[Paul A. Passavant and Jodi Dean, "Empire's New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri", Routledge, 2003Empire_s_New_Clothes__radicalebooks..com_.pdf]
"This book was begun well after the end of the Persian Gulf War and completed well before the beginning of the war in Kosovo. The reader should thus situate the argument at the midpoint between those two signal events in the construction of Empire."
(Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire)
This collection of critical responses to Empire was first discussed in conversations emerging from panels organized on Empire and on law and globalization at the Law and Society Association Annual Meetings held in Budapest, Hungary, in July of 2001, and at the Critical Legal Conference held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, Great Britain, in early September 2001 (where Antonio Negri took questions via video hookup from Italy). Hence the formation of this collection on Empire crossed the event of September 11. This volume was sent to the publisher between two other events. On the one hand, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, drew unprecedented applause before the United Nations Security Council on February 14, 2003, when he stated, against the warmongering of the United States, that the “use offeree” against Iraq as part of the U.S. “war on terror” was “not justified at this time.” The foreign minister argued: “[i]n the temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. This onerous responsibility and immense honor…must lead us to give priority to disarmament through peace.”1 For the New York Times and its report on a statement issued by the fifteen heads of state of the European Union and their commitment to the United Nations as the center of the international order, it appeared that most European leaders differed from their American counterparts through a commitment to “a form of world government” and an “international civil service bureaucracy” with headquarters at the United Nations.2 On the other hand, on February 15 and 16, 2003, millions in cities worldwide, including New York City where the United Nations is located, protested the United States rush to war. The size of these demonstrations—the largest since the Vietnam War—forced coverage from even the sycophantic New York Times. Reflecting on the weekend’s events, the Times reported that now there may be two superpowers in the world—the U.S. and world opinion, as evidenced by the massive show of democratic strength by the people who took to the streets.3 Much like the book Empire, this book of responses is forged within a context of exceptional global events. Things are now different, we are told incessantly by inescapable talking heads on media. And while we are told that this new timescape began ticking on September 11, many of our contributors share with Hardt and Negri a perception that September 11 merely crystallized conditions and developments that had existed previously. But what are these developments? Are we witnessing the development of Empire—a form of global sovereignty and legality—as it is called into being to address the twin threats to global peace posed by Saddam Hussein and George W.Bush, as would appear from the New York Times reportage on the European Union described above? Are we witnessing the birth of the multitude—a global biopolitical subject of absolute democracy—in the bodies mobilized onto the streets through global networks of communication to oppose the United States as the imperial police, also described above? Or are we witnessing not the imperial power of global sovereignty but the repetition of a more familiar imperialist power that the United States is attempting to claim for its own national interests in word, through its 2002 National Security policy, and in deed, through unilateral military action, as some of our contributors suggest?4 The future is virtually multiple. Michael Hardt’s and Antonio Negri’s remarkable book Empire is academia’s version of a blockbuster. Not long after it was first published, it was described as the kind of intellectual event that “comes along only once every decade or so… the Next Big Idea.”5 Conversation about the book was said to be “everywhere” academics meet. Then came September 11. Those publications that had not yet reviewed the book stumbled over each other to do so now. Many of these reviews linked Empire to the events of September 11.6 And some linked Empire to the protests against global capital and proceeded to associate both with terrorism.7 No earlier publications by Hardt or Negri had become the kind of event Empire had. Conditions in the world have clearly changed in such a way that Empire could be perceived as relevant to it, even if some perceived it to be relevantly dangerous.
Empire is a book about globalization. In the story that Hardt and Negri tell, there are two main characters—Empire and the multitude. Empire is the form of sovereignty that exists under conditions of globalization. Hardt and Negri respond to the debate over whether global capitalism has caused sovereignty to decline by arguing that while the nation-state’s sovereignty is indeed waning, this does not mean that sovereignty per se is in decline. Rather, sovereignty has been rescaled from the level of the nation-state to the level of the global. Of
course, state institutions continue to exist. But now, when governments intervene to keep the peace, their police forces—whether we are talking about Seattle, Washington, in the United States or Genoa, Italy—act in the name of Empire in much the same way that U.S. judges act in the name of the American people and
thereby materialize a national imaginary with their juridical actions whether their court is located in the first Circuit or the Ninth. The difference is that “America” is a national identity that is articulated to a given territory, while Empire, since it is global, is deterritorialized. There is a consistent juridical logic that the actions of police in Seattle share with the police in Genoa, and this is the logic of the imperial imperatives of Empire. Thus Hardt and Negri use jurisprudence as an index of changes in the present global order, and the result is an original contribution to debates over the fate of sovereignty in a globalized world.8
The second main character in Empire is the multitude. Hardt and Negri see the coming of Empire and the imperial world as good news in the same way that Karl Marx saw capitalism as good news. Both the imperial world and capitalism are oppressive forms of power that are parasitic upon our labor power, but the very conditions that define Empire will enable the possibility of its overthrow and the self-organization of democracy. The constituent power that will constitute this new world of absolute democracy is the multitude. As capital organizes itself globally to take advantage of a global labor pool and coordinates this activity through global communication networks, it gradually crosses the barriers between one nation and another or between home and factory. By developing increasingly hybrid and mobile subjects to serve its needs, the
imperial world paves the way for a democracy that will no longer be limited by exclusionary national boundaries but will become truly global. Indeed, as the protests organized against global capital and a global war on terror illustrate, the very communication networks that elude national control and facilitate the control of global capital’s various appendages can also facilitate the selforganization of democratic action at a global level by a new political subject, the multitude.9
Against the background of thirty years of radical theory, we can see another major contribution Empire makes. Since the events of 1968, much radical academic theory has made its most significant contributions at the level of micropolitics. Post-1968 radical theory took as its target the Marxism of the Frankfurt School. This branch of Marxism posited a dominant ideology to explain why the masses do not rise up against their oppressors—they suffer from false consciousness and mistake oppression for freedom.10 Much of the
