Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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The closure of space posed a serious challenge to the original American constitutional spirit, and the path to address this challenge was treacherous. Never was the drive stronger to transform the United States into something like a European-style sovereignty. Our concepts of "reaction," "active counterrevolution," "preventive police," and "Pinkerton State" were all developed in the United States in this period. U.S. class repression had no reason to be jealous of the various kaisers and czars of Europe. Today that ferocious period of capitalist and state repression still lives on, even if the names of its primary perpetrators (such as Frick, Carnegie, Mellon, and Morgan) now only serve to grace the mantels of philanthropic foundations. How ferocious that repression was-and the stronger it was, the stronger the resistance! This is what really matters. If things had gone differently, if the resistance to repression had not been so strong, this book on Empire, as a form of rule different from imperialism, would have had no reason to be written. The possible lines of response to address the closure of space on the North American continent were diverse, contradictory, and conflicting. The two proposals that most strongly determined the tendency of the subsequent development of the Constitution were both elaborated within the framework of U.S. "progressivism" at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first was put forward by Theodore Roosevelt, the second by Woodrow Wilson; the first exercised a completely traditional European-style imperialist ideology, and the second adopted an internationalist ideology of peace as an expansion of the constitutional conception of network power. Both of these proposals were intended as responses to the same problem: the crisis of the social relationship and consequently the crisis of Jeffersonian space. For both, the second element of importance was the corruption of the network power of the Constitution through the formation of powerful trusts. Both of their presidential administrations were marked by the passage of important progressivist antitrust legislation, from the regulation of the railroads under Roosevelt to broad regulation of business and finance under Wilson. Their common problem was understanding how class antagonism, which by this time had all but destroyed the model of network power, could be placated. They recognized that within the bounds of the system itself-and this is the third point in common-it was impossible. The open terrain had been used up, and even ifit were not completely depleted, any room for movement could not be managed in democratic terms.
Since an internal solution to the closing of space was impossible, the progressivism of american ideology had to be realized with reference to the outside. The two responses both emphasized this move outward, but Wilson's project was so much more utopian that Roosevelt's. For Roosevelt, the Spanish-American War and the Rough Riders' rally up San Juan Hill constituted the prototype of the solution, and that image became even more central as he underwent his populist conversion. Roosevelt's solution to the limits of space involved abandoning the original features of the U.S. model and instead following goals and methods similar to the populist colonial imperialism of a Cecil Rhodes and the progressive imperialism of the French Third Republic.[20] This imperialist path led to the colonialist experience of the United States in the Philippines. "It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism," Roosevelt proclaimed, "to see that they are freed from their chains." Any concession to liberation struggles that allowed uncivilized populations like the Filipinos to govern themselves would thus be "an international crime."[21] Roosevelt, along with generations of European ideologues before him, relied on the notion of "civilization" as an adequate justification for imperialist conquest and domination. Wilson's solution to the crisis of space took an entirely different path. His project of the international extension of the network power of the Constitution was a concrete political utopia. Nowhere was Wilson's interpretation of american ideology derided more strongly than it was in Europe in the period of the Treaty of Versailles, but it was not very well appreciated in the United States, either. It is true that the League of Nations, the crowning glory of the Wilsonian project for European and world peace, never got past the veto power of congress; but his concept of world order based on the extension of the U.S. constitutional project, the idea of peace as product of a new world network of powers, was a powerful and long-lasting proposal.[22] This proposal corresponded to the original logic of the U.S. Constitution and its idea of expansive Empire. European modernists could not help mocking this proposal of a postmodern Empire: the chronicles are full of the ironies and insults of Georges Clemenceau and Lloyd George, along with the fascists, who all declared that the refusal of the Wilsonian project was a central element of their projects of dictatorship and war. Yet poor maligned Wilson appears today in a rather different light: a utopian, yes, but lucid in his foresight of the horrible future that awaited the Europe of nations in the coming years; the inventor of a world government of peace, which was certainly unrealizable, but the vision proved nonetheless an efficient promoter of the passage to Empire. This is all true even if Wilson did not recognize it. Here in fact we begin to touch concretely the difference between imperialism and Empire, and we can see in those Wilsonian utopias the intelligence and foresight of a great idiot.
