Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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The danger of the discourse of general intellect is that it risks remaining entirely on the plane of thought, as if the new powers of labor were only intellectual and not also corporeal (Section 3.4). As we saw earlier, new forces and new positions of affective labor characterize labor power as much as intellectual labor does. Biopower names these productive capacities of life that are equally intellectual and corporeal. The powers of production are in fact today entirely biopolitical; in other words, they run throughout and constitute directly not only production but also the entire realm of reproduction. Biopower becomes an agent of production when the entire context of reproduction is subsumed under capitalist rule, that is, when reproduction and the vital relationships that constitute it themselves become directly productive. Biopower is another name for the real subsumption of society under capital, and both are synonymous with the globalized productive order. Production fills the surfaces of Empire; it is a machine that is full of life, an intelligent life that by expressing itself in production and reproduction as well as in circulation (of labor, affects, and languages) stamps society with a new collective meaning and recognizes virtue and civilization in cooperation.
The powers of science, knowledge, affect, and communication are the principal powers that constitute our anthropological virtuality and are deployed on the surfaces of Empire. This deployment extends across the general linguistic territories that characterize the intersections between production and life. Labor becomes increasingly immaterial and realizes its value through a singular and continuous process of innovation in production; it is increasingly capable of consuming or using the services of social reproduction in an ever more refined and interactive way. Intelligence and affect (or really the brain coextensive with the body), just when they become the primary productive powers, make production and life coincide across the terrain on which they operate, because life is nothing other than the production and reproduction of the set of bodies and brains.
The relationship between production and life has thus been altered such that it is now completely inverted with respect to how the discipline of political economy understands it. Life is no longer produced in the cycles of reproduction that are subordinated to the working day; on the contrary, life is what infuses and dominates all production. In fact, the value of labor and production is determined deep in the viscera of life. Industry produces no surplus except what is generated by social activity-and this is why, buried in the great whale of life, value is beyond measure. There would be no surplus ifproduction were not animated throughout by social intelligence, by the general intellect and at the same time by the affective expressions that define social relations and rule over the articulations of social being. The excess of value is determined today in the affects, in the bodies crisscrossed by knowledge, in the intelligence of the mind, and in the sheer power to act. The production of commodities tends to be accomplished entirely through language, where by language we mean machines of intelligence that are continuously renovated by the affects and subjective passions.[19]
It should be clear at this point what constitutes social cooperation here on the surfaces of imperial society: the synergies of life, or really the productive manifestations of naked life. Giorgio Agamben has used the term "naked life" to refer to the negative limit of humanity and to expose behind the political abysses that modern totalitarianism has constructed the (more or less heroic) conditions of human passivity.[20] We would say, on the contrary, that through their monstrosities of reducing human beings to a minimal naked life, fascism and Nazism tried in vain to destroy the enormous power that naked life could become and to expunge the form in which the new powers of productive cooperation of the multitude are accumulated. One might say in line with this idea that the reactionary deliriums of fascism and Nazism were unleashed when capital discovered that social cooperation was no longer the result of the investment of capital but rather an autonomous power, the a priori of every act of production. When human power appears immediately as an autonomous cooperating collective force, capitalist prehistory comes to an end. In other words, capitalist prehistory comes to an end when social and subjective cooperation is no longer a product but a presupposition, when naked life is raised up to the dignity of productive power, or really when it appears as the wealth of virtuality.
The scientific, affective, and linguistic forces of the multitude aggressively transform the conditions of social production. The field on which productive forces are reappropriated by the multitude is a field of radical metamorphoses-the scene of a demiurgic operation. This consists above all in a complete revision of the production of cooperative subjectivity; it consists in an act, that is, of merging and hybridizing with the machines that the multitude has reappropriated and reinvented; it consists, therefore, in an exodus that is not only spatial but also mechanical in the sense that the subject is transformed into (and finds the cooperation that constitutes it multiplied in) the machine. This is a new form of exodus, an exodus toward (or with) the machine-a machinic exodus.[21] The history of the modern worker and of the subject of modern sovereignty already contains a long catalogue of machinic metamorphoses, but the hybridization of humans and machines is no longer defined by the linear path it followed throughout the modern period. We have reached the moment when the relationship of power that had dominated the hybridizations and machinic metamorphoses can now be overturned. Marx recognized that the conflict between workers and machines was a false conflict: "It took both time and experience before the workers learnt to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and therefore to transfer their attacks from the material instruments of production to the form of society which utilizes these instruments."[22] Now the new virtualities, the naked life of the present, have the capacity to take control of the processes of machinic metamorphosis. In Empire the political struggle over the definition of machinic virtuality, or really over the different alternatives of the passage between the virtual and the real, is a central terrain of struggle. This new terrain of production and life opens for labor a future of metamorphoses that subjective cooperation can and must control ethically, politically, and productively.
