trilogy, the analysis of state and labor, the scale of analysis, and the ethics of global theorizing, which point to an apparent disciplinary rift between global ethnography and radical philosophy. This disciplinary rift is itself characterized differently by anthropologists and Michael Hardt, which I suggest results from different modalities for depicting social dynamics.
A Consideration of Hardt and Negri's Empire
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 2000), pp. 478.
Empire, by Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN: 0674251210.
Empire’s New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri, edited by Paul A. Passavant & Jodi Dean. New York: Routledge, 2004. ISBN: 0415935555.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2012) Declaration, Argo Navis Author Services, PP. 111, ISBN: 9780786752904.
Declaration is the 5th book by the influential intellectual duo of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri and the first after their trilogy of Empire (2001), Multitude (2005) and Commonwealth (2011). It is a ‘just on time’ intervention of the two intellectuals on the present moment and the cycle of struggles springing up around the world in 2011. Thus, its size and style resembles more a pamphlet, rather than the wider and more theoretical analysis taking place in their trilogy.
Maria Antonietta Perna
The present paper aims to explore the Spinozean notion ‘multitude’ as it is used in texts by Antonio Negri and Paolo Virno, although I shall only touch upon the latter’s work to the extent that it appears to agree with Negri’s theses. Doing so will bring up an issue which, in my view, impinges on the articulation of the praxis of liberation envisioned by the above philosophers. In particular, although their analyses adopt ontology as a point of departure, and this is a core methodological tenet in their thought, they fall short of offering an account of the ontological structures of agency which would be adequate to ground the motivation for the appointed ethico-political task.
On false binaries in Hardt and Negri's trilogy
At the core of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's thesis that a new global form of sovereignty has replaced a previous imperialist geography is their claim that the capitalist mode of production has undergone a shift from a modern era in which “industrial labor“ was hegemonic to a postmodern era in which “immaterial labor“ has become hegemonic. In this article, I argue that capitalism in Europe (let alone other areas of the world) does not conform to this model. I draw on the history of Italian manufacturing and on my ethnographic research on the silk industry of northern Italy to question the analytic usefulness of their distinction between “industrial“ and “immaterial“ labor and to show that the latter has always been crucial to industrial production. I conclude that Hardt and Negri's attempt to expand the definition of productive labor to include the “multitude“ unwittingly parallels an emerging discourse that serves to legitimate transnational hierarchies of labor.