post-1968 work took as its goal to disprove the notion that the masses suffer from false consciousness by examining local acts of resistance that illustrate how the masses have not swallowed the dominant ideology hook, line, and sinker but instead act far more tactically and self consciously than the armchair critical theorists assumed.11 Cultural Studies in particular made important contributions by refusing to assume that a mass audience imbibed the intentions of a capitalist producer through its consumption of a specific cultural artifact. Instead, Cultural Studies researched how audiences used the materials their culture provided them. The notion of the “masses” slowly died as this research demonstrated the multiple forms of identity that agents negotiate in their day-to-day life and how resistance is often enacted by tactical appropriations of a specific mode of identification under specific conditions.12 When attention went beyond momentary, site-specific resistance, it focused on the new social movements—social movements that broke with the traditional labor-versus-capital assumptions about oppression and resistance. These movements coalesced around identities that the labor-capital dichotomy failed to address—such as race, gender, sexuality—or issues such as peace or the environment.13 A totalizing account of oppression or resistance became immediately suspect in academic circles, and along the way the very notion of an emancipatory revolution got lost or was consigned to the dustbin of “totalizing theory.” In light of the “Republican Revolution” of
1994 in the United States and Nike’s use of the Beatle’s song of the same name in its advertising, it appears that only “revolution” could be spoken in public discourse. Today, revolution on a global scale against capital and on behalf of labor has reentered academic discourse with the publication of Hardt’s and Negri’s Empire, and this is an important contribution Hardt’s and Negri’s Empire makes.
The remainder of this introduction will assess the distinctiveness of Hardt’s and Negri’s approach to politics through a comparison with Hannah Arendt. After describing their respective approaches to politics—how Arendt emphasizes the necessity of separating politics from economic concerns, while Hardt and Negri begin their political analyses upon the terrain of economic production—we will then proceed to develop Hardt’s and Negri’s evaluation of emancipatory possibilities in the postmodern world by contrasting their normative vision with Arendt’s. This comparison is productive in light of their similar descriptions of historical changes but the dramatically different consequences for politics that they draw from this shared empirical terrain. In particular, we will focus on their divergent perspectives on economy, labor, and place as bases for a politics of freedom and absolute democracy.
Boundaries and Arendtian Politics
Arendt describes three different activities of life: labor, work, and action. Labor is an activity that focuses on the survival of the species and the biological processes of the human body. Work is human artifice that bestows a measure of permanence in the flux of life through the making of things. It is action, however, that is a truly human activity.
Action is coeval and coequal to speech, occurs in public before the eyes of all, and is necessarily performed with others. Action is political and it seeks to transcend the endless, repetitive cycles of nature—it seeks, that is, to produce an act that will leave a trace of our existence to be remembered by future generations. Action, with its potential for adding something new to the world that will be remembered after our death, gives us a measure of immortality in the otherwise endless flux of birth and death, eating and defecating, genesis and decomposition. This is what makes humanity distinct from nature, from animals—this possibility of transcendence and immortality through the memories of later generations who retell the stories in which we figured. Action, and hence politics, can be contrasted with religion. Religion and good acts can only be corrupted by occurring in public (when giving a gift, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth).14 Also, unlike the concern for immortality through honorable or great acts that live on in the memory of one’s fellow citizens and future generations, immortality, for the religious, occurs with one’s God after death. Or as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia puts it, for the religious, “death is no big deal.”15 Arendt is critical of the hostility of religion to public practices and this lack of concern for posterity’s memory of one’s acts. For Arendt, without the possibility of “transcendence into a potential earthly immortality, no politics, strictly speaking, no common world and no public realm, is possible.”16 This earthly transcendence occurs in the stories that others tell of one’s actions. Hence one who seeks fame must be willing to risk disclosure—actions must occur before others in common space.17 Glory, Arendt writes, “is possible only in the public realm.”18 Political action is therefore “boundless.” It is boundless because of human interrelatedness. The consequences of one’s action and one’s speech are unpredictable because the individual does not control the act. Indeed, the political significance of the act lies in the discourse that reiterates it: “Action reveals itself fully only to the storyteller…who indeed always knows better what it was all about than the participants…. Even though stories are inevitable results of action, it is not the actor but the story-teller who perceives and ‘makes’ the story.”19 Political action therefore requires the presence of others. Politics also requires the constitution of distinct spaces for Arendt—a polis and a public realm. Violence, the legal architecture of this polis, and the walls around the city are all prepolitical. But these boundaries are the conditions of possibility for political action insofar as they secure a space within which one may act politically, insofar as they constitute a commons.20 According to Arendt, these boundaries also separate the public from the private realm. In the private realm, we reproduce our natural lives. The private realm, the oikos (home), is where we take care of our necessities, and only once one has mastered the necessities of biological life can one become free to join with equals in the common pursuit of greatness. Otherwise one is still considered a slave—a slave to necessity. Securing the necessities of life is a condition of possibility for free political action in the public realm. To enter public life requires courage, Arendt argues, because one must not be preoccupied with one’s own life and survival, which are private concerns. One must be ready to risk one’s life for politics, since politics is never for the sake of life.21 Labor, that which is concerned merely with life’s necessities, does not distinguish our truly human capabilities. Labor is what humans share with animals. In the modern world, Arendt argues, this firm boundary between public and private has broken down. With the rise of the nation-state, we have witnessed the rise of the social, a making public of properly private concerns. In the modern world, the nation-state has taken responsibility for helping to secure life’s necessities, for instance, through the social-welfare state. Thus politics has come to concern itself with that which is necessary for the reproduction of life. Of course, such an outcome is unfortunate in Arendt’s eyes. For Arendt, political economy is a contradiction in terms (as the economy was properly located in the oikos). Now society is organized as one superfamily, and politics is reduced to a nationwide administration of housekeeping.22 Moreover, a successful economy requires unity, which in turn requires command and relations of inequality. Thus the politicization of the economy means that household unity has become socialized, laying the material conditions for making predictable statements regarding political and economic behavior (the behavioral sciences) but also diminishing the possibility for free political action to bring something new into the world. A society where one’s primary purpose in life is to be a consumer, for Arendt, is a society that has witnessed the death of politics. Indeed, it is a society that has perhaps forgotten what it means truly to be human.
