Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri

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At this point, the problem of the new juridical apparatus is presented to us in its most immediate figure: a global order, a justice, and a right that are still virtual but nonetheless apply actually to us. We are forced increasingly to feel that we are participants in this development, and we are called upon to be responsible for what it becomes in this framework. Our citizenship, just like our ethical responsibility, is situated within these new dimensions-our power and our impotence are measured here. We could say, in Kantian fashion, that our internal moral disposition, when it is confronted with and tested in the social order, tends to be determined by the ethical, political, and juridical categories of Empire. Or we could say that the external morality of every human being and citizen is by now commensurable only in the framework of Empire. This new framework forces us to confront a series of explosive aporias, because in this new juridical and institutional world being formed our ideas and practices of justice and our means of hope are thrown into question. The means of the private and individual apprehension of values are dissolved: with the appearance of Empire, we are confronted no longer with the local mediations of the universal but with a concrete universal itself. The domesticity of values, the shelters behind which they presented their moral substance, the limits that protect against the invading exteriority-all that disappears. We are all forced to confront absolute questions and radical alternatives. In Empire, ethics, morality, and justice are cast into new dimensions.
Throughout the course of our research we have found ourselves confronted with a classic problematic of political philosophy: the decline and fall of Empire.[30] It may seem paradoxical that we address this topos at the beginning, at the same time that we treat the initial construction of Empire; but the becoming of Empire is actually realized on the basis of the same conditions that characterize its decadence and decline. Empire is emerging today as the center that supports the globalization of productive networks and casts its widely inclusive net to try to envelop all power relations within its world order-and yet at the same time it deploys a powerful police function against the new barbarians and the rebellious slaves who threaten its order. The power of Empire appears to be subordinated to the fluctuations of local power dynamics and to the shifting, partial juridical orderings that attempt, but never fully succeed, to lead back to a state of normalcy in the name of the "exceptionality" of the administrative procedures. These characteristics, however, were precisely those that defined ancient Rome in its decadence and that tormented so many of its Enlightenment admirers. We should not expect that the complexity of the processes that construct the new imperial relationship of right be resolved. On the contrary, the processes are and will remain contradictory. The question of the definition of justice and peace will find no real resolution; the force of the new imperial constitution will not be embodied in a consensus that is articulated in the multitude. The terms of the juridical proposal of Empire are completely indeterminate, even though they are nonetheless concrete. Empire is born and shows itself as crisis. Should we conceive this as an Empire of decadence, then, in the terms Montesquieu and Gibbon described? Or is it more properly understood in classical terms as an Empire of corruption? Here we should understand corruption first of all not only in moral terms but also in juridical and political terms, because according to Montesquieu and Gibbon, when the different forms of government are not firmly established in the republic, the cycle of corruption is ineluctably set in motion and the community is torn apart.[31] Second, we should understand corruption also in metaphysical terms: where the entity and essence, effectiveness and value, do not find common satisfaction, there develops not generation but corruption.[32] These are some of the fundamental axes of Empire that we will return to later at length.
Allow us, in conclusion, one final analogy that refers to the birth of Christianity in Europe and its expansion during the decline of the Roman Empire. In this process an enormous potential of subjectivity was constructed and consolidated in terms of the prophecy of a world to come, a chiliastic project. This new subjectivity offered an absolute alternative to the spirit of imperial right-a new ontological basis. From this perspective, Empire was accepted as the "maturity of the times" and the unity of the entire known civilization, but it was challenged in its totality by a completely different ethical and ontological axis. In the same way today, given that the limits and unresolvable problems of the new imperial right are fixed, theory and practice can go beyond them, finding once again an ontological basis of antagonism-within Empire, but also against and beyond Empire, at the same level of totality.
The "police" appears as an administration heading the state, together with the judiciary, the army, and the exchequer. True. Yet in fact, it embraces everything else. Turquet says so: "It branches out into all of the people's conditions, everything they do or undertake. Its field comprises the judiciary, finance, and the army." The police includes everything.
Michel Foucault
From the juridical perspective we have been able to glimpse some of the elements of the ideal genesis of Empire, but from that perspective alone it would be difficult if not impossible to understand how the imperial machine is actually set in motion. Juridical concepts and juridical systems always refer to something other than themselves. Through the evolution and exercise of right, they point toward the material condition that defines their purchase on social reality. Our analysis must now descend to the level of that materiality and investigate there the material transformation of the paradigm of rule. We need to discover the means and forces of the production of social reality along with the subjectivities that animate it.
