The Populist Moment, Chapter 11, Part 4
Alain de Benoist
“Multitudes” Against the People
On the Theses of Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri
Translated by F. Roger Devlin
Biopolitics, in this context, is defined as that force immanent to the social realm which creates relations and forms of life through a cooperative form of production. “When the multitude works,” write Hardt and Negri, “it produces in an autonomous fashion and reproduces the entire world of life. To produce and reproduce in an autonomous fashion means to construct a new ontological reality” (E., 475). The problem with a procedure founded on “ontology” is obviously that it is not of much practical use for knowing what must be done to arrive at emancipation. What is ontological praxis? In the third part of Empire, Hardt and Negri inquire about how the multitude could establish itself as a political subject. Their answer is vague, at the very least, if it does not result in utopian demands of considerable banality. We learn here that it is by producing its own life that the multitude appropriate its power, that this production is identical to the appropriation of language and communication, and that the multitude’s political coming-to-be is carried out on the grounds of exodus, nomadism, and flight and desertion. But what does this mean, concretely?
The only thing more or less clear is the general strategy, for it follows directly from the initial analysis. The basic idea, as we have seen, is that it is the evolution of Capital which itself furnishes the instruments for liberating oneself from it, since it favors the “autonomy that has accrued to the common.” By provoking a deterritorialization and a generalized dissolution of traditional social relations and bonds, globalization at the same time liberates potentially centrifugal forces which the dominant system does not have the means to control. That is how we can explain the “proximity between the idea of Communism and capitalist production” (sic): “The idea is not that capitalist development creates Communism or that biopolitical production brings liberation directly or immediately. In fact, it is through the centrality which has accrued to the common in capitalist production — the production of ideas, affects, social relations, and forms of life — that the conditions and the weapons for a Communist project emerge. In other words, capitalism creates its own gravediggers.” Paradoxically, this statement takes on the character of a new dialectics: “The deterritorialized power of the multitude is the productive force which supports the Empire, and is at the same time the force that calls for and makes necessary its destruction.” “We know,” say Hardt and Negri, “that capitalist production and the life (itself productive as well) of the multitude are bound ever more closely and mutually determine one another” (M., 116).
Capitalism is already functioning in the fashion of the networked multitude, so it is no longer a matter of combatting or even resisting it, but only of reorganizing it and reorienting it toward new ends. The multitude will not take “power” by revolution, nor by violence, nor by a general strike, but by redirecting to its own profit the new social characteristics it owes to the Empire: “The forces of the multitude which support the Empire are just as capable of constructing a counter-Empire; i.e., a substitute political organization for exchange and global currents [une organisation politique de rechange des échanges et des flux mondiaux]” (E., 20). We must “theorize and act both within and against the Empire” (E., 21). This is why Negri rejects any frontal attack, or any idea of political action conceived on the friend-enemy model: “In no case is it a matter of returning to an opposition between power and the multitude, but of allowing the multitude to liberate itself from power by means of the immense networks which constitute it and the finite strategic determinations which it produces.”
In the age of the Empire, the “revolutionaries” no longer need to reason in terms of strategy and tactics, maneuver and position, strong points and weak points. It is enough for them to give way to a spontaneous desire for change which will be realized under the influence of the free cooperation of their subjectivities. Revolution is no longer necessary, since in order to change the world, it is enough to delegitimize “the power of institutions and of the powers which hold it by removing growing autonomous spaces from Capital’s planetary grasp.” The example they cite is that of “freeware,” or even that of financial capital: “Insofar as [financial capital] is oriented toward the future, we can, paradoxically, discern in it the emerging face of the multitude, even if it takes on an inverted and distorted form [sic]” (M., 324). So there is “no contradiction between reform and revolution”: “The historic transformation we are witnessing is so radical that reformist propositions can be enough to lead to revolutionary changes!” We note that, in passing, Hardt and Negri recommend an ontological break with the “workers’ movement’s ideological traditions” (M., 258) . . .
