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Michael Hardy & Antonio Negri “Empire”

Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio 2000. Empire. Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press.


1.2 Biopolitical Production

[Foucault n]ever succeeded in pulling his thought away from that structuralist epistemology that guided his research from the beginning. By structuralist epistemology here we mean the reinvention of a functionalist analysis in the realm of the human sciences, a method that effectively sacrifices the dynamic of the system, the creative temporality of its movements, and the ontological substance of cultural and social reproduction. In fact, if at this point we were to ask Foucault who or what drives the system, or rather, who is the “bios,” his response would be ineffable, or nothing at all. What Foucault fails to grasp finally are the real dynamics of production in biopolitical society. (28)


The first consists in the analysis of the recent transformations of productive labor and its tendency to become increasingly immaterial. The central role previously occupied by labor power of mass factory workers in the production of surplus value is today increasingly filled by intellectual, immaterial, and communicative labor power. It is thus necessary to develop a new political theory of value that can pose the problem of this new capitalist accumulation of value at the center of the mechanism of exploitation (and thus, perhaps, at the center of potential revolt). The second, and consequent, research project developed by this school consists in the analysis of the immediately social and communicative dimension of living labor in contemporary capitalist society, and thus poses insistently the problem of the new figures of subjectivity, in both their exploitation and their revolutionary potential. The immediately social dimension of the exploitation of living immaterial labor immerses labor in all the relational elements that define the social but also at the same time activate the critical elements that develop the potential of insubordination and revolt through the entire set of laboring practices. After a new theory of value, then, a new theory of subjectivity must be formulated that operates primarily through knowledge, communication, and language. (29)


The productivity of bodies and the value of affect, however, are absolutely central in this context. We will elaborate the three primary aspects of immaterial labor in the contemporary economy: the communicative labor of industrial production that has newly become linked in informational networks, the interactive labor of symbolic analysis and problem solving, and the labor of the production and manipulation of affects. (30)


The most complete figure of this world is presented from the monetary perspective. From here we can see a horizon of values and a machine of distribution, a mechanism of accumulation and a means of circulation, a power and a language. There is nothing, no “naked life,” no external standpoint, that can be posed outside this field permeated by money; nothing escapes money. Production and reproduction are dressed in monetary clothing. In fact, on the global stage, every biopolitical figure appears dressed in monetary garb. “Accumulate, accumulate” This is Moses and the Prophets!” (32)


The great industrial and financial powers thus produce not only commodities but also subjectivities. They produce agentic subjectivities within the biopolitical context: they produce needs, social relations, bodies, and minds – which is to say, they produce producers. In the biopolitical sphere, life is made to work for production and production is made to work for life. It is a great hive in which the queen bee continuously oversees production and reproduction. (32)


What the theories of power of modernity were forced to consider transcendent, that is, external to productive and social relations, is here formed inside, immanent to the productive and social relations. Mediation is absorbed within the productive machine. The political synthesis of social space is fixed in the space of communication. This is why communications industries have assumed such a central position. They not only organize production on a new scale and impose a new structure adequate to global space, but also make its justification immanent. Power, as it produces, organizes; as it organizes, it speaks and expresses itself as authority. (33)


The communications industries integrate the imaginary and the symbolic within the biopolitical fabric, not merely putting them at the service of power but actually integrating them into its very functioning. (33)


It would be difficult to say which is more important for the Empire, the center or the margins. In fact, center and margin seem continually to be shifting positions, fleeing any determinate locations. We could even say that the process itself is virtual and that is power resides in the power of the virtual. (39)


4.1 Virtualities

When we say that political theory must deal with ontology, we mean first of all that politics cannot be constructed from the outside. Politics is given immediately; it is a field of pure immanence. Empire forms on this superficial horizon where our bodies and minds are embedded. It is purely positive. There is no external logical machine that constitutes it. The most natural thing in the world is that the world appears to be politically united, that the market is global, and that power is organized throughout this universality. Imperial politics articulates being in its global extension – a great sea that only the winds and current move. The neutralization of the transcendental imagination is thus the first sense in which the political in the imperial domain is ontological. (354)


Throughout modernity, the immeasurable was the object of an absolute ban, an epistemological prohibition. This metaphysical illusion disappears today, however, because in the context of biopolitical ontology and its becomings, the transcendent is what is unthinkable. When political transcendence is still claimed today, it descends immediately into tyranny and barbarism. (355)


Labor appears simply as the power to act, which is at once singular and universal: singular insofar as labor has become the exclusive domain of the brain and body of the multitude; and universal insofar as the desire that the multitude expresses in the movement from the virtual to the possible is constantly constituted as a common thing. Only when what is common is formed can production take place and can general productivity rise. Anything that blocks this power to act is merely an obstacle to overcome – an obstacle that is eventually outflanked, weakened, and smashed by the critical powers of labor and the everyday passional wisdom of the affects. The power to act is constituted by labor, intelligence, passion, and affect in one common place. (358)


Imperial command produces nothing vital and nothing ontological. From the ontological perspective, imperial command is purely negative and passive. Certainly power is everywhere, but it is everywhere because everywhere is in play the nexus between virtuality and possibility, a nexus that is the sole province of the multitude. Imperial power is the negative residue, the fallback of the operation of the multitude; it is a parasite that draws its vitality from the multitude’s capacity to create ever new sources of energy and value. A parasite that saps the strength of its host, however, can endanger its own existence. The functioning of imperial power is ineluctably linked to its decline. (362)


