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<nettime> Negri/Hardt chat about Empire
Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 3 May 2000 17:28:52 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Negri/Hardt chat about Empire

[x-posted from [ multitudes infos ] and [toninegri]]

> from bn.com, the online discussion with Michael Hardt and Toni Negri.

moderator from bn.com: Thank you both for joining us this afternoon.
Before we sign off, do you have any final thoughts for the online

AN: The concept of Empire and all the other hypotheses that we make are
meant to reveal the present state of order,but this isn't what's really
important.  What's really important is the Augustinian idea of two cities;
that is, Exodus on one hand (fleeing the corrupt city of power), but also
constructing a new city. Now we're in the stage where we can't yet see its
outline, we are crossing borders and haven't yet arrived. 

Moderator from bn.com: Can you please explain for us the concept of Exodus
as it has been discussed this and in your work? 

AN: By Exodus we want to indicate the form of struggle that is based not
in direct opposition but in a kind of struggle by subtraction-a refusal of
power, a refusal of obedience. Not only a refusal of work and a refusal of
authority, but also emigration and movement of all sorts that refuses the
obstacles that block movements and desire. And thus the fact if
recognising ourselves as citizens of the world. And not only that, but
also to recognise ourselves as poor (in the sense of a slave leaving
Egypt-Peter). <laughter> There is not only weakness in such poverty but a
great strength. 

Moderator from bn.com: I'd like to know what's on the horizon for both of
you. What can we expect next from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri-either
as a collaborative effort or solo? 

AN: I just published a book entitled ALMA VENUS, which was written in
prison, which is a reflection on some of the concepts that emerged in
EMPIRE.  Together, however, our present problematic has to do with
bio-politics and how within the bio-political order, we can understand the
concept of organization; that is, in what way we can understand the new
social struggle or revolution. The question then is a matter of
recognising the emergence of powerful organisations, and really a question
in our terms of how to organise an exodus. 

MH: In addition to that, I'm working on my own study of the work of Pier
Paulo Pasolini. 

Peter from bn.com: 4. We tend to associate empire historically with rise,
decline, stability, break-up. But you seem to suggest that a true return
to the local is no longer possible or desirable. Do you think that there
are forms of social organisations that can be non-exploitative and yet
function globally? 

AN: I'm not sure I understood the question, but it seems to me that the
defence or return of the local on one hand, and the proposition of a
global alternative on the other, are not really contradictory. They could
perhaps become contradictory,but for the moment the struggles against the
centralisation of imperial power have kept this dynamic open, as Seattle
demonstrated, and as also demonstrates the struggles in Italy in recent

MH: The demonstrations in Seattle and Washington DC were remarkable for
the way they brought together what seemed previously to be unrelated or
antagonistic perspectives: anarchists, environmentalist groups, organised
labor. In these demonstrations we sought and perhaps haven't yet
understood how the local and the global today manage to coincide. --
(Negri continues):  The Chinese shouldn't be allowed to deal only with
their local questions, they should be brought into the global market. When
we say the Chinese, we mean the struggles of the Chinese, and to bring
them to a global level. 

Ken from New York: Empire is an impressive book which challenges much of
what we have understood as important in postcolonial theory and a variety
of critical marxisms from the third world. In your book there is little
discussion of accumulation, a topic that postcolonial and third world
intellectuals have insisted is important. Can you tell us about what the
new dimensions of the process will become? 

AN: We didn't write a treatise on political economy, but tried to grasp
the general outlines of our post-colonial and post-national realities. 
Therefore, the concept of accumulation was not at the centre of our
analysis. Certainly one can and should imagine a concept of accumulation
within our framework that would be defined as the entire ensemble of
social labor, both material labor and immaterial labor that is organised
today. To me it seems that at this point we can only understand
accumulation as a pre-em to a communist constitution of society. To be
frank and clear: Empire exploits the maximum co-operation of society for
accumulation; it exploits the foundation of communism. 

margo from rockville: What steps would you like to see the IMF and World
Bank take? 