Imperial power draws its vitality from the multitude, but the multitude draws its own from the very existence of this power. In this context, imperial power becomes, at its limit, “the negative residue, the retreat of the multitude’s operation; it is a parasite which draws its vitality from the multitude’s capacity to create ever new sources of energy and value” (E., 436). In short, the best way to struggle against the Empire is to accelerate its establishment — or, if you prefer, to think that it is by succumbing to imperial logic that one can best resist it! This is what Hardt and Negri quite seriously maintain when they write, for example, that “the Empire creates and governs a truly global society whose autonomy grows in proportion to the Empire’s dependence on it” (M., 381), or that “the more Capital extends its global networks of production, the more each particular point of revolt is — perhaps — powerful” (E., 89). The statements become truly Orwellian at this point: The best way to struggle against capitalism is . . . to help it become more powerful. Total alienation is the key to emancipation!
We cannot be surprised, under these conditions, that authors such as Takis Fotopoulos and Alexandros Gezerlis have been able to see in Empire a “reformist welcome message to neoliberal globalization.” With Hardt and Negri it is no longer a matter of saying, as Marx did, that the system in place is destined to destroy itself through its own power, to itself ruin the political forms which allowed it to secure its domination, or to succumb to its own internal contradictions, but to state outright that the system is intrinsically the vehicle of positive virtualities insofar as the model that allows one to resist it is also that which allowed its emergence. Instead of postulating the idea of a necessary break, Hardt and Negri, convinced that the conditions of emancipation flow from premises that already exist in the dominant ideology, limit themselves to defining the “counter-Empire” as a “substitute political organization for global exchanges and currents.” This strategy has been described very well by Bruno Bosteels:
Power is not a monstrous Leviathan . . . and resistance must not depend on the weakest link as the struggle’s external articulation point. Power and resistance appear rather like the front and back of a Möbius strip. The idea is merely to push far enough that one surreptitiously transforms into the other.
The advent of the Internet has played a considerable role in this way of looking at things, which explains Hardt and Negri’s tendency to conceive global society on the model of the network society [in English in the original] (Manuel Castells). Since the Web has become the very model of the social field, the “multitude” is supposed to positively appropriate the dominant imperial tendencies in the same way Internet users make use of the rhizomatic structure with neither center nor hierarchy to reappropriate knowledge and diffuse a form of counter-information. “We can get an idea of the multitude’s capacity for decision-making,” the two authors write, “from the example of cooperative software development and the innovations which see the light of day in the Open Source movement. One can see the democracy of the multitude as an Open Source society” (M., 385). “Communism will be realized by an army of software microentrepreneurs,” observes Anselm Jappe ironically.
It is all the more striking to observe that Hardt and Negri never question the nature of technology and technoscience, nor even the content of the productive forces whose emergence they salute. While their entire theory is based on the development of new technologies, especially those of communication, we never see them take into account the ambivalence of technologies (computers are also machines). “They do not say a word about the fact that, for at least 60 years, science and technology have declared war on human beings.” Quite the contrary, the technomorphism that surrounds us is for them eminently positive: “Not only do the multitude use machines for production, but it itself becomes increasingly mechanical, with the means of production continually better integrated into the multitude’s minds and bodies” (E., 488). “We know, however,” observes Serge Quadruppani, “that there is no innocent form of technology, that a technology is always the product of given social relations, and that it is deeply marked and oriented by the necessities of the dominant social form which produced it.”
As soon as it is a question of organizing the multitude, Hardt and Negri run into innumerable logical difficulties. How are we to imagine a politics with none of the characteristics of politics? A potentia without potestas? A decision without sovereignty? How do we get an institutional form to follow from the idea of the rhizome? How do we institute a “universal society” without putting international institutions in place? “The possible forces of disaggregation present in the ‘multitudinous’ society will be controlled and possibly sanctioned by a specific court of appeal,” declares Negri. But what will such a court of appeal consist of, who will establish it, and how can it, deprived of power, “control” or “sanction” anything? “The crucial question remains undecided: How do we make the multitude emerge as a political subject?”
Convinced that modernity’s political philosophy is finished, Hardt and Negri say they want to “invent a new grammar of politics.” But what sort? In an earlier work, Antonio Negri, rejecting any “constitutional” solution to the political problem, was already at pains to redefine constituent power as an irruptive force tied to “living labor,” an “absolute procedure, all-powerful and expansive, without limit and without a preexisting goal” (20), with no relation to its traditional procedural definition aiming to give a basis of legitimation to constituted power. In this context, constitutive power becomes a mere synonym for “liberating” force, strictly anti-institutional and foreign to any form of sovereignty. But how do we reconcile constitutive power’s decisive character with the simultaneous will to remove it from any logic of sovereignty? To do this, Hardt and Negri must have recourse to the idea of a decision which is not sovereign, but which imposes itself qua a decision. So does the act of constitutive power arise from any process, or does it represent an event?