Biopower in the Society of Control
In many respects, the work of Michel Foucault has prepared the terrain for such an investigation of the material functioning of imperial rule. First of all, Foucault's work allows us to recognize a historical, epochal passage in social forms from disciplinary society to the society of control.[1] Disciplinary society is that society in which social command is constructed through a diffuse network of dispositifs or apparatuses that produce and regulate customs, habits, and productive practices. Putting this society to work and ensuring obedience to its rule and its mechanisms of inclusion and/or exclusion are accomplished through disciplinary institutions (the prison, the factory, the asylum, the hospital, the university, the school, and so forth) that structure the social terrain and present logics adequate to the "reason" of discipline. Disciplinary power rules in effect by structuring the parameters and limits of thought and practice, sanctioning and prescribing normal and/or deviant behaviors. Foucault generally refers to the ancien r‚gime and the classical age of French civilization to illustrate the emergence of disciplinarity, but more generally we could say that the entire first phase of capitalist accumulation (in Europe and elsewhere) was conducted under this paradigm of power. We should understand the society of control, in contrast, as that society (which develops at the far edge of modernity and opens toward the postmodern) in which mechanisms of Command become ever more "democratic," ever more immanent to the social field, distributed throughout the brains and bodies of the citizens. The behaviors of social integration and exclusion proper to rule are thus increasingly interiorized within the subjects themselves. Power is now exercised through machines that directly organize the brains (in communication systems, information networks, etc.) and bodies (in welfare systems, monitored activities, etc.) toward a state of autonomous alienation from the sense of life and the desire for creativity. The society of control might thus be characterized by an intensification and generalization of the normalizing apparatuses of disciplinarity that internally animate our common and daily practices, but in contrast to discipline, this control extends well outside the structured sites of social institutions through flexible and fluctuating networks.
Second, Foucault's work allows us to recognize the biopolitical nature of the new paradigm of power.[2] Biopower is a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it, and rearticulating it. Power can achieve an effective command over the entire life of the population only when it becomes an integral, vital function that every individual embraces and reactivates of his or her own accord. As Foucault says, "Life has now become . . . an object of power."[3] The highest function of this power is to invest life through and through, and its primary task is to administer life. Biopower thus refers to a situation in which what is directly at stake in power is the production and reproduction of life itself.
These two lines of Foucault's work dovetail with each other in the sense that only the society of control is able to adopt the biopolitical context as its exclusive terrain of reference. In the passage from disciplinary society to the society of control, a new paradigm of power is realized which is defined by the technologies that recognize society as the realm of biopower. In disciplinary society the effects of biopolitical technologies were still partial in the sense that disciplining developed according to relatively closed, geometrical, and quantitative logics. Disciplinarity fixed individuals within institutions but did not succeed in consuming them completely in the rhythm of productive practices and productive socialization; it did not reach the point of permeating entirely the consciousnesses and bodies of individuals, the point of treating and organizing them in the totality of their activities. In disciplinary society, then, the relationship between power and the individual remained a static one: the disciplinary invasion of power corresponded to the resistance of the individual. By contrast, when power becomes entirely biopolitical, the whole social body is comprised by power's machine and developed in its virtuality. This relationship is open, qualitative, and affective. Society, subsumed within a power that reaches down to the ganglia of the social structure and its processes of development, reacts like a single body. Power is thus expressed as a control that extends throughout the depths of the consciousnesses and bodies of the population-and at the same time across the entirety of social relations.[4]
In this passage from disciplinary society to the society of control, then, one could say that the increasingly intense relationship of mutual implication of all social forces that capitalism has pursued throughout its development has now been fully realized. Marx recognized something similar in what he called the passage from the formal subsumption to the real subsumption of labor under capital,[5] and later the Frankfurt School philosophers analyzed a closely related passage of the subsumption of culture (and social relations) under the totalitarian figure of the state, or really within the perverse dialectic of Enlightenment.[6] The passage we are referring to, however, is fundamentally different in that instead of focusing on the unidimensionality of the process described by Marx and reformulated and extended by the Frankfurt School, the Foucauldian passage deals fundamentally with the paradox of plurality and multiplicity-and Deleuze and Guattari develop this perspective even more clearly.[7] The analysis of the real subsumption, when this is understood as investing not only the economic or only the cultural dimension of society but rather the social bios itself, and when it is attentive to the modalities of disciplinarity and/or control, disrupts the linear and totalitarian figure of capitalist development. Civil society is absorbed in the state, but the consequence of this is an explosion of the elements that were previously coordinated and mediated in civil society. Resistances are no longer marginal but active in the center of a society that opens up in networks; the individual points are singularized in a thousand plateaus. What Foucault constructed implicitly (and Deleuze and Guattari made explicit) is therefore the paradox of a power that, while it unifies and envelops within itself every element of social life (thus losing its capacity effectively to mediate different social forces), at that very moment reveals a new context, a new milieu of maximum plurality and uncontainable singularization-a milieu of the event.[8] These conceptions of the society of control and biopower both describe central aspects of the concept of Empire. The concept of Empire is the framework in which the new omniversality of subjects has to be understood, and it is the end to which the new paradigm of power is leading. Here a veritable chasm opens up between the various old theoretical frameworks of international law (in either its contractual and/or U.N. form) and the new reality of imperial law. All the intermediary elements of the process have in fact fallen aside, so that the legitimacy of the international order can no longer be constructed through mediations but must rather be grasped immediately in all its diversity. We have already acknowledged this fact from the juridical perspective. We saw, in effect, that when the new notion of right emerges in the context of globalization and presents itself as capable oftreating the universal, planetary sphere as a single, systemic set, it must assume an immediate prerequisite (acting in a state of exception) and an adequate, plastic, and constitutive technology (the techniques of the police).
