Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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In the passage to imperial society, the first aspect of the modern condition is certainly still the case, that is, subjectivities are still produced in the social factory. In fact, the social institutions produce subjectivity in an ever more intense way. We might say that postmodernism is what you have when the modern theory of social constructivism is taken to its extreme and all subjectivity is recognized as artificial. How is this possible, however, when today, as nearly everyone says, the institutions in question are everywhere in crisis and continually breaking down? This general crisis does not necessarily mean that the institutions no longer produce subjectivity. What has changed, rather, is the second condition: that is, the place of the production of subjectivity is no longer defined in this same way. The crisis means, in other words, that today the enclosures that used to define the limited space of the institutions have broken down so that the logic that once functioned primarily within the institutional walls now spreads across the entire social terrain. Inside and outside are becoming indistinguishable.
This omni-crisis of the institutions looks very different in different cases. For example, continually decreasing proportions of the U.S. population are involved in the nuclear family, while steadily increasing proportions are confined to prisons. Both institutions, however, the nuclear family and the prison, are equally in crisis, in the sense that the place of their effectivity is increasingly indeterminate. One should not think that the crisis of the nuclear family has brought a decline in the forces of patriarchy. On the contrary, discourses and practices of "family values" seem to be everywhere across the social field. The old feminist slogan "The personal is the political" has been reversed in such a way that the boundaries between public and private have fractured, unleashing circuits of control throughout the "intimate public sphere."[19] In a similar way the crisis of the prison means that carceral logics and techniques have increasingly spread to other domains of society. The production of subjectivity in imperial society tends not to be limited to any specific places. One is always still in the family, always still in school, always still in prison, and so forth. In the general breakdown, then, the functioning of the institutions is both more intensive and more extensive. The institutions work even though they are breaking down-and perhaps they work all the better the more they break down. The indefiniteness of the place of the production corresponds to the indeterminacy of the form of the subjectivities produced. The imperial social institutions might be seen, then, in a fluid process of the generation and corruption of subjectivity.
This passage is not isolated to the dominant countries and regions, but tends to be generalized to different degrees across the world. The apologia of colonial administration always celebrated its establishment of social and political institutions in the colonies, institutions that would constitute the backbone of a new civil society. Whereas in the process of modernization the most powerful countries export institutional forms to the subordinated ones, in the present process of postmodernization, what is exported is the general crisis of the institutions. The Empire's institutional structure is like a software program that carries a virus along with it, so that it is continually modulating and corrupting the institutional forms around it. The imperial society of control is tendentially everywhere the order of the day.
The Triple Imperative of Empire
The general apparatus of imperial command actually consists of three distinct moments: one inclusive, another differential, and a third managerial. The first moment is the magnanimous, liberal face of Empire. All are welcome within its boundaries, regardless of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth. In its inclusionary moment Empire is blind to differences; it is absolutely indifferent in its acceptance. It achieves universal inclusion by setting aside differences that are inflexible or unmanageable and thus might give rise to social conflict.[20] Setting aside differences requires us to regard differences as inessential or relative and imagine a situation not in which they do not exist but rather in which we are ignorant of them. A veil of ignorance prepares a universal acceptance. When Empire is blind to these differences and when it forces its constituents to set them aside, there can exist an overlapping consensus across the entire imperial space. Setting aside differences means, in effect, taking away the potential of the various constituent subjectivities. The resulting public space of power neutrality makes possible the establishment and legitimation of a universal notion of right that forms the core of the Empire. The law of inclusionary neutral indifference is a universal foundation in the sense that it applies equally to all subjects that exist and that could exist under imperial rule. In this first moment, then, the Empire is a machine for universal integration, an open mouth with infinite appetite, inviting all to come peacefully within its domain. (Give me your poor, your hungry, your downtrodden masses . . .) The Empire does not fortify its boundaries to push others away, but rather pulls them within its pacific order, like a powerful vortex. With boundaries and differences suppressed or set aside, the Empire is a kind of smooth space across which subjectivities glide without substantial resistance or conflict.
