Foster on Hardt-Negri

Greg Schofield g_schofield at
Wed Dec 5 16:37:24 MST 2001

--- Message Received ---
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
To: marxism at
Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 10:11:57 -0500
Subject: Re: Foster on Hardt-Negri

>Below is a quote from Empire which I do not believe can be easily
dismissed (Part 3, Chapter 3.1, p231): <snip>

Louis:"I disagree completely with Hardt-Negri's argument that a de-centered global
political-economic entity called "Empire" is taking shape. Furthermore,
although they drop Lenin and Kautsky's names, the book is TOTALLY lacking
in an ECONOMIC analysis. You can find not a single graph in this tome. It
is almost exclusively riffing on poltical theory from a wide variety of
sources, from Thomas Jefferson to Spinoza. Less frittering on the theory of
the state and more on capital flows would be required to write a
combination of the Communist Manifesto and Lenin's Imperialism, as these
two dons attempt."

Louis lets add to the pile:
1)Hardt-Negri's methodology is up the duff (MODERNITY, periphery,etc).
2)They get carried away with their own rhetoric which seems to dictate what they find,
3)They talk of tendencies and contradictory movements as if they are entirely established.
4)Politically their conclusions are nebulous.
5)They announce the end of Anti-americanism just as the US embarks on a campaign of world slaughter.
6)Their treatment of Marx's theory is cavalier and convenient.
7)They suffer from post-modernism (enough said).

But as I said some of things they present cannot be dismissed, not because they are excellent theoretical minds but because they present observations which are true because they rest on reality.

One such important observation was that on Lenin's Imperialism quoted in the previous post. A point which I had argued before I saw Empire (perhaps before it was published) on this list.

Meanwhile their general observation needs proper assessment and as Meszaros seems to stray into the very same area from a completely different perspective and if his other works are anything to go by, substantial methodological backing.

In common there is a recognition of a break in the periodization of history, a point which months ago I was hammering away at. Classic imperialism is over, seems to be the point and on that fact we really need to do some hard thinking.

Louis:"My own analysis, as I've put forward here repeatedly, is that the USA has
emerged as the imperial power of the kind that Britain represented in the
Victorian age. With the collapse of Communism, B-52's and aircraft carriers
under the stars-and-stripes patrol the world on behalf of civilization and
democracy just as the British Navy of HMS Pinafore days did. "

Is simply not sufficient. Such comparisons and their assumption of continuity is an error which can make the world appear to fit but misses seeing what is new.

Lenin's profound effect on the world was that he correctly understood the period in which he lived and the political platform he deduced from this found world-wide resounance.

What we have today is the remenants of this same political platform, but it has no political resounance any more than the pathetic platforms of social democracy had after the bloodbath that began in 1914. The proof of change is not necessarily abstract but can lie in our political prostration, if anything had proved that new contradictions have arisen which have moved society well past our conceptions it is our current political positioin - the proof of the puding is in the eating (something we should never forget).

If Hardt and Negri supply no-more than a handful of observations then they have done enough, but they are not the point. Lenin used the most bourgeois of observations to construct his Imperialism, being wrong in the main does not equate to being wrong in detail, Marx relied heavily on bourgeois and sometime crack-brained works to pull observations about reality together.

The important question is always whether this or that observation actually reveals something about reality previously unthought of, neglected or dismissed. Pointing out parts of Empire that cannot be easily dismissed does not equate with trying to make anyone swallow it whole (good God I could not get through the first half at all, so pissed over with post-modern splashings I went from boredom to revulsion in turns within the same paragraph - but this I admit as a failing - turning to the second half things improved, a little but only a little).

Now Meszaros has published there is something or more substance (a lot more knowing the style of his previous work), but even the promise of this massive improvement gives us no let to swallow it whole or reject it as a whole, it is more grist, but so far on none of the lists have I seen a mill prepared to operate (rather the wheels turn, the cogs move, the ropes strain, but the mill stone does not move a millimetre).

In the hope, that we can collectively shake-off the fixed notions of the past,
Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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