PART 4 - THE DECLINE AND FALL OF EMPIRE
4.1 - VIRTUALITIES
The people no longer exist, or not yet . . . the people are missing.
In the course of our argument we have generally dealt with Empire in terms of a critique of what is and what exists, and thus in ontological terms. At times, however, in order to reinforce the argumentation, we have addressed the problematic of Empire with an ethico-political discourse, calculating the mechanics of passions and interests-for example, when early in our argument we judged Empire as less bad or better than the previous paradigm of power from the standpoint of the multitude. English political theory in the period from Hobbes to Hume presents perhaps the paradigmatic example of such an ethico-political discourse, which began from a pessimistic description of presocial human nature and attempted through reliance on a transcendental notion of power to establish the legitimacy of the state. The (more or less liberal) Leviathan is less bad with respect to the war of all against all, better because it establishes and preserves peace. This style of political theorizing, however, is no longer very useful. It pretends that the subject can be understood presocially and outside the community, and then imposes a kind of transcendental socialization on it. In Empire, no subjectivity is outside, and all places have been subsumed in a general "non-place." The transcendental fiction of politics can no longer stand up and has no argumentative utility because we all exist entirely within the realm of the social and the political. When we recognize this radical determination of postmodernity, political philosophy forces us to enter the terrain of ontology.
Outside Measure (The Immeasurable)
When we say that political theory must deal with ontology, we mean first of all that politics cannot be constructed from the outside. Politics is given immediately; it is a field of pure immanence. Empire forms on this superficial horizon where our bodies and minds are embedded. It is purely positive. There is no external logical machine that constitutes it. The most natural thing in the world is that the world appears to be politically united, that the market is global, and that power is organized throughout this universality. Imperial politics articulates being in its global extension-a great sea that only the winds and current move. The neutralization of the transcendental imagination is thus the first sense in which the political in the imperial domain is ontological.
The political must also be understood as ontological owing to the fact that all the transcendental determinations of value and measure that used to order the deployments of power (or really determine its prices, subdivisions, and hierarchies) have lost their coherence. From the sacred myths of power that historical anthropologists such as RudolfOtto and Georges Dumezil employed to the rules of the new political science that the authors of The Federalist described; from the Rights of Man to the norms of international public law-all of this fades away with the passage to Empire. Empire dictates its laws and maintains the peace according to a model of postmodern right and postmodern law, through mobile, fluid, and localized procedures. Empire constitutes the ontological fabric in which all the relations of power are woven together-political and economic relations as well as social and personal relations. Across this hybrid domain the biopolitical structure of being is where the internal structure of imperial constitution is revealed, because in the globality of biopower every fixed measure of value tends to be dissolved, and the imperial horizon of power is revealed finally to be a horizon outside measure. Not only the political transcendental but also the transcendental as such has ceased to determine measure.
The great Western metaphysical tradition has always abhorred the immeasurable. From Aristotle's theory of virtue as measure to Hegel's theory of measure as the key to the passage from existence to essence, the question of measure has been strictly linked to that of transcendent order. Even Marx's theory of value pays its dues to this metaphysical tradition: his theory of value is really a theory of the measure of value. Only on the ontological horizon of Empire, however, is the world finally outside measure, and here we can see clearly the deep hatred that metaphysics has for the immeasurable. It derives from the ideological necessity to given a transcendent ontological foundation to order. Just as God is necessary for the classical transcendence of power, so too measure is necessary for the transcendent foundation of the values of the modern state. If there is no measure, the metaphysicians say, there is no cosmos; and if there is no cosmos, there is no state. In this framework one cannot think the immeasurable, or rather, one must not think it. Throughout modernity, the immeasurable was the object of an absolute ban, an epistemological prohibition. This metaphysical illusion disappears today, however, because in the context of biopolitical ontology and its becomings, the transcendent is what is unthinkable. When political transcendence is still claimed today, it descends immediately into tyranny and barbarism.
When we say immeasurable, we mean that the political developments of imperial being are outside of every preconstituted measure. We mean that the relationships among the modes of being and the segments of power are always constructed anew and that they vary infinitely. The indexes of command (like those of economic value) are defined on the basis of always contingent and purely conventional elements. Certainly there are apexes and summits of imperial power which guarantee that contingency does not become subversive, that it is not united with the storms that arise on the seas of being-apexes such as the monopoly of nuclear arms, the control of money, and the colonization of ether. These royal deployments of Empire guarantee that the contingency becomes a necessity and does not descend into disorder. These higher powers, however, do not represent a figure of order or a measure of the cosmos; on the contrary, their effectiveness is based on destruction (by the bomb), on judgment (by money), and on fear (by communication). One might ask at this point whether this idea of immeasurability does not imply the absolute negation of the concept of justice. The history of the idea of justice has indeed generally referred to some notion of measure, be it a measure of equality or a measure of proportionality. Furthermore, as Aristotle says, taking up a line from Theognis, "in justice all virtue is summed up." Are we thus simply making a nonsensical nihilist claim when we assert that in the ontology of Empire value is outside measure? Are we claiming that no value, no justice, and indeed no virtue can exist? No, in contrast to those who have long claimed that value can be affirmed only in the figure of measure and order, we argue that value and justice can live in and be nourished by an immeasurable world. Here we can see once again the importance of the revolution of Renaissance humanism. Ni Dieu, ni maŒtre, ni l'homme-no transcendent power or measure will determine the values of our world. Value will be determined only by humanity's own continuous innovation and creation.
