Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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We do not want to suggest here that modern critiques of modernity have never reached a real point of rupture that allows a shift of perspective, nor that our project cannot profit from these modern critical foundations. Machiavellian freedom, Spinozist desire, and Marxian living labor are all concepts that contain real transformative power: the power to confront reality and go beyond the given conditions of existence. The force of these critical concepts, which extends well beyond their ambiguous relation to modern social structures, consists primarily in their being posed as ontological demands.[4] The power of the modern critique of modernity resides precisely where the blackmail of bourgeois realism is refused -in other words, where utopian thought, going beyond the pressures of homology that always limit it to what already exists, is given a new constituent form.
The limitations of these critiques become clear when we question their power to transform not only the objective we are aiming for, but also the standpoint of critique. One briefexample should be sufficient to illustrate this difficulty. The fifth part of Spinoza's Ethics is perhaps the highest development of the modern critique of modernity. Spinoza takes on the theoretical challenge to establish full knowledge oftruth and discover the path of the liberation of the body and the mind, positively, in the absolute. All other modern metaphysical positions, particularly those transcendental positions of which Descartes and Hobbes are the first major representatives, are inessential and mystificatory with respect to this project of liberation. Spinoza's primary objective is the ontological development of the unity oftrue knowledge and the powerful body along with the absolute construction of singular and collective immanence. Never before had philosophical thought so radically undermined the traditional dualisms of European metaphysics, and never before, consequently, had it so powerfully challenged the political practices of transcendence and domination. Every ontology that does not bear the stamp of human creativity is cast aside. The desire (cupiditas) that rules the course of the existence and action of nature and humans is made love (amor)-which invests at once both the natural and the divine. And yet, in this final part of the Ethics, this utopia has only an abstract and indefinite relation to reality. At times, setting out from this high level of ontological development, Spinoza's thought does attempt to confront reality, but the ascetic proposal halts, stumbles, and disappears in the mystical attempt to reconcile the language of reality and divinity. Finally, in Spinoza as in the other great modern critics of modernity, the search for an outside seems to run aground and propose merely phantasms of mysticism, negative intuitions of the absolute.
There Is No More Outside
The domains conceived as inside and outside and the relationship between them are configured differently in a variety of modern discourses.[5] The spatial configuration of inside and outside itself, however, seems to us a general and foundational characteristic of modern thought. In the passage from modern to postmodern and from imperialism to Empire there is progressively less distinction between inside and outside.
This transformation is particularly evident when viewed in terms of the notion of sovereignty. Modern sovereignty has generally been conceived in terms of a (real or imagined) territory and the relation of that territory to its outside. Early modern social theorists, for example, from Hobbes to Rousseau, understood the civil order as a limited and interior space that is opposed or contrasted to the external order of nature. The bounded space of civil order, its place, is defined by its separation from the external spaces of nature. In an analogous fashion, the theorists of modern psychology understood drives, passions, instincts, and the unconscious metaphorically in spatial terms as an outside within the human mind, a continuation of nature deep within us. Here the sovereignty of the Selfrests on a dialectical relation between the natural order of drives and the civil order of reason or consciousness. Finally, modern anthropology's various discourses on primitive societies function as the outside that defines the bounds of the civil world. The process of modernization, in all these varied contexts, is the internalization of the outside, that is, the civilization of nature.
In the imperial world, this dialectic of sovereignty between the civil order and the natural order has come to an end. This is one precise sense in which the contemporary world is postmodern. "Postmodernism," Fredric Jameson tells us, "is what you have when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good."[6] Certainly we continue to have forests and crickets and thunderstorms in our world, and we continue to understand our psyches as driven by natural instincts and passions; but we have no nature in the sense that these forces and phenomena are no longer understood as outside, that is, they are not seen as original and independent of the artifice of the civil order. In a postmodern world all phenomena and forces are artificial, or, as some might say, part of history. The modern dialectic of inside and outside has been replaced by a play of degrees and intensities, of hybridity and artificiality. The outside has also declined in terms of a rather different modern dialectic that defined the relation between public and private in liberal political theory. The public spaces of modern society, which constitute the place of liberal politics, tend to disappear in the postmodern world. According to the liberal tradition, the modern individual, at home in its private spaces, regards the public as its outside. The outside is the place proper to politics, where the action of the individual is exposed in the presence of others and there seeks recognition.[7] In the process of postmodernization, however, such public spaces are increasingly becoming privatized. The urban landscape is shifting from the modern focus on the common square and the public encounter to the closed spaces of malls, freeways, and gated communities. The architecture and urban planning of megalopolises such as Los Angeles and Sa~o Paolo have tended to limit public access and interaction in such a way as to avoid the chance encounter of diverse populations, creating a series of protected interior and isolated spaces.[8] Alternatively, consider how the banlieu of Paris has become a series of amorphous and indefinite spaces that promote isolation rather than any interaction or communication. Public space has been privatized to such an extent that it no longer makes sense to understand social organization in terms of a dialectic between private and public spaces, between inside and outside. The place of modern liberal politics has disappeared, and thus from this perspective our postmodern and imperial society is characterized by a deficit of the political. In effect, the place of politics has been de-actualized.