MH: There are two elements that seem most interesting to me about the
demonstrations in Washing against the INS and the World Bank. The first is
the new intelligence of the protesters: the fact of choosing these
supranational organisms as the object of protest is something
fundamentally new. While many of those unsympathetic were critical of the
protesters lack of knowledge of the inner workings, I find it impressive
and hopeful that such a large group of young people have identified these
agencies as the object of protest. The second thing I find interesting:
the protest, though not united, are by and large not about globalization,
despite news reports;  the protesters instead are asking for an
alternative globalization, a democratic globalization. And that in fact is
primary goal of our project too. So in this sense we watch the protesters
with great interest. 

AN: What seems to me fundamental is to make an exodus away from these
institutions and to lessen their power by moving away from them in order
to struggle for a different kind of relationship. The problem is not to
try to make these institutions democratic but to construct democracy
otherwise.  Ron Day from Univ. of Oklahoma: In the section of Empire
published recently in Multitudes, you write of communication guiding and
channelling the imagination and modernity as a whole. I'm wondering if you
can elaborate on this. Does "communication" here mean communicational
devices? An ideology of communication/information? A rhetorical/aesthetic
form that may be understood today as "communication" or "information."
thanks for your work. 

MH: Indeed, we understand communication in a very broad sense to include
not only technological apparatus, but also human exchanges. One concept
that is fundamental to us in considering this problematic is Marx's
concept of general intellect. By general intellect we understand the
social co-operation of knowledge that extends well beyond the level of the
individual that is directly productive in many of today's production
practices. We can understand the productivity of communication in
collective and social terms. 

Thomas Atzert from Frankfurt (Germany): A great hello to both of you! -
Slavoj Zizek, in an essay that was published also here in Germany, wrote
about your book, that it is nothing less than the Communist Manifesto for
the 21st century. So do you think that the immaterial workers of today are
an universal class as well as the proletarians Marx had before his eyes
back in 1848? 

MH: If the immaterial workers are to be conceived as a universal subject
of labor today, one has to work hard to expand the notion of what it means
to be immaterial labor. It refers only to the fact that for many products
or many elements of products remain immaterial-not of course that labor
itself has become completely immaterial. Today production takes place
equally across our body, our brains, our affects, and indeed all the
forces of life. 

michele genchi from roma - italia: Caro Professore, essersi arresi al
mercato,mi fa pensare che molte delle lotte dei nostri anni hanno avuto il
sapore amaro di un annuncio triste lasciato perdere, e che molte delle
cose che abbiamo gridato per strada hanno avuto un senso. l'eredit
positiva e' quella di aver educato i nostri figli alla solidariet e a
un'atteggiamento distaccato verso la povert intellettuale di questi tempi.
Non crede, Professore, che avremmo, forse, potuto fare di pi ? Osare di pi
? (Dear Professor, many of the struggles of our years had the bitter taste
of a sad announcement, and that meany of the things that we yelled in the
streets had a sense. The positive heritage is that we educated our
children in solidarity and an attachment toward the intellectual povery of
our times. Don't you think, professor, that we could have perhaps done
more? Dared to do more? ) 

AN: It doesn't seem to me that the question deals with Empire
specifically, but one can respond. If the question is simply could one do
more? Then the answer is yes, one could, and one could push Empire
further. Pushing Empire further first meant making the Soviet Union fall;
it means making international struggles stronger from the beginning; and
it means attacking the nation-state and it's abilities to blockthe
movement of people; it means opening borders, etc. etc. We have only been
able to do this poartially. But at least in Europe we wer eable to bring
about the collapse of the factory regime, and this was a fndamental
fundamental factor driving towards globalization. 