Res Gestae/Machinae
In recent years there has been much talk of the end of history, and there have also been made many justified objections to the reactionary celebrations of an end of history that would see the present state of rule as eternal. It is certainly true, nonetheless, that in modernity the power of capital and its institutions of sovereignty had a solid hold on history and exerted their rule over the historical process. The virtual powers of the multitude in postmodernity signal the end of that rule and those institutions. That history has ended. Capitalist rule is revealed as a transitory period. And yet, if the transcendent teleology that capitalist modernity constructed is coming to an end, how can the multitude define instead a materialist telos?[23]
We will be able to respond to this question only after conducting a phenomenological and historical analysis of the relationship between virtuality and possibility, that is, after responding to the question if, how, and when the virtuality of the multitude passes through possibility and becomes reality. The ontology of the possible is in this sense the central terrain of analysis. This problematic has been posed by authors from Lukaïcs to Benjamin, from Adorno to the later Wittgenstein, from Foucault to Deleuze, and indeed by nearly all those who have recognized the twilight of modernity. In all of these cases the question was posed against such tremendous metaphysical obstacles! And we can now see how pallid their responses were with respect to the enormity of the question. What is certain today is that the problematic does not risk repeating the old models of the metaphysical tradition, even the most powerful ones. In fact, every metaphysical tradition is now completely worn out. If there is to be a solution to the problem, it cannot help being material and explosive. Whereas our attention was first drawn to the intensity of the elements of virtuality that constituted the multitude, now it must focus on the hypothesis that those virtualities accumulate and reach a threshold of realization adequate to their power. This is the sense in which we speak of general intellect and its articulations in knowledge, affect, and cooperation; and similarly the sense in which we speak of the various forms of the collective exodus of those nomadic movements of the multitude that appropriate spaces and renew them.
Here we are dealing with two passages. The first consists in the fact that virtuality totalizes the field of the res gestae. Virtuality steps forward and demonstrates that the capacity of the historia rerum gestarum to dominate the active virtual singularities has definitively expired. This is the historia that comes to an end when the new virtualities emerge as powerful and liberate themselves from a being that is invested hegemonically by capital and its institutions. Today only the res gestae are charged with historical capacities, or rather, today there is no history, only historicity. The second passage consists in the fact that these singular virtualities as they gain their autonomy also become self-valorizing. They express themselves as machines of innovation. They not only refuse to be dominated by the old systems of value and exploitation, but actually create their own irreducible possibilities as well. Here is where a materialist telos is defined, founded on the action of singularities, a teleology that is a resultant of the res gestae and a figure of the machinic logic of the multitude.
The res gestae, the singular virtualities that operate the connection between the possible and the real, are in the first passage outside measure and in the second beyond measure. Singular virtualities, which are the hinge between possible and real, play both these cards: being outside measure as a destructive weapon (deconstructive in theory and subversive in practice); and being beyond measure as constituent power. The virtual and the possible are wedded as irreducible innovation and as a revolutionary machine.
4.2 - GENERATION AND CORRUPTION
You can not spill a drop of american blood without spilling the blood of the whole world . . . [O]ur blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world; for unless we may claim all the world for our sire, like Melchisedec, we are without mother or father . . . Our ancestry is lost in the universal paternity . . . We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance.
Herman Melville
Fate has willed it that America is from now on to be at the center of Western civilization rather than on the periphery.
Walter Lippmann
There is no escaping American business.
Louis-Ferdinand C‚line
The theory of the constitution of Empire is also a theory of its decline, as European theorists of Empire have recognized for the last several thousand years. Already in Greco-Roman antiquity, Thucydides, Tacitus, and Polybius all recounted the sequence of rise and fall, as did later the Fathers of the Church and the theorists of early Christianity. In none of these cases when speaking of Empire was it simply a matter for them of repeating the classical theory of the alternation between "positive" and "negative" forms of government, because Empire by definition goes beyond this alternation. The internal crisis of the concept of Empire, however, became completely clear only in the Enlightenment period and the period of the construction of European modernity, when authors such as Montesquieu and Gibbon made the problem of the decadence of the Roman Empire one of the central topoi of the analysis of the political forms of the modern sovereign state.[1]
Rise and Fall (Machiavelli)
In classical antiquity the concept of Empire already presupposed crisis. Empire was conceived in the framework of a naturalist theory of the forms of government; and, even though it breaks the cyclical alternation of good and bad forms, it is not exempt from the destiny of the corruption of the city and civilization as a whole. History is dominated by Thyche (Fortune or Destiny), which at times inevitably ruins the perfection that Empire achieves. From Thucydides to Tacitus and from Athens to Rome, the necessary equilibrium between the forms of common life and command was situated in this linear destiny. Polybius' analyses of the Roman Empire broke with this conception of the cyclical character of historical development whereby the human construction of the political constantly shifts from the good to the bad forms of the city and power: from monarchy to tyranny, from aristocracy to oligarchy, and from democracy to anarchy, and then eventually begins a new cycle. Polybius claimed that the Roman Empire broke with this cycle by creating a synthesis of the good forms of power (see Section 3.5). Empire is thus understood not so much as rule over universal space and time, but rather as a movement that gathers together the spaces and the temporalities through the powers of the social forces that seek to liberate themselves from the natural cyclical character of the time of history. Surpassing the line of destiny, however, is aleatory. The synthesis of the good forms of government, the government of civic virtue, can defy destiny but cannot replace it. Crisis and decline are determinations that every day must be overcome.
