毫不奇怪的是，这两个主题在《大同世界》中也得到了充分的发挥。这本书哈特和奈格里的第四次合作（之前有Labor of Dionysus，1994；Empire，2000；Multitude，2004，译按），意在进一步阐发他们的观念，并且为我们的时代提出另类全球化的观念，或者用他们的话说，是另类现代性（altermodernity）。在之前的作品中，他们在思想上和意识形态上都支持这样的左翼运动，这些运动努力以最为彻底的方式去改造世界，同时又不产生等级制的政党或者试图去（在两位作者看来）徒劳地夺取国家政权。其原因就在于他们想要提出关于共产主义的不同概念，这个概念乃是基于17、18世纪的哲学。这就与马克思之后的共产主义运动构成了断裂，但也并没有彻底抛弃马克思的某些重要洞见。随着现实存在的共产主义的崩溃解体或改弦更张，尤其是在1989年之后，不仅另外一个世界是可能的，另外一种共产主义也成为可能。在探索未来可能的道路上，除了哈特和奈格里，还有巴丢和朗西埃等重要哲学家。
在哈格和奈格里看来，革命思想必须找到对抗资本主义和“财产共和国”（ republic of property）的途径。革命思想“不应该回避身份政治，相反，它必须经由身份政治并从中学习，”因为身份政治“是在财产共和国内，并反抗财产共和国的首要动力，其原因就在于，身份本身就是基于财产和主权之上的。”他们通过三个阶段来论述这个问题。“揭示出作为财产的身份（性别，种族，阶级等）的臣服，这意味着在某种程度上夺回身份”，然后将其作为所有物和财产进行保护。大概的意思是：这就是我，这些是我受苦和拥有自己存在的条件。“身份政治的第二个任务是从义愤（indignation，这也来着斯宾诺莎的重要概念）出发，在追求自由的道路上将臣服的身份作为武器，走向反抗宰制结构的道路”。但是就其将身份视为某种财产形式来说，第二个任务“总可能与财产共和国的统治结构相适应。”危险就在于，身份可能成为目的（某种所有权形式，人们拥有它就拥有某种既得利益）而非手段。其结果是释放（emancipation），即“你有成为你所是的自由”，但却阻碍了解放（liberation），即“自决和自我转变的自由，去决定你能成为什么的自由。”因此，第三个任务就是消灭身份的一切形式。这种“身份的自我消灭是理解革命政治只能始于身份，而非终于身份的根本原因所在。”例如，对工人来谁，“共产主义命题的目标就不是消灭工人本身，而是消灭将他们定义为工人的身份。也就是说，阶级斗争的首要目标不是杀死资本家，而是打碎维持资本家特权和权力的社会结构和制度，同时也消灭无产阶级臣服的条件。”于是，拒绝工作，或者两位作者在本书和其他地方所提及的“出走”（exodus，出埃及记对应的也是这个词，指伴随生命政治生产日益占据主导地位，诸众在劳动空间日益取得自主性，劳动本身日益取得政治性，不再需要资本的主导，因此他们的出走可以对资本造成致命打击，译按）就成为主要的斗争武器。这就是释放的意思。革命追求的不只是释放，而是解放。
革命的女性主义、酷儿理论和种族理论有着类似的筹划：它们都试图去消灭在现存结构中束缚人的身份。革命“不是为精神虚弱的人准备的，它是为怪物（monsters）而准备的。”哈特和奈格里借用了卡利班这个怪物形象。“你得失去你所是，才能发现你所将是。”不同身份的斗争之间所存在的平行论（这里他们直接诉诸斯宾诺莎杂多性和平行论的概念）并不是同质性的——这些斗争之间的“接合与平行论”“并不是自动产生，而是需要争取的。”一旦围绕一种身份形式而进行的斗争阻碍了另一种身份形式的斗争，就得做出相应调整。另外，“没有一种领域或社会对抗能够处于首要地位。”革命应该像“蜈蚣或者诸众”那样前进。两位作者总结道：“只有在生命政治斗争的领域内，并且由平行论和杂多性所构成，争取共同性（the common, 也可翻译为公共事务或共同资源，译按）的革命斗争才能取得胜利。”
David Harvey in an exchange with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri on their new book Commonwealth featured in the November 2009 issue of artforum.
There have been two foundational themes in Antonio Negri’s work over the years. The first is an abiding faith in the capacities of the working class or the multitude (redefined as “the party of the poor” and therefore, according to Spinoza, the only “true subject of democracy”) to use their immanent powers of laboring to construct an alternative to the world given by capital. They can do so, Negri believes, by way of autonomous and nonhierarchically organized self-management. The second theme arises out of a deeply held belief that Spinoza’s philosophical works provide a framework of radical thought capable of illuminating not only how the world is but also how it ought to be and can be. Wedding the immanent powers of the multitude with a neo-Spinozan theoretical armature, Negri grounds a theory of revolution and a redefinition of what real communism might be about.