The second moment of imperial control, its differential moment, involves the affirmation of differences accepted within the imperial realm. While from the juridical perspective differences must be set aside, from the cultural perspective differences are celebrated. Since these differences are considered now to be cultural and contingent rather than biological and essential, they are thought not to impinge on the central band of commonality or overlapping consensus that characterizes the Empire's inclusionary mechanism. They are nonconflictual differences, the kind of differences we might set aside when necessary. For example, since the end of the cold war, ethnic identities have been actively (re)created in the socialist and formerly socialist countries with the firm support of the United States, the U.N., and other global bodies. Local languages, traditional place-names, arts, handcrafts, and so forth are celebrated as important components of the transition from socialism to capitalism.[21] These differences are imagined to be "cultural" rather than "political," under the assumption that they will not lead to uncontrollable conflicts but will function, rather, as a force of peaceful regional identification. In a similar fashion, many official promotions of multiculturalism in the United States involve the celebration of traditional ethnic and cultural differences under the umbrella of universal inclusion. In general, Empire does not create differences. It takes what it is given and works with it.
The differential moment of imperial control must be followed by the management and hierarchization of these differences in a general economy of command. Whereas colonial power sought to fix pure, separate identities, Empire thrives on circuits of movement and mixture. The colonial apparatus was a kind of mold that forged fixed, distinct castings, but the imperial society of control functions through modulation, "like a self-deforming cast that changes continually, from one instant to the next, or like a sieve whose pattern changes from one point to the next."[22] The colonial poses a simple equation with a unique solution; the imperial is faced by multiple complex variables that change continuously and admit a variety of always incomplete but nonetheless effective solutions.
In a certain sense, then, the colonial might be considered more ideological and the imperial more pragmatic. Consider as an example of imperial strategy the practice of New England factories and Appalachian coal mines at the beginning of the twentieth century. The factories and mines were dependent on the labor of recent immigrants from various European countries, many of whom carried with them traditions of intense worker militancy. Bosses, however, did not shy away from bringing together this potentially explosive mixture of workers. They found, in fact, that carefully managed proportions of workers from different national backgrounds in each workshop and each mine proved to be a powerful formula of command. The linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences within each work force were stabilizing because they could be used as a weapon to combat worker organization. It was in the bosses' interest that the melting pot not dissolve identities and that each ethnic group continue to live in a separate community maintaining its differences. A very similar strategy can be seen in the more recent practices of labor management on a Central American banana plantation.[23] Multiple ethnic divisions among the workers function as an element of control in the labor process. The transnational corporation addresses with different methods and degrees of exploitation and repression each of the ethnic groups of workers-variously of European and African descent and from different Amerindian groups. Antagonisms and divisions among the workers along the various lines of ethnicity and identification prove to enhance profit and facilitate control. Complete cultural assimilation (in contrast to juridical integration) is certainly not a priority of imperial strategy. The reemergence of ethnic and national differences at the end of the twentieth century, not only in Europe but also in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, has presented Empire with an even more complex equation containing a myriad of variables that are in a constant state of flux. That this equation does not have a unique solution is not really a problem-on the contrary. Contingency, mobility, and flexibility are Empire's real power. The imperial "solution" will not be to negate or attenuate these differences, but rather to affirm them and arrange them in an effective apparatus of command.
"Divide and conquer" is thus not really the correct formulation of imperial strategy. More often than not, the Empire does not create division but rather recognizes existing or potential differences, celebrates them, and manages them within a general economy of command. The triple imperative of the Empire is incorporate, differentiate, manage.
From Crisis to Corruption
At the beginning of Part 2 we elaborated a notion of modern sovereignty as crisis: a crisis defined in the continual conflict between, on the one hand, the plane of immanent forces of the desire and cooperation of the multitude and, on the other hand, the transcendent authority that seeks to contain these forces and impose an order on them. We can now see that imperial sovereignty, in contrast, is organized not around one central conflict but rather through a flexible network of microconflicts. The contradictions of imperial society are elusive, proliferating, and nonlocalizable: the contradictions are everywhere. Rather than crisis, then, the concept that defines imperial sovereignty might be omni-crisis, or, as we prefer, corruption. It is a commonplace of the classical literature on Empire, from Polybius to Montesquieu and Gibbon, that Empire is from its inception decadent and corrupt.