During the European Enlightenment, authors such as Montesquieu and Gibbon rejected the naturalist conception of this process. The decline of Empire was explained in social scientific terms as a result of the impossibility of making last the historical and social constructions of the multitude and the virtue of its heroes. The corruption and decline of Empire were thus not a natural presupposition, determined by the cyclical destiny of history, but rather a product of the human impossibility (or at least the extreme difficulty) of governing an unlimited space and time. The limitlessness of Empire undermined the capacity to make the good institutions function and last. Nonetheless, Empire was an end toward which the desire and the civic virtue of the multitude and its human capacities to make history all tended. It was a precarious situation that could not support unbounded space and time, but instead ineluctably limited the universal aims of government to finite political and social dimensions. The Enlightenment authors told us that the government that approximates perfection will be constructed with moderation across limited space and time. Between Empire and the reality of command, therefore, there was a contradiction in principle that would inevitably spawn crises.
Machiavelli, looking back at the conception of the ancients and anticipating that of the moderns, is really the one who offers us the most adequate illustration of the paradox of Empire.[2] He clarified the problematic by separating it from both the naturalizing terrain of the ancients and the sociological terrain of the moderns, presenting it, rather, on the field of immanence and pure politics. In Machiavelli, expansive government is pushed forward by the dialectic of the social and political forces of the Republic. Only where the social classes and their political expressions are posed in an open and continuous play of counterpower are freedom and expansion linked together, and hence only there does Empire become possible. There is no concept of Empire, Machiavelli says, that is not a decisively expansive concept of freedom. Precisely in this dialectic of freedom, then, is where the elements of corruption and destruction reside. When Machiavelli discusses the fall of the Roman Empire, he focuses first and foremost on the crisis of civil religion, or really on the decline of the social relation that had unified the different ideological social forces and allowed them to participate together in the open interaction of counterpowers. Christian religion is what destroyed the Roman Empire by destroying the civic passion that pagan society had sustained, the conflictual but loyal participation of the citizens in the continuous perfecting of the constitution and the process of freedom.
The ancient notion of the necessary and natural corruption of the good forms of government is thus radically displaced because they can be evaluated only in relation to the social and political relationship that organized the constitution. The Enlightenment and modern notion of the crisis of unbounded and uncontrollable space and time is similarly displaced because it too was led back to the realm of civic power: on this and no other basis can space and time be evaluated. The alternative is thus not between government and corruption, or between Empire and decline, but between on the one hand socially rooted and expansive government, that is, "civic" and "democratic" government, and on the other every practice of government that grounds its own power on transcendence and repression. We should be clear here that when we speak of the "city" or "democracy" in quotation marks as the basis for the expansive activity of the Republic, and as the only possibility for a lasting Empire, we are introducing a concept of participation that is linked to the vitality of a population and to its capacity to generate a dialectic of counterpowers-a concept, therefore, that has little to do with the classical or the modern concept of democracy. Even the reigns of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane were from this perspective somewhat "democratic," as were Caesar's legions, Napoleon's armies, and the armies of Stalin and Eisenhower, since each of them enabled the participation of a population that supported its expansive action. What is central in all of these cases, and in the general concept of Empire, is that a terrain of immanence be affirmed. Immanence is defined as the absence of every external limit from the trajectories of the action of the multitude, and immanence is tied only, in its affirmations and destructions, to regimes of possibility that constitute its formation and development.
Here we find ourselves back at the center of the paradox by which every theory of Empire conceives the possibility of its own decline-but now we can begin to explain it. IfEmpire is always an absolute positivity, the realization of a government of the multitude, and an absolutely immanent apparatus, then it is exposed to crisis precisely on the terrain of this definition, and not for any other necessity or transcendence opposed to it. Crisis is the sign of an alternative possibility on the plane of immanence-a crisis that is not necessary but always possible. Machiavelli helps us understand this immanent, constitutive, and ontological sense of crisis. Only in the present situation, however, does this coexistence of crisis and the field of immanence become completely clear. Since the spatial and temporal dimensions of political action are no longer the limits but the constructive mechanisms of imperial government, the coexistence of the positive and the negative on the terrain of immanence is now configured as an open alternative. Today the same movements and tendencies constitute both the rise and the decline of Empire.
