Negri explains the "multitude"

duy nguyen jislober at
Wed Nov 13 13:25:47 MST 2002

Some of intitial thoughts on Negri's article:

There is a lot simiarilities between negri's remarks on the concept of
"multitude" and many of Baudrillard's ideas in his book about the "masses."
I'm not sure if this an obvious connection or not, I ran across the book by
accident some days ago.  Both deal with this issue of whether or not the
"masses" as well as the latter' collective will or intentions are
representable, whether they constitute some sort of being, rather than
merely being some overly general sociological,  political, perhaps just
plain thought category that completely fails to reflect any sort of social
reality.  Negri, in particular, insists that the idea of the "people" is a
misrepresentation, enable by some of kind "transcendental" bourgeois legal
framework, that reduces and homogenizes particular individuals to  bourgeois
definitions of the individual, and then from that deduces the existence of
the some kind of collective body of which these individual supposely
compose.  But his critique of this process, however, doesn't seem like a
critique at all.  In fact in merely seem to amplifies these processes he
attacks, almost to the point of becoming some postmodern version of your
traditional run of the mill libertarian politics:

>From the perspective of power, what to make of the
                           multitude? Effectively, there is really nothing
                           power can make of it, since here the categories
                           power is interested in -- the unity of the
                           (people), the form of its composition (contract
                           amongst individuals) and the type of government
                           (monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, separate or
                           combined) -- have been put aside.

You can see a pretty straigtforward opposition in these lines, which you can
detect in Baudrillard as well.  Freedom is on the side of the individual,
here defined not as the traditional bourgeois conception of the latter, but
rather "singularities."  But the only difference I can think of between
individuals and singularities is that the latter is more self-conscious of
its particular consumer tastes.  I guess the point I'm getting at is that I
don't see how this kind of politics can be effective against a system which
is united, composed, to use Negri's terms.  It seems like the worse kind of
utopian fantasy to think that "unity" and "composition" can be combatted
with the assertion of singularity.  It certainly hasn't helped in this
country at all; the recent gallop polls of the mid-term elections seem to
suggest that people voted to keep the current government in power simply
because it had a position, a unified, comprehensible  position, as opposed
to the fragmentation and aimlessness of the democrats, to say nothing of
socialists or anarchists.  Looking at it from Negri's perspective, you would
think that greatest advantage that the left has is that no one could
possible understand it orrather  singularities which compose it, much less
its aims and objectives.
And what is more disturbing is that Negri seems to treat this idea of
singularity as though it were some transhistorical conception (as though
people had always latently been singilarities without being aware of it)
rather than trying to understand the historical emergence of the possibility
of thinking such as thing as "multitude" and "singularity" in the first
place.  For these are surely as much the result of the global, historical
process of development he describes as the forces of unity which  oppose
this multitude -- and in this sense, the notion of singularity is as
"trasncendental" as the idea of the individual, the masses, ect.  In
textbook dialectical fashion it reverts into oppposite as easily as terms
like "individual" do -- singularities designating a particular kind of
subjectivity resistant to any sort of collective definition no matter how
you may personally feel about yourself and your relations with other people.
  Anyway, just some confused thoughts.

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