- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674035119
- ISBN-13: 978-0674035119
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,668,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Commonwealth 1st Edition
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Everyone seems to agree that our economic system is broken, yet the debate about alternatives remains oppressively narrow. Hardt and Negri explode this claustrophobic debate, taking readers to the deepest roots of our current crises and proposing radical, and deeply human, solutions. There has never been a better time for this book. (Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine)
Commonwealth, last and richest of the Empire trilogy, is a powerful and ambitious reappropriation of the whole tradition of political theory for the Left. Clarifying Foucault's ambiguous notion of biopower, deepening the authors' own proposal for the notion of multitude, it offers an exhilarating summa of the forms and possibilities of resistance today. It is a politically as well as an intellectually invigorating achievement. (Fredric Jameson, Duke University)
Commonwealth [is] the latest book by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, whose Empire and Multitude have, arguably, been the dominant works of political philosophy of the new century...[It's] the much-anticipated final volume of the Empire trilogy. (Artforum 2009-10-01)
Commonwealth is a timely contribution to our understanding of contemporary capitalist relations and the potential revolutionary conditions they create...Together Hardt and Negri's work is considered to be responsible for a resurgence of interest in non-orthodox Marxism and its political manifestations. Commonwealth is the final part of a trilogy that began with Empire in 2000, a book that was published during the emergence of the alter-globalization movement. Multitude followed in 2004, developing the ideas that had been introduced in Empire, in particular the concept of the multitude as a new revolutionary subject. Commonwealth is a worthy addition to the trilogy, expamnding and clarifying on the understandings in the previous books, but perhaps more significantly grounding their analysis within an extended discussion of "the common."...Commonwealth is a book that challenges presuppositions about the utility of Marx, and introduces the possibility of combining his insights with the ideas of other significant authors such as Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, who are not traditionally associated with the radical communist project. (Bertie Russell and Andre Pusey Red Pepper 2010-04-01)
About the Author
Michael Hardt is Professor of Literature and Italian at Duke University.
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I'd have to believe that a Fordist business person of the early 20th century would find the entire region of the humanities, critical theory, postmodernity, ethics, etc. to be a complete waste of time, yet as such, they would have complete difficulty in understanding our (post)modern workplace where differences are not only tolerated, but increasingly embraced given the intersubjective perceptual strength such multiplicities of difference bring toward product creation, marketing innovation, risk management, etc. From the perspective of Hardt and Negri's work, all three are necessary for the thoughtful, ethical professional (regardless of political or economic ideology) in the evaluation of the global system emerging.
Antonio Negri has been since the Sixties a leading proponent of autonomist marxism, and this multivarious tendency has always defied categorization along the traditional Reform (Bernstein)/Revolution (Lenin) axis. Following on from council communism, autonomist marxists reject both the reformism of electoral politics and the centralized Marxist-Leninist party organizing for a seizure of state power. Autonomous practice looks more like anarchism than the traditional marxism of either reformist social democracy or "revolutionary" vanguard party-ism. But it is based on unorthodox marxist class analysis rather than in anti-authoritarianism per se or on identity politics.
In his collaboration with Michael Hardt, including the trilogy Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and COMMONWEALTH (2009), Negri continues to develop the same basic ideas of autonomy he has been arguing since the late Sixties, but moves ever further from standard marxist concepts. In the last pages of Marx Beyond Marx, written in prison in 1979 and first published in English in 1984, Negri says "Some say we must modernize, that we must reposition, at the present phenomenological level of capital, and within the social development of capital, the fundamental concepts of the Marxist tradition: the concept of capital, of working class, of imperialism. How can we respond other than in the affirmative?" (p. 187). And that is what he has been doing ever since.