In this regard, Guy Debord's analysis of the society of the spectacle, more than thirty years after its composition, seems ever more apt and urgent.[9] In imperial society the spectacle is a virtual place, or more accurately, a non-place of politics. The spectacle is at once unified and diffuse in such a way that it is impossible to distinguish any inside from outside-the natural from the social, the private from the public. The liberal notion of the public, the place outside where we act in the presence of others, has been both universalized (because we are always now under the gaze of others, monitored by safety cameras) and sublimated or de-actualized in the virtual spaces of the spectacle. The end of the outside is the end of liberal politics.
Finally, there is no longer an outside also in a military sense. When Francis Fukuyama claims that the contemporary historical passage is defined by the end of history, he means that the era of major conflicts has come to an end: sovereign power will no longer confront its Other and no longer face its outside, but rather will progressively expand its boundaries to envelop the entire globe as its proper domain.[10] The history of imperialist, interimperialist, and anti-imperialist wars is over. The end of that history has ushered in the reign of peace. Or really, we have entered the era of minor and internal conflicts. Every imperial war is a civil war, a police action-from Los Angeles and Granada to Mogadishu and Sarajevo. In fact, the separation of tasks between the external and the internal arms of power (between the army and the police, the CIA and the FBI) is increasingly vague and indeterminate.
In our terms, the end of history that Fukuyama refers to is the end of the crisis at the center of modernity, the coherent and defining conflict that was the foundation and raison d'ˆtre for modern sovereignty. History has ended precisely and only to the extent that it is conceived in Hegelian terms-as the movement of a dialectic of contradictions, a play of absolute negations and subsumption. The binaries that defined modern conflict have become blurred. The Other that might delimit a modern sovereign Selfhas become fractured and indistinct, and there is no longer an outside that can bound the place of sovereignty. The outside is what gave the crisis its coherence. Today it is increasingly difficult for the ideologues of the United States to name a single, unified enemy; rather, there seem to be minor and elusive enemies everywhere.[11] The end of the crisis of modernity has given rise to a proliferation of minor and indefinite crises, or, as we prefer, to an omni-crisis.
It is useful to remember here (and we will develop this point further in Section 3.1) that the capitalist market is one machine that has always run counter to any division between inside and outside. It is thwarted by barriers and exclusions; it thrives instead by including always more within its sphere. profit can be generated only through contact, engagement, interchange, and commerce. The realization of the world market would constitute the point of arrival of this tendency. In its ideal form there is no outside to the world market: the entire globe is its domain.[12] We might thus use the form of the world market as a model for understanding imperial sovereignty. Perhaps, just as Foucault recognized the panopticon as the diagram of modern power, the world market might serve adequately-even though it is not an architecture but really an anti-architecture-as the diagram of imperial power.[13] The striated space of modernity constructed places that were continually engaged in and founded on a dialectical play with their outsides. The space of imperial sovereignty, in contrast, is smooth. It might appear to be free of the binary divisions or striation of modern boundaries, but really it is crisscrossed by so many fault lines that it only appears as a continuous, uniform space. In this sense, the clearly defined crisis of modernity gives way to an omnicrisis in the imperial world. In this smooth space of Empire, there is no place of power-it is both everywhere and nowhere. Empire is an ou-topia, or really a non-place.