Boundaries and Postmodern Republicanism
Hardt’s and Negri’s postmodern republicanism also describes how the boundaries between public and private no longer make sense. In contrast to Arendt, for whom the maintenance of boundaries, such as the distinction between public and private, is vital for the preservation of politics and freedom, Hardt and Negri celebrate the demise of boundaries as leading to emancipatory possibilities. I consider three areas where this occurs in Hardt’s and Negri’s thought. These three areas are changes in geography, changes in the organization of economic production, and changes in labor.
First, regarding geographic changes, Hardt and Negri argue that the public spaces of the modern world have disappeared. Boundaries, such as those between inside and outside, have eroded. Thus, instead of the firm divisions of public and private upon which Arendtian politics is based, we have witnessed the privatization of public space through the rise of shopping malls and gated communities (183–188). Rather than bemoaning the loss of a bygone era, Hardt and Negri argue that postmodern republicanism must rethink politics without an outside and invent a purely immanent and immediate politics; it must create a new ontology.23 Second, Hardt and Negri describe how changes in economic production from Fordism to a post-Fordist model of economic organization eviscerate boundaries between home and factory or nation and nation. Fordism organized industrial production within the factory and relied on a large-scale workforce. The interests of labor were represented by unions, and the state sought to mediate between the interests of labor and the interests of capital. The “social state” was born, “which took into account more widely and deeply the life cycles of populations, ordering their production and reproduction within a scheme of collective bargaining fixed by a stable monetary regime” (244). In exchange for a disciplined workforce, labor received adequate wages and social-welfare benefits from the socialwelfare or “New Deal” state.
Today, we live under conditions of post-Fordism. Production is decentered and dispersed transnationally. Capital has extended “wage liberation” to peasants previously outside capitalist markets by siting factories in the “Third World,” for example. It also makes use of a mobile workforce such as Mexican farm workers in California, or Palestinian and Pakistani engineers in the Middle East oil industry, or Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, or New York financiers in London. With “informatization,” new communications networks enable the coordination of deterritorialized production, increases in production efficiencies, and a new organization of the workforce. That is, workgroups are now more cooperatively organized, and the division between home and factory has broken down with telecommuting. Through communicative capitalism—capitalism that travels through communicative networks and catches on like a virus so that nothing can remain outside of it and indeed even communication about its problems winds up extending and deepening its hold—discipline has extended beyond the walls of the factory. We are both mommy or daddy and accounts manager simultaneously when we telecommute. New subjectivities are being formed that are hybrid, mobile, and that experience a real subsumption within the capitalist order.
This new organization of capital and the labor force, however, has also produced the material conditions of possibility for global communism. Deterritorializing capital has outrun the state’s efforts to code or dam its streaming effects; or as Hardt and Negri put it: “corporations now rule the earth” (306).24 The conditions of production have produced the conditions for revolution, as the incorporation of peasants as wage laborers produces “new desire for liberation” (252, emphasis removed). Hybrid, mobile, cooperating labor can cease to be a disciplined national workforce and can become the multitude. Third, the change in economic regimes has also produced changes in labor. Indeed, new subjectivities are born on the terrain of production. Hardt and Negri argue that our laboring bodies create all value, value that is immeasurable.
Therefore production takes center stage in their analyses, the production of social being (28). This production is described by Hardt and Negri as biopolitical.