This terminology might easily be misunderstood. It is important to make clear that we in no way intend our definition of imperial sovereignty as corruption to be a moral charge. In its contemporary and modern usage, corruption has indeed become a poor concept for our purposes. It now commonly refers only to the perverted, that which strays from the moral, the good, the pure. We intend the concept rather to refer to a more general process of decomposition or mutation with none of the moral overtones, drawing on an ancient usage that has been largely lost. Aristotle, for example, understands corruption as a becoming of bodies that is a process complementary to generation.[24] We might think of corruption, then, as de-generation-a reverse process of generation and composition, a moment of metamorphosis that potentially frees spaces for change. We have to forget all the commonplace images that come to mind when we refer to imperial decadence, corruption, and degeneration. Such moralism is completely misplaced here. More important is a strict argument about form, in other words, that Empire is characterized by a fluidity of form-an ebb and flow of formation and deformation, generation and degeneration. To say that imperial sovereignty is defined by corruption means, on the one hand, that Empire is impure or hybrid and, on the other, that imperial rule functions by breaking down. (Here the Latin etymology is precise: cum-rumpere, to break.) Imperial society is always and everywhere breaking down, but this does not mean that it is necessarily heading to ruin. Just as the crisis of modernity in our characterization did not point to any imminent or necessary collapse, so too the corruption of Empire does not indicate any teleology or any end in sight. In other words, the crisis of modern sovereignty was not temporary or exceptional (as one would refer to the stock market crash of 1929 as a crisis), but rather the norm of modernity. In a similar way, corruption is not an aberration of imperial sovereignty but its very essence and modus operandi. The imperial economy, for example, functions precisely through corruption, and it cannot function otherwise. There is certainly a tradition that views corruption as the tragic flaw of Empire, the accident without which Empire would have triumphed: think of Shakespeare and Gibbon as two very different examples. We see corruption, rather, not as accidental but as necessary. Or, more accurately, Empire requires that all relations be accidental. Imperial power is founded on the rupture of every determinate ontological relationship. Corruption is simply the sign of the absence of any ontology. In the ontological vacuum, corruption becomes necessary, objective. Imperial sovereignty thrives on the proliferating contradictions corruption gives rise to; it is stabilized by its instabilities, by its impurities and admixture; it is calmed by the panic and anxieties it continually engenders. Corruption names the perpetual process of alteration and metamorphosis, the antifoundational foundation, the deontological mode of being.
Wehave thus arrived at a series of distinctions that conceptually mark the passage from modern to imperial sovereignty: from the people to the multitude, from dialectical opposition to the management of hybridities, from the place of modern sovereignty to the non-place of Empire, from crisis to corruption.
REFUSAL
Bartleby would prefer not to. The mystery of Herman Melville's classic story is the absoluteness of the refusal. When his boss asks him to perform his duties, Bartleby calmly repeats over and over, "I would prefer not to." Melville's character fits in with a long tradition of the refusal of work. Any worker with any sense, of course, wants to refuse the authority of the boss, but Bartleby takes it to the extreme. He does not object to this or that task, nor does he offer any reason for his refusal-he just passively and absolutely declines. Bartleby's behavior is indeed disarming, in part because he is so calm and serene, but moreover because his refusal is so indefinite that it becomes absolute. He simply prefers not to.
Given Melville's great penchant for metaphysics, it is no wonder that Bartleby solicits ontological interpretations.[1] His refusal is so absolute that Bartleby appears completely blank, a man without qualities or, as Renaissance philosophers would say, homo tantum, mere man and nothing more. Bartleby in his pure passivity and his refusal of any particulars presents us with a figure of generic being, being as such, being and nothing more. And in the course of the story he strips down so much-approximating ever more closely naked humanity, naked life, naked being-that eventually he withers away, evaporates in the bowels of the infamous Manhattan prison, the Tombs.
Michael K, the central character in J. M. Coetzee's wonderful novel The Life and Times of Michael K, is also a figure of absolute refusal. But whereas Bartleby is immobile, almost petrified in his pure passivity, K is always on his feet, always moving. Michael K is a gardener, a simple man, so simple that he appears to be not of this world. In a fictional country divided by civil war, he is continually stopped by the cages, barriers, and checkpoints erected by authority, but he manages quietly to refuse them, to keep moving. Michael K does not keep moving just for the sake of perpetual motion. The barriers do not just block motion, they seem to stop life, and thus he refuses them absolutely in order to keep life in motion. What he really wants is to grow pumpkins and tend to their wandering vines. K's refusal of authority is as absolute as Bartleby's, and that very absoluteness and simplicity situate him, too, on a level of ontological purity. K also approaches the level of naked universality: "a human soul above and beneath classification,"[2] being simply homo tantum.