Unsurprisingly, these two themes are heavily on display in Commonwealth, the new joint effort of Michael Hardt and Negri to flesh out their ideas and to define an alternative globalization – or, as they prefer to put it, an “altermodernity” – for our times. In their previous works, they went a long way to support, both intellectually and ideologically, those leftist movements that sought to change the world in radical ways without forming hierarchical political parties or engaging with what the authors saw as the futile quest to take state power. But they did so in a way that sought to define a different kind of communism, one that was grounded in seventeenthand eighteenthcentury philosophy. This constituted a rupture with the post-Marx history of the communist movement but not, however, a wholesale abandonment of Marx’s crucial insights. With the collapse or modification of actually existing communisms, particularly after 1989, not only was a different kind of world possible but a different kind of communism was also possible. In the effort to define what this might be, Hardt and Negri have been joined by several other key philosophical figures, such as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière.
This attempt to educe a different form of communism takes on renewed urgency today, given not only the appalling conditions under which most of the people on planet Earth struggle to survive but also the gathering storms of irreversible environmental degradation and increasingly frequent short-term crises of self-destruction within the capitalist system. On the other hand, there is something odd about appealing to seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury thinkers, with an early-seventeenth-century lens grinder from Amsterdam in the lead, in the search for answers. Be that as it may, one side result of Hardt and Negri’s efforts has been a boom in Spinoza study groups in radical student circles and an increasing fascination with all those thinkers, such as Gilles Deleuze, who also appeal to Spinoza to ground their arguments.
Revolutionary thought, Hardt and Negri argue, must find a way to contest capitalism and “the republic of property.” It “should not shun identity politics but instead must work through it and learn from it,” because it is the “primary vehicle for struggle within and against the republic of property since identity itself is based on property andsovereignty.” They work through the problem in three stages. “Making visible the subordinations” (gender, race, class, and so forth) “of identity as property implies, in a certain sense, reappropriating identity” and defending it as a possession and property. It is about saying, This is who I am, and these are the conditions under which I suffer and have my being. The “second task of identity politics … is to proceed from indignation” (a key concept from Spinoza) “to rebellion against the structures of domination using the subordinated identity as a weapon in the quest for freedom.” But this second task, insofar as it still treats identity as a form of property, “can always be accommodated within the ruling structures of the republic of property.” The danger is that identity can become an end (a form of ownership that one has a vested interest in perpetuating) rather than a means. It permits emancipation, “the freedom to be who you really are,” but hinders liberation, “the freedom of self-determination and self-transformation, the freedom to determine what you can become.” The third task is, therefore, to strive for the abolition of all forms of identity. This “self -abolition of identity is the key to understanding how revolutionary politics can begin with identity but not end up there.” The “communist proposition” is that workers, for example, “aim to destroy not themselves but the identity that defines them as workers. The primary object of class struggle, in other words, is not to kill capitalists but to demolish the social structures and institutions that maintain their privilege and authority, abolishing too, thereby, the conditions of proletarian subordination.” In this, the refusal of work, or what the authors elsewhere refer to as the strategy of “exodus,” becomes the primary weapon. This is what liberation is all about. And revolution is about liberation, not emancipation.
Revolutionary feminism, queer theory, and race theory have analogous projects: All of them seek to abolish the identity that imprisons one in an existing structure. Revolution “is not for the faint of heart. It is for monsters, ” Hardt and Negri write, making much of the figure of Caliban. “You have to lose who you are to discover what you can become.” The parallelism between the struggles over different forms of identity (and here they appeal directly to Spinoza’s concept of multiplicity and parallelism) is not, however, homologous – “articulation and parallelism” between these struggles “are not automatic but have to be achieved.” Whenever struggles around one form of identity block those around another, adjustments have to be made. Furthermore, “no one domain or social antagonism is prior to the others.” The revolution has to move forward “like a centipede or, really, as a multitude. Only on the field of biopolitical struggles,” the authors conclude, “composed by parallelism and multiplicity, can a revolutionary struggle for the common be successfully pursued.”
