Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri



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Important segments of the discipline of history were also deeply embedded in the scholarly and popular production of alterity, and thus also in the legitimation of colonial rule. For example, upon arriving in India and finding no historiography they could use, British administrators had to write their own "Indian history" to sustain and further the interests of colonial rule. The British had to historicize the Indian past in order to have access to it and put it to work. This British creation of an Indian history, however, like the formation of the colonial state, could be achieved only by imposing European colonial logics and models on Indian reality.[24] India's past was thus annexed so as to become merely a portion of British history-or rather, British scholars and administrators created an Indian history and exported it to India. This historiography supported the Raj and in turn made the past inaccessible to Indians as history. The reality of India and Indians was thus supplanted by a powerful representation that posed them as an other to Europe, a primitive stage in the teleology of civilization.
The Dialectic of Colonialism
In the logic of colonialist representations, the construction of a separate colonized other and the segregation of identity and alterity turns out paradoxically to be at once absolute and extremely intimate. The process consists, in fact, of two moments that are dialectically related. In the first moment difference has to be pushed to the extreme. In the colonial imaginary the colonized is not simply an other banished outside the realm of civilization; rather, it is grasped or produced as Other, as the absolute negation, as the most distant point on the horizon. Eighteenth-century colonial slaveholders, for example, recognized the absoluteness of this difference clearly. "The Negro is a being, whose nature and dispositions are not merely different from those of the European, they are the reverse of them. Kindness and compassion excite in his breast implacable and deadly hatred; but stripes, and insults, and abuse, generate gratitude, affection, and inviolable attachment!"[25] Thus the slaveholders' mentality, according to an abolitionist pamphlet. The non-European subject acts, speaks, and thinks in a manner exactly opposite to the European.
Precisely because the difference of the Other is absolute, it can be inverted in a second moment as the foundation of the Self. In other words, the evil, barbarity, and licentiousness of the colonized Other are what make possible the goodness, civility, and propriety of the European Self. What first appears strange, foreign, and distant thus turns out to be very close and intimate. Knowing, seeing, and even touching the colonized is essential, even ifthis knowledge and contact take place only on the plane of representation and relate little to the actual subjects in the colonies and the metropole. The intimate struggle with the slave, feeling the sweat on its skin, smelling its odor, defines the vitality of the master. This intimacy, however, in no way blurs the division between the two identities in struggle, but only makes more important that the boundaries and the purity of the identities be policed. The identity of the European Self is produced in this dialectical movement. Once the colonial subject is constructed as absolutely Other, it can in turn be subsumed (canceled and raised up) within a higher unity. The absolute Other is reflected back into the most proper. Only through opposition to the colonized does the metropolitan subject really become itself. What first appeared as a simple logic of exclusion, then, turns out to be a negative dialectic of recognition. The colonizer does produce the colonized as negation, but, through a dialectical twist, that negative colonized identity is negated in turn to found the positive colonizer Self. Modern European thought and the modern Selfare both necessarily bound to what Paul Gilroy calls the "relationship of racial terror and subordination."[26] The gilded monuments not only of European cities but also of modern European thought itself are founded on the intimate dialectical struggle with its Others.
We should be careful to note that the colonial world never really conformed to the simple two-part division of this dialectical structure. Any analysis of eighteenth-century Haitian society before the revolution, for example, cannot consider only whites and blacks but must also take into account at least the position of mulattoes, who were at times united with whites on the basis of their property and freedom, and at times united with blacks because of their nonwhite skin. Even in simple racial terms this social reality demands at least three axes of analysis-but that, too, fails to grasp the real social divisions. One must also recognize the conflict among whites of different classes and the interests of the black slaves as distinct from those of the free blacks and maroons. In short, the real social situation in the colonies never breaks down neatly into an absolute binary between pure opposing forces. Reality always presents proliferating multiplicities. Our argument here, however, is not that reality presents this facile binary structure but that colonialism, as an abstract machine that produces identities and alterities, imposes binary divisions on the colonial world. Colonialism homogenizes real social differences by creating one overriding opposition that pushes differences to the absolute and then subsumes the opposition under the identity of European civilization. Reality is not dialectical, colonialism is.
