Antonio Negri

·        Made his international reputation as a commentator on Marx and Marxism – specifically on what he calls the “disfiguration of Marxism operated by Marxists.”

·        His critique of Marxism is twofold:

  1. “Marxism shows us Marx as the author of the old competitive capitalism, incapable of coping with the social capitalism of the present age.”
    • The origins of Marx’s critique of capitalism deal with and emerge out of the violent transition into the ‘epoch of the bourgeoisie.’
    • We discussed this earlier with reference to the violence inherent to ‘primitive accumulation’ – that is to say, how capitalism was built by imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and all the social and economic ills this implies.
    • At this earliest stage of capitalism, it was still an open question how capitalism would eventually develop and materialize, and how successfully it would reconfigure life as we know it.
    • The present reality (according to Negri) is that capitalism has successfully realized its (destructive) potential, so that we are now living in the world of its creation. 
      • As Marx wrote, we no longer work to live, but we now live to work. 
      • In Negri’s terms, capital has “subjugated all forms of life” with its commodification of everything from the work place, to material production, to human relations.
      • Negri: “At this level, to break with capital is to make a prison break.”
    • Given this state of the present reality, Negri emphasizes the need for practical things people can do to take back the world
      • “To be a communist today means to live as a communist.”
      • In other words, the problem with Marxism as it was disfigured by the Marxists, is that it is not enough to join a specific party or to engage in isolated acts of resistance.  One must develop an alternative consciousness and a more deliberate lifestyle.
      • Negri is cautioning against passively adopting the dominant ideology as determined by Capital.
  2. The “mummification of Marx”
    • Marxism has been weakened by the narrow scholasticism or rigid Marxist orthodoxy that limits or forecloses what sorts of questions can be asked and what sort of alternatives proposed.
    • Negri’s early work has been described as a political philosophy “designed to present an alternative to orthodox interpretations of Marx.”


Hardt/Negri’s Empire

Issues discussed:  globalization, trans-national corporations, imperialism, the role of the United States in the world economy, and finally, the relationship between international Capital and the nation-state



·        as an irresistible and irreversible economic and cultural force

·        has produced a new global order and a new form of sovereignty

·        this system of global exchange is effectively regulated by Empire, which is becoming the new sovereign power that governs the world

·        economic relations have become more autonomous from political controls, and consequently, that [form of] political sovereignty has declined.”

·        Is globalization good or bad for society?

o       Is this new era of globalization a time of liberation in which the capitalist economy is freed from the restrictions and distortions that political forces have imposed on it?

o       Is it the closing of the institutional channels through which workers and citizens can influence and protect themselves from the cold logic of capitalism?

o       Hardt/Negri:  Neither.  It is what it is


Globalization and the new form of Sovereignty

·        What is the present situation?

o       The sovereignty of the nation-state has progressively declined

o       The nation-state has less power to regulate the economy and impose its authority over the economy

o       However, that does not mean that sovereignty as such has declined:  “Our basic hypothesis is that sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule.  This new global form of sovereignty is what we call Empire.”


Empire is not Imperialism

·        Imperialism is tied to the old model of political sovereignty in which imperialism was an extension of the nation-state beyond its boundaries.

·        In contrast to imperialism, Empire has no territorial center of power, does not rely on fixed boundaries.  “It is a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers.”


What is the U.S.’ role in the new global order

·        Proponents see the U.S. as the world leader, championing democracy around the world, assuming its responsibilities as the world’s lone superpower

·        Detractors see the U.S. as an imperialist oppressor

·        Hardt/Negri:  Both of these views are based on an outdated model of political sovereignty:  “The U.S. does not, indeed no nation-state can today, form the center of an imperialist project.  Imperialism is over.”

·        That being said, the U.S. clearly does still occupy a ‘privileged position’ within the new global order.


The Supersession of Empire

·        “The passage to Empire and its processes of globalization offer new possibilities to the forces of liberation.”

·        “Our political task . . . is not simply to resist these processes [of globalization] but to reorganize them and redirect them towards new ends.”

·        The Multitude has potential as a radically democratic counter-Empire to struggle and contest the dominant Empire.

·        The Multitude represent new democratic forms that “will one day take us through and beyond Empire (similar to Marx’s notion of the autodeconstruction of capitalism, the idea that capitalism plants the seeds of its own destruction, the political strategy of turning capitalism against itself.  Or from Kee:  Marxism is not the simple rejection of capitalism, but its supersesssion.)


The Imminent Crisis of Empire

·        the becoming of Empire is actually realized on the basis . . . of its decadence and decline.”

·        “Empire is born and shows itself as crisis.”