Hence the theoretical confusion which comes through in Multitude’s last pages, all the way down to the vocabulary, and which is bound up with the tangling of two lines of thought difficult to harmonize. On the one hand, the multitude’s constitutive act is inscribed in the continuity of social production. . . . But on the other hand, it is said to ‘emerge from the multitude’ or ‘from the ontological and social process of productive labor’ (385, 397). Now, the concept ‘emergence’ expresses the arising of the new in terms of qualitative discontinuity, and puts the emphasis on the irreducibility of what emerges to that from which it emerges, which is hard to reconcile with the idea of a preexistence of the decision itself in the common social being.
Moreover, Negri has come out against participative democracy, which he describes as a “very hypocritical model.” But he also contests representative democracy — not without reason — because it gives its blessing to the domination of representatives over those represented (“We must bury the concept of representation” [M., 294]). He advocates a democracy based on the generalization of voting, but apparently without State or parliament. He adds that “if the multitude wins out over the Empire, we cannot, however, say that it will be in power, because the multitude is essentially the dissolution of power and the establishment of new institutions.” Institutions without power, then. Here we are veering straight into an anti-political utopia.
To describe the new course of things, Hardt and Negri remain equally vague. It is supposedly a matter of “actually imposing everyone’s freedom and equality, without exception,” and of setting in motion a “redistribution of property.” Negri also speaks of a “repartition of all goods, and of values tied to these goods” on the basis of a “principle of equality in common,” without of course specifying who would take charge of this “repartition,” what criteria shall govern it, and how it will be possible to impose it (and prevent it from being contested) without appealing to an authority, and therefore — inevitably — to a power. He also says that “the institutional figure who will assume management of what is in common will not necessarily be part of any State, the central thing being no longer to nationalize wealth but, on the contrary, to divide it into equal parts.” To describe this ideal of integral egalitarian privatization, he specifies that “it will not be a matter of Communism imposed from above, but of something in common managed from below.” Managed, of course, without the institutional figure charged with this holding the least power. . . . Wishful thinking. [in English in original] As Daniel Bensaïd has noted, the “spontaneous” coinciding of singularities and of the common allows “the evasion of the question of how the multitude can transform its vital capacity to act in common into a political subject,” the stress placed on the “common” allowing the pulverization of the classic distinction between public and private — to the benefit, of course, of the private sphere.
“Only absolute democracy is able to allow and give an account of the multiplicity of singularities which proliferate in the common,” further states Negri f. Since “democracy of the multitude” is merely a fog without substance, we can never know what the “multitude in power” might look like. “Absolute democracy” is simply supposed to take the place of the classless society. “In this restored teleological historicism, the ‘absolute concept of democracy’ replaces the Hegelian absolute spirit, bringing back in its wake the temptation of preannounced ends of history.” In the end, it is indeed a radical elimination of politics as a dimension proper to the public sphere which produces norms and legitimacy that suit Hardt and Negri. In Empire as in Multitude, observes Judith Balso, “the thesis of the — absolutely contrived — possibility of finding support in the development of capitalism as an emancipatory figure is transformed into the simple annulment of politics as a separate, singular project.”
