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3.1 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674006713
ISBN-10: 0674006712
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Empire is a sweeping book with a big-picture vision. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that while classical imperialism has largely disappeared, a new empire is emerging in a diffuse blend of technology, economics, and globalization. The book brings together unlikely bedfellows: Hardt, associate professor in Duke University's literature program, and Negri, among other things a writer and inmate at Rebibbia Prison in Rome. Empire aspires to the same scale of grand political philosophy as Locke or Marx or Fukuyama, but whether Hardt and Negri accomplish this daunting task is debatable. It is, however, an exciting book that is especially timely following the emergence of terrorism as a geopolitical force.

Hardt and Negri maintain that empire--traditionally understood as military or capitalist might--has embarked upon a new stage of historical development and is now better understood as a complex web of sociopolitical forces. They argue, with a neo-Marxist bent, that "the multitude" will transcend and defeat the new empire on its own terms. The authors address everything from the works of Deleuze to Jefferson's constitutional democracy to the Chiapas revolution in a far-ranging analysis of our contemporary situation. Unfortunately, their penchant for references and academese sometimes renders the prose unwieldy. But if Hardt and Negri's vision of the world materializes, they will undoubtedly be remembered as prophetic. --Eric de Place


Michael Hardt and Tony Negri have given us an original, suggestive and provocative assessment of the international economic and political moment we have entered. Abandoning many of the propositions of conventional Marxism such as imperialism, the centrality of the national contexts of social struggle and a cardboard notion of the working class, the authors nonetheless show the salience of the Marxist framework as a tool of explanation. This book is bound to stimulate a new debate about globalization and the possibilities for social transformation in the 21st century. (Stanley Aronowitz, author of False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness)

Empire…is a bold move away from established doctrine. Hardt and Negri's insistence that there really is a new world is promulgated with energy and conviction. Especially striking is their renunciation of the tendency of many writers on globalization to focus exclusively on the top, leaving the impression that what happens down below, to ordinary people, follows automatically from what the great powers do. (Stanley Aronowitz The Nation)

Empire is a stunningly original attempt to come to grips with the cultural, political, and economic transformations of the contemporary world. While refusing to ignore history, Hardt and Negri question the adequacy of existing theoretical categories, and offer new concepts for approaching the practices and regimes of power of the emergent world order. Whether one agrees with it or not, it is an all too rare effort to engage with the most basic and pressing questions facing political intellectuals today. (Lawrence Grossberg, author of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture)

An extraordinary book, with enormous intellectual depth and a keen sense of the history-making transformation that is beginning to take shape―a new system of rule Hardt and Negri name Empire imperialism. (Saskia Sassen, author of Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization)

By way of Spinoza, Wittgenstein, Marx, the Vietnam War, and even Bill Gates, Empire offers an irresistible, iconoclastic analysis of the 'globalized' world. Revolutionary, even visionary, Empire identifies the imminent new power of the multitude to free themselves from capitalist bondage. (Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Almanac of the Dead)

After reading Empire, one cannot escape the impression that if this book were not written, it would have to be invented. What Hardt and Negri offer is nothing less than a rewriting of The Communist Manifesto for our time: Empire conclusively demonstrates how global capitalism generates antagonisms that will finally explode its form. This book rings the death-bell not only for the complacent liberal advocates of the 'end of history,' but also for pseudo-radical Cultural Studies which avoid the full confrontation with today's capitalism. (Slavoj Žižek, author of The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Political Ontology)

Empire is one of the most brilliant, erudite, and yet incisively political interpretations available to date of the phenomenon called 'globalization.' Engaging critically with postcolonial and postmodern theories, and mindful throughout of the plural histories of modernity and capitalism, Hardt and Negri rework Marxism to develop a vision of politics that is both original and timely. This very impressive book will be debated and discussed for a long time. (Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe)

The new book by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire, is an amazing tour de force. Written with communicative enthusiasm, extensive historical knowledge, systematic organization, it basically combines a kojevian notion of global market as post-history (in this sense akin to Fukuyama's eschatology) with a foucauldian and deleuzian notion of bio-politics (in this sense crossing the road of a Sloterdijk who also poses the question of a coming techniques of the production of the human species). But it clearly outbids its rivals in philosophical skill. And, above all, it reverses their grim prospects of political stagnation or the return to zoology. By identifying the new advances of technology and the division of labor that underlies the globalization of the market and the corresponding de-centered structure of sovereignty with a deep structure of power located within the multitude's intellectual and affective corporeity, it seeks to identify the indestructible sources of resistance and constitution that frame our future. It claims to lay the foundations for a teleology of class struggles and militancy even more substantially 'communist' than the classical Marxist one. This will no doubt trigger a lasting and passionate discussion among philosophers, political scientists and socialists. Whatever their conclusions, the benefits will be enormous for intelligence. (Etienne Balibar, author of Spinoza and Politics)

