Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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Political theory is forced by this new reality to redefine itself radically. In biopolitical society, for example, fear cannot be employed, as Thomas Hobbes proposed, as the exclusive motor of the contractual constitution of politics, thus negating the love of the multitude. Or rather, in biopolitical society the decision of the sovereign can never negate the desire of the multitude. Ifthose founding modern strategies of sovereignty were employed today with the oppositions they determine, the world would come to a halt because generation would no longer be possible. For generation to take place, the political has to yield to love and desire, and that is to the fundamental forces of biopolitical production. The political is not what we are taught it is today by the cynical Machiavellianism of politicians; it is rather, as the democratic Machiavelli tells us, the power of generation, desire, and love. Political theory has to reorient itself along these lines and assume the language of generation.
Generation is the primum of the biopolitical world of Empire. Biopower-a horizon of the hybridization of the natural and the artificial, needs and machines, desire and the collective organization of the economic and the social-must continually regenerate itself in order to exist. Generation is there, before all else, as basis and motor of production and reproduction. The generative connection gives meaning to communication, and any model of(everyday, philosophical, or political) communication that does not respond to this primacy is false. The social and political relationships of Empire register this phase of the development of production and interpret the generative and productive biosphere. We have thus reached a limit of the virtuality of the real subsumption of productive society under capital-but precisely on this limit the possibility of generation and the collective force of desire are revealed in all their power.
Corruption
Opposed to generation stands corruption. Far from being the necessary complement of generation, as the various Platonic currents of philosophy would like, corruption is merely its simple negation.[20] Corruption breaks the chain of desire and interrupts its extension across the biopolitical horizon of production. It constructs black holes and ontological vacuums in the life of the multitude that not even the most perverse political science manages to camouflage. Corruption, contrary to desire, is not an ontological motor but simply the lack of ontological foundation of the biopolitical practices of being.
In Empire corruption is everywhere. It is the cornerstone and keystone of domination. It resides in different forms in the supreme government of Empire and its vassal administrations, the most refined and the most rotten administrative police forces, the lobbies of the ruling classes, the mafias of rising social groups, the churches and sects, the perpetrators and persecutors of scandal, the great financial conglomerates, and everyday economic transactions. Through corruption, imperial power extends a smoke screen across the world, and command over the multitude is exercised in this putrid cloud, in the absence of light and truth.
It is no mystery how we recognize corruption and how we identify the powerful emptiness of the mist of indifference that imperial power extends across the world. In fact, the ability to recognize corruption is, to use a phrase of descartes's, "la facult‚ la mieux partag‚e du monde," the most widely shared faculty in the world. Corruption is easily perceived because it appears immediately as a form of violence, as an insult. And indeed it is an insult: corruption is in fact the sign of the impossibility of linking power to value, and its denunciation is thus a direct intuition of the lack of being. Corruption is what separates a body and a mind from what they can do. Since knowledge and existence in the biopolitical world always consist in a production of value, this lack of being appears as a wound, a death wish of the socius, a stripping away of being from the world.
The forms in which corruption appears are so numerous that trying to list them is like pouring the sea into a teacup. Let us try nonetheless to give a few examples, even though they can in no way serve to represent the whole. In the first place, there is corruption as individual choice that is opposed to and violates the fundamental community and solidarity defined by biopolitical production. This small, everyday violence of power is a mafia-style corruption. In the second place, there is corruption of the productive order, or really exploitation. This includes the fact that the values that derive from the collective cooperation of labor are expropriated, and what was in the biopolitical ab origine public is privatized. Capitalism is completely implicated in this corruption of privatization. As Saint Augustine says, the great reigns are only the enlarged projections of little thieves. Augustine of Hippo, however, so realistic in this pessimistic conception of power, would be struck dumb by today's little thieves of monetary and financial power. Really, when capitalism loses its relationship to value (both as the measure of individual exploitation and as a norm of collective progress), it appears immediately as corruption. The increasingly abstract sequence of its functioning (from the accumulation of surplus value to monetary and financial speculation) is shown to be a powerful march toward generalized corruption. Ifcapitalism is by definition a system of corruption, held together nonetheless as in Mandeville's fable by its cooperative cleverness and redeemed according to all its ideologies on right and left by its progressive function, then when measure is dissolved and the progressive telos breaks down, nothing essential remains of capitalism but corruption. In the third place, corruption appears in the functioning of ideology, or rather in the perversion of the senses of linguistic communication. Here corruption touches on the biopolitical realm, attacking its productive nodes and obstructing its generative processes. This attack is demonstrated, in the fourth place, when in the practices of imperial government the threat ofterror becomes a weapon to resolve limited or regional conflicts and an apparatus for imperial development. Imperial command, in this case, is disguised and can alternately appear as corruption or destruction, almost as ifto reveal the profound call that the former makes for the latter and the latter for the former. The two dance together over the abyss, over the imperial lack of being.