Finis Europae (Wittgenstein)
The coexistence of the imperial spirit with signs of crisis and decline has appeared in many different guises in European discourse over the past two centuries, often as a reflection either on the end of European hegemony or on the crisis of democracy and the triumph of mass society. We have insisted at length throughout this book that the modern governments of Europe developed not imperial but imperialist forms. The concept of Empire nonetheless survived in Europe, and its lack of reality was continually mourned. The European debates about Empire and decline interest us for two primary reasons: first, because the crisis of the ideal of imperial Europe is at the center of these debates, and second, because this crisis strikes precisely in that secret place of the definition of Empire where the concept of democracy resides. Another element that we have to keep in mind here is the standpoint from which the debates were conducted: a standpoint that adopts the historical drama of the decline of Empire in terms of collective lived experience. The theme of the crisis of Europe was translated into a discourse on the decline of Empire and linked to the crisis of democracy, along with the forms of consciousness and resistance that this crisis implies.
Alexis de Tocqueville was perhaps the first to present the problem in these terms. His analysis of mass democracy in the United States, with its spirit of initiative and expansion, led him to the bitter and prophetic recognition of the impossibility for European elites to continue to maintain a position of command over world civilization.[3] Hegel had already perceived something very similar: "America is . . . the country of the future, and its world-historical importance has yet to be revealed in the ages which lie ahead . . . It is a land of desire for all those who are weary of the historical arsenal of old Europe."[4] Tocqueville, however, understood this passage in a much more profound way. The reason for the crisis of European civilization and its imperial practices consists in the fact that European virtue-or really its aristocratic morality organized in the institutions of modern sovereignty- cannot manage to keep pace with the vital powers of mass democracy. The death of God that many Europeans began to perceive was really a sign of the expiration of their own planetary centrality, which they could understand only in terms of a modern mysticism. From Nietzsche to Burkhardt, from Thomas Mann to Max Weber, from Spengler to Heidegger and Ortega y Gasset, and numerous other authors who straddled the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this intuition became a constant refrain that was sung with such bitterness![5] The appearance of the masses on the social and political scene, the exhaustion of the cultural and productive models of modernity, the waning of the European imperialist projects, and the conflicts among nations on questions of scarcity, poverty, and class struggle: all these emerged as irreversible signs of decline. Nihilism dominated the era because the times were without hope. Nietzsche gave the definitive diagnosis: "Europe is sick."[6] The two World Wars that would ravage its territories, the triumph of fascism, and now, after the collapse of Stalinism, the reappearance of the most terrible specters of nationalism and intolerance all stand as proof to confirm that these intuitions were in fact correct. From our standpoint, however, the fact that against the old powers of Europe a new Empire has formed is only good news. Who wants to see any more of that pallid and parasitic European ruling class that led directly from the ancien r‚gime to nationalism, from populism to fascism, and now pushes for a generalized neoliberalism? Who wants to see more of those ideologies and those bureaucratic apparatuses that have nourished and abetted the rotting European elites? And who can still stand those systems of labor organization and those corporations that have stripped away every vital spirit?
Our task here is not to lament the crisis of Europe, but rather to recognize in its analyses the elements that, while confirming its tendency, still indicate possible resistances, the margins of positive reaction, and the alternatives of destiny. These elements have often appeared almost against the will of the theorists of the crisis of their own times: it is a resistance that leaps to a future time-a real and proper future past, a kind of future perfect tense. In this sense, through the painful analyses of its causes, the crisis of European ideology can reveal the definition of new, open resources. This is why it is important to follow the developments of the crisis of Europe, because not only in authors such as Nietzsche and Weber but also in the public opinion of the times, the denunciation of the crisis revealed an extremely powerful positive side, which contained the fundamental characteristics of the new world Empire we are entering today. The agents of the crisis of the old imperial world became foundations of the new. The undifferentiated mass that by its simple presence was able to destroy the modern tradition and its transcendent power appears now as a powerful productive force and an uncontainable source of valorization. A new vitality, almost like the barbaric forces that buried Rome, reanimates the field of immanence that the death of the European God left us as our horizon. Every theory of the crisis of European Man and of the decline of the idea of European Empire is in some way a symptom of the new vital force of the masses, or as we prefer, of the desire of the multitude. Nietzsche declared this from the mountaintops: "I have absorbed in myself the spirit of Europe-now I want to strike back!"[7] Going beyond modernity means going beyond the barriers and transcendences of Eurocentrism and leads toward the definitive adoption of the field of immanence as the exclusive terrain of the theory and practice of politics.
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