American Imperialism
The third phase or regime of the U.S. Constitution might be seen as taking effect fully with the passage of the New Deal legislation such as the National Industrial Relations Act, but for our purposes it is better to mark its inception earlier, even as early as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the period when its threat echoed across the United States and throughout the world. In retrospect, in those first decades after the October Revolution we can already recognize the roots of the cold war-the bipolar division of the territories of the globe and the frantic competition between the two systems. The New Deal legislation itself, along with the construction of comparable welfare systems in Western Europe, might be cast as a response to the threat conjured up by the Soviet experience, that is, to the increasing power of workers' movements both at home and abroad.[23] The United States found itself increasingly driven by the need to placate class antagonism, and thus anticommunism became the overriding imperative. Cold war ideology gave rise to the most exaggerated forms of Manichaean division, and as a result, some of the central elements we have seen defining modern European sovereignty reappeared in the United States.
It became increasingly evident during this phase, and throughout the course of the twentieth century, that the United States, far from being that singular and democratic nation its founders imagined it to be, an Empire of Liberty, was the author of direct and brutal imperialist projects, both domestically and abroad. The figure of the U.S. government as the world cop and mastermind of the repression of liberation struggles throughout the world was not really born in the 1960s, nor even with the inception of the cold war proper, but stretches back to the Soviet revolution, and maybe even earlier. Perhaps what we have presented as exceptions to the development of imperial sovereignty should instead be linked together as a real tendency, an alternative within the history of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, perhaps the root of these imperialist practices should be traced back to the very origins of the country, to black slavery and the genocidal wars against the Native Americans. Earlier we considered black slavery as a constitutional problem in the antebellum period, but racial subordination and the superexploitation of black labor continued well after the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The ideological and physical barriers erected around African Americans have always contradicted the imperial notion of open spaces and mixed populations. In particular, the position of black labor in the United States strongly paralleled the position of colonial labor in European regimes in terms of the division of labor, working conditions, and wage structure. Indeed, the super-exploitation of black labor gives us one example, an internal example, of the imperialist tendency that has run throughout U.S. history.
A second example of this imperialist tendency, an external example, can be seen in the history of the Monroe Doctrine and the U.S. efforts to exert control over the Americas. The doctrine, announced by President James Monroe in 1823, was presented first and foremost as a defensive measure against European colonialism: the free and independent American continents "are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by a European power."[24] The United States assumed the role of protector of all the nations of the Americans against European aggression, a role that was eventually made explicit with the Theodore Roosevelt corollary to the doctrine, claiming for the United States "an international police power." One would be hard-pressed, however, to characterize the numerous U.S. military interventions in the Americas simply in terms of def ense against European aggression.[25] Yanqui politics is a strong tradition of imperialism dressed in antiimperialist clothing.
During the cold war this imperialist temptation-or really the ambiguity between protector and dominator-became more intense and more extensive. In other words, protecting countries across the entire world from communism (or, more accurately, Soviet imperialism) became indistinguishable from dominating and exploiting them with imperialist techniques. The U.S. involvement in Vietnam might well be considered the pinnacle of this tendency. From one perspective, and certainly within the U.S. government's elaboration of cold war ideology, the war in Vietnam fit into a global political strategy to defend the "free world" against communism, to contain its advances. The war, however, could not but also be, in practice, a continuation of European imperialism on the part of the United States. By the 1960s, the European colonial powers were losing crucial battles and their control was waning. Like aging prizefighters they began to bow out of the ring, and the United States stepped in as the new champion. The U.S. military never doubted that it was strong enough to avoid the kind of humiliation that the French suffered at Dien Bien Phu. The Americans acted during their brieftenure in Vietnam with all the violence, brutality, and barbarity befitting any European imperialist power. It seemed that the United States would declare itself the rightful heir to the declining European powers, donning their imperialist mantle and outdoing them at their own imperialist practices.
The U.S. adventure in Vietnam, of course, ended in defeat. In an extraordinary feat of unparalleled strength and courage, the Vietnamese combated two imperialist powers in succession and emerged victorious-although the fruits of that victory have since proven to be exceedingly bitter. From the perspective of the United States, however, and in terms of our briefconstitutional history, the Vietnam War might be seen as the final moment of the imperialist tendency and thus a point of passage to a new regime of the Constitution. The path of European-style imperialism had become once and for all impassable, and henceforth the United States would have to both turn back and leap forward to a properly imperial rule. As a kind of historical shorthand, we could locate the end of the third and beginning of the fourth regime of the U.S. Constitution in 1968.[26] The Tet offensive in January marked the irreversible military defeat of the U.S. imperialist adventures. More important, however, as is the case before each shift of constitutional regimes, the pressure for a return to republican principles and the original constitutional spirit was already prepared by the powerful internal social movements. Just when the United States was most deeply embroiled in an imperialist venture abroad, when it had strayed farthest from its original constitutional project, that constituent spirit bloomed most strongly at home-not only in the antiwar movements themselves, but also in the civil rights and Black Power movements, the student movements, and eventually the second-wave feminist movements. The emergence of the various components of the New Left was an enormous and powerful affirmation of the principle of constituent power and the declaration of the reopening of social spaces.