b. weber from austria: You define Empire as the universal rule of capital,
without a center. But the European Union and the US still seem to be
engaged in a struggle for dominance against each other, as one can tell
from the introduction of the Euro as a rival international currency and
the european attempts to create their own European defence body. How do
you interpret this battle? (I must admit that up to now I just got to the
middle of your book, so excuse me if you tackled that question anyway in
your work) 

MH: When we understand Empire as a global constitution that does not
exclude the fact that there remains today national and international
entities that control currency, economic flow and production. Our concept
of Empire is based on the notion of mixed constitution that incorporates
national, local and international organisms withina super-national and in
fact global order.  Itis still of extreme importance to struggle with and
against powers of nation-state and the international entities, such at
Eupropean Union. But also, wehave to recognize the ultimate sovereignty of
the new order on a global scale.  franca giordano from milano: non ho
letto il libro (sar tradotto in italiano?) una domanda a entrambi: sono
una mamma di 45 anni e molti anni f sono stata comunista. Ha ancora senso
oggi credere in una idea che ha mosso milioni di uomini e donne in tutto
il mondo? (I have been a communist for many years. Does it still make
sense to believe in an idea that has moved millions of men and women
acroos the world?) 

AN: I can't answer a question of faith or belief, but I think it is
reasonable to be communist today - today more than ever. When our society
lives off of a common sense-that is, a common constitution. Today
relationships of labor and social relationships are more common than they
were before. And that's the commonality that lives within both
intellectual labor and other labor-becomes ever important.  Cynthia P.
Kelly from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: How can Socialis (and Marxism in
particular) help us reach a praxis of absolute democracy? 

AN: We first have to mke a distiction. Socialism means simply "from each
according to his capacity." And communism, in contrast, "to each
"according to his needs." 

MH: In this sense aboslute democracy is the foundation of communism. This
is the sense in which we understand a non-representativ form of communism,
or rather a communism that is of representation. 

Peter from bn.com: I am struck by how eclectic, in a positive sense, the
conceptual field of Empire is in terms of the multiple sources it draws on
>from Spinoza to Marx and A Thousand Plateaus. At the same time, it is so
positive, wasting so little time on the direct critique of liberal
ideology.  How would you like to see others use your concepts? 

AN: First the question of how the concepts would be used, we have nothing
to say or dictate how readers respond. This should be left up to them. 
Regarding eclecticism: Eclecticism today has taken on a new critical
value. It is something like what Kant described as the struggle among the
faculties. And thus this struggle translates today as a struggle among the
academic discipline to destroy and communication. It develops in such a
way that the various disciplines-mathematics, economics-have developed
boundaries so that it is impossible for them to communicate. I mean that
today one has to intervene to destroy and confound the differences and
distinctions among them. One example of the mathematical structure and how
it has become completely detached from the ability to understand the
economy, and thus our entire insistence on "bio-politics"-our concept of
bio power follows strictly Foucault's conception of Kant's conflict among
the faculty. I think we need to open a new discussion about the faculties,
even the academic faculties, and that all problems of bio-politics lead us
toward overcoming the old academic divisions. 

MH: Re; positivity: It is certainly our intention to present a ositive
critical account because we think that what contemporary discussion needs
to do is not only criticque the present state of affairs but to outline an
emerging alternative. 

Peter from bn.com: I am interested in the process of collaboration between
the two of you, especially in the light of the transcontinental
connection.  Is their any reason you choose to have the book come out in
American English? 

MH: We worked together on all of the texts in the sense that we didn't
divide up chapters. What we did was exchange drafts so that all of the
material in the end was written equally by both of us. Because of Toni's
legal situation,this required my going to Europe several times a year.
First France, and then Italy-in order to collaborate face to face. 

AN: I think that the problem with collaboration is defined by the way we
had already worked together, for and from the beginning, principally on
American questions. Simply the fact of working on American material for a
European intellectual is enriching from both perspectives. Why the book
came out in English, the response is very banal. American English is the
most simple and direct way to have one's ideas circulate at a world. 


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