Sunday, August 30, 2009

Michael Hardt, Day 3

Hardt taught a class entitled "POLITICAL ACTIVISM: MULTIPLICITY & EMPIRE" where we read through three texts: Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus (both written by Deleuze & Guattari), and Empire (written by Hardt and Antonio Negri).

This was the final day with Hardt (we were in class with Hardt from 10am until 7pm for two days and from 10am until 11pm on one day)

Day three we discuss his collaborations with Antonio Negri.

Tony's biography:
Born in 1933, trained in Political Science, State Theory; he brags that he was the youngest Italian political science professor; "He was a precocious young scholar."

The central figure for Negri's early political activity was Mario Tronti
  • They were concerned with the potential autonomy from capital and from the Party: "operaismo" where the workers themselves can produce their own subjectivity
  • Fall of 1969 - potere operaio (the workers' party), very hierarchical, but it wasn't obvious who the leader was and in 1973 the group dissolved itself because it wasn't doing the work it had set out to do
  • May of '68, the Italians say, lasted 10 years in Italy, but not in the same way as it was in Paris: the early '70s were marked by a growing clandestine fascist terrorist movement, thus in response was developed a clandestine leftist terrorist group, The Red Brigade
Two symbolic poles of the mid-70s:
Red Brigade | Autonomia
clandestine | open
violent | sometimes violent
centralized | decentralized
The Red Brigade was really focused on the spectacle; Negri was very visible in the organizing of Autonomia

There was an explosion of creativity in Bologna in 1977, but when the Red Brigade kidnapped the Prime Minister in '78 this all ended.
  • The Red Brigade saw the State as fascist and their only response could be armed struggle, so they assassinated the PM
  • The government in response passed Emergency Laws: the thinking was, "take away the water and the fish will die"
  • The context in which these leftist groups operated was criminalized, thus 6,000 people were arrested, including Antonio Negri
  • The law was such that these people could be held in prison for 2 years without charge and 4 years without trial; so Negri spent some time in prison
Italian law states that no politician can be held in prison for political actions so Negri was elected to Parliament
  • In protest to this, the Parliament went on strike to reinstate Negri's sentence
  • Negri escaped to France
  • For a time, Negri lived with Felix Guattari; he adopted the pseudonym Antoin Guattari
Hardt and Negri met in Paris in 1987.
  • Negri returned to Italy in '97 in part because the laws governing professors in France are such that one must retire at the age of 65
  • Also, there was talk at that time in Italy of reconciliation and amnesty for the '70s
  • Negri went to prison for 2 years
  • Then 2 years where he could work during the day outside the prison but had to sleep in prison each night
  • Then 2 years of house arrest
Rather than liberation of work (from the bourgeoisie to the workers) the push within Autonomia was to liberate workers from work.

Michael Hardt,
born 1960; friends with Brian Massumi, who was friends with Guattari and so Hardt was able to meet Negri in Paris.

Hardt and Negri set out to structure Empire in some interesting ways, for example each chapter would be 30 pages, end in italics, and section 1.1 would be related to section 4.1

Imperialism is no longer effective in describing or discussing the current global order. A new form of sovereignty is being generated and perhaps also a new form of power.

Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy - Polybius said that Rome was all three of these; Hardt and Negri wanted to refer to this composite nature when using their term Empire

Globalization has two non-communicating alternatives:
  1. nation-states are important and are in control (and should be in control)
  2. transnational entities are here and thus negate the need for the nation-state
Capitalists can't rule themselves, they need a nation-state to help contain the fire. If there is global capitalism, where no nation-state can act in the interest of global capital, then what is the form of sovereignty to be?

There is no center, there is no outside of world order today
  • rather than a world system with policed boundaries (fixed identities) there is hierarchy, yes, but within a boundlessness
  • Analyzing what would be the completed form of what we see today, not unlike Marx in his time
What are the political consequences of the presented analysis?
  • If the U.S. is still the imperialist ruler, then we should respond in some obvious ways: wars of liberation, support Iraqi resistance, etc.
  • But these don't seem to be the solutions to the problems, do they?
Agamben's State of Exception: the power is transcendent and transcendental
  • Empire sees power on a transcendental
  • How we read power dictates how we respond
Today we have a breakdown in the fixed temporality:
Three approaches to Multitude

Political - in contrast to "The People" (as a function of unity);
  • the crowd, the mass, these are multiplicities, but they are indifferent.
  • Multitude contains singularities, that which is always different.
  • The mass, the mob, these are passive and need to be lead
  • the multitude can rule and lead itself
Economic - rethinking the working class
  • Multitude as a class definition, this seeks to define where and how the working class produces
The Party - has classically been centered with an agenda
  • Multitude is without a central agenda nor structure
  • Seattle '99 was a point of recognition: media were confused by the heterogeneity of the activists; this multiplicity was nonetheless able to organize
Is it possible for the multitude to act in common? This is the challenge to Multitude
  • the William Morris epigraph, at the beginning of Empire, is there to illustrate the prevailing feeling of the times: that we cannot imagine an order outside that which we have:
  • "Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and then it turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under a another name."
The cycle of struggle, how do political movements communicate?

(This is from the discussion at this point):
Bakhtin said that if we want to understand an object we must throw ourselves into it and we will understand what it is by its resistance to our advances.
Twitter creates an ambient awareness, but it asks, "What are you doing now?" when the question should be, "What should be done?"
Is it as D&G propose, that we are several? Is it the case that individual multiplicity? What composes the multitude?
D&G would say this makes the multiplicity of multiplicity

What is the continuity between Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, and Empire?
  • One continuity: recognizing that decoding does result in suffering and a lack of power
  • That's not to say that we don't tell everyone to stay in their right place
BwO seems to develop through AO & ATP
  • First, in its opposition to desiring machines, it's antiproductive
  • in ATP develops a necessary context in which desiring machines can produce a question of better and worse BwO's
How is democracy possible? There has to be a transformation of the people's capacity to realize their gift:
(Empire, 216) It needs a body that is incapable of adapting to family life, to factory discipline, to the regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth. (If you find your body refusing these "normal" modes of life, don't despair - realize your gift!)
What would an example of a molecular movement that made a molar difference?

It's not either...or...: hydrogen and oxygen make a fire but also make water


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