Such examples of corruption could be multiplied ad infinitum, but at the base of all these forms of corruption there is an operation of ontological nullification that is defined and exercised as the destruction of the singular essence of the multitude. The multitude must be unified or segmented into different unities: this is how the multitude has to be corrupted. This is why the ancient and modern concepts of corruption cannot be translated directly into the postmodern concept. Whereas in ancient and modern times corruption was defined in relation to the schemas and/or relations of value and demonstrated as a falsification of them in such a way that it could at times play a role in the change among the forms of government and the restoration of values, today, in contrast, corruption cannot play a role in any transformation of the forms of government because corruption itself is the substance and totality of Empire. Corruption is the pure exercise of command, without any proportionate or adequate reference to the world of life. It is command directed toward the destruction of the singularity of the multitude through its coercive unification and/or cruel segmentation. This is why Empire necessarily declines in the very moment of its rise. This negative figure of command over productive biopower is even more paradoxical when viewed from the perspective of corporeality. Biopolitical generation directly transforms the bodies of the multitude. These are, as we have seen, bodies enriched with intellectual and cooperative power, and bodies that are already hybrid. What generation offers us in postmodernity are thus bodies "beyond measure." In this context corruption appears simply as disease, frustration, and mutilation. This is how power has always acted against enriched bodies. Corruption also appears as psychosis, opiates, anguish, and boredom, but this too has always happened throughout modernity and disciplinary societies. The specificity of corruption today is instead the rupture of the community of singular bodies and the impediment to its action-a rupture of the productive biopolitical community and an impediment to its life. Here we are thus faced with a paradox. Empire recognizes and profits from the fact that in cooperation bodies produce more and in community bodies enjoy more, but it has to obstruct and control this cooperative autonomy so as not to be destroyed by it. Corruption operates to impede this going "beyond measure" of the bodies through community, this singular universalization of the new power of bodies, which threaten the very existence of Empire. The paradox is irresolvable: the more the world becomes rich, the more Empire, which is based on this wealth, must negate the conditions of the production of wealth. Our task is to investigate how ultimately corruption can be forced to cede its control to generation.
4.3 - THE MULTITUDE AGAINST EMPIRE
The great masses need a material religion of the senses [eine sinnliche Religion]. Not only the great masses but also the philosopher needs it. Monotheism of reason and the heart, polytheism of the imagination and art, this is what we need . . . [W]e must have a new mythology, but this mythology must be at the service of ideas. It must be a mythology of reason.
Das „lteste Systemprogramm des deutschen Idealismus, by Hegel, H”lderlin, or Schelling
We do not lack communication, on the contrary we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present.
Gilles Deleuze and F‚lix Guattari
Imperial power can no longer resolve the conflict of social forces through mediatory schemata that displace the terms of conflict. The social conflicts that constitute the political confront one another directly, without mediations of any sort. This is the essential novelty of the imperial situation. Empire creates a greater potential for revolution than did the modern regimes of power because it presents us, alongside the machine of command, with an alternative: the set of all the exploited and the subjugated, a multitude that is directly opposed to Empire, with no mediation between them. At this point, then, as Augustine says, our task is to discuss, to the best of our powers, "the rise, the development and the destined ends of the two cities . . . which we find . . . interwoven . . . and mingled with one another."[1] Now that we have dealt extensively with Empire, we should focus directly on the multitude and its potential political power.
The Two Cities
We need to investigate specifically how the multitude can become a political subject in the context of Empire. We can certainly recognize the existence of the multitude from the standpoint of the constitution of Empire, but from that perspective the multitude might appear to be generated and sustained by imperial command. In the new postmodern Empire there is no Emperor Caracalla who grants citizenship to all his subjects and thereby forms the multitude as a political subject. The formation of the multitude of exploited and subjugated producers can be read more clearly in the history of twentieth-century revolutions. Between the communist revolutions of 1917 and 1949, the great anti-fascist struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, and the numerous liberation struggles of the 1960s up to those of 1989, the conditions of the citizenship of the multitude were born, spread, and consolidated. Far from being defeated, the revolutions of the twentieth century have each pushed forward and transformed the terms of class conflict, posing the conditions of a new political subjectivity, an insurgent multitude against imperial power. The rhythm that the revolutionary movements have established is the beat of a new aetas, a new maturity and metamorphosis of the times.
