Negri celebrates a conception of democracy in which the concrete powers of individual humans are not alienated away, but rather are added together: this is a democracy of the multitude. But how can the multitude act without alienating anyone's power? To answer this difficulty, Negri explicitly appeals to Spinoza. Nonetheless, in this paper, I argue that Spinoza's philosophy does not support Negri's project. I argue that the Spinozist multitude avoids internal hierarchy through the mediation of political institutions and not in spite of them; nor do these institutions merely emanate from the multitude as it is, but rather they structure, restrain and channel its passions. In particular, the required institutions are not those of a simple direct democracy. There may be other non-Spinozist arguments on which Negri can ground his theory, but he cannot legitimately defend his conception of the democratic multitude by appeal to Spinoza.
Spinoza against Negri
Political Representation beyond Representative Democracy
read as a contestation over democratic representation as these movements tried out new forms of collective, participatory self-governance in protest against the status quo ( Prentoulis and Thomassen 2013 ; Hardt and Negri 2012 ). Contemporary Marxist
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.
State, people, wealth, life
Hardt and Negri's trilogy describes an American Empire as shaping a world split between global capital and disenfranchised multitude, leading to a final confrontation between the Empire of capital and the counter-Empire of workers everywhere. However, their interpretation is limited by their philosophical abstraction and revolutionary vision, which fails to recognize the implications of actually existing processes of sovereignty and capital at this global juncture. The situation found in Asia challenges their analysis. In contemporary China, experimental assemblages of sovereign powers, capital, techne, and ethics have not weakened, but, in fact, have strengthened political sovereignty, nationalist sentiments, and collectivist ethos, presenting a different picture of biopolitics from that of Hardt and Negri's global theory. The authoritarian outcomes in China are political solutions forged in circumstances that mingle the global, the historical, and the situated. This article argues that Asian aspirations are rearranging capitalism and political sovereignty as Hardt and Negri understand them.
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.
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.
Subversion, situation, and transvaluation
Hardt and Negri's transvaluation of violence into the sign of emergent revolutionary subjectivity begins in a philosophical dream, not any actual historical anthropology. Negri's politics of subversion attempt to articulate the ongoing constitution of a new multitude but actually constitute the alter ego to Pax Americana's vision of nation-state sovereignty and finance-dominated capitalism. Thorstein Veblen's critique of the finance-dominated, postmodern new order, first rendered in 1919, draws similar conclusions about fictions in sovereignty by nation-state and contradictions between vested interests and the global commons. But Veblen correctly warns against romanticizing violent tactics. An anthropology of situations will better help scholars clarify contemporary predicaments and potentials than will search for an insurgent global multitude. The issue is urgent in the situation of globalized counterinsurgency. Anthropology can and should mount a better critique of actual global politics than it can find within the values of any philosophy, even one committed to the Spinozan celebration and amplification of immanence.
Reveal the apparatus
I am grateful to the authors of these articles for their critical engagements with my and Toni Negri’s books. A friend once told me that you can judge the worth of a book by the quality of the critical responses it elicits: that is how productive debate proceeds. These articles are excellent examples of such productive intellectual exchanges, and I am proud to have these authors as critics and interlocutors. I am also grateful for their generosity. When reading work from disciplinary perspectives other than our own, it is not uncommon to experience not only bewilderment but also irritation. I recognize it as an act of generosity, then, that these anthropologists engage the kind of political theorizing that Toni and I practice on its own terms, and then relate it to the way they see the issues we treat from an anthropological perspective.
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.