Inspiring though this model of revolution may be in many ways, there are a host of problems with it. To begin with, Hardt and Negri dismiss Slavoj Zizek’s contention that there is something far more foundational about class than there is about all the other forms of identity in relation to the perpetuation of capitalism, and in this I think Zizek is right. No matter how important race, gender, and sexual identity may have been in the history of capitalism’s development, and no matter how important the struggles waged in their name, it is possible to envisage the perpetuation of capitalism without them – something that is impossible in the case of class. Second, if all identities have to be abolished for the republic of property to be demolished, then the range of identities under consideration is far too conventionally defined. As usual, for example, geographic identifications with places and regions, as well as local loyalties (the special relation to the land claimed by indigenous populations), are left out of the picture (except in the case of nationalism, which is simply dismissed as corruption). Third, while revolution is quite properly opposed to prevailing notions of the republic of property, the presumption that the world’s six and a half billion people can be fed, warmed, clothed, housed, and cleaned without any hierarchical form of governance and outside the reach of monetization and markets is dubious in the extreme. This question is far too huge to be left to the horizontal self-organization of autonomous beings. Capitalism, with its hierarchical forms, has made serious progress in feeding the world, albeit unevenly, so one must be careful not to demolish those structures too readily. The lack of specification of any revolutionary transformation in the material foundations of daily life to parallel the revolutionary transformation in class identities is a serious lacuna in the argument.
The turn to Spinoza, however interesting, does not help. Spinoza, as far as I know, was little concerned with such mundane things as how to organize the world market so that everyone could eat. In a way, with a global population of less than one billion and much of the world not yet colonized or turned into a global marketplace full of interdependencies, the historical geographic circumstances of the times would have rendered such problems moot. These issues began to take a stronger form with Adam Smith and led Kant (who puts in several important cameo appearances in Commonwealth) to propose cosmopolitan solutions, but it was really the theory of the global market and of globalization so succinctly laid out by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto that put these problems firmly on the map.
The suspicion lurks, and there is a lot of evidence in Commonwealth to support the point, that it is precisely because Spinoza did not have to be concerned with such mundane things that his formulations are so attractive. They permit Hardt and Negri to bypass consideration of the material basis of revolutionary endeavors in favor of abstract and, at the end of the day, somewhat idealist formulations. I hasten to add that this does not in any way render the present surge of interest in pre-Marxian communism irrelevant, but it does impose a somewhat Utopian quality on the thinking. I happen to believe we cannot do without such utopism in these times, but it is veryimportant in reading such exercises to understand that this is what we are looking at.
It is always interesting when considering any Utopian schema to identify the connection between the actually existing material circumstances and the idealistic response. In the same way that More’s Utopia reflected the state of the world in the early sixteenth century, so Hardt and Negri’s writings have a lot to say, both positive and negative, about the state of contemporary capitalism. There are also some startling absences.
It has been Hardt and Negri’s view for some time, for example, that contemporary capitalism differs radically from its past incarnations. It has turned toward immaterial rather than material production. The immateriality appears in two guises. First, the symbolic, aesthetic, and social values of commodities come to the fore relative to material qualities. Second, if Marx generally depicted the reproduction of the social relation between capital and labor as mediated through the production of things (e.g., wage goods for the laborer, luxuries and new means of production for the capitalist), Hardt and Negri claim that much of contemporary capitalism is taken up instead with the direct production of subjectivities by way of “images, information, knowledge, affects, codes, and social relationships.” “The object of production” is no longer a world of things but of subjects, defined, for example, “by a social relationship or a form of life.” The political subjectivity of the subject becomes the object of production. If, for instance, we are all neoliberals now, that is because this is how our subjectivity has been produced. The terrain of critique, as well as of class struggle, therefore shifts from the mere production of things (the factory) to the production of subjectivity.
While I find this a progressive and illuminating move, it does raise the question of how relevant Marx’s analysis might be in relation to it. In the first chapter of Capital (1867), Marx defines value as a social relation. As such, he says, value is immaterial but objective. This is so because it is impossible to measure a social relation directly. The power and significance of the social relation can be judged only in terms of its objective consequences. Marx is deeply concerned with how this social relation is reproduced. In the chapter of Capital titled “Simple Reproduction,” for example, he breezes past all the material and technical circumstances necessary for the physical reproduction of capitalism to concentrate on the reproduction of the class relation the capitalist on one side and the worker on the other. Marx was, therefore, as deeply concerned with the production of political subjects as he was with the production of commodities.
All commodities are symbols of social labor, and the money commodity takes on many symbolic guises, as Marx repeatedly asserts. So the fact that the value congealed in commodities is symbolic, aesthetic, and social, as well as material, is not new at all. I find nothing particularly compelling about this first guise in which immateriality appears. The second guise is much more interesting. But here, too, while Hardt and Negri recognize Marx’s definition of capital as a social relation, they make it seem like a belated discovery rather than a foundational proposition. To be sure, the Marxist tradition has not always acknowledged the immaterial but objective nature of value, and it is therefore vital to be reminded. But I would have preferred that Hardt and Negri take Marx’s formulation of “immaterial but objective” at its word and spend rather more time than they do on the “objective” moment. For Marx this objectification entails, among other things, reification, fetishism, and alienation, particularly through the production of the money form. But these key elements in Marxian theory unfortunately get short shrift in Hardt and Negri’s presentation.