Beyond the Cold War
During the cold war, when the United States ambiguously adopted the mantle of imperialism, it subordinated the old imperialist powers to its own regime. The cold war waged by the United States did not defeat the socialist enemy, and perhaps that was never really its primary goal. The Soviet Union collapsed under the burden of its own internal contradictions. The cold war at the most produced some of the conditions of isolation that, reverberating within the Soviet bloc itself, multiplied those explosive contradictions. The most important effect of the cold war was to reorganize the lines of hegemony within the imperialist world, accelerating the decline of the old powers and raising up the U.S. initiative of the constitution of an imperial order. The United States would not have been victorious at the end of the cold war had a new type of hegemonic initiative not already been prepared. This imperial project, a global project of network power, defines the fourth phase or regime of U.S. constitutional history.
In the waning years and wake of the cold war, the responsibility of exercising an international police power "fell" squarely on the shoulders of the United States. The GulfWar was the first time the United States could exercise this power in its full form. Really, the war was an operation of repression of very little interest from the point of view of the objectives, the regional interests, and the political ideologies involved. We have seen many such wars conducted directly by the United States and its allies. Iraq was accused of having broken international law, and it thus had to be judged and punished. The importance of the Gulf War derives rather from the fact that it presented the United States as the only power able to manage international justice, not as a function of its own national motives but in the name of global right. Certainly, many powers have falsely claimed to act in the universal interest before, but this new role of the United States is different. Perhaps it is most accurate to say that this claim to universality may also be false, but it is false in a new way. The U.S. world police acts not in imperialist interest but in imperial interest. In this sense the GulfWar did indeed, as George Bush claimed, announce the birth of a new world order.
Legitimation of the imperial order, however, cannot be based on the mere effectiveness of legal sanction and the military might to impose it. It must be developed through the production of international juridical norms that raise up the power of the hegemonic actor in a durable and legal way. Here the constitutional process that had originated with Wilson finally reaches maturity and emerges again. Between the First and Second World Wars, between Wilson's messianism and the international economicpolitical initiatives of the New Deal (which we will return to in Section 3.2), a series of international organizations was built that produced what in the traditional contractual terms of international right is called a surplus of normativity and efficacy. This surplus was given an expansive and tendentially universal basis in the spirit of the San Francisco accords that founded the United Nations. The unifying, internal process was hindered by the cold war, but not completely blocked by it. Through the years of the cold war there was both a multiplication of international organisms capable of producing right and a reduction of the resistances to their functioning. We emphasized in Section 1.1 how the proliferation of these different international organisms and their consolidation in a set of symbiotic relationships-as if the one asked the other for its own legitimation-pushed beyond a conception of international right based in contract or negotiation, and alluded instead to a central authority, a legitimate supranational motor of juridical action. The objective process was thus given a subjective face. The great international institutions, which had been born on the limited basis of negotiations and pacts, led to a proliferation of organisms and actors that began to act as if there were a central authority sanctioning right. With the end of the cold war, the United States was called to serve the role of guaranteeing and adding juridical efficacy to this complex process of the formation of a new supranational right. Just as in the first century of the Christian era the Roman senators asked Augustus to assume imperial powers of the administration for the public good, so too today the international organizations (the United Nations, the international monetary organizations, and even the humanitarian organizations) ask the United States to assume the central role in a new world order. In all the regional conflicts of the late twentieth century, from Haiti to the Persian Gulf and Somalia to Bosnia, the United States is called to intervene militarily -and these calls are real and substantial, not merely publicity stunts to quell U.S. public dissent. Even ifit were reluctant, the U.S. military would have to answer the call in the name of peace and order. This is perhaps one of the central characteristics of Empire-that is, it resides in a world context that continually calls it into existence. The United States is the peace police, but only in the final instance, when the supranational organizations of peace call for an organizational activity and an articulated complex of juridical and organizational initiatives.
There are many reasons for the United States' privileged position in the new global constitution of imperial authority. It can be explained in part by the continuity of the United States' role (particularly its military role) from the central figure in the struggle against the USSR to the central figure in the newly unified world order. From the perspective of the constitutional history we are tracing here, however, we can see that the United States is privileged in a more important way by the imperial tendency of its own Constitution. The U.S. Constitution, as Jefferson said, is the one best calibrated for extensive Empire. We should emphasize once again that this Constitution is imperial and not imperialist. It is imperial because (in contrast to imperialism's project always to spread its power linearly in closed spaces and invade, destroy, and subsume subject countries within its sovereignty) the U.S. constitutional project is constructed on the model of rearticulating an open space and reinventing incessantly diverse and singular relations in networks across an unbounded terrain.