These simple men and their absolute refusals cannot but appeal to our hatred of authority. The refusal of work and authority, or really the refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of liberatory politics. Long ago tienne de La Bo‚tie preached just such a politics of refusal: "Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces."[3] La Bo‚tie recognized the political power of refusal, the power of subtracting ourselves from the relationship of domination, and through our exodus subverting the sovereign power that lords over us. Bartleby and Michael K continue La Bo‚tie's politics of the refusal of voluntary servitude, carrying it to the absolute.
This refusal certainly is the beginning of a liberatory politics, but it is only a beginning. The refusal in itself is empty. Bartleby and Michael K may be beautiful souls, but their being in its absolute purity hangs on the edge of an abyss. Their lines of flight from authority are completely solitary, and they continuously tread on the verge of suicide. In political terms, too, refusal in itself (of work, authority, and voluntary servitude) leads only to a kind of social suicide. As Spinoza says, if we simply cut the tyrannical head off the social body, we will be left with the deformed corpse of society. What we need is to create a new social body, which is a project that goes well beyond refusal. Our lines of flight, our exodus must be constituent and create a real alternative. Beyond the simple refusal, or as part of that refusal, we need also to construct a new mode of life and above all a new community. This project leads not toward the naked life of homo tantum but toward homohomo, humanity squared, enriched by the collective intelligence and love of the community.
INTERMEZZO - COUNTER-EMPIRE
While this Heavenly City is on pilgrimage on earth, it calls out all peoples and so collects a society of aliens, speaking all languages.
Saint Augustine
We want to destroy all the ridiculous monuments "to those who have died for the fatherland" that stare down at us in every village, and in their place erect monuments to the deserters. The monuments to the deserters will represent also those who died in the war because every one of them died cursing the war and envying the happiness of the deserter. Resistance is born of desertion.
Antifascist partisan, Venice, 1943
We have now arrived at a turning point in our argument. The trajectory we have traced up until now-from our recognition of modernity as crisis to our analyses of the first articulations of a new imperial form of sovereignty-has allowed us to understand the transformations of the constitution of world order. But that order would be merely a hollow husk ifwe were not to designate also a new regime of production. Furthermore, we have not yet been able to give any coherent indication of what type of political subjectivities might contest and overthrow the forces of Empire, because those subjectivities will arrive only on the terrain of production. It is as if at this point we can see only shadows of the figures that will animate our future. Let us therefore descend into the hidden abode of production to see the figures at work there.
Even when we manage to touch on the productive, ontological dimension of the problematic and the resistances that arise there, however, we will still not be in the position-not even at the end of this book-to point to any already existing and concrete elaboration of a political alternative to Empire. And no such effective blueprint will ever arise from a theoretical articulation such as ours. It will arise only in practice. At a certain point in his thinking Marx needed the Paris Commune in order to make the leap and conceive communism in concrete terms as an effective alternative to capitalist society. Some such experiment or series of experiments advanced through the genius of collective practice will certainly be necessary today to take that next concrete step and create a new social body beyond Empire.
One Big Union!
Our study set out from the hypothesis that the power of Empire and the mechanisms of imperial sovereignty can be understood only when confronted on the most general scale, in their globality. We believe that toward the end of challenging and resisting Empire and its world market, it is necessary to pose any alternative at an equally global level. Any proposition of a particular community in isolation, defined in racial, religious, or regional terms, "delinked" from Empire, shielded from its powers by fixed boundaries, is destined to end up as a kind of ghetto. Empire cannot be resisted by a project aimed at a limited, local autonomy. We cannot move back to any previous social form, nor move forward in isolation. Rather, we must push through Empire to come out the other side. Deleuze and Guattari argued that rather than resist capital's globalization, we have to accelerate the process. "But which," they ask, "is the revolutionary path? Is there one?-To withdraw from the world market . . ? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization?"[1] Empire can be effectively contested only on its own level of generality and by pushing the processes that it offers past their present limitations. We have to accept that challenge and learn to think globally and act globally. Globalization must be met with a counter-globalization, Empire with a counter-Empire.
