Comments on Negri

M. Junaid Alam redjaguar at
Tue Sep 17 10:53:51 MDT 2002

First of all, I don't even understand what the hell language Negri is
speaking. In terms of "exodus" and "multitudes" and "molecular characters"
and "bio-power" his responses read like Scripture on steroids. If you pick
up an article by say Zinn or Chomsky (with some concentration), you can
quickly understand their points, examples, overall arguments, all of that.
Instead with Negri, he seems to be stuck on the theoretical-masturbationist
plane of thought; he practically doesn't even mention any concrete events of
the war on terror, their weight and impact, anything. I suppose I should be
used to this now, especially as I have a friend in Texas who takes classes
with Harry Cleaver, but it never ceases to amaze me.

"What is absolutely new with respect to the book's structure is the fact
that the American reaction is configuring itself as a regressive backlash
contrary to the imperial tendency. It is an imperialist backlash within and
against Empire that is linked to old structures of power, old methods of
command, and a monocratic and substantialist conception of sovereignty that
represents a counter tendency with respect to the molecular and relational
characters of the imperial bio-power that we had analysed."

Translation: we were wrong about the death of imperialism, we were wrong
about the (un)importance of the state, we were wrong to hold 'globalization'
as a messiah that 'transcended' capitalism as a whole.

"But to think that Bush's government is America does not make any sense.
Despite all that is happening, American society is still a completely open
machine. Therefore even if Bush's project is monocratic and imperialist it
is wrong to regard the United States as such as monocratic and imperialist."

This is like tautology in reverse. How is American society an "open machine"
in any social or political sense of the word in regards to tolerance of
radical opinions? Earlier he says there is no countervailing tendency to the
media. If it is open in the sense that there are better capitalists out
there who are more farsighted than Bush that can take over, it is not at all
clear how this waves away imperialism. It seems to me that reality has
contradicted Empire's thesis, so Negri has invented a 'contradiction'
whereby his principle stands on one side, with the full weight of
postmodernism behind it (read: none), and some especially reactionary and
unsavory group of capitalists just happen to currently occupy the other
side, the removal of which will end imperialism.

This obsession with 'transcending' the boundaries of the nation-state as an
assumption for all analysis leaves something to be desired. In the Cold War,
the West formed supra-national organizations to strangle the birth of
socialist movements whenever and wherever possible. But in the absence of a
big countervailing power, the most powerful Western country, on a political
level, has no real reason to tie itself down. In a sense America is
maneuvering against Europe to gain further control of energy and oil
reserves, though Negri treats this as if it is a very strange occurence.

This trend called autonomist Marxism sounds like the GQ and Croquet Club of

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