Even though the state of exception and police technologies constitute the solid nucleus and the central element of the new imperial right, however, this new regime has nothing to do with the juridical arts of dictatorship or totalitarianism that in other times and with such great fanfare were so thoroughly described by many (in fact too many!) authors.[9] On the contrary, the rule of law continues to play a central role in the context of the contemporary passage: right remains effective and (precisely by means of the state of exception and police techniques) becomes procedure. This is a radical transformation that reveals the unmediated relationship between power and subjectivities, and hence demonstrates both the impossibility of "prior" mediations and the uncontainable temporal variability of the event.[10] Throughout the unbounded global spaces, to the depths of the biopolitical world, and confronting an unforeseeable temporality-these are the determinations on which the new supranational right must be defined. Here is where the concept of Empire must struggle to establish itself, where it must prove its effectiveness, and hence where the machine must be set in motion. From this point of view, the biopolitical context of the new paradigm is completely central to our analysis. This is what presents power with an alternative, not only between obedience and disobedience, or between formal political participation and refusal, but also along the entire range of life and death, wealth and poverty, production and social reproduction, and so forth. Given the great difficulties the new notion of right has in representing this dimension of the power of Empire, and given its inability to touch biopower concretely in all its material aspects, imperial right can at best only partially represent the underlying design of the new constitution of world order, and cannot really grasp the motor that sets it in motion. Our analysis must focus its attention rather on the productive dimension of biopower.[11]
The Production of Life
The question of production in relation to biopower and the society of control, however, reveals a real weakness of the work of the authors from whom we have borrowed these notions. We should clarify, then, the "vital" or biopolitical dimensions of Foucault's work in relation to the dynamics of production. Foucault argued in several works in the mid-1970s that one cannot understand the passage from the "sovereign" state of the ancien r‚gime to the modern "disciplinary" state without taking into account how the biopolitical context was progressively put at the service of capitalist accumulation: "The control of society over individuals is not conducted only through consciousness or ideology, but also in the body and with the body. For capitalist society biopolitics is what is most important, the biological, the somatic, the corporeal."[12] One of the central objectives of his research strategy in this period was to go beyond the versions of historical materialism, including several variants of Marxist theory, that considered the problem of power and social reproduction on a superstructural level separate from the real, base level of production. Foucault thus attempted to bring the problem of social reproduction and all the elements of the so-called superstructure back to within the material, fundamental structure and define this terrain not only in economic terms but also in cultural, corporeal, and subjective ones. We can thus understand how Foucault's conception of the social whole was perfected and realized when in a subsequent phase of his work he uncovered the emerging outlines of the society of control as a figure of power active throughout the entire biopolitics of society. It does not seem, however, that Foucault-even when he powerfully grasped the biopolitical horizon of society and defined it as a field of immanence-ever succeeded in pulling his thought away from that structuralist epistemology that guided his research from the beginning. By structuralist epistemology here we mean the reinvention of a functionalist analysis in the realm of the human sciences, a method that effectively sacrifices the dynamic of the system, the creative temporality of its movements, and the ontological substance of cultural and social reproduction.[13] In fact, if at this point we were to ask Foucault who or what drives the system, or rather, who is the "bios," his response would be ineffable, or nothing at all. What Foucault fails to grasp finally are the real dynamics of production in biopolitical society.[14]
By contrast, Deleuze and Guattari present us with a properly poststructuralist understanding of biopower that renews materialist thought and grounds itself solidly in the question of the production of social being. Their work demystifies structuralism and all the philosophical, sociological, and political conceptions that make the fixity of the epistemological frame an ineluctable point of reference. They focus our attention clearly on the ontological substance of social production. Machines produce. The constant functioning of social machines in their various apparatuses and assemblages produces the world along with the subjects and objects that constitute it. Deleuze and Guattari, however, seem to be able to conceive positively only the tendencies toward continuous movement and absolute flows, and thus in their thought, too, the creative elements and the radical ontology of the production of the social remain insubstantial and impotent. Deleuze and Guattari discover the productivity of social reproduction (creative production, production of values, social relations, affects, becomings), but manage to articulate it only superficially and ephemerally, as a chaotic, indeterminate horizon marked by the ungraspable event.[15]