I would not pursue this seemingly nitpicking point were it not for the fact that Marx’s conceptualization of value as immaterial but objective underpins his theory of fictitious-capital formation. This plays a vital role in processes of financialization. While Hardt and Negri occasionally mention financialization and concede its general importance in recent times, they have absolutely no theory of fictitious capital, no conjecture as to what it means for a market circulating six hundred trillion dollars’ worth of derivatives of various kinds (and from which finance capitalists can extract vast personal wealth, like the three billion dollars George Soros gained in 2007) to be superimposed on a global economy that produces only fifty-six trillion dollars’ worth of actual goods and services. This omission could be forgiven were it not for the brute fact that political subjectivities have been as deeply affected by fictitious-capital proliferation – everything from the credit-card culture to speculating on gains in housing value – as they have by any Foucauldian exercise of biopower (i.e., state power over life). Talk about immateriality! Until recently, the talk of the town not only in Manhattan but in Florida and the US Southwest was the magic rise in personal equity as property prices skyrocketed. But now look at the objective consequences of this fiction (foreclosed homes, unemployment, collapsing consumerism, failed banks, and so on).
Hardt and Negri ignore the category of fictitious capital in part, one suspects, because it does not fit with their preferred and ultimately exclusionary focus on biopower and biopolitics (“the power of life to resist”) as the only interesting terrain on which political subjectivity forms. The point here is not to say that they are wrong, rather that their analysis is far too partial to bear the burden of a satisfactory framework for understanding the current crisis and its underlying political dilemmas, including the problem of producing liberated political subjectivities.
Criticism that focuses on omissions is all too easy, of course, but I think it important to emphasize the limits of Hardt and Negri’s thinking in order to better appreciate what they do contribute. This is not a book that sets out to understand the present economic crisis, but one that has a deeper and longer-term purpose. Its authors are unquestionably right, for instance, to insist that critical engagement with how subjects and subjectivities are produced is essential if we are to understand revolutionary possibilities and that this is something classical Marxism was not adept enough at doing. In this respect, Hardt and Negri approvingly cite Foucault, who wrote: “I do not agree with those who would understand this production of man by man as being accomplished like the production of value, the production of wealth, or of an object of economic use; it is, on the contrary, destruction of what we are and the creation of something completely other, a total innovation.” And they constructively take up Foucault’s notion of dispositifs as “the material, social, affective, and cognitive mechanisms active in the production of subjectivity.” Doing so, Hardt and Negri say, “allows us to conceive the collective production of the common as an intervention in the current relations of force aimed at subverting the dominant powers and reorienting forces in a determinate direction. The strategic production of knowledge in this sense implies immediately an alternative production of subjectivity.” And this is where their theory of revolution comes from.
This move is crucial because, as their earlier considerations have shown, struggles against modernity have had the terrible habit of replicating the problems of that modernity. In the search for an altermodernity – something that is outside the dialectical opposition between modernity and antimodernity-they need a means of escape. The choice between capitalism and socialism is, they suggest, all wrong. We need to identify something entirely differentcommunism – working within a different set of dimensions. Foucault offers them that means. Subjectivity is shaped though the direct exercise of biopower. There is, of course, nothing particularly new about this. The bourgeois order has long been desperately concerned to shape political subjects directly. Foucault’s theories of governmentality and of the turn to biopower, for example, refer even as far back as sixteenth-century Europe. And Marx certainly had much to say about how the ruling class produced ruling ideas. Struggles over the production of these ruling ideas have long been recognized as fundamental, as Hardt and Negri acknowledge when, toward the end of Commonwealth, they take up Antonio Gramsci’s contributions in some detail.
So why this exclusive focus on immateriality and biopower? What has really changed? There is no question that the body is, as Donna Haraway once put it, “an accumulation strategy” and that, as such, we need to elucidate how capital works on it and through it. We cannot, however, afford to ignore the material side, the way in which “variable capital” (i.e., wages) circulates. Interestingly, consumerism has come to play a much larger role in capitalist economies over the past half century. About 70 percent of economic activity in the United States is now driven by consumers, compared with what was probably closer to 20 percent in Marx’s time. The circulation of variable capital has swollen to a flood. Consumer sentiment is now, therefore, crucial, and finding ways to stimulate it, titillate it, and sustain it has become central to sustained capital accumulation. Bodies have to be filled with desires that can never be satisfied. While once upon a time what might be called natural desires predominated, for much of the advanced capitalist world such desires have long been exceeded, and we find ourselves ensnared today in a consumerist politics of excess.
Biopower has to be mobilized as one of the means to fuel that process, but it is not the only force that needs to be considered. Fictitious capital and credit cards affect political subjectivities via the credit and money markets. I have also elsewhere argued strongly that political subjectivities in the United States after World War II were hugely impacted by the material practices of suburbanization (an interesting variant on the phenomena analyzed by Georg Simmel in his 1903 essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life”).