For the moment, everything “deterritorialized” is ipso facto considered potentially “democratic.” Whence the importance Hardt and Negri give to communication, presented as the “central element which establishes relations of production, piloting capitalist development and thereby transforming the productive forces as well” (E., 420). Because of its deterritorialized autonomy, they write, “the multitude’s biopolitical existence has the potential to be transformed into an autonomous mass of intelligent productivity; i.e., into an absolute democratic power, as Spinoza would have said” (E., 416). According to this line of reasoning, we must obviously congratulate ourselves on the disappearance of rooted ways of life, on the deterritorialization of problematics, and on the growing mobility of Capital — all tendencies which the “multitude” can use to its own benefit to undermine the current beneficiaries of the imperial order’s power. It is by rallying to the ideal of nomadism, exodus, or desertion that this multitude, rediscovering its constitutive power, will end by giving birth to the “hybrid” humanity supposed to represent its ideal: “By crossing within the multitude, by crossing multitude with multitude, bodies join, mix, hybridize, and transform themselves. They are like the waves of the sea in perpetual movement, in perpetual reciprocal transformation!” Hardt and Negri thus advocate a cosmopolitanism “of desertion and lines converging at a vanishing point” (Alain Brossat), as Deleuze and Guattari do in A Thousand Plateaus. Here we are involved in a logic of mixture and flow that could rightly be called “maritime” (“like the waves of the sea”), by opposition to the telluric logic organized around the concept of border. This logic of the sea is immediately in harmony with “liquid” postmodern society. The taste for hybridization here goes as far as madness, for example when Hardt and Negri maintain that “there are no fixed frontiers between man and animal, man and machine, male and female, and so on” (E., 269). Unless it does not veer off into mere burlesque, as when the “kiss-ins organized by Queer Nation, during which men kiss one another and women kiss one another in a public place in order to shock the homophobes” are given as an example of “new weapons for democracy.”
Thus, concretely, the two works merely propose paths to follow. This is said quite clearly in Multitude’s closing pages: “This work cannot answer the question: What is to be done?” (M., 403). It is true that Marx himself, who was not very eloquent on how the Communism to come was to be realized, was not interested in writing “recipes for the cookbooks of the future.” Nevertheless, the fourth part of Empire outlines three supposedly practical propositions: the right to a universal basic income, the right to reappropriate the means of production and communication, and the right to world citizenship. This list already makes it clear that we are not transcending the logic of rights, even as Hardt and Negri declare themselves hostile to legalism. At the same time, a classic question is posed once again: What is the value of law without the force to apply it, and without the means of coercion necessary to guarantee it concretely? Céline Spector asks:
Who shall grant these “rights” within the legal constitution of imperial sovereignty? If such economic and social rights must be applicable at the level of the world community, don’t they imply reinforcement by the international structures the authors condemn under the very name of Empire? Doesn’t the very invocation of “law” . . . imply the reorganization of the despised structures of the rule of law, with no solution of continuity?
The same point was made more strongly by Slavoj Žižek:
It is paradoxical that Hardt and Negri, the poets of mobility, variety, and hybridization, formulate three demands by having recourse to the terminology of universal human rights. The problem with these demands is that they oscillate between empty formulas and impossible radicalization.
The establishment of a “world citizenship,” which Hardt and Negri define as a “reappropriation of space by the mobile multitude” (sic), is not the same in their eyes as the old cosmopolitan dream of a universal State, since any statist perspective is rejected here. We understand that it is rather a matter of proclaiming a universal right of “mobility”:
Global space’s virtual character constituted the first determination of the multitude’s movements — a virtual character which must mutate into the real. . . . Circulation must become freedom. In other words, the multitude must arrive at world citizenship. (E., 436).
The general right to control one’s own movements is the multitude’s final demand concerning world citizenship. (E., 481)
All migration is thus interpreted as a factor of emancipation:
Autonomy of movement is what defines the place proper to the multitude. . . . The cities of the Earth are going to become at once great repositories of cooperating humanity and engines of circulation, temporary residences and distribution networks for living humanity. By way of circulation, the multitude reappropriates space and constitutes itself as an active subject. (E., 477-478)
Laissez faire, laissez passer! But here again, how do we go beyond begging the question? There can obviously be no world citizenship where there is neither a world State nor world sovereignty. The “equal right of citizenship for all” is in this respect merely a false pretense.
The call to world citizenship in fact amounts to a call to suppress borders, which today would have the effect of accelerating, in developed countries, the installation of masses of low-salary workers from the Third World or the developing world — with consequences easy to imagine. That most migrants today owe their uprootedness to the endless dislocations brought about by the logic of the global market, that this uprootedness is precisely what capitalism seeks in order to adapt man more fully to the market, and finally, subordinately, that territoriality is part of natural human motivations does not bother Hardt and Negri in the least. On the contrary, they note with satisfaction that “Capital itself has demanded increasing mobility from its workers and continual migrations across national borders” (E., 481). The world market therefore constitutes the natural framework of “world citizenship”: “The ideology of the world market has always been the anti-essentialist discourse par excellence. Circulation, mobility, diversity, and mixture are the very conditions of its possibility” (E., 194-195). Because it “demands a smooth space of non-coded and deterritorialized currents” (E., 403-404), the world market is supposed to serve the multitude’s interests, for mobility involves a price to be paid for capital, viz., an increased desire for liberation (E., 312).