In this regard we might take inspiration from Saint Augustine's vision of a project to contest the decadent Roman Empire. No limited community could succeed and provide an alternative to imperial rule; only a universal, catholic community bringing together all populations and all languages in a common journey could accomplish this. The divine city is a universal city of aliens, coming together, cooperating, communicating. Our pilgrimage on earth, however, in contrast to Augustine's, has no transcendent telos beyond; it is and remains absolutely immanent. Its continuous movement, gathering aliens in community, making this world its home, is both means and end, or rather a means without end. From this perspective the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is the great Augustinian project of modern times. In the first decades of the twentieth century the Wobblies, as they were called, organized powerful strikes and rebellions across the United States, from Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey, to Everett, Washington.[2] The perpetual movement of the Wobblies was indeed an immanent pilgrimage, creating a new society in the shell of the old, without establishing fixed and stable structures of rule. (In fact, the primary criticism of the IWW from the official Left was and continues to be that its strikes, though powerful and often victorious, never left behind durable union structures.) The Wobblies had extraordinary success among the vast and mobile immigrant populations because they spoke all the languages of that hybrid labor force. The two accepted stories of the derivation of the name "Wobbly" illustrate these two central characteristics of the movement, its organizational mobility and its ethnic-linguistic hybridity: first, Wobbly is supposed to refer to the lack of a center, the flexible and unpredictable pilgrimage of IWW militancy; and second, the name is said to derive from the mispronunciation of a Chinese cook in Seattle, "I Wobbly Wobbly." The primary focus of the IWW was the universality of its project. Workers of all languages and races across the world (although in fact they only made it as far as Mexico) and workers of all trades should come together in "One Big Union."
Taking our cue from the IWW, and clearly departing from Augustine in this regard, we would cast our political vision in line with the radical republican tradition of modern democracy. What does it mean to be republican today? What sense can it have in the postmodern era to take up that antagonistic position that constituted a radically democratic alternative within modernity? Where is the standpoint from which critique can be possible and effective? In this passage from modernity to postmodernity, is there still a place from which we can launch our critique and construct an alternative? Or, ifwe are consigned to the non-place of Empire, can we construct a powerful non-place and realize it concretely, as the terrain of a postmodern republicanism?
The Non-Place of Exploitation
In order to address this problematic, allow us a briefdigression. We mentioned earlier that Marx's theoretical method, in line with the tradition of modern critiques of modernity, is situated in the dialectic between inside and outside. Proletarian struggles constitute -in real, ontological terms-the motor of capitalist development. They constrain capital to adopt ever higher levels of technology and thus transform labor processes.[3] The struggles force capital continually to reform the relations of production and transform the relations of domination. From manufacturing to large-scale industry, from finance capital to transnational restructuring and the globalization of the market, it is always the initiatives of organized labor power that determine the figure of capitalist development. Through this history the place of exploitation is a dialectically determined site. Labor power is the most internal element, the very source of capital. At the same time, however, labor power represents capital's outside, that is, the place where the proletariat recognizes its own use value, its own autonomy, and where it grounds its hope for liberation. The refusal of exploitation-or really resistance, sabotage, insubordination, rebellion, and revolution-constitutes the motor force of the reality we live, and at the same time is its living opposition. In Marx's thought the relationship between the inside and the outside of capitalist development is completely determined in the dual standpoint of the proletariat, both inside and outside capital. This spatial configuration has led to many political positions founded on the dream of affirming the place of use value, pure and separate from exchange value and capitalist relations.
