[Marxism] Fresh blather from Hardt-Negri

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 25 06:04:08 MDT 2004

NY Times, July 25, 2004
'Multitude': An Antidote to Empire

War and Democracy in the Age of Empire.
By Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.
427 pp. The Penguin Press. $27.95.

Well before 9/11 and the Iraq war put the idea in everybody's mind, 
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri had popularized the notion of a modern 
empire. Four years ago, they argued in a widely discussed book -- 
titled, as it happens, ''Empire'' -- that the globe was ruled by a new 
imperial order, different from earlier ones, which were based on overt 
military domination. This one had no center; it was managed by the 
world's wealthy nation-states (particularly the United States), by 
multinational corporations and by international institutions like the 
World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. This 
empire -- a k a globalization -- was exploitative, undemocratic and 
repressive, not only for developing countries but also for the excluded 
in the rich West.

Hardt and Negri's new book, ''Multitude,'' argues that the antidote to 
empire is the realization of true democracy, ''the rule of everyone by 
everyone, a democracy without qualifiers.'' They say that the left needs 
to leave behind outdated concepts like the proletariat and the working 
class, which vastly oversimplify the gender/racial/ethnic/ class 
diversities of today's world. In their place they propose the term 
''multitude,'' to capture the ''commonality and singularity'' of those 
who stand in opposition to the wealthy and powerful.

This book -- which lurches from analyses of intellectual property rules 
for genetically engineered animals to discourses on Dostoyevsky and the 
myth of the golem -- deals with an imaginary problem and a real problem. 
Unfortunately, it provides us with an imaginary solution to the real 

The imaginary problem stems from the authors' basic understanding of 
economics and politics, which remains at its core unreconstructedly 
Marxist. For them, there is no such thing as voluntary economic 
exchange, only coercive political hierarchy: any unequal division of 
rewards is prima facie evidence of exploitation. Private property is a 
form of theft. Globalization has no redeeming benefits whatsoever. (East 
Asia's rise from third- to first-world status in the last 50 years seems 
not to have registered on their mental map.) Similarly, democracy is not 
embodied in constitutions, political parties or elections, which are 
simply manipulated to benefit elites. The half of the country that votes 
Republican is evidently not part of the book's multitude.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/25/books/review/25FUKYAMA.html
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