The drawback to this defense of uprootedness (and artificiality) considered as the first condition of a liberating “nomadism” is that it rests on a completely unrealistic view of the concrete situation of migrants and displaced persons. As Jacques Guigou and Jacques Wajnsztejn write,
Hardt and Negri are deluding themselves about the capacity of immigration to be both the source of a new possibility for Capital’s valorization of capital and the basis for an enrichment of the multitude’s perspectives. Migration is in fact nothing more than a [Hegelian] moment of a universal competition. Migration per se is no more liberating that staying home. The “nomadic” subject is no more inclined to critique and revolt that the sedentary subject.
Robert Kurz adds:
As long as men leave their neighbors and go, even at risk of their lives, to look for work elsewhere — to be ground up by the capitalist mill, in the end — they will no more be vehicles of emancipation that the West’s postmodern self-valorizers: They will merely constitute its miserable variant.
All this discourse is part of an egalitarian project of the classic type, with nothing new (or particularly postmodern) about it:
In the common, there will exist neither proprietors nor discrimination tied to criteria of race, sex, gender, nationality, religion. . . . All identities will have the right to exist as such while freely mixing, articulating themselves, and interlacing in a relation which will never become negative because it will never involve the effacement of the singularities thus placed in relation to one another. The multitude is not the effacement of differences; it is their permanence, including in experiments of miscegenation and mutual enrichment. . . . The institution of the family will only be legitimate in case it is freely chosen. . . . The community will take responsibility for the education of children; there will be no restrictions or taboos concerning gender preferences, the cultural models proper to this or that world, the dominant representations; it will be enough that the principles of equality, freedom, and respect can be verified.
Once again, we are awash in the purest liberalism.
The other two proposition — the right to a minimum salary and the right to reappropriate the means of production and communication — also fail to convince because they are part of a “universal” perspective which renders them inapplicable. Anselm Jappe summarizes Hardt and Negri’s program as follows:
This enumeration of pious wishes within the framework of a mushy utopia gives one the impression of a schoolboy rattling off a summary of every petty-bourgeois and proletarian illusion regarding an “equitable capitalism” of the past two centuries; it amounts to the two authors’ intellectual suicide.
It must also be remarked that Hardt and Negri, not content to cleanse the United States of any suspicion of imperialist practice, do not disguise the fact that for them there is, in certain respects, an American model. “The American Revolution,” they think, “represents a moment of great innovation and a break in the genealogy of modern sovereignty” (E., 160). The Founding Fathers in fact understood that “the order of the multitude should not emerge from a transfer of title in respect of power and law, but from an arrangement intrinsic to the multitude, from a democratic interaction of powers connected in a network.” In this sense, the creation of the United States was a fortunate event: “From our point of view, the fact that a new Empire was formed against the old powers of Europe can only have been good news” (E., 454). In the American Constitution, Hardt and Negri see the beneficent primer of the imperial Constitution because of “its concept of a frontier of unlimited freedom and its definition of an open spatiality and temporality celebrated in a constitutive power” (E., 488). What they define as “Empire” would in any case be born of the “global expansion of the American constitutional project” (E., 182) — a project rather close to Hans Kelsen’s theses in legal matters. American sovereignty in fact makes no distinction between interior and exterior, inside and outside: Like Capital, the horizon of its deployment in potentially infinite.
This pro-American position comports oddly — or significantly — with certain references relying on Christianity. For Antonio Negri, who got his early experience with Catholic Action, this is a recurring temptation. His book on Job, written in prison, was already heavily impregnated with Christian dolorism. To “clarify the future life of Communist militancy,” Hardt and Negri do not hesitate to summon the figure of St. Francis of Assisi: “In postmodernity we will find ourselves in the same situation as St. Francis, opposing the joy of being to the poverty of power” (E., 496). Moreover, Negri sees in the poor man both the “biopolitical subject par excellence” and the “foundation of the multitude” (sic). The inspired rhetoric of the beatitudes is especially present in Multitude, whose last pages make clear the way in which, for Hardt and Negri, Communism is finally folded back into the Christian conception of love — i.e, agape. The two authors are in fact at pains to raise love once again to the level of a “political” concept:
We must recover the public and political concept of love proper to pre-modern traditions. Christianity and Judaism, for example, both conceive love as a political act that constructs the multitude. . . . Divine love for humanity and human love for God are expressed and incarnated in the common material project of the multitude. (M., 397)
Nor do they hesitate to compare today’s potential revolutionaries to the Christians of the late Roman Empire: “We can take inspiration from St. Augustine’s vision of a project destined to combat the declining Roman Empire” (E., 259). But surely not in the fashion of Georges Sorel . . .