Biopolitics is a term Hardt and Negri borrow from Michel Foucault. Biopolitics concerns not a way of life (which would be the question of politics for Arendt) but biological life itself—our body as a species, biological processes, and the supervision of a “population.” Forms of power that arose in the seventeenth century, according to Foucault, sought to take charge of life. Forms of knowledge that facilitated this shift in the organization of power include the rise of public health, demography, and eugenics. In this way, the life and health of the population became a central political preoccupation. But when mass life is a constant political question, mass death is a constant political possibility.25 Production is biopolitical for Hardt and Negri. As members of a species, we reproduce. But economic production is also biopolitical. Labor produces affect and desire. This is illustrated by the way nurses relieve anxiety or make patients happy as part of the medical care they provide their patients. Consider as well the way in which commodities incite desire in us. Moreover, we produce our lives as social beings. Rather than relying on a stark contrast between the natural as that which is unchanging and given and the social as variable and artificially constructed, Hardt’s and Negri’s analyses reject such a division. On the one hand, “nature” adapts to environmental changes just as social identities do. On the other hand, in our “social” nature we are desiring machines. According to Hardt and Negri, “there are no fixed and necessary boundaries between the human and the animal, the human and the machine, the male and the female.” Rather, they urge the “recognition that nature itself is an artificial terrain open to ever new mutations, mixtures, and hybridizations….” A new social being requires a differently embodied existence. In this light, Hardt and Negri diagnose hopeful possibility in the changes in our bodily culture: “Today’s corporeal mutations constitute an anthropological exodus and represent an extraordinarily important, but still quite ambiguous, element of the configuration of republicanism ‘against’ imperial civilization” (215). For Hardt and Negri, then, instead of a divide between the natural and the social, it is better to say that life is creative. Production produces new forms of life and incites new desires, creating new beings—new assemblages of desire in new machines.
The changes in the economy that highlight service, the affective labor of the helping professions, and the heightened importance of the entertainment industry mean that the products of those who labor in these industries include feelings of “well-being, satisfaction, excitement, or passion.” These industries specialize in the “creation and manipulation of affect.” This affective labor is labor in a bodily mode and it also produces “social networks, community, biopower” (293). Together with “informatization,” conditions have been produced enabling a new, hybrid, and desiring social being that is capable of global communism, of acting as a joyful, constituent power. This new mode of being, what Hardt and Negri call the multitude, is a biopolitical form of life that exists purely on the plane of immanence and it constitutes the ontological basis for absolute democracy, for life that exceeds any attempt to represent or measure its value—legally, nationally, or financially.
While Hardt and Negri share Arendt’s descriptions of what we may call, to continue borrowing Foucault’s term, the rise of biopolitics, their normative conclusions for contemporary political life following from this insight differ dramatically. For Arendt, economics implies relations of command and inequality in order to impose a functionally useful unity, represented traditionally by the head of household.26 Therefore, the escape of economics from the oikos and the state of national housekeeping that has been caused by the rise of the social contaminates politics, which is based in a condition of plurality and upon relations among equals. For Hardt and Negri, this analysis is time-bound to the social-welfare state. The power of the state to mediate conflict between labor and capital and to represent the interests of all as a unified identity transcending any particular interests is the cause of the unity that Arendt links with the rise of the social. Thus Hardt and Negri associate the repressive unity due to the power of command with state sovereignty and the disciplinary institutions of civil society that mediate social conflict rather than relations of economy per se (328–330). For Hardt and Negri, the transcendent power of sovereignty represses difference and coerces unity.
Arendt is highly critical of deriving politics from labor. Labor concerns the cycles of nature. Labor is the toil that is necessary for biological life to continue; it produces goods that life must consume. The products of labor are therefore spent almost immediately after their production. Hence, despite the urgency of this production for survival, labor is ultimately futile in Arendt’s estimation.
Labor ends only in death; because none of its products last, it fails to transcend nature’s metabolism. Labor never produces anything other than life, and thus Arendt disdains the celebration of labor insofar as labor does not allow humans to distinguish themselves from the flux of the natural world. The dominance of consumer society, therefore, is the dominance of a society that has succumbed to the cycle of life and fails to produce anything durable. This society is organized merely to meet appetites. For Arendt, the heightened productivity that automation enables only makes matters worse in that the rhythm of machines will amplify the rhythms of nature.27 In our capacity as laborers or consumers of the products of labor, we are no better than animals.28 Hardt and Negri assess labor differently for at least three reasons. First, as productive excess, as life, labor’s value is “beyond measure.” Since labor is beyond measure, attempts to calculate and thereby capture labor or life’s value—whether through financial, legal, or national means—are doomed to failure and injustice, negating aspects of labor’s value. Labor is an expression of desire, an expression of the vitality of life in a productive context, the creation of new values (356–359).
Second, labor provides the ontological basis for global democracy, for the birth to presence of the multitude. Labor is transnational. With informatization, labor is increasingly hybrid and mobile. Furthermore, one of the changes in the organization of labor is that it has become more cooperative for the purposes of problem-solving. Arendt would reject this mode of interaction as “cooperation” because the division of labor is based on the fact that two individuals can put their labor power together and behave toward each other as though they were one. For Arendt, this oneness is the opposite of cooperation, particularly political cooperation which emerges out of human plurality and difference, since it promotes a unity of the species that implies that all its members are the same and interchangeable.29 Hardt and Negri, however, argue that work is no longer organized according to Taylorist tenets—immaterial labor, for instance, focuses on symbolic manipulation and problem-solving. Immaterial labor is a form of work that has changed to become more cooperative (291–294). This cooperation, then, along with the mobility and hybridity of labor, can become the ontological basis for global communism.