The constitution of Empire is not the cause but the consequence of the rise of these new powers. It should be no surprise, then, that Empire, despite its efforts, finds it impossible to construct a system of right adequate to the new reality of the globalization of social and economic relations. This impossibility (which served as the point of departure for our argument in Section 1.1) is not due to the wide extension of the field of regulation; nor is it simply the result of the difficult passage from the old system of international public law to the new imperial system. This impossibility is explained instead by the revolutionary nature of the multitude, whose struggles have produced Empire as an inversion of its own image and who now represents on this new scene an uncontainable force and an excess of value with respect to every form of right and law. To confirm this hypothesis, it is sufficient to look at the contemporary development of the multitude and dwell on the vitality of its present expressions. When the multitude works, it produces autonomously and reproduces the entire world of life. Producing and reproducing autonomously mean constructing a new ontological reality. In effect, by working, the multitude produces itself as singularity. It is a singularity that establishes a new place in the non-place of Empire, a singularity that is a reality produced by cooperation, represented by the linguistic community, and developed by the movements of hybridization. The multitude affirms its singularity by inverting the ideological illusion that all humans on the global surfaces of the world market are interchangeable. Standing the ideology of the market on its feet, the multitude promotes through its labor the biopolitical singularizations of groups and sets of humanity, across each and every node of global interchange. Class struggles and revolutionary processes of the past undermined the political powers of nations and peoples. The revolutionary preamble that has been written from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries has prepared the new subjective configuration of labor that comes to be realized today. Cooperation and communication throughout the spheres of biopolitical production define a new productive singularity. The multitude is not formed simply by throwing together and mixing nations and peoples indifferently; it is the singular power of a new city.
One might object at this point, with good reason, that all this is still not enough to establish the multitude as a properly political subject, nor even less as a subject with the potential to control its own destiny. This objection, however, does not present an insuperable obstacle, because the revolutionary past, and the contemporary cooperative productive capacities through which the anthropological characteristics of the multitude are continually transcribed and reformulated, cannot help revealing a telos, a material affirmation of liberation. In the ancient world Plotinus faced something like this situation:
"Let us flee then to the beloved Fatherland": this is the soundest counsel . . . The Fatherland to us is There whence we have come, and There is the Father. What then is our course, what the manner of our flight? This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor need you think of a coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see: you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birth-right of all, which few turn to use.[2]
This is how ancient mysticism expressed the new telos. The multitude today, however, resides on the imperial surfaces where there is no God the Father and no transcendence. Instead there is our immanent labor. The teleology of the multitude is theurgical; it consists in the possibility of directing technologies and production toward its own joy and its own increase of power. The multitude has no reason to look outside its own history and its own present productive power for the means necessary to lead toward its constitution as a political subject.
A material mythology of reason thus begins to be formed, and it is constructed in the languages, technologies, and all the means that constitute the world of life. It is a material religion of the senses that separates the multitude from every residue of sovereign power and from every "long arm" of Empire. The mythology of reason is the symbolic and imaginative articulation that allows the ontology of the multitude to express itself as activity and consciousness. The mythology of languages of the multitude interprets the telos of an earthly city, torn away by the power of its own destiny from any belonging or subjection to a city of God, which has lost all honor and legitimacy. To the metaphysical and transcendent mediations, to the violence and corruption are thus opposed the absolute constitution of labor and cooperation, the earthly city of the multitude.
Endless Paths (The Right to Global Citizenship)
The constitution of the multitude appears first as a spatial movement that constitutes the multitude in limitless place. The mobility of commodities, and thus of that special commodity that is laborpower, has been presented by capitalism ever since its birth as the fundamental condition of accumulation. The kinds of movement of individuals, groups, and populations that we find today in Empire, however, cannot be completely subjugated to the laws of capitalist accumulation-at every moment they overflow and shatter the bounds of measure. The movements of the multitude designate new spaces, and its journeys establish new residences. Autonomous movement is what defines the place proper to the multitude. Increasingly less will passports or legal documents be able to regulate our movements across borders. A new geography is established by the multitude as the productive flows of bodies define new rivers and ports. The cities of the earth will become at once great deposits of cooperating humanity and locomotives for circulation, temporary residences and networks of the mass distribution of living humanity. Through circulation the multitude reappropriates space and constitutes itself as an active subject. When we look closer at how this constitutive process of subjectivity operates, we can see that the new spaces are described by unusual topologies, by subterranean and uncontainable rhizomes-by geographical mythologies that mark the new paths of destiny. These movements often cost terrible suffering, but there is also in them a desire of liberation that is not satiated except by reappropriating new spaces, around which are constructed new freedoms. Everywhere these movements arrive, and all along their paths they determine new forms of life and cooperation-everywhere they create that wealth that parasitic postmodern capitalism would otherwise not know how to suck out of the blood of the proletariat, because increasingly today production takes place in movement and cooperation, in exodus and community. Is it possible to imagine U.S. agriculture and service industries without Mexican migrant labor, or Arab oil without Palestinians and Pakistanis? Moreover, where would the great innovative sectors of immaterial production, from design to fashion, and from electronics to science in Europe, the United States, and Asia, be without the "illegal labor" of the great masses, mobilized toward the radiant horizons of capitalist wealth and freedom? Mass migrations have become necessary for production. Every path is forged, mapped, and traveled. It seems that the more intensely each is traveled and the more suffering is deposited there, the more each path becomes productive. These paths are what brings the "earthly city" out of the cloud and confusion that Empire casts over it. This is how the multitude gains the power to affirm its autonomy, traveling and expressing itself through an apparatus of widespread, transversal territorial reappropriation.