So what does a disquisition on globalization have to offer scholars in crisis? First, there is the book's broad sweep and range of learning. Spanning nearly 500 pages of densely argued history, philosophy and political theory, it features sections on Imperial Rome, Haitian slave revolts, the American Constitution and the Persian Gulf War, and references to dozens of thinkers like Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hegel, Hobbes, Kant, Marx and Foucault. In short, the book has the formal trappings of a master theory in the old European tradition… [This] book is full of…bravura passages. Whether presenting new concepts―like Empire and multitude―or urging revolution, it brims with confidence in its ideas. Does it have the staying power and broad appeal necessary to become the next master theory? It is too soon to say. But for the moment, Empire is filling a void in the humanities. (Emily Eakin New York Times 2001-07-07)

One of the rare benefits to the credit [of the contemporary Empire] is to have undermined the ramparts of the nation, ethnicity, race, and peoples by multiplying the instances of contact and hybridization. Perhaps, at least this is the hope forwarded by these two Marx and Engels of the internet age, it has thus made possible the coming of new forms of transnational solidarity that will defeat Empire. (Aude Lancelin Le Nouvel Observateur)

A sweeping neo-Marxist vision of the coming world order. The authors argue that globalization is not eroding sovereignty but transforming it into a system of diffuse national and supranational institutions―in other words, a new 'empire'…[that] encompasses all of modern life. (Foreign Affairs)

Globalization's positive side is, intriguingly, a message of a hot new book. Since it was published last year, Empire…has been translated into four new languages, with six more on the way… It is selling briskly on Amazon.com and is impossible to find in Manhattan bookstores. For 413 pages of dense political philosophy―whose compass ranges from body piercing to Machiavelli―that's impressive. (Michael Elliott Time 2001-07-23)

How often can it happen that a book is swept off the shelves until you can't find a copy in New York for love nor money? …Empire is a sweeping history of humanist philosophy, Marxism and modernity that propels itself to a grand political conclusion: that we are a creative and enlightened species, and that our history is that of humanity's progress towards the seizure of power from those who exploit it. (Ed Vulliamy The Observer 2001-07-15)

Hardt is not just bent on saving the world. He has also been credited with dragging the humanities in American universities out of the doldrums… [Empire] presents a philosophical vision that some have greeted as the 'next big thing' in the field of the humanities, with its authors the natural successors of names such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. (Sunday Times 2001-07-15)

Hailed as the new Communist Manifesto on its dust jacket, this hefty tome may be worthy of such distinction… Hardt and Negri analyze the multiple processes of globalization…and argue that the new sovereign, the new order of the globalized world, is a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule… Though Empire ties together diverse strands of often opaque structuralist and poststructuralist theory…the writing is surprisingly clear, accessible, and engaging… Hardt and Negri write to communicate beyond the claustrophobic redoubts of the academy… In short, Empire is a comprehensive and exciting analysis of the now reified concept of globalization, offering a lucid understanding of the political–economic quagmire of our present and a glimpse into the possible worlds beyond it. (Tom Roach Cultural Critique)

In their recent book Empire―a highly explosive analysis of globalisation―[the authors] take the effort to develop a full narrative of this new world order, of the global postmodern sovereignty and its counter-currents. It is therefore not so much a book on hybridity only, but rather an attempt to reformulate and redefine the political under conditions of globalisation. The result is a resolute tour de force delineating the genealogy of the postmodern regime as well as its consolidation as a new 'society of control' under conditions of world-wide 'real subsumption' which creates one smooth, global capitalist terrain. (Dirk Wiemann Journal for the Study of British Cultures)

Stretching back nearly twenty years, Antonio Negri's work has been until recently one of the best-kept secrets of Marxist theory in the United States… [Empire] is the culmination of Negri's lifework and a major contribution to Marx's uncompleted work on capitalism's international phase. Beyond its inherent scholarly merit, however, Empire provides a critical tool for understanding what the events following September 11th mean as history and politics. (Curtis White Bookforum 2002-06-01)

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire…owes its density not to affected language―indeed, its manifesto-like communicative urgency is one of its greatest strengths―but to the exhilarating novelty of what it has to say… This is as simple, as apparently innocent, and as radically counter-intuitive when thought to its limit as the Sartrean dictum that existence precedes essence must have been in its time. It's not that this relation had never been thought before; the connection between the demands of labor unions and the development of the automated factory is well-known. But in Hardt and Negri's hands this relation becomes a powerful new way to theorize globalization and the development of capital itself… Hardt and Negri perform the urgent task of reclaiming Utopia for the multitude. (Nicholas Brown Symploke)

Hardt, an assistant professor of literature and a political scientist (and currently a prison inmate), has produced one of the most comprehensive theoretical efforts to understand globalization. (Choice)

The appearance of Empire represents a spectacular break. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri defiantly overturn the verdict that the last two decades have been a time of punitive defeats for the Left… Hardt and Negri open their case by arguing that, although nation-state–based systems of power are rapidly unraveling in the force-fields of world capitalism, globalization cannot be understood as a simple process of deregulating markets. Far from withering away, regulations today proliferate and interlock to form an acephelous supranational order which the authors choose to call 'Empire' …Empire bravely upholds the possibility of a utopian manifesto for these times, in which the desire for another world buried or scattered in social experience could find an authentic language and point of concentration. (Gopal Balakrishnan New Left Review)