We can better grasp the relationship between social production and biopower in the work of a group of contemporary Italian Marxist authors who recognize the biopolitical dimension in terms of the new nature of productive labor and its living development in society, using terms such as "mass intellectuality," "immaterial labor," and the Marxian concept of "general intellect."[16] These analyses set off from two coordinated research projects. The first consists in the analysis of the recent transformations of productive labor and its tendency to become increasingly immaterial. The central role previously occupied by the labor power of mass factory workers in the production of surplus value is today increasingly filled by intellectual, immaterial, and communicative labor power. It is thus necessary to develop a new political theory of value that can pose the problem of this new capitalist accumulation of value at the center of the mechanism of exploitation (and thus, perhaps, at the center of potential revolt). The second, and consequent, research project developed by this school consists in the analysis of the immediately social and communicative dimension of living labor in contemporary capitalist society, and thus poses insistently the problem of the new figures of subjectivity, in both their exploitation and their revolutionary potential. The immediately social dimension of the exploitation of living immaterial labor immerses labor in all the relational elements that define the social but also at the same time activate the critical elements that develop the potential of insubordination and revolt through the entire set of laboring practices. After a new theory of value, then, a new theory of subjectivity must be formulated that operates primarily through knowledge, communication, and language.
These analyses have thus reestablished the importance of production within the biopolitical process of the social constitution, but they have also in certain respects isolated it-by grasping it in a pure form, refining it on the ideal plane. They have acted as if discovering the new forms of productive forces-immaterial labor, massified intellectual labor, the labor of "general intellect"-were enough to grasp concretely the dynamic and creative relationship between material production and social reproduction. When they reinsert production into the biopolitical context, they present it almost exclusively on the horizon of language and communication. One of the most serious shortcomings has thus been the tendency among these authors to treat the new laboring practices in biopolitical society only in their intellectual and incorporeal aspects. The productivity of bodies and the value of af fect, however, are absolutely central in this context. We will elaborate the three primary aspects of immaterial labor in the contemporary economy: the communicative labor of industrial production that has newly become linked in informational networks, the interactive labor of symbolic analysis and problem solving, and the labor of the production and manipulation of affects (see Section 3.4). This third aspect, with its focus on the productivity of the corporeal, the somatic, is an extremely important element in the contemporary networks of biopolitical production. The work of this school and its analysis of general intellect, then, certainly marks a step forward, but its conceptual framework remains too pure, almost angelic. In the final analysis, these new conceptions too only scratch the surface of the productive dynamic of the new theoretical framework of biopower.[17]
Our task, then, is to build on these partially successful attempts to recognize the potential of biopolitical production. Precisely by bringing together coherently the different defining characteristics of the biopolitical context that we have described up to this point, and leading them back to the ontology of production, we will be able to identify the new figure of the collective biopolitical body, which may nonetheless remain as contradictory as it is paradoxical. This body becomes structure not by negating the originary productive force that animates it but by recognizing it; it becomes language (both scientific language and social language) because it is a multitude of singular and determinate bodies that seek relation. It is thus both production and reproduction, structure and superstructure, because it is life in the fullest sense and politics in the proper sense. Our analysis has to descend into the jungle of productive and conflictual determinations that the collective biopolitical body offers us.[18] The context of our analysis thus has to be the very unfolding of life itself, the process of the constitution of the world, of history. The analysis must be proposed not through ideal forms but within the dense complex of experience.
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