This line of reasoning has not failed to contribute to the renewed interest in political theology observed in recent years, although it remains a rather meager illustration of it. In Hardt and Negri, thinks Daniel Bensaïd,
recourse to theological jargon ends by serving as a stop-gap which badly hides the disproportion between the promised philosophical revolution and the (quite real) poverty of their political answers. The perspective tends, in fact, to reduce itself to the double theme of exodus and miracle. . . . To escape the sorcery of the commodity, it is enough to flee, without trying to conquer any sort of power. . . . As for that long march of exile and exodus across the deserts, it amounts to a political event transfigured into a theological miracle.
The analysis concludes, rather logically, with a prophetic vision:
When the moment arrives, an event will propel us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the true act of political love (M., 404). In the end — an old dream — it is a matter of forming a ‘new race’; i.e., a subjectivity politically coordinated and produced by the multitude,” and “of giving birth to a new humanity” (M., 401). In this performative declaration, it is not unexpected to see a mere theorization of powerlessness — or more simply, an interiorization of defeat.
* * *
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s line of reasoning aims finally at reconciling a sugary form of Marxism with certain postmodern currents, as well as with Spinoza’s ideas — or, if you prefer, the ideology of progress with the postmodern idea that there is no historical “objectivity.” Hardt and Negri are certainly not wrong to say that we are living in the postmodern age of the “Empire” and that a society of surveillance and control has been substituted for the old disciplinary society, with this new society essentially functioning thanks to a form of social control increasingly internalized by individuals. But their mistake is in finding nothing to criticize about this, and to imagine that the change opens the way to forms of resistance capable of relaunching the project of liberation. Nor do Hardt and Negri limit themselves to observing the rising power of cognitive capitalism, which has already been described by many other authors. Their originality consists rather in presenting the Empire as an adversary even as they celebrate its intrinsic qualities, to the point where it would be harmful and “reactionary” to attack it. “Turbo-capitalism” is not perceived as even worse than the old industrial or commercial capitalism, but as better because it bears an emancipatory potential. “The historic metamorphoses from which Hardt and Negri deduce the Empire’s emergence proceed in fact from a double determinism: technological (the effect of new technologies on labor’s content and organization) and sociological (the irresistible rise of the multitude marching toward its fabulous destiny).” “The very latest thing in point of social technology and management which capitalism uses in the management of the crisis,” adds Robert Kurz, “thus advances to the rank of liberating forces.”
Denouncing the dominant system even as they celebrate its fundamental characteristics (fluidity, mobility, deterritorialization, etc.), Hardt and Negri come to deny the crisis situation in which capitalism finds itself before our very eyes: Capitalism today is supposedly “miraculously healthy, and its accumulation more vigorous than ever” (E., 330). Where many see nothing but an enormous rise in conformism and total alienation, these two authors maintain that globalization is rather engendering a man irreducibly rebellious against any form of authority. They do not see that today, it is society as a whole that is subordinate to the logic of Capital — or rather, when they do perceive this, it is to celebrate it, letting it be understood that the “Communism” to come will in some sense be liberal globalization’s natural child. Their central affirmation according to which the Empire’s emergence increases the potential for the multitude’s liberation is never really proven, even though the whole theory nevertheless rests on it. Nor does any concrete experiment provide confirmation of it.