The work of numerous authors, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Franz Fanon, who have recognized that colonial representations and colonial sovereignty are dialectical in form has proven useful in several respects. First of all, the dialectical construction demonstrates that there is nothing essential about the identities in struggle. The White and the Black, the European and the Oriental, the colonizer and the colonized are all representations that function only in relation to each other and (despite appearances) have no real necessary basis in nature, biology, or rationality. Colonialism is an abstract machine that produces alterity and identity. And yet in the colonial situation these differences and identities are made to function as if they were absolute, essential, and natural. The first result of the dialectical reading is thus the denaturalization of racial and cultural difference. This does not mean that once recognized as artificial constructions, colonial identities evaporate into thin air; they are real illusions and continue to function as if they were essential. This recognition is not a politics in itself, but merely the sign that an anticolonial politics is possible. In the second place, the dialectical interpretation makes clear that colonialism and colonialist representations are grounded in a violent struggle that must be continually renewed. The European Selfneeds violence and needs to confront its Other to feel and maintain its power, to remake itself continually. The generalized state of war that continuously subtends colonial representations is not accidental or even unwanted -violence is the necessary foundation of colonialism itself. Third, posing colonialism as a negative dialectic of recognition makes clear the potential for subversion inherent in the situation. For a thinker like Fanon, the reference to Hegel suggests that the Master can only achieve a hollow form of recognition; it is the Slave, through life-and-death struggle, who has the potential to move forward toward full consciousness.[27] The dialectic ought to imply movement, but this dialectic of European sovereign identity has fallen back into stasis. The failed dialectic suggests the possibility of a proper dialectic that through negativity will move history forward.
The Boomerang of Alterity
Many authors, particularly during the long season of intense decolonization struggles from the end of World War II through the 1960s, argued that this positive dialectic of colonialism that founds and stabilizes European sovereign identity should be challenged by a properly negative and hence revolutionary dialectic. We cannot defeat the colonialist production of alterity, these authors claimed, simply by revealing the artificiality of the identities and differences created-and thereby hoping to arrive directly at an affirmation of the authentic universality of humanity. The only possible strategy is one of reversal or inversion of the colonialist logic itself. "The unity which will come eventually, bringing all oppressed peoples together in the same struggle," Sartre proclaims, "must be preceded in the colonies by what I shall call the moment of separation or negativity: this antiracist racism is the only road that will lead to the abolition of racial differences."[28] Sartre imagines that this negative dialectic will finally set history in motion. The negative dialectic has most often been conceived in cultural terms, for example, as the project of n‚gritude-the quest to discover the black essence or unveil the black soul. According to this logic, the response to colonialist representations has to involve reciprocal and symmetrical representations. Even if the blackness of the colonized is recognized as a production and a mystification constructed in the colonial imaginary, it is not denied or dispelled on account of that, but rather affirmed-as essence! According to Sartre, the revolutionary poets of n‚gritude, such as Aim‚ C‚saire and L‚opold Senghor, adopt the negative pole that they have inherited from the European dialectic and transform it into something positive, intensifying it, claiming it as a moment of self-consciousness. No longer a force of stabilization and equilibrium, the domesticated Other has become savage, truly Other-that is, capable of reciprocity and autonomous initiative. This, as Sartre announces so beautifully and ominously, is "the moment of the boomerang."[29] The negative moment is able to operate a reciprocal destruction of the European Self-precisely because European society and its values are founded on the domestication and negative subsumption of the colonized. The moment of negativity is posed as the necessary first step in a transition toward the ultimate goal of a raceless society that recognizes the equality, freedom, and common humanity of all.[30]
Despite the coherent dialectical logic of this Sartrean cultural politics, however, the strategy it proposes seems to us completely illusory. The power of the dialectic, which in the hands of colonial power mystified the reality of the colonial world, is adopted again as part of an anticolonial project as if the dialectic were itself the real form of the movement of history. Reality and history, however, are not dialectical, and no idealist rhetorical gymnastics can make them conform to the dialect.
The strategy of negativity, however, the moment of the boomerang, appears in an entirely different light when it is cast in a nondialectical form and in political rather than cultural terms. Fanon, for example, refuses the cultural politics of n‚gritude with its consciousness of black identity and poses the revolutionary antithesis instead in terms of physical violence. The original moment of violence is that of colonialism: the domination and exploitation of the colonized by the colonizer. The second moment, the response of the colonized to this original violence, can take all sorts of perverted forms in the colonial context. "The colonized man will first manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people."[31] The violence among the colonized population, sometimes thought to be the residues of ancient tribal or religious antagonisms, is really the pathological reflections of the violence of colonialism that most often surfaces as superstitions, myths, dances, and mental disorders. Fanon does not recommend that the colonized should flee or avoid the violence. Colonialism by its very operation perpetuates this violence, and if it is not addressed directly, it will continue to manifest itself in these destructive, pathological forms. The only path to health that Doctor Fanon can recommend is a reciprocal counterviolence.[32] Moreover, this is the only path to liberation. The slave who never struggles for freedom, who is simply granted the permission of the master, will forever remain a slave. This is precisely the "reciprocity" that Malcolm X proposed as a strategy to address the violence of white supremacy in the United States.[33]
For both Fanon and Malcolm X, however, this negative moment, this violent reciprocity, does not lead to any dialectical synthesis; it is not the upbeat that will be resolved in a future harmony. This open negativity is merely the healthy expression of a real antagonism, a direct relation of force. Because it is not the means to a final synthesis, this negativity is not a politics in itself; rather, it merely poses a separation from colonialist domination and opens the field for politics. The real political process of constitution will have to take place on this open terrain of forces with a positive logic, separate from the dialectics of colonial sovereignty.