Third, the fact that labor is productive of life does not characterize a lack of value, for Hardt and Negri, but rather indicates its excessive value. We can gesture towards this value by considering briefly the vitalism of Gilles Deleuze. For Deleuze there is a kind of unity to Being. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes: a “single voice raises up the clamour of being.”30 Here Deleuze expresses the commonality, the multiplicity, and the singularity of Being. Being is multiple multiplicities. We are not one but an assortment of qualities we share with divergent others, like an infinite dispersal of family resemblances. We are members of an infinite number of sets of attributes. A clamor expresses this multiplicity—multiple voices are raised in a clamor. Being is common, and this also is expressed by a clamor—this multiplicity is joined together in common through this clamour. Finally, a being is completely singular. One blade of grass differs from another infinitely, as one blade of grass differs from me infinitely. A single voice….
Toward the end of his life, Deleuze sought to express this sense of life. Immanence, he wrote, “is not related to Some Thing as a unity superior to all things or to a Subject as an act that brings about a synthesis of things: it is only when immanence is no longer immanent to anything other than itself that we can speak about a plane of immanence.”31 This is why singularity is not the same thing as the “individual.” Whenever immanence is interpreted as immanence to something, say, the individual, this formulation reintroduces transcendence, here with the individual who reintroduces a falsely transcendent unity. An individual cannot contain the plane of immanence.
“What is immanence? A life…” And no one, according to Deleuze, has described a life better than Charles Dickens. Dickens describes a contemptible man who lies dying. Everyone around who cares for him bustles about to save him: [I]n his deepest coma, this wicked man himself senses something soft and sweet penetrating him. But to the degree that he comes back to life, his saviors grow colder, and he becomes once again mean and crude. Between his life and his death, there is a moment that is only a life playing with death. The life of the individual gives way to an impersonal and yet singular life that releases a pure event…. It is a haecceity no longer of individuation but of singularization: a life of pure immanence, neutral, beyond good and evil, for it was only the subject that incarnated it in the midst of things that made it good or bad. The life of such individuality fades away in favor of the singular life immanent to a man who no longer has a name, though he can be mistaken for no other. A singular essence, a life…32
Somewhere between life and death in this example, this particular man ceased to be and instead became impersonal life, the cherished, vital power we share with all. This life can also be perceived in small children, Deleuze notes. Infants and small children all resemble one another. And although they hardly have any
individuality, they have singularities: “a smile, a gesture, a funny face.” In small children, one can perceive “an immanent life that is pure power and even bliss.”33 This is the beauty, the power of life beyond measure: a life…
Arendt recognizes that action, that is, speech or communication, since it requires the presence of others, is potentially boundless. One acts in concert with others in a web of previously existing acts and words of others and in so doing enters the “boundlessness of human interrelatedness.” Action, then, cuts across all boundaries and forces open all limitations upon human affairs. But rather than celebrating this fact of the boundlessness of speech—the productivity of action— and seeking to extend it, she reminds us that fences and laws are necessary to make the polis. Boundaries make possible political existence even if the actions that issue forth from this place extend beyond it.34 According to Arendt, politics can occur only once a definite place has been constituted. Political action requires a structure to have been built where subsequent actions can take place. Action requires city walls and laws to secure the space from which action can occur. Action, in the Arendtian sense, and speech are coterminous because the lack of speech indicates the lack of a subject, the lack of an actor. The polis, its language, and other cultural materials for signification—including those with whom one can engage in discourse and who will remember the events of this day and reiterate these memories and the discursive structures of the polis (the discursive structures which in turn will enable future generations to become actors)—are necessary conditions of possibility for political action.35 Hardt and Negri describe proliferating networks of communication as constructing Empire but as also constituting the conditions of possibility for the formation of the multitude and absolute democracy. The multitude contests Empire on its own level of generality as another deterritorializing power of nonplace, as a counterglobalization (206–207). It is a concrete universal, a common species (362). The multitude is absolute democracy, an “absolute and equal inclusion of the entire immanent social plane.”36 The multitude, therefore, is not a particular people—a people is a representation of a plane of singularities that represses and excludes difference, while forcefully imposing a false unity upon this plane. Representation—as a nation, people, or other specific social identity—is necessarily alienating by re-presenting to one who one is or what one desires from the outside. The multitude—like Empire—is inclusive and deterritorializing.
Therefore, like Arendt, Hardt and Negri recognize the boundlessness of networks of communication and how this interrelatedness is deterritorializing. But while Arendt argues that boundaries and limits are necessary to constitute political space and the possibility for political action, Hardt and Negri celebrate the existential fact of an infinite web of interrelatedness as the condition of possibility for absolute democracy, for the formation of the multitude. The multitude is antagonistic to any constitutional state, since constitutions limit democracy. It is also antagonistic, as we have just seen, to the limits of any specific place or community, since the city walls would institutionalize a relation of inequality between insider and outsider—again compromising the absoluteness of democracy.