What is certainly true, however, is that, as the mar- ket for things becomes saturated, capitalism switches to immaterial forms of production – because they are physically less limiting in a world that requires a compound rate of growth of 3 percent for the system to survive. If capitalism only made material things, our houses would not be able to hold them. Hence the turn to the commodification of affects, spectacle, information, images, experiential moments, and the like. Many state functions and noncapitalist institutions that used to operate to produce subjectivities directly (like the schoolroom and the church) have also been supplanted, commodified, and privatized. Premier zones for the exercise of biopower, such as education, health care, and even prison, have become vital fields for capital accumulation.
Hardt and Negri are right to emphasize the importance of these changes, though they do not probe very far into the political economy or materiality of it all. Two lines of inquiry then emerge. First, the authors observe, biopower operates on bodies directly. They accept (I am not entirely sure why) Foucault’s view that this form of production is radically different from the production of things, that it operates according to quite different rules and principles. Insofar as it produces political subjects, biopower also sets up a terrain of struggle that Hardt and Negri (following Foucault) call biopolitics, a field of resistance and alterity located in bodies. “The ultimate core of biopolitical production,” they argue, “is not the production of objects for subjects, as commodity production is often understood, but the production of subjectivity itself.” This is the terrain from which their own “ethical and political project must set out.” Their exclusive (and in my view far too limited) focus is on the “struggle over the control or autonomy of the production of subjectivity.” The field of biopolitics is about “the creation of new subjectivities that are presented at once as resistance and de-subjectification” (refusal, exodus). Foucault’s analyses of biopower “are aimed not merely at an empirical description of how power works for and through subjects but also at the potential for the production of alternative subjectivities, thus designating a distinction between qualitatively different forms of power.” Or, as Foucault puts it, “at the very heart of the power relationship, and constantly provoking it, are the recalcitrance of the will and the intransigence of freedom.” Altermodernity, they conclude, has to constitute “a dispositif for the production of subjectivity” and the pursuit of freedom.
This constitutes a compelling restatement and elaboration of their earlier theory of the role of biopower and biopolitics in the production of political subjectivities. It is an original contribution that must now be incorporated directly, as they correctly argue, into the production of revolutionary possibilities and into the redefinition of what a revitalized communist project – a true altermodernity – might be about.
But where, then, do they take these fundamental insights? Here I find myself somewhat perplexed, because the nature of the world into which they project this crucial (though partial) argument on biopolitics is unrecognizable to me. Undoubtedly, my ignorance of Spinoza is here a serious problem, but then I am surely not alone in my unpreparedness in this regard. A political tract that demands a deep knowledge of Spinoza before anyone can understand it is doomed, it seems to me, to preach to a very small choir. And why should the rest of us presume that Spinoza has all the answers? In any case, Commonwealth did not send me running to join one of those Spinoza reading groups to search for deeper answers. Yet there are moments when brilliant flashes of unexpected relevance light up the analysis, even as they pose more questions than they answer. Let me take up two further features of Hardt and Negri’s argument – one that fails to convince me and one that I find constructive, at least in the questions it poses.
The concept of the individual with which we are all deeply familiar is unsatisfactory, they say, because it founds the republic of property and is therefore foundational to what capitalism is about. They therefore prefer to speak of the singularities that constitute the multitude. Singularity (and this I do know) is a mathematical term that has applications in physics and relativity theory. (I have no idea whether Spinoza uses it.) It is a point in a function that is not well behaved, that can blow up to infinity, and that is in some sense unrepresentable. Exactly why individuals, persons, human beings, or whatever have to be reconceptualized as singularities within the multitude is unclear to me, except that, it would seem, the behavior of singularities is presumably not given or covered by the “event field” that constitutes the social order. I may have this all wrong, but obviously Hardt and Negri mean something significant by this term, and it would be good to know exactly what it is and on what grounds they find the term appropriate (and yet another lecture on Spinoza will not suffice, I’m afraid). The context suggests that while individuals, persons, etc. can and occasionally do surrender their sovereign powers in the face of social pressures or charismatic leadership, and even on occasion sacrifice themselves to the cause of nation or religion or whatever, this is something that singularities by definition cannot (or should not) ever do. Singularities can never be totally submissive to any amount of biopower and can expand to “infinity” at any moment. So what is being proposed here is a kind of human “species being” that has capacities so far unrecognized and, perhaps even more important, unrepresentable in human history. This unrepresentable singularity is the founding element within the multitude. My guess is that it is precisely this unrepresentability that makes the notion so important and attractive. There is something empowering about thinking of myself as unrepresentable and capable of erupting to infinity! But this unrepresentability renders the whole discussion vague, opaque, and frustratingly abstract. It is hard to have a sensible conversation about that which is unrepresentable.