This sprawling book is filled with original ideas and analyses, including some well-aimed critiques of postmodernism, dependency theory, world systems theory, anti-imperialism, and localism―and there is much more besides to stimulate the reader… This is an exciting and provocative book whose depth and richness can only be hinted at in so brief a review. (Frank Ninkovich Political Science Quarterly)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674006712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674006713
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Perhaps it's a bit late to weigh in on Empire, but so many of the posted reviews strike me as so silly that I couldn't resist: most simply denounce or praise the authors for being "Marxist" or complain about the obscurantist writing. As for the first approach: who cares one way or another? Obviously Hardt and Negri aren't just repeating what Marx said, and why should they? (On the other hand, it's ridiculous to pretend that someone could analyze contemporary capitalism without referring to Marx.) Anyway, there is no general, systematic "framework" called Marxism, that you could accept or reject wholesale. Marx himself wasn't a Marxist, as everyone knows!
As for the writing, I've been surprised by how frequently people attack its academicism: anyone familiar with Negri's previous work can tell that he's dumbed down the arguments a fair amount, which has sometimes deprived them of some of their subtlety and rigor. It's a book of political philosophy, not the latest pot-boiler from your average journalist. I don't think it's elitist to ask the general public to grapple with a difficult work--I'm sure most are quite capable of it!
As for Empire itself: I think Negri has made a major misstep. The basic argument is simple (another reason I don't see its intellectualism--everyone has at least gotten the major point). Negri has made himself look pretty foolish coming out with a book in 2000 claiming that traditional imperialism is dead (the subsequent policies of George II's administration have forced Hardt and Negri to more or less admit they got it wrong in recent interviews). He seems to have gotten taken in by the liberal/social-democratic rhetoric of the 90s, which envisioned a super-state providing global capitalism with an international law.
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Format: Hardcover
This dense and philosophically avant-garde tome is nonetheless passionate and compulsively readable, I found that I could not put it down after I picked it up. Even more remarkable is the facility with which Negri and Hardt facilitate both the history of the west and our contemporary postmodern terrain. Their central thesis is that the form of sovereignity that has characterized modernity is ending and that that there is a new form of sovereignity forming which they term 'Empire'. In doing this they examine Machiavelli, Spinoza, the founders of the U.S. political system, Marx, Althusser, Foucault, Deleuze, Bill Gates and many others in creative blend of materialism, history, radical politics and philosophy. The criticisms of post-structuralist and postcolonial theory are especially timely. If you are tired of coventional liberal politics try this book headlined by Italy's most famous living philosopher and political prisoner - Toni Negri.
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Format: Paperback
"Empire" is an ambitious book. Readers who approach this work with an open mind will be rewarded with numerous insights and a keener understanding of the world in which we live.

Reading the book is like being invited to listen to a dialogue between two great thinkers. One can sense the paragraphs that may have been written by the philosopher Michael Hardt from among those by the political scientist Antonio Negri. You are fascinated by the manner in which the exchange of ideas seems to create a kind of intellectual synergy, which in turn leads us to deeper and more penetrating analyses of the subject matter. It would be interesting to learn how the authors communicated with each other (Hardt is in the U.S. and Negri was in prison in Italy) to achieve this remarkable feat.

The book is divided into four sections. It may be helpful to look at each individually to better undestand why opinions about this book seem to vary so widely.

The first section on "Political Constitution" disscuses the characteristics of the empire dominating our postmodern world. The authors discuss the declining power of nation states and the increasing power of multinational corporations along with the institutions that regulate them (such as the IMF, UN, WTO etc.). The authors contend that the requirements of capital have created juridical norms that have literally enveloped all regions of the world, meaning that there is no longer an "outside" to the globalized capitalist regime.

Importantly, the authors draw on Michel Foucault's theories to describe the transformation from the "disciplinary society" in the imperialist era to the "society of control" in the current era of globalization.
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Format: Paperback
Is this book still relevant? Many will argue that the current
US neoconservative rampage disproves Hardt and Negri's "Empire" thesis. I disagree with that. First of all, never did H&N posit that imperialism, nationalism, patriotism had died on, say, June 5th, 1999. They did argue that the tendancy was for capitalism to reorganize itself into Empire-a dectralized globalized capitalist network that would diminish borders in such a way as to allow the smooth flow of capital globally.
So we should ask ourselves if we are indeed returning to the age of "imperialism" or proceeeding toward "Empire". I would argue
that the current US neo-conservative policy is an attempt to return to imperialism, however, I believe that it is an aberration, an irregular moment in the unfolding of Empire. In imperialism, capital is organized around capitalists according to nation-states. And so you would have German capitalists, vying against French capitalists, etc. But the present day formation of capital is less and less organized around national groups as it is around transnational groups.
This is not to say that there do not still exist national formations of capital (after all, we saw French captialist interests in Iraq being challenged by big oil capitalists from the US)...it is to say that global capital formations are the growing tendancy and will win out over time. So, what we are witnessing right now is very complex. We can not expect that imperialism ends one day and Empire starts the next...they will coexist for some time to come.
And what about the revolutionary subject that will counter Empire? H&N call those forces, the multitudes.
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