Today’s celebrations of the local can be regressive and even fascistic when they oppose circulations and mixture, and thus reinforce the walls of nation, ethnicity, race, people, and the like. The concept of the local, however, need not be defined by isolation and purity. In fact, if one breaks down the walls that surround the local (and thereby separate the concept from race, religion, ethnicity, nation, and people), one can link it directly to the universal. The concrete universal is what allows the multitude to pass from place to place and make its place its own. This is the common place of nomadism and miscegenation. Through circulation the common human species is composed, a multicolored Orpheus of infinite power; through circulation the human community is constituted. Outside every Enlightenment cloud or Kantian reverie, the desire of the multitude is not the cosmopolitical state but a common species. As in a secular Pentecost, the bodies are mixed and the nomads speak a common tongue. (362)


Biopower is the name for the real subsumption of society under capital, and both are synonymous with the globalized productive order. Production fills the surfaces of Empire; it is a machine that is full of life, and intelligent life that by expressing itself in production and reproduction as well as in circulation (of labor, affects, and languages) stamps society with a new collective meaning and recognizes virtue and civilization in cooperation. (365)


Intelligence and affect (or really the brain coextensive with the body), just when they become the primary productive powers, make production and life coincide across the terrain on which they operate, because life is nothing other than the production and reproduction of the set of bodies and brains. (365)


4.3 The Multitude Against Empire

The multitude today […] resides on the imperial surfaces where there is no God the Father and no transcendence. Instead there is our immanent labor. The teleology of the multitude is theurgical; it consists in the possibility of directing technologies and production toward its own joy and its own increase of power. The multitude has no reason to look outside its own history and its own present productive power for the means necessary to lead toward its constitution as a political subject. (396)


A material mythology of reason thus begins to be formed, and it is constructed in the languages, technologies, and all the means that constitute the world of life. It is a material religion of the senses that separates the multitude from every residue of sovereign power and from every “long arm” of Empire. The mythology of reason is the symbolic and imaginative articulation that allows the ontology of the multitude to express itself as activity and consciousness. The mythology of languages of the multitude interprets the telos of an earthly city, torn away by the power of its own destiny from any belonging or subjection to a city of God, which has lost all honor and legitimacy. To the metaphysical and transcendent mediations, to the violence and corruption are thus opposed the absolute constitution of labor and cooperation, the earthly city of the multitude. (396)


If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second movement it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography. (400)


In postmodernity […], time is no longer determined by any transcendent measure, any a priori: time pertains directly to existence. Here is where the Aristotelian tradition of measure is broken. In fact, from our perspective the transcendentalism of temporality is destroyed most decisively by the fact that it is now impossible to measure labor, either by convention or by calculation. Time comes back entirely under collective existence and thus resides within the cooperation of the multitude. (401)


[…] time is reappropriated on the plane of immanence. It is not given a priori, but rather bears the stamp of collective action. The new phenomenology of the labor of the multitude reveals labor as the fundamental creative activity that through cooperation goes beyond any obstacle imposed on it and constantly re-creates the world. The activity of the multitude constitutes time beyond measure. Time might thus be defined as the immeasurability of the movement between a before and an after, an immanent process of constitution. (402)


In the biopolitical context of Empire, however, the production of capital converges ever more with the production and reproduction of social life itself; it thus becomes ever more difficult to maintain distinctions among productive, reproductive, and unproductive labor. Labor – material or immaterial, intellectual or corporeal – produces and reproduces social life, and in the process is exploited by capital. (402)


There are no time clocks to punch on the terrain of biopolitical production; the proletariat produces in all its generality everywhere all day long. (403)


This generality of biopolitical production makes clear a second programmatic political demand of the multitude: a social wage and a guaranteed income for all. The social wage stands opposed first of all to the family wage, that fundamental weapon of the sexual division of labor by which the wage paid for the productive labor of the male worker is conceived also to pay for the unwaged reproductive labor of the worker’s wife and dependents at home. (403)


It is not even possible to support the old slogan “equal pay for equal work” when labor cannot be individualized and measured. The demand for a social wage extends to the entire population the demand that all activity necessary for the production of capital be recognized with an equal compensation such that a social wage is really a guaranteed income. Once citizenship is extended to all, we could call this guaranteed income a citizenship income, due each as a member of society. (403)


[…] in the imperial regime ideology, critique becomes directly the critique of both political economy and lived experience. How can sense and meaning be oriented differently or organized in alternative, coherent communicative apparatuses? How can we discover and direct the performative lines of linguistic sets and communicative networks that create the fabric of life and production? Knowledge has to become linguistic action and philosophy has to become a real reappropriation of knowledge. In other words, knowledge and communication have to constitute life through struggle. A first aspect of the telos is posed when the apparatuses that link communication to modes of life are developed through the struggle of the multitude. (404)


Now we can formulate a third political demand of the multitude: the right to reappropriation. The right to reappropriation is first of all the right to the reappropriation of the means of production. Socialists and communists have long demand that the proletariat have free access to and control over the machines and materials it uses to produce. In the context of immaterial and biopolitical production, however, this traditional demand takes on a new guise. The multitude not only uses machines to produce, but also becomes increasingly machinic itself, as the means of production are increasingly integrated into the minds and bodies of the multitude. (406)


[…] reappropriation means having free access to and control over knowledge, information, communication, and affects – because these are some of the primary means of biopolitical production. Just because these productive machines have been integrated into the multitude does not mean that the multitude has control over them. Rather, it makes more vicious and injurious their alienation. The right to reappropriation is really the multitude’s right to self-control and autonomous self-production. (407)

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