Antonio Negri

William Warren celtman at
Tue Apr 24 21:43:06 MDT 2001

So Negri decided to schizo his Gortz?
At least Aronowitz is steering clear of Physics.

>From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
>Reply-To: marxism at
>To: marxism at
>Subject: Antonio Negri
>Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 19:00:32 -0400
>[This is an excerpt from an article in the current Lingua Franca that is
>unfortunately not on their website. Titled "The Convictions of Antonio
>Negri," it is about the evolution of an Italian professor from
>ultraleftism--although the author Rachel Donadio scarcely recognizes it as
>such--to post-Marxist oracle. The subtitle claims that along with Michael
>Hardt--co-author of "Empire", he "attempts to rewrite the Communist
>Manifesto." Well, good, that's just what we need I suppose even if Hardt
>and Negri are totally disconnected to any kind of communist movement based
>on the working class. Negri is a BIG thinker, fond of issuing new versions
>of the Communist Manifesto about every ten years or so. His last shot at it
>was back in 1985 when he wrote "Communists Like Us" with Felix Guattari.
>The opening sentence proclaims "The project: to rescue 'communism' from its
>own disrepute." Wading through Negri and Guattari's prose, you discover
>that the project boils down to something that Abby Hoffman did much better
>and with a greater degree of modesty.]
>How does an unrepentant Marxist rebel make sense of today's post-Cold War
>world? With his former allies absorbed into the ever more centrist politics
>of the Third Way, how does he [sic] keep the hopes and dreams of revolution
>alive? To judge from Empire, Negri begins with the assumption that we now
>inhabit a fully globalized, informationalized economy with no real power
>center. Whereas many fellow neo-Marxists stress the persistence of state
>power and a coherent ruling class, Negri sees a new world at hand. Indeed,
>his description of the dispersal of centralized power into uncontrolled
>information networks and capital flows resembles that of cheerleaders for
>global capitalism like Thomas Friedman, author of The Lexus and the Olive
>Tree. (In a sympathetic review of Empire in the New Left Review, Gopal
>Balakrishnan even claimed that the book "can be read as the Lexus and Olive
>Tree of the Far Left.")
>"When you talk about sovereignty and the idea of a nation-state in European
>history, you talk about concepts that don’t make sense anymore," Negri
>says. With the era of state-based imperialism over, according to Negri and
>Hardt, people inhabit a world of supranational corporations and entities—
>the "Empire" of the book’s title. In this new global order, they argue, the
>United States is not necessarily functioning as an imperialist power—though
>most global financial, diplomatic, and military power happens to beheld by
>the United States. (Indeed, Negri and Hardt laud the American
>constitutional system for permitting sovereignty to remain largely with the
>So what distinguishes Negri and Hardt’s outlook from Thomas Friedman’s? For
>one thing, they do not believe the globalized economy will empower
>consumers or bring about higher living standards around the  world.
>Instead, they feel that this new commercial Empire is a far vaster and
>infinitely  more menacing form of domination than anything that has
>preceded it. ("Empire not only regulates human interactions," they write,
>"but seeks directly to rule over  human nature.") Fortunately, there are
>grounds for optimism. Just as Empire has replaced the old nation-state,
>they argue, the international "Multitude" has replaced the
>nineteenth-century proletariat. As Negri notes, "It is a multitude that can
>no longer be called a rabble or mob." With labor no longer linked to the
>factory structure, Empire argues, the Multitude are now intellectual
>workers, "emancipated from factory discipline" and hence not linked to
>"fixed capital." Sounding something like the ultra-capitalist prophets of
>the business magazine Fast Company, Negri and Hardt cast the Internet as
>the ultimate rhizome connecting these intellectual workers; it is, they
>believe, a compelling metaphor for a future of possible "democratic
>Of course, this future has not yet arrived. How will it be brought about?
>How does a prospective radical in the age of globalization pursue a
>revolutionary agenda? One way is to globalize the strategies of dis persed,
>anarchic disruption that Autonomia employed in the 1970s. Negri and Hardt
>enthusiastically argue that the new capitalist world order, replete with
>cubicle dwellers with Internet connections, carries even more subversive
>potential than previous systems and that the time is accordingly ripe for
>revolution. Local political struggles, they argue, are fundamentally
>misconceived when they aspire to target local sites of power, for in
>reality such struggles are mere blips on the radar screen of the vast,
>decentralized network of Empire. The new model of resistance, Negri and
>Hardt conclude, should be that of the "nomadic revolutionary"—akin to the
>eco-protesters who demonstrated against the World Trade Organization
>meeting in Seattle in 1999. Like Autonomia itself, this model also has
>Catholic overtones. In fact, Empire concludes with a paean to Saint
>Francis, whom Negri and Hardt laud for his denunciation of "the poverty of
>the multitude" and describe as the epitome of the nomadic warrior.
>In the concluding chapter of Empire, Negri and Hardt push for three rights
>that they believe the global multitude should have: the right to global
>citizenship (a no-borders argument); the right to a social wage (the claim
>that all citizens should be guaranteed a living income); and—striking a
>familiar Autonomia theme—the right to reappropriation (that is, to control
>communication and other means of production). "We argue that they sound
>unreasonable but that they are reasonable," says Hardt.
>Some academic reviewers appreciate Empire’s optimism, but criticize the
>book for falling to explain how theory becomes practice. Just how will the
>Multitude productively engage in conflict with Empire to  bring about
>revolution? Writing in The Nation, the City University of New York
>sociologist Stanley Aronowitz argues that, having declared labor unions and
>other traditional avenues of protest obsolete, "Hardt and Negri are unable
>to anticipate how the movement they would bring into being might actually
>mount effective resistance." Likewise, the University of Minnesota
>professor Timothy Brennan [I knew Timothy when he was an impressionable
>young man who had come around the SWP after a disappointing stint in the
>Spartacist League. Apparently he has matured, perhaps too much so.]
>applauds Empire for "reintroducing the concept of utopia" but contends that
>in the end Empire is "finally conservative," because it refuses to consider
>using democratic controls to retard the global market: "They float the
>astounding thesis that the revolution has already taken place—we only need
>the eyes to see it. We might call this ‘the revolution of the already is "‘
>Other critics simply question the common left-wing assumption that global
>capitalism is best understood as the latest form of imperial power. In his
>book Peoples and Empires, the historian Anthony Pagden refers to Empire as
>"the most recent, overstated, and hysterical expression of this fear."
>Louis Proyect
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