As for the concept of “multitude” on which both authors continuously harp, it is obvious that it has no real content. In their books, and in spite of all their efforts, it appears above all as a chaotic fog. One can only be struck in this regard by how the concepts employed by Hardt and Negri transform themselves over the course of their writings into so many mental categories. As Daniel Bensaïd has written: “The world scene then becomes a shadow theater where an abstraction called the Multitude confronts another abstraction called the Empire.” The watchwords “nomadism,” “deterritorialization,” and “liberation of hybridization” are unable to replace definite political instructions, either. Finally, against the generalized effects of reification and commercial alienation, “we cannot remain content with formulas opposing the multitude to the people, the elusive gush of desire to the grasp of power, deterritorialized currents to the grid of national boundaries, biopolitical reproduction to economic production.” Deprived of its theoretical references, the enterprise seems more of a reverie content to recycle classic mental attitudes: naïve egalitarianism, hostility to any form of power, the predominance of the prophetic over the political, etc.
In the final analysis, it is not a critique of capitalism that Hardt and Negri are proposing, but rather a kind of critical defense of that same capitalism; in other words, an alternative capitalism [un alter-capitalisme]. In any case, it is in this manner — as “Left-wing” theorists of cognitive capitalism and the new finance capital — that they have often been perceived. Hardt and Negri’s writings, notes Philippe Raynaud, “combine the revolutionary project with a hopeless admiration for the capitalist imagination in both its productivist and individualist components.” Slavoj Žižek even went so far as to speak of their work as a “celebration of capitalism.” Others have spoken of “a somewhat magical Christmas tale,” or even of “the final masquerade of traditional Marxism.” “No one needs to refute Negri-ism. The facts themselves will take care of that,” we have read in the journal Tiqqun, which is close to a certain autonomous and neo-Situationist tendency. Such opinions could be legion.
In the end, Hardt and Negri’s work recycles an old illusion of the workers’ movement: that of a capitalism without capitalists, of a capitalism which could be placed in the service of the workers without fundamentally changing its nature. It is in this respect that, even apart from its philosophy of nomadism and chaos, it reveals itself upon examination as a pathetic mystification.
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 Hardt, “Le commun dans le communisme,” in Alain Badiou & Slavoj Žižek (eds.), L’Idée du communisme, op. cit., 174.
 Negri, “Pour une définition ontologique de la multitude,” op. cit.
 “It is indeed a question,” notes Célne Spector, “of favoring the spontaneity of social movements over the organization of revolution by betting on productivist ontology more than on historical determinism” (“Le spinozisme politique aujourd’hui,” op. cit., 32).
 Takis Fotopoulos & Alexandros Gezerlis, “Hardt and Negri’s Empire: A New Communist Manifesto or a Reformist Welcome to Neoliberal Globalization?” in Democracy and Nature: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, July 2002.
 Bosteels, “L’hypothese gauchiste : le communisme à l’âge de la terreur,” in Alain Badiou & Slavoj Žižek (eds.), L’Idée du communisme, op. cit., 68-69.
 Jappe, “Les habits neufs du marxisme traditionnel,” in Anselm Jappe & Robert Kurz, Les Habits neufs de l’Empire, op. cit., 40.
 Quadruppani, “Notes critiques sur le livre de Toni Negri et Michael Hardt,” op. cit.
 Toni Negri, interview in Philosophie Magazine, April 2009, 40.
 Spector, “La multitude ou le peuple?”, op. cit., 894.
 Cf. Antonio Negri, Fabrique de porcelaine. Pour une nouvelle grammaire du politique, tr. by Judith Revel (Paris: Stock, 2006).
 Antonio Negri, Le Pouvoir constituant. Essai sur les alternatives de la modernité, tr. by Étienne Balibar & François Matheron (Paris: PUF, 1997).
 Dardot, “A propos de la multitude,” op. cit., 147.
 Antonio Negri, interview in Philosophie Magazine, April 2009, 40.
 Bensaïd, Éloge de la politique profane, op. cit., 284.
 Antonio Negri, Du retour. Abécédaire biopolitique. Entretiens avec Anne Dufourmantelle (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2002).
 Bensaïd, Éloge de la politique profane, op. cit., 310.
 Balso, “Etre présent au présent,” in Alain Badiou & Slavoj Žižek (eds.), L’Idée du communisme, op. cit., 38.
 Toni Negri, “Pour une définition ontologique de la multitude,” in Multitudes, June 2002.
