Aliette Guibert on Wed, 14 Apr 2004 20:08:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Predictive culture of the third Millenium/ Hardt & Negri 2d Challenge

Organic structure and predictive culture of the third millennium/ Second
Hardt and Negri: " Why we need a multilateral Magna Carta? "

in Global agenda magazine

Easy comment:
Declined the Lights and Social democracy returns?
Nation States would be the vassals of Multinational corporations,
supranational institutions and we should base a charter between all others
to free (us) from these oppressions...

Magna Carta, 1215 (itself)
borning the constitutionnal monarchy, 1215 (England)


Why we need a multilateral Magna Carta

by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

  It is becoming increasingly clear that a unilateral or "monarchical"
arrangement of the global order - centred on the military, political
and economic dictation of the United States - is undesirable and

  The crisis of this arrangement presents the opportunity for the
proposition of a new global order by the "global aristocracies" - that
is to say, the multinational corporations, the supranational
institutions and the other dominant nation states.

  The primary challenge facing these global aristocracies is to
reorganize the global system in the interest of renewing and expanding
the productive forces that are today thwarted by poverty and
marginalization. To do this, a new agreement is needed - a Magna Carta
contract for the age, that today's aristocracies are in the position to
demand of the monarch.

  Imperialism, in our view, is no longer possible today. In other words,
no nation state, not even the United States, is capable of acting as a
sovereign power to rule over the global order.

  Furthermore, the contemporary global order will not be defined by the
competition among imperialist powers, as it was during much of the 19th
and 20th centuries. A new form of sovereignty is emerging today - a
properly global sovereignty, which we call Empire.

  We use the term Empire in part because the new structures of power
resemble those of the ancient Roman Empire. Specifically, the new
global sovereignty is characterized, as it was in ancient Rome, by the
constant collaboration and interplay between the "monarchy" and the

  This means that the United States cannot act independently as a global
monarch and "go it alone," dictating the terms of global arrangements
in military, political, economic or financial terms.

  The United States must rather collaborate with the other dominant
nation states, the multinational corporations, and the supranational
institutions that compose the global aristocracies. Today's imperial
sovereignty, in other words, cannot be dictated by Washington (either
the Pentagon or the International Monetary Fund), but must result from
the collaboration among the various dominant powers.

  We think of this Empire as a network form of power in that there is no
single centre, but rather a broad set of powers that must negotiate
with each other. Our hypothesis, then, is that this Empire is an
emerging tendency and that, for those in power, it is the only form in
which contemporary global hierarchies and order can be maintained.

  When we claim that this new global imperial form of sovereignty is
emerging, we should be clear: this does not mean that nation states are
no longer important. Too often discussions about global power fall into
an either/or fallacy: one person says that, since global power
structures are emerging, nation states are no longer important; the
other says that, since nation-states continue to be important, there
are no global power structures.

  The aim of our concept of Empire, instead, is to recognize that nation
states are still powerful (some, of course, more than others), but that
they tend today to act within a new form of global sovereignty that
includes, in addition to nation states, various other powerful actors
including corporations and supranational institutions.

  Our hypothesis of Empire can be confirmed negatively by the clear
failure of unilateralist policies in a variety of fields. Most obvious
is the failure of the unilateralist military strategies pursued by the
US government particularly in the past two years.

  Even in strictly military terms the US campaigns in Afghanistan and
Iraq are proving incapable of meeting the minimum objectives of
security and stability. On the contrary, they are creating increasing
conflict and strife.

  Moreover, the global state of war and conflict created by the
unilateralist military policies has had strongly detrimental effects on
the global circuits of production and trade. One might say, in summary
fashion, that the unilateralist armed globalization pursued by the
United States has raised new boundaries and obstacles, blocking the
kinds of global economic networks that had been created in the previous

  Another kind of unilateralist strategy that has failed is the
imposition of neoliberal economic regimes, characterized by the
mandates to cut public welfare programmes to a minimum and privatize
public industries and healthcare.

  The so-called "Washington Consensus" and the policies dictated by the
IMF, which amount to a kind of economic unilateralism, have been
promoted strongly by the United States and often go hand in hand with
its unilateralist military actions.