Imperial Racism
The passage from modern sovereignty to imperial sovereignty shows one of its faces in the shifting configurations of racism in our societies. We should note first of all that it has become increasingly difficult to identify the general lines of racism. In fact, politicians, the media, and even historians continually tell us that racism has steadily receded in modern societies-from the end of slavery to decolonization struggles and civil rights movements. Certain specific traditional practices of racism have undoubtedly declined, and one might be tempted to view the end of the apartheid laws in South Africa as the symbolic close of an entire era of racial segregation. From our perspective, however, it is clear that racism has not receded but actually progressed in the contemporary world, both in extent and in intensity. It appears to have declined only because its form and strategies have changed. If we take Manichaean divisions and rigid exclusionary practices (in South Africa, in the colonial city, in the southeastern United States, or in Palestine) as the paradigm of modern racisms, we must now ask what is the postmodern form of racism and what are its strategies in today's imperial society. Many analysts describe this passage as a shift in the dominant theoretical form of racism, from a racist theory based on biology to one based on culture. The dominant modern racist theory and the concomitant practices of segregation are centered on essential biological differences among races. Blood and genes stand behind the differences in skin color as the real substance of racial difference. Subordinated peoples are thus conceived (at least implicitly) as other than human, as a different order of being. These modern racist theories grounded in biology imply or tend toward an ontological difference-a necessary, eternal, and immutable rift in the order of being. In response to this theoretical position, then, modern antiracism positions itself against the notion of biological essentialism, and insists that differences among the races are constituted instead by social and cultural forces. These modern anti-racist theorists operate on the belief that social constructivism will free us from the straitjacket of biological determinism: ifour differences are socially and culturally determined, then all humans are in principle equal, of one ontological order, one nature.
With the passage to Empire, however, biological differences have been replaced by sociological and cultural signifiers as the key representation of racial hatred and fear. In this way imperial racist theory attacks modern anti-racism from the rear, and actually coopts and enlists its arguments. Imperial racist theory agrees that races do not constitute isolable biological units and that nature cannot be divided into different human races. It also agrees that the behavior of individuals and their abilities or aptitudes are not the result of their blood or their genes, but are due to their belonging to different historically determined cultures.[14] Differences are thus not fixed and immutable but contingent effects of social history. Imperial racist theory and modern anti-racist theory are really saying very much the same thing, and it is difficult in this regard to tell them apart. In fact, it is precisely because this relativist and culturalist argument is assumed to be necessarily anti-racist that the dominant ideology of our entire society can appear to be against racism, and that imperial racist theory can appear not to be racist at all.
We should look more closely, however, at how imperial racist theory operates. tienne Balibar calls the new racism a differentialist racism, a racism without race, or more precisely a racism that does not rest on a biological concept of race. Although biology is abandoned as the foundation and support, he says, culture is made to fill the role that biology had played.[15] We are accustomed to thinking that nature and biology are fixed and immutable but that culture is plastic and fluid: cultures can change historically and mix to form infinite hybrids. From the perspective of imperial racist theory, however, there are rigid limits to the flexibility and compatibility of cultures. Differences between cultures and traditions are, in the final analysis, insurmountable. It is futile and even dangerous, according to imperial theory, to allow cultures to mix or insist that they do so: Serbs and Croats, Hutus and Tutsis, African Americans and Korean Americans must be kept separate.
As a theory of social difference, the cultural position is no less "essentialist" than the biological one, or at least it establishes an equally strong theoretical ground for social separation and segregation. Nonetheless, it is a pluralist theoretical position: all cultural identities are equal in principle. This pluralism accepts all the differences of who we are so long as we agree to act on the basis of these differences of identity, so long as we act our race. Racial differences are thus contingent in principle, but quite necessary in practice as markers of social separation. The theoretical substitution of culture for race or biology is thus transformed paradoxically into a theory of the preservation of race.[16] This shift in racist theory shows us how imperial theory can adopt what is traditionally thought to be an anti-racist position and still maintain a strong principle of social separation.
We should be careful to note at this point that imperial racist theory in itself is a theory of segregation, not a theory of hierarchy. Whereas modern racist theory poses a hierarchy among the races as the fundamental condition that makes segregation necessary, imperial theory has nothing to say about the superiority or inferiority of different races or ethnic groups in principle. It regards that as purely contingent, a practical matter. In other words, racial hierarchy is viewed not as cause but as effect of social circumstances. For example, African American students in a certain region register consistently lower scores on aptitude tests than Asian American students. Imperial theory understands this as attributable not to any racial inferiority but rather to cultural differences: Asian American culture places a higher importance on education, encourages students to study in groups, and so forth. The hierarchy of the different races is determined only a posteriori, as an effect of their cultures- that is, on the basis of their performance. According to imperial theory, then, racial supremacy and subordination are not a theoretical question, but arise through free competition, a kind of market meritocracy of culture.