In the contemporary world this spatial configuration has changed. On the one hand, the relations of capitalist exploitation are expanding everywhere, not limited to the factory but tending to occupy the entire social terrain. Onthe other hand, social relations completely invest the relations of production, making impossible any externality between social production and economic production. The dialectic between productive forces and the system of domination no longer has a determinate place. The very qualities of labor power (difference, measure, and determination) can no longer be grasped, and similarly, exploitation can no longer be localized and quantified. In effect, the object of exploitation and domination tend not to be specific productive activities but the universal capacity to produce, that is, abstract social activity and its comprehensive power. This abstract labor is an activity without place, and yet it is very powerful. It is the cooperating set of brains and hands, minds and bodies; it is both the non-belonging and the creative social diffusion of living labor; it is the desire and the striving of the multitude of mobile and flexible workers; and at the same time it is intellectual energy and linguistic and communicative construction of the multitude of intellectual and affective laborers.[4]
The inside defined by use value and the outside of exchange value are nowhere to be found, and hence any politics of use value, which was always based on an illusion of separability, is now definitely inconceivable. That does not mean, however, that production and exploitation have ceased. Neither have innovation and development nor the continuous restructuring of relations of power come to an end. On the contrary, today more than ever, as productive forces tend to be completely de-localized, completely universal, they produce not only commodities but also rich and powerful social relationships. These new productive forces have no place, however, because they occupy all places, and they produce and are exploited in this indefinite non-place. The universality of human creativity, the synthesis of freedom, desire, and living labor, is what takes place in the non-place of the postmodern relations of production. Empire is the non-place of world production where labor is exploited. By contrast, and with no possible homology with Empire, here we find again the revolutionary formalism of modern republicanism. This is still a formalism because it is without place, but it is a potent formalism now that it is recognized not as abstracted from the individual and collective subjects but as the general power that constitutes their bodies and minds. The non-place has a brain, heart, torso, and limbs, globally.
Being-Against: Nomadism, Desertion, Exodus
This recognition takes us back to the initial question: What does it mean to be republican today? We have already seen that the modern critical response of opening the dialectic between inside and outside is no longer possible. An effective notion of postmodern republicanism will have to be constructed au milieu, on the basis of the lived experience of the global multitude. One element we can put our finger on at the most basic and elemental level is the will to be against. In general, the will to be against does not seem to require much explanation. Disobedience to authority is one of the most natural and healthy acts. To us it seems completely obvious that those who are exploited will resist and-given the necessary conditions-rebel. Today, however, this may not be so obvious. A long tradition of political scientists has said the problem is not why people rebel but why they do not. Or rather, as Deleuze and Guattari say, "the fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): 'Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?'"[5] The first question of political philosophy today is not ifor even why there will be resistance and rebellion, but rather how to determine the enemy against which to rebel. Indeed, often the inability to identify the enemy is what leads the will to resistance around in such paradoxical circles. The identification of the enemy, however, is no small task given that exploitation tends no longer to have a specific place and that we are immersed in a system of power so deep and complex that we can no longer determine specific difference or measure. We suffer exploitation, alienation, and command as enemies, but we do not know where to locate the production of oppression. And yet we still resist and struggle.
One should not exaggerate these logical paradoxes. Even though on the new terrain of Empire exploitation and domination often cannot be defined in specific places, they nonetheless exist. The globality of the command they impose represents the inverted image-something like a photo negative-of the generality of the multitude's productive activities. And yet, this inverted relation between imperial power and the power of the multitude does not indicate any homology. In effect, imperial power can no longer discipline the powers of the multitude; it can only impose control over their general social and productive capacities. From the economic point of view, the wage regime is replaced, as a function of regulation, by a flexible and global monetary system; normative command is replaced by the procedures of control and the police; and the exercise of domination is formed through communicative networks. This is how exploitation and domination constitute a general non-place on the imperial terrain. Although exploitation and domination are still experienced concretely, on the flesh of the multitude, they are nonetheless amorphous in such a way that it seems there is no place left to hide. If there is no longer a place that can be recognized as outside, we must be against in every place. This being-against becomes the essential key to every active political position in the world, every desire that is effective-perhaps of democracy itself. The first anti-fascist partisans in Europe, armed deserters confronting their traitorous governments, were aptly called "against-men."[6] Today the generalized being-against of the multitude must recognize imperial sovereignty as the enemy and discover the adequate means to subvert its power.