The Poisoned Gift of National Liberation
Subaltern nationalism has indeed, as we argued in the previous section, served important progressive functions. The nation has served among subordinated groups both as a defensive weapon employed to protect the group against external domination and as a sign of the unity, autonomy, and power of the community.[34] During the period of de-colonization and after, the nation appeared as the necessary vehicle for political modernization and hence the ineluctable path toward freedom and self-determination. The promise of a global democracy among nations, including their formal equality and sovereignty, was written into the original Charter of the United Nations: "The Organization and its Members . . . shall act in accordance with . . . the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members."[35] National sovereignty means freedom from foreign domination and the self-determination of peoples, and thus signals the definitive defeat of colonialism.
The progressive functions of national sovereignty, however, are always accompanied by powerful structures of internal domination. The perils of national liberation are even clearer when viewed externally, in terms of the world economic system in which the "liberated" nation finds itself. Indeed, the equation nationalism equals political and economic modernization, which has been heralded by leaders of numerous anticolonial and anti-imperialist struggles from Gandhi and Ho Chi Minh to Nelson Mandela, really ends up being a perverse trick. This equation serves to mobilize popular forces and galvanize a social movement, but where does the movement lead and what interests does it serve? In most cases it involves a delegated struggle, in which the modernization project also establishes in power the new ruling group that is charged with carrying it out. The revolution is thus offered up, hands and feet bound, to the new bourgeoisie. It is a February revolution, one might say, that should be followed by an October. But the calendar has gone crazy: October never comes, the revolutionaries get bogged down in "realism," and modernization ends up lost in hierarchies of the world market. Is not the control exerted by the world market, however, the opposite of the nationalist dream of an autonomous, self-centered development? The nationalism of anticolonial and anti-imperialist struggles effectively functions in reverse, and the liberated countries find themselves subordinated in the international economic order.
The very concept of a liberatory national sovereignty is ambiguous ifnot completely contradictory. While this nationalism seeks to liberate the multitude from foreign domination, it erects domestic structures of domination that are equally severe. The position of the newly sovereign nation-state cannot be understood when it is viewed in terms of the rosy U.N. imaginary of a harmonious concert of equal and autonomous national subjects. The postcolonial nationstate functions as an essential and subordinated element in the global organization of the capitalist market. As Partha Chatterjee argues, national liberation and national sovereignty are not just powerless against this global capitalist hierarchy but themselves contribute to its organization and functioning:
Nowhere in the world has nationalism qua nationalism challenged the legitimacy of the marriage between Reason and capital. Nationalist thought . . . does not possess the ideological means to make this challenge. The conflict between metropolitain capital and the people-nation it resolves by absorbing the political life of the nation into the body of the state. Conservatory of the passive revolution, the national state now proceeds to find for "the nation" a place in the global order of capital, while striving to keep the contradictions between capital and the people in perpetual suspension. All politics is now sought to be subsumed under the overwhelming requirements of the state-representing-the-nation.[36]
The entire logical chain of representation might be summarized like this: the people representing the multitude, the nation representing the people, and the state representing the nation. Each link is an attempt to hold in suspension the crisis of modernity. Representation in each case means a further step of abstraction and control. From India to Algeria and Cuba to Vietnam, the state is the poisoned gift of national liberation.
The final link that explains the necessary subordination of the postcolonial nation-state, however, is the global order of capital. The global capitalist hierarchy that subordinates the formally sovereign nation-states within its order is fundamentally different from the colonialist and imperialist circuits of international domination. The end of colonialism is also the end of the modern world and modern regimes of rule. The end of modern colonialisms, of course, has not really opened an age of unqualified freedom but rather yielded to new forms of rule that operate on a global scale. Here we have our first real glimpse of the passage to Empire.
CONTAGION
When Louis-Ferdinand Destouches (C‚line) went to Africa, what he found was disease. In the unforgettable African passage of Journey to the End of the Night, the narrator, through the deliriums of his own fever, saw a population permeated through and through with disease: "The natives in those parts suffered horribly from every communicable disease [toutes les maladies attrapables]."[1] Perhaps this is exactly what we should expect from Doctor Destouches, given that he was sent to Africa by the League of Nations to work as a hygienist, but of course C‚line was also working with a commonplace of colonial consciousness.