This notion of singularity carries over into the revolutionary view that we can in fact strip ourselves of any and all signs of identity – racial, class-related, gender-based, sexual, ethnic, religious, and territorial – and somehow strip ourselves down to a state of pure being from which we can reconstruct ourselves according to entirely different principles. We literally have to forget who we are, where we were born, and how our sociality has been formed through geographically grounded life experiences. But this is where the problem of our identity as, for example, producers and consumers and as grounded geographic beings enters the picture. The problem is not that we may indeed give up our social identities based on class, race, gender, etc. more easily than we will give up our iPods and cell phones and identities associated with where and how we live, but that there is no way we can live without producing and consuming and there is no way we can live outside geography. These identities can never be given up in the way I can in principle give up my class identity (which is, of course, entirely different from saying that our consumption habits cannot change or that we cannot change locations).
Hardt and Negri could here have learned much by going back to Marx’s theory of value as immaterial and therefore unrepresentable but also objective and, as such, representable in the money form. They seem to be proposing something of this sort when they reflect on the behavior of revolutionary subjects as singularities within the multitude. They appeal positively, for example, to the history of jacqueries. Is this meant as an example of howsingularities might have an objective collective political presence? But this example is, then, worrying: Are all those screaming right-wingers interrupting the health-care reformers in the United States an instance of singularities in motion as a jacquerie? They are certainly erupting in a seemingly infinite rage against the capitalist state’s attempt to impose a new form of biopower on their world.
I have no idea how Hardt and Negri might respond to this particular example, but there is one way out that is deeply problematic. Whenever something appears on the horizon that is a possibility they do not like, they dismiss it as a “corruption.” So the jacqueries they do not like could presumably be excluded as corrupt forms. This is how they handle the philosophical concept of love. They introduce the idea but then immediately distance themselves from any embrace of corrupt forms such as self-love and love of country. These corruptions even define something called evil! They write:
Our proposition for political anthropology is to conceive of evil as a derivative and distortion of love and the common. Evil is the corruption of love that creates an obstacle to love, or to say the same thing with a different focus, evil is the corruption of the common that blocks its production and productivity. Evil thus has no originary or primary existence but stands only in a secondary position to love. We spoke earlier of corruptions of love in racisms, nationalisms, populisms, and fascisms; and we similarly analyzed not only the destruction of the common through capitalist expropriation and privatization but also institutionalized corruptions of the common in the family, the corporation, and the nation. This double position of evil as corruption and obstacle presents us with some initial criteria for our investigation.
Or as Dick Cheney famously put it, “We don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it.”
Let me now turn to what I consider one of the more positive contributions of this book: Its emphasis on the importance of the commons as a political focus of struggle. This is a political theme that is emerging these days from many perspectives, and this book will add substantively to the discussion.
The theme of enclosure and privatization of the commons as essential to the development of capitalism has been around for a long time, but consideration of it has, unfortunately, all too often been enveloped in a fog of nostalgia for a world that has been lost – for the struggles of the Diggers and the Levellers in seventeenth-century Britain, for example. Contemporary theorization has by extension tended to concentrate on further losses of the commons under neoliberalism, as water and other natural resources have been privatized, as more and more of the natural environment has been commodified, and as everything from cultural histories, ecological wonders, and musical inventiveness to patents on genetic materials has become big business.
But there has also been a growing recognition – and this is where Hardt and Negri have something important to say – that the commons is perpetually being produced. In Hardt and Negri’s version, the turn to immaterial labor has radically increased the inadvertent but inevitable creation of an excess that is the commons. This commons is a field that the multitude is in a position to exploit, if only because it is impossible to exclude people from dwelling there. Capital has, in effect, lost control over the production of the common and has to rely on the multitude to produce it in order for capital itself to survive. The multitude is empowered in a way it has never been before. Hardt and Negri agree, therefore, with Rancière that “politics is the sphere of activity of a common that can only ever be contentious.”
The concept of the common moves to the center of their world. “A democracy of the multitude is imaginable and possible only because we all share and participate in the common.” We need, they say, a “political concept of love that recognizes it as centered on the production of the common and the production of social life.” But this means that “love needs force to conquer the ruling powers and dismantle their corrupt institutions before it can create a new world of common wealth.” It is the creation of this new world of common wealth that centers the politics of this book.