The contemporary idea of Empire is born through the global expansion of the internal U.S. constitutional project. It is in fact through the extension of internal constitutional processes that we enter into a constituent process of Empire. International right always had to be a negotiated, contractual process among external parties -in the ancient world that Thucydides portrayed in the Melian Dialogue, in the era of state reason, and in the modern relations among nations. Today right involves instead an internal and constitutive institutional process. The networks of agreements and associations, the channels of mediation and conflict resolution, and the coordination of the various dynamics of states are all institutionalized within Empire. We are experiencing a first phase of the transformation of the global frontier into an open space of imperial sovereignty.
2.6 - IMPERIAL SOVEREIGNTY
The new men of Empire are the ones who believe in fresh starts, new chapters, new pages; I struggle on with the old story, hoping that before it is finished it will reveal to me why it was that I thought it worth the trouble.
J. M. Coetzee
There is a long tradition of modern critique dedicated to denouncing the dualisms of modernity. The standpoint of that critical tradition, however, is situated in the paradigmatic place of modernity itself, both "inside" and "outside," at the threshold or the point of crisis. What has changed in the passage to the imperial world, however, is that this border place no longer exists, and thus the modern critical strategy tends no longer to be effective. Consider, for example, the responses offered in the history of modern European philosophy from Kant to Foucault to the question "What is Enlightenment?" Kant provides the classic modernist characterization of the mandate of the Enlightenment: Sapere aude (dare to know), emerge from the present state of "immaturity," and celebrate the public use of reason at the center of the social realm.[1] Foucault's version, when we situate it historically, is not really all that different. Foucault was dealing not with Fredrick II's despotism, which Kant wanted to guide toward more reasonable political positions, but rather with the political system of the French Fifth Republic, in which a large public sphere for political exchange was taken for granted. His response nonetheless insists once again on the necessity of straddling the border that links what traditionally would be considered the "inside" of subjectivity and the "outside" of the public sphere-even though in Foucault's terms the division is inverted so as to divide the "inside" of the system from the "outside" of subjectivity.[2] The rationality of modern critique, its center of gravity, is posed on this border.
Foucault does add another line of inquiry that seeks to go beyond these boundaries and the modern conception of the public sphere. "What is at stake . . . is this: How can the growth of capabilities [capacit‚s] be disconnected from the intensification of power relations?" And this new task requires a new method: "We have to move beyond the outside-inside alternative." Foucault's response, however, is quite traditional: "We have to be at the frontiers."[3] In the end, Foucault's philosophical critique of the Enlightenment returns to the same Enlightenment standpoint. In this ebb and flow between inside and outside, the critique of modernity does not finally go beyond its terms and limits, but rather stands poised on its boundaries.
This same notion of a border place that serves as the standpoint for the critique of the system of power-a place that is both inside and outside-also animates the critical tradition of modern political theory. Modern republicanism has long been characterized by a combination of realistic foundations and utopian initiatives. Republican projects are always solidly rooted within the dominant historical process, but they seek to transform the realm of politics that thus creates an outside, a new space of liberation. The three highest examples of this critical tradition of modern political theory, in our opinion, are Machiavelli, Spinoza, and Marx. Their thought is always grounded within the real processes of the constitution of modern sovereignty, attempting to make its contradictions explode and open the space for an alternative society. The outside is constructed from within.
For Machiavelli, the constituent power that is to found a democratic politics is born out of the rupture of the medieval order and through the necessity of regulating the chaotic transformations of modernity. The new democratic principle is a utopian initiative that responds directly to the real historical process and the demands of the epochal crisis. In Spinoza, too, the critique of modern sovereignty emerges from within the historical process. Against the deployments of monarchy and aristocracy, which can only remain limited forms, Spinoza defines democracy as the absolute form of government because in democracy all of society, the entire multitude, rules; in fact, democracy is the only form of government in which the absolute can be realized. For Marx, finally, every liberatory initiative, from wage struggles to political revolutions, proposes the independence of use value against the world of exchange value, against the modalities of capitalist development-but that independence exists only within capitalist development itself. In all these cases the critique of modernity is situated within the historical evolution of the forms of power, an inside that searches for an outside. Even in the most radical and extreme forms of the call for an outside, the inside is still assumed as foundation-albeit sometimes a negative foundation-of the project. In Machiavelli's constituent formation of a new republic, Spinoza's democratic liberation of the multitude, and Marx's revolutionary abolition of the state, the inside continues to live in an ambiguous but no less determinate way in the outside that is projected as utopia.

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