Racist practice, of course, does not necessarily correspond to the self-understandings of racist theory, which is all we have considered up to this point. It is clear from what we have seen, however, that imperial racist practice has been deprived of a central support: it no longer has a theory of racial superiority that was seen as grounding the modern practices of racial exclusion. According to Gilles Deleuze and F‚lix Guattari, though, "European racism . . . has never operated by exclusion, or by the designation of someone as Other . . . Racism operates by the determination of degrees of deviance in relation to the White-Man face, which endeavors to integrate nonconforming traits into increasingly eccentric and backward waves . . . From the viewpoint of racism, there is no exterior, there are no people on the outside."[17] Deleuze and Guattari challenge us to conceive racist practice not in terms of binary divisions and exclusion but as a strategy of differential inclusion. No identity is designated as Other, no one is excluded from the domain, there is no outside. Just as imperial racist theory cannot pose as a point of departure any essential differences among human races, imperial racist practice cannot begin by an exclusion of the racial Other. White supremacy functions rather through first engaging alterity and then subordinating differences according to degrees of deviance from whiteness. This has nothing to do with the hatred and fear of the strange, unknown Other. It is a hatred born in proximity and elaborated through the degrees of difference of the neighbor.
This is not to say that our societies are devoid of racial exclusions; certainly they are crisscrossed with numerous lines of racial barriers, across each urban landscape and across the globe. The point, rather, is that racial exclusion arises generally as a result of differential inclusion. In other words, it would be a mistake today, and perhaps it is also misleading when we consider the past, to pose the apartheid or Jim Crow laws as the paradigm of racial hierarchy. Difference is not written in law, and the imposition of alterity does not go to the extreme of otherness. Empire does not think differences in absolute terms; it poses racial differences never as a difference of nature but always as a difference of degree, never as necessary but always as accidental. Subordination is enacted in regimes of everyday practices that are more mobile and flexible but that create racial hierarchies that are nonetheless stable and brutal. The form and strategies of imperial racism help to highlight the contrast between modern and imperial sovereignty more generally. Colonial racism, the racism of modern sovereignty, first pushes difference to the extreme and then recuperates the Other as negative foundation of the Self (see Section 2.3). The modern construction of a people is intimately involved in this operation. A people is defined not simply in terms of a shared past and common desires or potential, but primarily in dialectical relation to its Other, its outside. A people (whether diasporic or not) is always defined in terms of a place (be it virtual or actual). Imperial order, in contrast, has nothing to do with this dialectic. Imperial racism, or differential racism, integrates others with its order and then orchestrates those differences in a system of control. Fixed and biological notions of peoples thus tend to dissolve into a fluid and amorphous multitude, which is of course shot through with lines of conflict and antagonism, but none that appear as fixed and eternal boundaries. The surface of imperial society continuously shifts in such a way that it destabilizes any notion of place. The central moment of modern racism takes place on its boundary, in the global antithesis between inside and outside. As Du Bois said nearly one hundred years ago, the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. Imperial racism, by contrast, looking forward perhaps to the twenty-first century, rests on the play of differences and the management of micro-conflictualities within its continually expanding domain.
On the Generation and Corruption of Subjectivity
The progressive lack of distinction between inside and outside has important implications for the social production of subjectivity. One of the central and most common theses of the institutional analyses proposed by modern social theory is that subjectivity is not pre-given and original but at least to some degree formed in the field of social forces. In this sense, modern social theory progressively emptied out any notion of a presocial subjectivity and instead grounded the production of subjectivity in the functioning of major social institutions, such as the prison, the family, the factory, and the school.
Two aspects of this production process should be highlighted. First, subjectivity is a constant social process of generation. When the boss hails you on the shop floor, or the high school principal hails you in the school corridor, a subjectivity is formed. The material practices set out for the subject in the context of the institution (be they kneeling down to pray or changing hundreds of diapers) are the production processes of subjectivity. In a reflexive way, then, through its own actions, the subject is acted on, generated. Second, the institutions provide above all a discrete place (the home, the chapel, the classroom, the shop floor) where the production of subjectivity is enacted. The various institutions of modern society should be viewed as an archipelago of factories of subjectivity. In the course of a life, an individual passes linearly into and out of these various institutions (from the school to the barracks to the factory) and is formed by them. The relation between inside and outside is fundamental. Each institution has its own rules and logics of subjectivation: "School tells us, 'You're not at home anymore'; the army tells us, 'You're not in school anymore.'"[18] Nevertheless, within the walls of each institution the individual is at least partially shielded from the forces of the other institutions; in the convent one is normally safe from the apparatus of the family, at home one is normally out of reach of factory discipline. This clearly delimited place of the institutions is reflected in the regular and fixed form of the subjectivities produced.
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