There are two notions of the common at work here, and for Hardt and Negri the second is by far the most important. The first concerns “the common wealth of the material world – the air, the water, the fruits of the soil, and all nature’s bounty – which in classic European political texts is often claimed to be the inheritance of humanity as a whole, to be shared together.” The long history of the enclosure of these commons and their appropriation for private benefit, along with all manner of complicated discussions on how these commons can best be managed within the republic of property, is well known. The political dilemmas that arise, signaled in the long debate that followed Garrett Hardin’s restatement of the so-called tragedy of the commons in 1968, are also well known. (Indeed, I was surprised this debate got no mention here – which may be significant, as we shall see.) Along with this go all the ways in which “exploitation takes the form of expropriation of the common,” including those predatory practices I have dubbed accumulation by dispossession (e.g., housing foreclosures) that have emerged so strongly under neoliberalism. This amounts, most of us agree, to the continuation of the logic of primitive accumulation (as Marx called it) but on a far broader and more intricate scale. It includes the wave of privatization of everything from hitherto nationalized industries to public utilities, social security, health care, education, transport systems, social and physical infrastructures, and even warfare (hail to Halliburton). It also includes bringing within the regime of private-property rights as much as possible of that grand common we call nature in order to extract rents.
“The second notion of the common,” Hardt and Negri write, “is dynamic, involving both the product of labor and the means of future production. This common is not only the earth we share but also the languages we create, the social practices we establish, the modes of sociality that define our relationships, and so forth. This form of the common does not lend itself to a logic of scarcity as does the first.” But it does suffer from a logic of debasement and banalization, which, as I shall argue, is just as significant to contemporary life as scarcity. “The expropriation of this second form of the common – the artificial common or, really, the common that blurs the division between nature and culture – is,” they go on to say, “the key to understanding the new forms of exploitation of biopolitical labor.”
There is a great deal about the common in this text, and it deserves much attention – far more, indeed, than I am able to give it here. But there are a few points I want to touch on in conclusion. I was particularly gratified with Hardt and Negri’s view of the metropolis as a “factory for the production of the common,” for instance, and with their insistence that urbanization’s benefits to capital are largely realized in the form of rent (a much-neglected category in Marxian theory). And while I think they take their argument too far when they anticipate the emergence of an exclusively biopolitical city, their excursus into how the common is being produced in the city is sug- gestive and profoundly important. They even go so far as to suggest that “the metropolis is to the multi- tude what the factory was to the industrial working class.” To some degree, they fall back on recognizing that this common is largely produced by what econo- mists refer to as externality effects (effects not costed through the market), which can have both negative and positive consequences (pollution and congestion being typical negatives and felicitous social encoun- ters being a positive). But more broadly, there is no question that people through their daily activities cre- ate the social world of the city and in so doing create something common that all can enjoy. This creativity around the common has to be held open for all, and the attempts to enclose on this creativity have to be warded off (which makes it a little surprising that Hardt and Negri endorse the theories of Richard Florida with respect to the role of the so-called creative classes in fostering capitalist development and rising land rents). Struggles over the urban commons and the production of new urban political subjectivities therefore move to the forefront of their politics.
I welcome this move. For many years now, I and others have been arguing that the exclusive focus in Marxian political theory on the working classes in the factories made no sense. It was theoretically wrong because it ignored the production of urbanization, the production of space, and all the workers employed in such activities. It was historically inaccurate, given how many of the revolutionary movements in the history of capitalism have been focused as much on urban discontentment with the quality of daily life as on factory-based grievances (the Paris Commune, the Seattle general strike, the Tucumán uprising of 1969, the Shanghai Commune, and so on), and even when there were key movements in the factories (e.g., the United Auto Workers strike in Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s and the Turin factory councils of the 1920s), it always turned out that organized support in the neighborhoods (the women’s support groups in Flint and the communal “houses of the people” in Turin) played a critical but uncelebrated role in the political action. The emphasis on the factory was also programmatically inept because struggles over what Henri Lefebvre dubbed “the right to the city” could have provided a far broader basis for a revolutionary conjoining of urban social movements and work-based politics. With the slogan of the right to the city now playing an important role as both “a cry and a demand” everywhere from Berlin to Zagreb, Säo Paulo to New York and Los Angeles, I was surprised to find no mention of such struggles in Commonwealth (and that Lefebvre’s work on the right to the city and urban revolution was not explicitly invoked). But I welcome Hardt and Negri to the club of we leftists who view the urban as one of the critical sites for contemporary struggle, and I accept wholeheartedly their insistence on the importance of the production of a new urban commons as fundamental to the aims of a revolutionary communist urbanism.
“Accumulation of the common,” they say, “means not so much that we have more ideas, more images, more affects, and so forth but, much more important, that our powers and senses increase: our powers to think, to feel, to see, to relate to one another, to love. In terms closer to those of economics, then, this growth involves both an increasing stock of the common accessible in society and also an increased productive capacity based on the common.” This is truly the shining city on a hill that we can all aspire to.