There are two sides to the connection between colonialism and disease. First of all, simply the fact that the indigenous population is disease-ridden is itself a justification for the colonial project: "These niggers are sick! You'll see! They're completely corrupt [tout crev‚s et tout pourris]! . . . They're degenerates!" (p. 142). Disease is a sign of physical and moral corruption, a sign of a lack of civilization. Colonialism's civilizing project, then, is justified by the hygiene it brings. On the other side of the coin, however, from the European perspective, the primary danger of colonialism is disease-or really contagion. In Africa, Louis-Ferdinand finds "every communicable disease." Physical contamination, moral corruption, madness: the darkness of the colonial territories and populations is contagious, and Europeans are always at risk. (This is essentially the same truth that Kurtzrecogniz es in Conrad's Heart of darkness.) Once there is established the differential between the pure, civilized European and the corrupt, barbarous Other, there is possible not only a civilizing process from disease to health, but also ineluctably the reverse process, from health to disease. Contagion is the constant and present danger, the dark underside of the civilizing mission.
It is interesting in C‚line's Journey that the disease of colonial territories is a sign not really of death, but of an overabundance of life. The narrator, Louis-Ferdinand, finds that not only the population but moreover the African terrain itself is "monstrous" (p. 140). The disease of the jungle is that life springs up everywhere, everything grows, without bounds. What a horror for a hygienist! The disease that the colony lets loose is the lack of boundaries on life, an unlimited contagion. If one looks back, Europe appears reassuringly sterile. (Remember in Heart of darkness the deathly pallor of Brussels that Marlow finds on his return from the Belgian Congo, but with respect to the monstrous, unbounded overabundance of life in the colony, the sterile environment of Europe seems comforting.) The standpoint of the hygienist may in fact be the privileged position for recognizing the anxieties of colonialist consciousness. The horror released by European conquest and colonialism is a horror of unlimited contact, flow, and exchange-or really the horror of contagion, miscegenation, and unbounded life. Hygiene requires protective barriers. European colonialism was continually plagued by contradictions between virtuous exchange and the danger of contagion, and hence it was characterized by a complex play of flows and hygienic boundaries between metropole and colony and among colonial territories.
The contemporary processes of globalization have torn down many of the boundaries of the colonial world. Along with the common celebrations of the unbounded flows in our new global village, one can still sense also an anxiety about increased contact and a certain nostalgia for colonialist hygiene. The dark side of the consciousness of globalization is the fear of contagion. If we break down global boundaries and open universal contact in our global village, how will we prevent the spread of disease and corruption? This anxiety is most clearly revealed with respect to the AIDS pandemic.[2] The lightning speed of the spread of AIDS in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia demonstrated the new dangers of global contagion. As AIDS has been recognized first as a disease and then as a global pandemic, there have developed maps of its sources and spread that often focus on central Africa and Haiti, in terms reminiscent of the colonialist imaginary: unrestrained sexuality, moral corruption, and lack of hygiene. Indeed, the dominant discourses of AIDS prevention have been all about hygiene: We must avoid contact and use protection. The medical and humanitarian workers have to throw up their hands in frustration working with these infected populations who have so little respect for hygiene! (Think of what Doctor Destouches would say!) International and supranational projects to stop the spread of AIDS have tried to establish protective boundaries at another level by requiring HIV tests in order to cross national boundaries. The boundaries of nation-states, however, are increasingly permeable by all kinds of flows. Nothing can bring back the hygienic shields of colonial boundaries. The age of globalization is the age of universal contagion.
2.4 - SYMPTOMS OF PASSAGE
Here then is the man outside our people, outside our humanity. He is continually starving, nothing belongs to him but the instant, the prolonged instant of torture . . . He always has only one thing: his suffering, but there is nothing on the entire face of the earth that could serve as a remedy for him, there is no ground on which to plant his two feet, no support for his two hands to grasp, and thus there is so much less for him than there is for the music-hall trapeze artist who is at least hanging by a thread.
Franz Kafka
The end of colonialism and the declining powers of the nation are indicative of a general passage from the paradigm of modern sovereignty toward the paradigm of imperial sovereignty. The various postmodernist and postcolonialist theories that have emerged since the 1980s give us a first view of this passage, but the perspective they offer proves to be quite limited. As the prefix "post-" should indicate, postmodernist and postcolonialist theorists never tire of critiquing and seeking liberation from the past forms of rule and their legacies in the present. Postmodernists continually return to the lingering influence of the Enlightenment as the source of domination; postcolonialist theorists combat the remnants of colonialist thinking.

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