Here we see once again the republican principle in the very first instance: desertion, exodus, and nomadism. Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the era of imperial control it may be desertion. Whereas beingagainst in modernity often meant a direct and/or dialectical opposition of forces, in postmodernity being-against might well be most effective in an oblique or diagonal stance. Battles against the Empire might be won through subtraction and defection. This desertion does not have a place; it is the evacuation of the places of power. Throughout the history of modernity, the mobility and migration of the labor force have disrupted the disciplinary conditions to which workers are constrained. And power has wielded the most extreme violence against this mobility. In this respect slavery can be considered on a continuum with the various wage labor regimes as the most extreme repressive apparatus to block the mobility of the labor force. The history of black slavery in the Americas demonstrates both the vital need to control the mobility of labor and the irrepressible desire to flee on the part of the slaves: from the closed ships of the Middle Passage to the elaborate repressive techniques employed against escaped slaves. Mobility and mass worker nomadism always express a refusal and a search for liberation: the resistance against the horrible conditions of exploitation and the search for freedom and new conditions of life. It would be interesting, in fact, to write a general history of the modes of production from the standpoint of the workers' desire for mobility (from the country to the city, from the city to the metropolis, from one state to another, from one continent to another) rather than running through that development simply from the standpoint of capital's regulation of the technological conditions of labor. This history would substantially reconfigure the Marxian conception of the stages of the organization of labor, which has served as the theoretical framework for numerous authors up to Polanyi.[7]
Today the mobility of labor power and migratory movements is extraordinarily diffuse and difficult to grasp. Even the most significant population movements of modernity (including the black and white Atlantic migrations) constitute lilliputian events with respect to the enormous population transfers of our times. A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along with the flight from the socalled Third World there are flows of political refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and models, which even if they were complete would not explain that irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the consciousness of every individual and social group-and thus a certain hope. Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery.
A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the nineteenth century. "Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises."[8] We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from "socialist discipline," savage mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall.[9] Even though it refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the world.
Numerous republican political projects in modernity assumed mobility as a privileged terrain for struggle and organization: from the so-called Socians of the Renaissance (Tuscan and Lombard artisans and apostles of the Reform who, banished from their own country, fomented sedition against the Catholic nations of Europe, from Italy to Poland) up to the seventeenth-century sects that organized trans-Atlantic voyages in response to the massacres in Europe; and from the agitators of the IWW across the United States in the 1910s up to the European autonomists in the 1970s. In these modern examples, mobility became an active politics and established a political position. This mobility of the labor force and this political exodus have a thousand threads that are interwoven-old traditions and new needs are mixed together, just as the republicanism of modernity and modern class struggle were woven together. Postmodern republicanism, ifit is to arise, must face a similar task.
New Barbarians
Those who are against, while escaping from the local and particular constraints of their human condition, must also continually attempt to construct a new body and a new life. This is a necessarily violent, barbaric passage, but as Walter Benjamin says, it is a positive barbarism: "Barbarisms? Precisely. We affirm this in order to introduce a new, positive notion of barbarism. What does the poverty of experience oblige the barbarian to do? To begin anew, to begin from the new." The new barbarian "sees nothing permanent. But for this very reason he sees ways everywhere. Where others encounter walls or mountains, there, too, he sees a way. But because he sees a way everywhere, he has to clear things from it everywhere . . . Because he sees ways everywhere, he always positions himself at crossroads. No moment can know what the next will bring. What exists he reduces to rubble, not for the sake of the rubble, but for that of the way leading through it."[10] The new barbarians destroy with an affirmative violence and trace new paths of life through their own material existence.
These barbaric deployments work on human relations in general, but we can recognize them today first and foremost in corporeal relations and configurations of gender and sexuality.[11] Conventional norms of corporeal and sexual relations between and within genders are increasingly open to challenge and transformation. Bodies themselves transform and mutate to create new posthuman bodies.[12] The first condition of this corporeal transformation is the recognition that human nature is in no way separate from nature as a whole, that there are no fixed and necessary boundaries between the human and the animal, the human and the machine, the male and the female, and so forth; it is the recognition that nature itself is an artificial terrain open to ever new mutations, mixtures, and hybridizations.[13] Not only do we consciously subvert the traditional boundaries, dressing in drag, for example, but we also move in a creative, indeterminate zone au milieu, in between and without regard for those boundaries. Today's corporeal mutations constitute an anthropological exodus and represent an extraordinarily important, but still quite ambiguous, element of the configuration of republicanism "against" imperial civilization. The anthropological exodus is important primarily because here is where the positive, constructive face of the mutation begins to appear: an ontological mutation in action, the concrete invention of a first new place in the non-place. This creative evolution does not merely occupy any existing place, but rather invents a new place; it is a desire that creates a new body; a metamorphosis that breaks all the naturalistic homologies of modernity.