But there is one serious problem with all this. While this form of the common is not subject to the logic of scarcity, it is subject to a logic of debasement and enclosure. And it is hard to see how or why it is that the singularities that compose the multitude would by definition support rather than degrade, corrupt, and debase the common that is the city, the common that is the world of affects, signs, information, and codes. (Hardin’s tragedy of the commons will not go away so easily.) After all, one of the most serious critiques of contemporary representations lies in the corruption of affects, signs, and codes, as well as of the qualities of information – and singularities, somewhere, are presumably responsible for this.
In this, there is a disturbing similarity to the greatest of all the commons that capitalism creates not by fiat but through practices: money. Money, as Marx showed, is the objective particular that stands in for the universal common of value; it is the objective use value that is the measure of immaterial exchange value, and once it enters into circulation it never leaves it. Precisely for all these reasons, it is an objective form of immaterial social power objectively appropriable by private persons. It is also produced not by the state (though the state seeks to regulate it) but out of private commodity exchanges and credit relations between individuals. It is therefore always prone to the politics of excess (witness the world’s central bankers printing money without restraint) and perpetually faces the danger of debasement (earlier on, of the coinage; now, through inflation). How the multitude made up of singularities will relate to this common remains unconsidered, even though it crucially affects the way the urban commons is shaped by political, economic, and social practices and the way fictitious capital works in relation to rental appropriations.
And this signals a general problem with Hardt and Negri’s theorizations. Commonwealth’s many abstractions sound fine, but concrete proposals are nowhere laid out. In fact, innumerable proposals lurk within Commonwealth, some of which run afoul of one another. It is somewhat surprising to find the revolutionary and incendiary imperatives (“defeating the ruling powers, destroying the ancien régime, smashing the state machine – even overthrowing capital, patriarchy, and white supremacy – is not enough”) interwoven with specific demands on the world’s governments to provide “a guaranteed income to all citizens,” basic education for all, and training for everyone in “basic social and technical knowledges and skills,” as well as to allow “everyone to become capable of participating in the constitution of society.” I certainly understand why they might want to take both positions. Indeed, I take both all the time-but then people expect it of revolutionaries like me who recognize the tactical and strategic importance of taking reformist positions at times; they don’t expect it of Hardt and Negri. Is the state they wish to smash the one that provides universal health care in Scandinavia, France, Germany, and Britain? Do they side with the jacqueries against health-care reform in the United States? Perhaps they, too, are hedging their bets. Again, welcome to the club that sees reformism as a prelude to revolution.
Far too many of Hardt and Negri’s proposals remain locked, however, in the realm of immaterial abstraction and, unfortunately, never acquire concrete form. The authors call, for example, for a new theory of value “based on the powers of economic, political, and social innovation that today are expressions of the multitude’s desire.” They further explain:
Value is created when resistance becomes overflowing, creative, and boundless and thus when human activity exceeds and determines a rupture in the balance of power. Value is created, consequently, when the relations between the constituent elements of the biopolitical process and the structure of biopower are thrown out of balance. When control over development, which the state and the collective organisms of capital assume to define their own legitimacy, is no longer able to hold back the resistance of the multitude, labor-power, and the whole set of social singularities, only then will there be value.
I can easily agree. The problem is, How will this new value be represented and objectified in daily practice? If the only way to measure it is money, then all these noble sentiments (like the intrinsic-value theories of the ecologists and the aesthetic values of the artists) will all too easily be reabsorbed into the dominant practices of the capitalist economy through the application of the monetary calculus. No matter how brilliant or revolutionary your art, if you can’t sell it for money then you are in trouble (and don’t tell me global bartering is feasible).
There are far too many incomplete sentiments of this sort in Commonwealth-which means there is plenty of work still to be done. We await Hardt and Negri’s next volume with anticipation. I personally hope there will be less Spinoza and more Marx in it, less about relationalities and immaterialities (many of which are beautifully and sometime poetically evoked here) and more about the problems that arise around materialist issues of representation, objectification, and reification. Enough of relationalities and immaterialities! How about concrete proposals, actual political organization, and real actions?
No matter how important race, gender, and sexual identity may have been in the history of capitalism’s development, and no matter how important the struggles waged in their name, it is possible to envisage the perpetuation of capitalism without them – something that is impossible in the case of class.
Town hall meeting on health-care reform, Reston, VA, August 25, 2009. Are all those screaming right-wingers interrupting the health-care reformers in the United States an instance of singularities in motion as a jacquerie? They are certainly erupting in a seemingly infinite rage against the capitalist state’s attempt to impose a new form of biopower on their world.
There has also been a growing recognition – and this is where Hardt and Negri have something important to saythat the commons is perpetually being produced.
- 文章地址: http://wen.org.cn/modules/article/view.article.php/c1/4143
- 引用通告: http://wen.org.cn/modules/article/trackback.php/4143