We can further illustrate this contrast on territories and deterritorialization between Arendt and Hardt and Negri and its potential implications for global democracy with reference to the French foreign minister Villepin’s speech. Foreign Minister Villepin describes an “onerous responsibility” and “immense honor” that obliges disarmament through peace. In the “temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience.”37 The foreign minister, before the eyes and ears of others, has given a courageous speech in which for peace he is standing up to an imperialist power with awesome military strength. This is a risk, but to do less would be to default on our obligations to future generations. The French foreign minister guards an imagined future that will have happened, a future to come, perhaps, of global democracy. We are responsible to future generations who will have remembered this event, for this future of global democracy, of human rights, of peace. These ideals demand that we decide how to act conscientiously for their real ization. In the eyes of our posterity—our future—we will have been honored in these risky decisions we take today, perhaps. The felt presence of this future constitutes our conscience in these matters. The French foreign minister, then, is an actor in a story about shared global responsibility for democracy, human rights, peace, and opposition to militaristic imperialism despite the odds. The possibility of this story is that to which we owe responsibility.
If we bring an Arendtian perspective to bear on this event, we would note first that it brought something new into the world. The unprecedented applause that arose from the gallery after his speech indicated that another world politics beyond national self-interest and imperialist militarism—one based on peace and international law—was in the process of becoming actual. The French foreign minister’s action issued from a specific place—the United Nations. It was done before the eyes of others. It was a courageous act. He made use of the materials this institution gives him—a story about the horrors of war and genocide, a story represented pictorially in Pablo Picasso’s artwork that Ambassador John Negroponte and Secretary of State Colin Powell shrouded, hopefully more out of shame than mendacity.38 It is a story about the dangers of aggressive militarism; the preference for international law over war as a method for settling disputes; and a commitment to human rights made in several public declarations. The foreign minister is seeking to recall the community that declared itself committed to these rights, a community that does not exist outside of such calls and responses, that comes to exist through the performance of such speech acts. This commitment, then, may come to be a governing force in world politics in a way that is completely new in response to this call. For this act to occur, the foreign minister must use linguistic conventions that we can understand while he simultaneously reiterates their existence as conventions so that they are not lost to their posterity. He is a recognizably political actor in a story the contours of which are controlled now largely by the readers of this book, among others. The
reason for this, according to Arendt, is that we act with others who are also capable of action, hence the outcome of our interventions in the web of human interaction is unpredictable at the moment of the event. For Hardt and Negri, however, the fact that political action must issue from an established place is precisely the problem. The foreign minister’s speech sets forth the place of its enunciation—he is speaking in the “temple of the United Nations.” The foreign minister purchases significance for his speech from the authority of the United Nations, an authority he himself helps to sacralize. The authority of his voice comes, therefore, from the fact that he is authorized by the constituted power of the United Nations as an institution. His speech takes for granted the authority of the United Nations and seeks to use it against the United States and Great Britain.
When one’s speech issues forth from a definite place, it must claim this place as its own in order to gain standing as a speaker. Despite the fact that one may speak against war and in favor of human rights, despite the fact that one may offer or grant hospitality in a given place, to do any of these acts requires one to stand upon grounds previously constituted by power. This, in turn, requires one to ignore, even if temporarily, the diversity of claims that might be made upon a place; the fact that it is haunted by the others who have been warned or eradicated from this place to make it “yours”—even if you are offering it in a gesture of hospitality to nurture or provide sustenance to yet another.39 While international law is a method for dealing with disputes that is preferable to war, to lend authority to international law occludes the acts of repression and exclusion that lie beneath it. Even putting to one side the question of the way that the U.N. Security Council has been constituted by a sort of victor’s law, the constituent elements in international law are nations.40 Within a legal system whose primary subjects remain nation-states, indigenous peoples, for example, are placed in a system institutionalized upon grounds that continue to negate their existence.41 During the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill argued that the treatment of colonized barbarians did not violate international law since barbarians were not nations.42 Nationalism is a form of representation that enacts exclusions and repressions of the multiplicity of cultures that have inhabited even “old” nations like France.
Thus Hardt’s and Negri’s analyses suggest that there may be a hidden authoritarianism that lies within Arendtian republicanism. This republican politics is based upon defending the constituted forms of power congealed within the grounds upon which the subject gains standing as a speaker.43 The power that
authorizes speech is not questioned but reiterated and relied upon in the political act. Hardt and Negri wish to challenge all constituted power since it necessarily represses, excludes, and alienates the power that belongs to the multitude— constituent power. According to Hardt and Negri, the latter form of power— constituent power—is coextensive with democracy. Therefore absolute democracy requires that constituent power remain “alien to the law.”44
Specters of Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli concludes The Prince by wondering whether the “times are propitious to honour a new prince, and whether the circumstances existed here which would make it possible for a prudent and capable man to introduce a new order.”45 What would this new order become, and who is Machiavelli trying to convince? Machiavelli, Antonio Gramsci notes, does not engage in “dis quisitions and pedantic classifications,” as another political scientist might have, but begins through tracing “the qualities, characteristic traits, duties, necessities of a concrete person…[to] excite the artistic fantasy of those he wants to convince and give a more concrete form to political passions.” Machiavelli’s epilogue to The Prince, Gramsci argues, “is not something extrinsic, ‘stuck on,’ from outside, rhetorical, but must be understood as a necessary part of the work, and, moreover, as that part which sheds a true light over the whole work and makes it seem like a ‘political manifesto.’” Through this symbol of a leader, “Machiavelli makes himself the people, merges himself with the people.” These are not the “people in a ‘general’ sense, but…the people whom Machiavelli has convinced with the preceding tract.”46 Through this entire practice—analysis, artistry, exhortation, reading, interpellation—this people may come to arrive as Machiavelli, however tentatively, expresses their popular consciousness. Who is this new people? We know now that the concept of a national people and the Italian national people have been summoned by Machiavelli’s political act.