This notion of anthropological exodus is still very ambiguous, however, because its methods, hybridization and mutation, are themselves the very methods employed by imperial sovereignty. In the dark world of cyberpunk fiction, for example, the freedom of self-fashioning is often indistinguishable from the powers of an allencompassing control.[14] We certainly do need to change our bodies and ourselves, and in perhaps a much more radical way than the cyberpunk authors imagine. In our contemporary world, the now common aesthetic mutations of the body, such as piercings and tattoos, punk fashion and its various imitations, are all initial indications of this corporeal transformation, but in the end they do not hold a candle to the kind of radical mutation needed here. The will to be against really needs a body that is completely incapable of submitting to command. It needs a body that is incapable of adapting to family life, to factory discipline, to the regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth. (If you find your body refusing these "normal" modes of life, don't despair-realize your gift!)[15] In addition to being radically unprepared for normalization, however, the new body must also be able to create a new life. We must go much further to define that new place of the non-place, well beyond the simple experiences of mixture and hybridization, and the experiments that are conducted around them. We have to arrive at constituting a coherent political artifice, an artificial becoming in the sense that the humanists spoke of a homohomo produced by art and knowledge, and that Spinoza spoke of a powerful body produced by that highest consciousness that is infused with love. The infinite paths of the barbarians must form a new mode of life. Such transformations will always remain weak and ambiguous, however, so long as they are cast only in terms of form and order. Hybridity itself is an empty gesture, and the mere refusal of order simply leaves us on the edge of nothingness-or worse, these gestures risk reinforcing imperial power rather than challenging it. The new politics is given real substance only when we shift our focus from the question of form and order to the regimes and practices of production. On the terrain of production we will be able to recognize that this mobility and artificiality do not merely represent the exceptional experiences of small privileged groups but indicate, rather, the common productive experience of the multitude. As early as the nineteenth century, proletarians were recognized as the nomads of the capitalist world.[16] Even when their lives remain fixed in one geographical location (as is most often the case), their creativity and productivity define corporeal and ontological migrations. The anthropological metamorphoses of bodies are established through the common experience of labor and the new technologies that have constitutive effects and ontological implications. Tools have always functioned as human prostheses, integrated into our bodies through our laboring practices as a kind of anthropological mutation both in individual terms and in terms of collective social life. The contemporary form of exodus and the new barbarian life demand that tools become poietic prostheses, liberating us from the conditions of modern humanity. To go back to the Marxian digression we made earlier, when the dialectic between inside and outside comes to an end, and when the separate place of use value disappears from the imperial terrain, the new forms of labor power are charged with the task of producing anew the human (or really the posthuman). This task will be accomplished primarily through the new and increasingly immaterial forms of affective and intellectual labor power, in the community that they constitute, in the artificiality that they present as a project.
With this passage the deconstructive phase of critical thought, which from Heidegger and Adorno to Derrida provided a powerful instrument for the exit from modernity, has lost its effectiveness.[17] It is now a closed parenthesis and leaves us faced with a new task: constructing, in the non-place, a new place; constructing ontologically new determinations of the human, of living-a powerful artificiality of being. Donna Haraway's cyborg fable, which resides at the ambiguous boundary between human, animal, and machine, introduces us today, much more effectively than deconstruction, to these new terrains of possibility-but we should remember that this is a fable and nothing more. The force that must instead drive forward theoretical practice to actualize these terrains of potential metamorphosis is still (and ever more intensely) the common experience of the new productive practices and the concentration of productive labor on the plastic and fluid terrain of the new communicative, biological, and mechanical technologies. Being republican today, then, means first of all struggling within and constructing against Empire, on its hybrid, modulating terrains. And here we should add, against all moralisms and all positions of resentment and nostalgia, that this new imperial terrain provides greater possibilities for creation and liberation. The multitude, in its will to be-against and its desire for liberation, must push through Empire to come out the other side.
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