The Philosophers' Magazine on Antonio Negri

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Wed Oct 27 14:25:46 MDT 1999

The Autumn issue of The Philosophers' Magazine
has an article by Rowan Wilson, "Inside the radiant city"
which reviews the work of the Italian philosopher, Antonio
Negri and the reasons for his continued imprisonment.
The article noted that he began his academic career as
an author of books on Hegel, Kant, and Descartes but being
politically active in leftist politics, he became a leading theoretician
of the autonomists, libertarian communists, who were strongly
critical of the Communist Party for its "historic compromise"
with the Christian Democrats in the 1970s.  Negri as a
political theorist criticized orthodox Marxism on the grounds
that it had failed to come to terms with way that capitalism
had evolved.  Traditional Marxists focused primarily on the
relations of production that existed in the factory but Negri
and his co-thinkers argued that these social relations had
come to dominate all aspects of society and with this
change a new revolutionary subject had been born:
what Negri called the "social worker."  By this Negri
meant that the social composition of the proletariat had
changed so as to encompass women, the unemployed,
and other marginalized social groups that traditional
Marxists had ignored.

In line with this analysis, Negri's organization Workers' Autonomy
rejected the traditional Leninist model of the vanguard
party in favor of a loose network of local organizations.
In Negri's view the kind of authoritarian, centralized parties
associated with conventional Leninism had come to lose
their relevence to the contemporary proletariat.  He called
for a renewed emphasis on class struggle which would
promote a radical democratization as workers attempt to
separate themselves from the dialectic od capitalism.

As the article, in light of subsequent events, Negri's
imprisonment on charges that he was a mastermind
for the Red Brigades and that he particapted in the
kidnapping and murder of former prime minister
Aldo Moro appear especially ironical in a bitter sort
of way since the Red Brigade's whole mode of
praxis was precisely the opposite of what Negri
had championed in his writings.  He was imprisoned
for four years in the 1980s during which he wrote
a book on Spinoza.  Finally in 1983 he was brought to
trial.  The charge that he was a leader of the Red
Brigades was dropped but he was still accuses
od being morally responsible for their violence
on the basis of his writings.  While on trial, he
ran for Italy's national assembly, was elected
and so under Italian law received parliamentary
immunity, which he used to speak out against
state repression.  The national assembly then
voted to strip him of his immunity.  Realizing
what the outcome of this vote would be, Negri
took the oppurtunity to flee to France where
he lived for 14 years.  There he resumed his
academic career, wrote more books, and
helped to found the journal *Futur Anterieur*.
He focused on synthezing his libertarian
Marxism with the insights of French poststructuralist
and postmodern thinkers like Foucault and Deleuze.
He eventually decided to return to Italy despite
the fact that he still had 13 years on his sentence
to serve.  He had come to believe that his
exile in France had deprived of any sort of a
public existence.  He hoped that his return to
Italy would help to put pressure on the Italian
government to grant  amnesty to the remaining
400 people who were either in prison or exile
for their roles (real or alleged) in the political
unrest of the 1970s.   So therefore he has
been serving his sentence since 1997.  He is permitted
to spend the days doing work for aiding immigrants
but must return to prison for the night.  He has
also, not surpisingly been writing more books.
He is not expected to be released until 2005.

Get the Internet just the way you want it.
Free software, free e-mail, and free Internet access for a month!
Try Juno Web:

More information about the Marxism mailing list