Who, Gramsci wonders, will be Italy’s modern prince? It cannot be a real person but, rather, it must be a “complex element of society in which the cementing of a collective will, recognized and partially asserted in action, has already begun.” The modern prince will have to devote himself significantly to the question of “world outlook,” creating the basis for the development of a collective will directed towards the “realisation of a higher and total form of modern civilization.” Gramsci conceives this ideological perspective as a kind of
“public spirit.” Does such a thing exist? Can it be developed? Were public spirit to emerge, it would presuppose some form of continuity, whether with the past or with the future, that is, it would presuppose that “every act is a stage in a complex process which has already begun and which will continue.” We would
feel solidarity with the very old; we would feel solidarity with the babies for whom we are responsible. For Gramsci, if it can be said that “public spirit” infuses our practices, we would need “time and again to fight against distortions of it and deviations from it.” The party spirit, Gramsci argues, is a fundamental element of this public spirit and must be sustained in order to defend this publicspirit. The party will take on the role of the Prince in modern times and aim to found “a new type of State.”47 Thus, for Gramsci, history provides an equivalent to Machiavelli’s Prince in “the political party: the first cell containing the germs of collective will which are striving to become universal and total.”48
Today we are told that global capital has made national sovereignty an anachronism and that it no longer makes sense to speak in terms of public and private.49 How are we to make sense of our present? Gramsci reminds us that Machiavelli was “not merely a scientist; he is a partisan, with mighty passions, an active politician, who wants to create new relations of forces and because of this, cannot help concerning himself with ‘what should be’” The active politician, for Gramsci, is a creator or an awakener, but he doesn’t create out of nothing. According to Gramsci, he “bases himself on effective reality,” but not something static—rather, a “relationship of forces in continuous movement and change of equilibrium.” In this way:
To apply the will to the creation of a new balance of the really existing and operating forces, basing oneself on that particular force which one considers progressive, giving it the means to triumph, is still to move within the sphere of effective reality, but in order to dominate and overcome it (or to contribute to this). “What should be” is therefore concrete, and it is moreover the only realistic and historicist interpretation of reality; it is the only active history and philosophy, the only politics.50 Hence our analysis of the present, of what “exists,” is also, immediately, political. So many things are determined that we bear the “onerous responsibility and immense honor” of deciding which of the futures that are determined is progressive and of trying to summon it into existence, like Machiavelli, like Gramsci, even if the consequences of events crossing the limits of the present are unpredictable. As they were for Machiavelli. As they were for Gramsci. In some ways, Hardt and Negri have been writing the same book now for over ten years, singly or collectively, with restless repetition. Is this output perhaps animated by the tortured spirit of Machiavelli or the imprisoned Gramsci as they trace the outlines of their hopes for republicanism, for revolution, for democracy? Like Machiavelli’s Prince or Gramsci’s Party, Hardt and Negri assert rights and hope that the multitude will take shape in these claims on the multitude’s behalf—the right to global citizenship, the right to a social wage, and the right to reappropriation. Just as Machiavelli made himself the people, so do Hardt and Negri make themselves the multitude in these demands that conclude Empire, hoping to will into existence those who will have been convinced by the book. The analysis must be at the same time a manifesto.
It is telling, then, that the world has changed in such a way that Empire has become the event that it has, that people can see their world through these imperial eyes. And the denunciations that followed September 11 also speak to an important change—to denounce, one must concede the existence of that which you would seek to ban. Events today allow us to see the virtual existence of multiple futures. Will the United Nations act as a hinge that swings government out towards Empire? Will democracy stop a war that is said to be unstoppable? Will the actions of the United States lead to a future of nationally inspired military imperialism—a future even Hardt himself can sense and fear?51 All of these futures are determined and exist, virtually. All are becoming in these events. In sum, will the conditions of the world be as propitious to a book on the multitude as they were to a book on Empire?
I wish to acknowledge the comments of Jodi Dean on an earlier version of this introduction as well as conversations and arguments about Empire I have had with her in the months leading up to these conferences and in the time since—their influence pervades this essay. I have also benefited from numerous discussions of these subjects with Peter Fitzpatrick.
1. “French Minister Delivers Appeal for More Time,” New York Times, February 15, 2003, A11.
2. Richard Bernstein, “Nations Seek World Order Centered on U.N., not U.S.,” New York Times, February 19, 2003, A16.
3. Patrick Tyler, “A New Power in the Streets: A Message to Bush Not to Rush to War,” New York Times, February 17, 2003, A1.
Sovereignty after Modernity?”; Peter Fitzpatrick, “The Immanence of Empire.” 5. Emily Eakin, “What Is the Next Big Idea? The Buzz Is Growing,” New York Times, July 7, 2001, B7.
6. Malcolm Bull, “You Can’t Build a New Society with a Stanley Knife,” London
Review of Books, October 4, 2001, 3.
7. Peter Beinart, “Sidelines,” New Republic, September 24, 2001, 8. 8. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 9. Subsequent references to Empire will be made parenthetically within the text.
9. Farah Stockman, “Opposition over Iraq Takes Rise via the Net,” Boston Globe, October 14, 2002, p. A1. Jodi Dean’s “The Networked Empire: Communicative Capitalism and the Hope for Politics,” this volume, investigates this “flip” from technologies of control to technologies of liberation.
10. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York:
11. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984).
12. John Fiske, “British Cultural Studies and Television,” in Channels of Discourse,
Reassembled, ed. Robert Allen (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 284–326; Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (New York: Methuen, 1979).
13. Alberto Melucci, Nomads of the Present: Social Movements and Individual Needs
in Contemporary Society, ed. John Keane and Paul Mier (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989); Jean Cohen, “Strategy or Identity: New Theoretical Paradigms and Contemporary Social Movements,” Social Research 52 (1985):663–
716; Claus Offe, “New Social Movements: Challenging the Boundaries of Institutional Politics,” Social Research 52 (1985):817–868; Alain Touraine, “An Introduction to the Study of Social Movements,” Social Research 52 (1985):749–
14. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 74.
15. Antonin Scalia, “God’s Justice and Ours,” First Things 123 (May 2002):19.
Thanks to Pierre Passavant for this reference.
16. Arendt, Human Condition, 55.
17. For a discussion of the appreciation of fame among the framers of the U.S. Constitution, see Douglass Adair, Fame and the Founding Fathers, ed. H.Trevor Colbourn (New York: W.W.Norton, 1974); Garry Wills, Explaining America: The Federalist (New York: Penguin Books, 1981), 83–84.
18. Arendt, Human Condition, 180.
19. Ibid., 192
20. Ibid., 194–195.
21. Ibid., 36–37.
22. Ibid., 28–29.
23. With this emphasis on ontology and the need for politics to recognize a new ontology, Hardt’s and Negri’s work converges with the emerging work of a number of other philosophers; see Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (New York: Verso, 2001); Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998); Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, trans. Robert D.Richardson and Anne E.O’Byrne (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).
24. See also Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley et al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983); Paul Patton, Deleuze and the Political (New York: Routledge, 2000). 25. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990), 133–159.
26. Arendt, Human Condition, 31, 39–40.
27. Ibid., 87–135
28. For Alain Badiou also, mere life is beneath good and evil and it is what we humans share with animals. For Badiou, to become distinctively human or a subject, one must distinguish oneself from one’s existence as a member of a biological species. See Badiou, Ethics, 12–13, 41, and passim.
29. Arendt, Human Condition, 123.
30. Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 35.
31. Gilles Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life,” in Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, trans.
Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 27. For a discussion of the question of positing something as immanent to something else in Empire, see Peter Fitzpatrick, “The Immanence of Empire,” in this volume. 32. Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life,” 28–29. Deleuze is drawing from Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). 33. Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life,” 28–30. For a discussion, see Giorgio Agamben, “Absolute Immanence,” in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999):220–239.
34. Arendt, 191–192.
35. Ibid., 194–195, 178.
36. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Labor of Dionysus: a Critique of the State Form (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 290. 37. “French Foreign Minister Delivers Appeal for More Time,” New York Times, February 15, 2003, A11.
38. Maureen Dowd, “Powell without Picasso,” New York Times, February 5, 2003, A27.
39. On the complex and haunted etymological roots to territory, see William Connolly,
The Ethos of Pluralization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), xxi–xxii. On the problematic of hospitality, see Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality, trans. Rachel Bowlby (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000); Jacques Derrida, “Hostipitality,” in Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion, ed. Gil Anidjar (New York: Routledge, 2002). On the hauntedness of a given territorialization, see Paul A.Passavant, No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2002), chap. 4. On the way that a given deterritorializarion results in a coinciding reterritorialization, see Kam Shapiro, “The Myth of the Multitude,” in this volume.
40. Ruth Buchanan and Sundhya Pahuja, “Legal Imperialism: Empire’s Invisible
Hand?” in this volume.
41. Colin Perrin, “Approaching Anxiety: The Insistence of the Postcolonial in the
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” in Laws of the Postcolonial, eds. Eve Darian-Smith and Peter Fitzpatrick (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 19–38; on the colonial origins of international law, see Antony Anghie, “Francisco de Vitoria and the Colonial Origins of International Law,” in ibid., 89–107.
42. Passavant, No Escape, 103–105.
43. For an extended discussion of this question, see Passavant, No Escape.
44. Antonio Negri, Insurgencies, trans. Maurizia Bascagli (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1999), 1, quoting Georges Burdeau, Traité de sciences politiques, vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence, 1983).
45. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. George Bull (New York: Penguin Books,
46. Antonio Gramsci, The Modern Prince, trans. Louis Marks (New York: International
Publishers, 1987), 135–136. Gramsci’s remarks on Machiavelli are made in the context of a critique of Georges Sorel’s notion of “myth.” For a discussion of Sorellian myth in relation to Empire, see Kam Shapiro, “The Myth of the Multitude,” in this volume. See also Louis Althusser, Machiavelli and Us, trans. Gregory Elliot (New York: Verso, 1999). I am indebted to Jodi Dean for the latter reference.
47. Gramsci, Modern Prince, 139, 145–146.
48. Ibid., 137.
49. On the “public” and contemporary politics under conditions of communicative capitalism, see also Jodi Dean, Publicity’s Secret (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).
50. Gramsci, Modern Prince, 163.
51. Michael Hardt, “Comment and Analysis: A Trap Set for Protesters,” The Guardian, February 21, 2003, p. 19. Thanks to Ernesto Laclau for bringing this source to my attention.