 On late modernity’s “liquid” character, cf. Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (London: Polity Press, 2000). On the opposition between sea and land logic, which is also an opposition between commercial and political logic, cf. Carl Schmitt, Terre et Mer: Un point de vue sur l’histoire mondiale, tr. by Jean-Louis Pesteil (Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1985). Negri, of course, is at the opposite extreme from Carl Schmitt, whose anti-universalist and anti-normativist positions, favorable to the emergence and maintenance of a “pluriversum” (as opposed to the “universum”), have been taken up again in the domain of international relations by the distant heirs of Grotius such as Martin Wight and Hedley Bull, defenders of great power equilibrium, preventive diplomacy, and multilateral negotiations between states. Cf. Martin Wight, “Why There Is No International Theory,” in Herbert Butterfield & Martin Wight (eds.), Diplomatic Investigations: Essays in the Theory of International Politics (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969); and Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London: Macmillan, 1977).
 Karl Marx, Le Capital (Paris: Maurice Lachâtre, 1872), 349.
 He is following Spinoza on this point, who rejected the legal concept of the State that we find in Descartes as much as in Rousseau or Hegel.
 Spector, “La multitude ou le peuple?”, art. cit., 895.
 Žižek, Que veut l’Europe?, op. cit., 93.
 Guigou & Wajnsztejn, L’Évanescence de la valeur, op. cit., 126.
 Kurz, “L’Empire et ses théoriciens,” in Jappe & Kurz, Les Habits neufs de l’Empire, op. cit., 114-115.
 Toni Negri, interview in Philosophie Magazine, April 2009, 41.
 Kurz, “L’Empire et ses théoriciens,” op. cit., 120-121.
 Toni Negri, Job, la force de l’esclave, tr. by Judith Revel (Paris: Hachette-Littératures, 2002).
 On Negri’s ideas concerning poverty and the role of Franciscan ideology in his thought, cf. Daniel Barber & Anthony Paul Smith, “On ‘Poverty’ in Negri,” European Consortium for Political Research, University of Pisa, September 2007; and Daniel Colucciello Barber & Anthony Paul Smith, “Too Poor for Measure: Working with Negri on Poverty and Fabulation,” in Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, Summer 2010, 1-15.
 Cf. also Toni Negri, “Ainsi commença la chute de l’Empire,” in Multitudes, 7, 17.
 Cf. especially Creston Davis (ed.), The Continental Shift, special issue of the journal Political Theology, March 2010; in particular the articles by Daniel M. Bell Jr., “The Fragile Brilliance of Glass: Empire, Multitude, and the Coming Community,” 61-76; and Mary-Jane Rubinstein, “Capital Shares: The Way Back into the With of Christianity,” 103-119. The second article examines the possible relation between Christian universalism and the emergence of global capitalism.
 Bensaïd, Éloge de la politique profane, op. cit., 308-309.
 Ibid., 296.
 Kurz, “L’Empire et ses théoriciens,” op. cit., 89.
 Hardt and Negri are also among those authors who criticize capitalism while taking care not to question the liberal heritage historically associated with it, on the grounds that the latter has today become sufficiently “autonomous” for a critique of capitalism to rely upon it. This line of reasoning has been criticized many times, notably by Slavoj Žižek and Jean-Claude Michéa.
 Daniel Bensaïd, “Antonio Negri et Michael Hardt analysent le nouveau dispositif du capitalisme mondial,” in Le Monde des livres, March 22, 2001.
 Raynaud, L’Extrême gauche plurielle, op. cit., 169.
 Slavoj Žižek, interview in L’Humanité, September 25, 2007.
 Philippe Corcuff, “Antonio Negri, la multitude contre l’Empire,” in Sciences humaines, May 2005.
 Jappe, Les Aventures de la marchandise, op. cit.
 “Réfutation du négrisme,” in Tiqqun, October 2001, 266. The journal continues by alluding to the “incestuous relation between political Negri-ism and imperial pacification: He wants its reality, but not its realism. He wants biopower without the police, communication without the Spectacle, peace without having to make war for it.” Cf. also Tiqqun, Tout a failli. Vive le communisme! (Paris: La Fabrique, 2009), 101.
 Let us also cite a violent anarchist caricature: Crisso et Odoteo, Barbari. L’insorgenza disordinata (Turin: NN, 2002) (English translation: Barbarian:. The Disordered Insurgence [Los Angeles: Venomous Butterfly Publ., 2003]). The work especially criticizes Hardt and Negri’s technicist position and interprets their books as a call to accelerate the planetary homogenization of ways of life.
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