Recognizing the potential autonomy of the mobile multitude, however, only points toward the real question. What we need to grasp is how the multitude is organized and redefined as a positive, political power. Up to this point we have been able to describe the potential existence of this political power in merely formal terms. It would be a mistake to stop here, without going on to investigate the mature forms of the consciousness and political organization of the multitude, without recognizing how much is already powerful in these territorial movements of the labor power of Empire. How can we recognize (and reveal) a constituent political tendency within and beyond the spontaneity of the multitude's movements?
This question can be approached initially from the other side by considering the policies of Empire that repress these movements. Empire does not really know how to control these paths and can only try to criminalize those who travel them, even when the movements are required for capitalist production itself. The migration lines of biblical proportions that go from South to North America are obstinately called by the new drug czars "the cocaine trail"; or rather, the articulations of exodus from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are treated by European leaders as "paths of terrorism"; or rather still, the populations forced to flee across the Indian Ocean are reduced to slavery in "Arabia f‚lix"; and the list goes on. And yet the flows of population continue. Empire must restrict and isolate the spatial movements of the multitude to stop them from gaining political legitimacy. It is extremely important from this point of view that Empire use its powers to manage and orchestrate the various forces of nationalism and fundamentalism (see Sections 2.2 and 2.4). It is no less important, too, that Empire deploy its military and police powers to bring the unruly and rebellious to order.[3] These imperial practices in themselves, however, still do not touch on the political tension that runs throughout the spontaneous movements of the multitude. All these repressive actions remain essentially external to the multitude and its movements. Empire can only isolate, divide, and segregate. Imperial capital does indeed attack the movements of the multitude with a tireless determination: it patrols the seas and the borders; within each country it divides and segregates; and in the world of labor it reinforces the cleavages and borderlines of race, gender, language, culture, and so forth. Even then, however, it must be careful not to restrict the productivity of the multitude too much because Empire too depends on this power. The movements of the multitude have to be allowed to extend always wider across the world scene, and the attempts at repressing the multitude are really paradoxical, inverted manifestations of its strength.
This leads us back to our fundamental questions: How can the actions of the multitude become political? How can the multitude organize and concentrate its energies against the repression and incessant territorial segmentations of Empire? The only response that we can give to these questions is that the action of the multitude becomes political primarily when it begins to confront directly and with an adequate consciousness the central repressive operations of Empire. It is a matter of recognizing and engaging the imperial initiatives and not allowing them continually to reestablish order; it is a matter of crossing and breaking down the limits and segmentations that are imposed on the new collective labor power; it is a matter of gathering together these experiences of resistance and wielding them in concert against the nerve centers of imperial command.
This task for the multitude, however, although it is clear at a conceptual level, remains rather abstract. What specific and concrete practices will animate this political project? We cannot say at this point. What we can see nonetheless is a first element of a political program for the global multitude, a first political demand: global citizenship. During the 1996 demonstrations for the sans papiers, the undocumented aliens residing in France, the banners demanded "Papiers pour tous!" Residency papers for everyone means in the first place that all should have the full rights of citizenship in the country where they live and work. This is not a utopian or unrealistic political demand. The demand is simply that the juridical status of the population be reformed in step with the real economic transformations of recent years. Capital itself has demanded the increased mobility of labor power and continuous migrations across national boundaries. Capitalist production in the more dominant regions (in Europe, the United States, and Japan, but also in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere) is utterly dependent on the influx of workers from the subordinate regions of the world. Hence the political demand is that the existent fact of capitalist production be recognized juridically and that all workers be given the full rights of citizenship. In effect this political demand insists in postmodernity on the fundamental modern constitutional principle that links right and labor, and thus rewards with citizenship the worker who creates capital.
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