Negri was an intellectual leader of Potere Operaio (Workers Power), a militant organization active in the Hot Autumn of 1969 in Italy. Several years later this tendency developed into Autonomia Operaia (Workers Autonomy). It was the late Sixties/Seventies militant movements beyond the shop floor that inspired Negri's thinking. He developed the concepts of "social capital" and the "social worker" through that period (not to be confused with the use of social capital in conservative social science or social workers as the helping profession), extending from the factory to all of society. The concept of the social worker and immaterial labor later morphs into a Multitude of Singularities practicing "biopolitics."
A key turning point in Negri's thinking is his 1985 collaboration with Felix Guattari (also while in prison after being wrongly convicted of crimes he did not commit): New Lines of Alliance, New Spaces of Liberty, published in English in 1990 as Communists Like Us (Semiotext). Here is the moment when Negri begins to incorporate concepts from Deleuze & Guattari and from Foucault. He begins to conceive of networks of new social relations -- "rhizomes" -- and of individuals as "singularities." In an attempt to reformulate and salvage "communism," Negri & Guattari argue that it has nothing to do with the repressive regime of the USSR, and proclaim: "[Communism] is the singular expression for the combined productivity of individuals and groups ("collectivities") emphatically not reducible to each other. If it is not a continuous reaffirmation of singularity, then it is nothing..." (p. 17).
Another important milestone is The Politics of Subversion, written in 1989. Critical here is his use of Marx's distinction between the formal subsumption of labor and the real subsumption of labor, based on passages from both Capital and Grundrisse. He argues, quite controversially vis a vis most other marxists, that with the full development of capitalism and the real subsumption of labor, "...[P]roductive labour ... is to be found everywhere, by means of the social, production and reproduction constitute a completely uniform, undifferentiated network ... The [factory] is no longer recognized or considered to be the specific site of the consolidation of labouring activity and its transformation into value ... The prerequisites of these processes are present in, and diffused throughout, society" (p. 89).
This paves the way for the Hardt & Negri argument of EMPIRE that we now live under the rule of undifferentiated global capital. Of course the 2000 book becomes the focus of intense, widespread debate because of its appearance immediately following The Battle In Seattle of late 1999 and the emergence of the so-called "anti-globalization movement," which comes to be known as the global justice movement, and as a "movement of movements."
Here we find the latest effort to "reposition fundamental concepts" promised in 1979. Empire is a new term for capital. The Multitude is a new term for the working class. And The Commons and Commonwealth are new terms for all that is produced by human labor, material and immaterial. While currently occupied and exploited by Capital/Empire, it represents the potential for communism, for a free domain of singularities fully expressing their creativity and Love.
A central concept in the development of this third book in the Hardt & Negri trilogy is Foucault's concept of "biopolitics," a difficult concept defined as "corporeal resistance" (p. 31), and as "production of forms of life and social relations -- subjectivity itself" (p. 145). This is the latest reworking of social labor and immaterial labor. Here is a passage which captures, I believe, the core of the book:
"All the objective conditions are in place: biopolitical labor constantly exceeds the limits of capitalist command; there is a breach in the social relation of capital opening the possibility for biopolitical labor to claim its autonomy; the foundations of exodus are given in the existence and constant creation of the common; and capital's mechanisms of exploitation and control increasingly contradict and fetter biolitical productivity... Capitalist crisis does not proceed automatically to collapse. The multiplicity of singularities that produce and are produced in the biopolitical field of the common do not spontaneously accomplish exodus and construct their autonomy. Political organization is needed to cross the threshold and generate political events" (p. 165).
So once again Negri puts forward an optimistic vision of the creative potential of the Multitude (formerly the working class), but no concrete or specific ideas to assist what used to be known as the class struggle.
I would give the book less than four stars for that reason, but I am convinced that Negri's strength has always been his implacable opposition to Capital and his optimistic projection of workers autonomy. Any militant who reads this book is likely to come away inspired and invigorated for the next round of struggle. How can I complain too much about a book that attempts to theorize communism as immanent and altogether realizable and ends by proclaiming of capitalist exploiters that "[t]hey will be buried by laughter"?
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