  These economic and financial policies have for decades come under
heavy criticism, but the economic disasters in southeast Asia in 1997
and Argentina in 2000/01 (two areas previously considered shining
examples of neoliberal success) have confirmed the crisis of the
economic model.

  The most general indication of the limitations of the global
neoliberal economic regime is that it engages such a small fraction of
the productive potential in today's world. Large and growing portions
of the global population live in poverty, deprived of education and
opportunities. Numerous countries are plagued by national debts that
drain vital resources. It is increasingly clear, in fact, that the
majority of the world is excluded from the primary circuits of economic
production and consumption.

  Some scholars have thus begun to claim that within the present
neoliberal economic regime large portions of the global population are
"disposable", as if the economic system were sustainable but immoral.

  They maintain that the exclusion of large populations is what makes
the system functional. This fact explains for them the seeming
indifference to large-scale poverty and even high mortality rates due,
for example, to the spread of Aids in Africa.

  Our view, rather, is that the economic exclusion and marginalization
of large populations are indications of the failure and
unsustainability of the neoliberal regime. No economic system can
continue while suffocating the productive potential of such a large
portion of the population.

  The failure of neoliberalism, in other words, makes inevitable the
task of creating a new productive system with the means to realize
better the productive potential present in the world today.

  This is the moment of the Magna Carta. Remember from English history
that in the early 13th century King John could no longer pay for his
foreign military adventures and could no longer maintain social peace.

  When he appealed to the aristocracy for funds and support, they
demanded in return that the monarch submit to the rule of law and
provide constitutional guarantees, and thus they drafted the Magna

  The monarch, in other words, agreed to abandon a strictly
unilateralist position and collaborate actively with the aristocracy.
Our global "monarch" is faced with a comparable crisis today - unable
to pay for its wars, maintain peaceful order and, moreover, provide the
adequate means for economic production.

  Our "aristocracies" are thus in the position, in return for their
support, to demand a new social, political, and economic arrangement -
a new global order.

  What would be the content of a new global Magna Carta today? Peace and
security are obviously important objectives. Putting an end to
unilateralist military adventures and the seemingly interminable state
of global war is a fundamental condition.

  It is also important, however, to renew global productive forces and
bring the entire global population into the circuits of production and
exchange. Priorities such as eliminating poverty and absolving the
debts of the poorest countries would not in this context be acts of
charity, but efforts aimed at realizing the productive potential that
exists in the world.

  Another priority would be reversing the processes of privatization and
creating common access to necessary productive resources - such as
land, seeds, information, and knowledge. Making resources common is
necessary for the expansion and renewal of creative and production
potentials, from agriculture to internet technologies.

  We can already recognize some movements that can indicate a path
toward the creation of such a new Magna Carta. The demands of the
"group of 22" at the Cancún meetings of the WTO for more equitable
agricultural trade policies, for example, is one step towards reforming
the global system. More generally, the international alliances
tentatively articulated by Lula's government in Brazil within Latin
America and more broadly indicate possible bases for global

  Taking the lead from the governments of the global South in this
manner is one way for the aristocracies to orient their project of the
renewal of productive forces and energies in the global economic

  A second source of orientation is provided by the multitude of voices
that protest against the current state of war and the present form of
globalization. These protestors in the streets, in social forums and in
NGOs not only present grievances against the failures of the present
system, but also numerous reform proposals ranging from institutional
arrangements to economic policies.

  It is clear that these movements will always remain antagonistic to
the imperial aristocracies and, in our view, rightly so. It might be in
the aristocracies' interest, however, to consider the movements as
potential allies and resources for formulating today's global policies.

  Some version of the reforms that these movements demand, and some
means to incorporate the global multitudes as active forces, are
undeniably indispensable for the production of wealth and security.

  The most progressive governments of the global South and the
globalization protest movements are some of the existing forces that
can orient a project of renewal. A new Magna Carta would offer an
alternative to our failed unilateralist regimes.

  Michael Hardt/Antonio Negri


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