Beyond Measure (The Virtual)
Even if the political has become a realm outside measure, value nonetheless remains. Even ifin postmodern capitalism there is no longer a fixed scale that measures value, value nonetheless is still powerful and ubiquitous. This fact is demonstrated first of all by the persistence of exploitation, and second by the fact that productive innovation and the creation of wealth continue tirelessly-in fact, they mobilize labor in every interstice of the world. In Empire, the construction of value takes place beyond measure. The contrast between the immeasurable excesses of imperial globalization and the productive activity that is beyond measure must be read from the standpoint of the subjective activity that creates and re-creates the world in its entirety.
What we need to highlight at this point, however, is something more substantial than the simple claim that labor remains the central constituent foundation of society as capital transforms to its postmodern stage. Whereas "outside measure" refers to the impossibility of power's calculating and ordering production at a global level, "beyond measure" refers to the vitality of the productive context, the expression of labor as desire, and its capacities to constitute the biopolitical fabric of Empire from below. Beyond measure refers to the new place in the non-place, the place defined by the productive activity that is autonomous from any external regime of measure. Beyond measure refers to a virtuality that invests the entire biopolitical fabric of imperial globalization.
By the virtual we understand the set of powers to act (being, loving, transforming, creating) that reside in the multitude. We have already seen how the multitude's virtual set of powers is constructed by struggles and consolidated in desire. Now we have to investigate how the virtual can put pressure on the borders of the possible, and thus touch on the real. The passage from the virtual through the possible to the real is the fundamental act of creation. Living labor is what constructs the passageway from the virtual to the real; it is the vehicle of possibility. Labor that has broken open the cages of economic, social, and political discipline and surpassed every regulative dimension of modern capitalism along with its state-form now appears as general social activity. Labor is productive excess with respect to the existing order and the rules of its reproduction. This productive excess is at once the result of a collective force of emancipation and the substance of the new social virtuality of labor's productive and liberatory capacities. In the passage to postmodernity, one of the primary conditions of labor is that it functions outside measure. The temporal regimentation of labor and all the other economic and/or political measures that have been imposed on it are blown apart. Today labor is immediately a social force animated by the powers of knowledge, affect, science, and language. Indeed, labor is the productive activity of a general intellect and a general body outside measure. Labor appears simply as the power to act, which is at once singular and universal: singular insofar as labor has become the exclusive domain of the brain and body of the multitude; and universal insofar as the desire that the multitude expresses in the movement from the virtual to the possible is constantly constituted as a common thing. Only when what is common is formed can production take place and can general productivity rise. Anything that blocks this power to act is merely an obstacle to overcome-an obstacle that is eventually outflanked, weakened, and smashed by the critical powers of labor and the everyday passional wisdom of the affects. The power to act is constituted by labor, intelligence, passion, and affect in one common place.
This notion of labor as the common power to act stands in a contemporaneous, coextensive, and dynamic relationship to the construction of community. This relationship is reciprocal such that on the one hand the singular powers of labor continuously create new common constructions, and, on the other hand, what is common becomes singularized. We can thus define the virtual power of labor as a power of self-valorization that exceeds itself, flows over onto the other, and, through this investment, constitutes an expansive commonality. The common actions of labor, intelligence, passion, and affect configure a constituent power.
The process we are describing is not merely formal; it is material, and it is realized on the biopolitical terrain. The virtuality of action and the transformation of material conditions, which at times are appropriated by and enrich this power to act, are constituted in ontological mechanisms or apparatuses beyond measure. This ontological apparatus beyond measure is an expansive power, a power of freedom, ontological construction, and omnilateral dissemination. This last definition could be considered redundant. If the power to act constructs value from below, if it transforms value according to the rhythm of what is common, and ifit appropriates constitutively the material conditions of its own realization, then it is obvious that in it resides an expansive force beyond measure. This definition is not redundant, however, but rather adds a new dimension to the concept insofar as it demonstrates the positive character of the non-place and the irrepressibility of common action beyond measure. This expansive definition plays an anti-dialectical role, demonstrating the creativity of what is beyond measure. With reference to the history of philosophy, we could add, in order to define the sense of this expansive power, that whereas the definitions of the power to act in terms of the singular and the common are Spinozist, this last definition is really a Nietzschean conception. The omnilateral expansiveness of the power to act demonstrates the ontological basis of transvaluation, that is, its capacity not only to destroy the values that descend from the transcendental realm of measure but also to create new values.
The ontological terrain of Empire, completely plowed and irrigated by a powerful, self-valorizing, and constituent labor, is thus planted with a virtuality that seeks to be real. The keys of possibility, or really of the modalities of being that transform the virtual into reality, reside in this realm beyond measure.
One might object at this point that, despite the powers of the multitude, this Empire still exists and commands. We ourselves have amply described its functioning and highlighted its extreme violence. With respect to the virtuality of the multitude, however, imperial government appears as an empty shell or a parasite. Does this mean that the investments of power that Empire continuously makes in order to maintain imperial order and the powerlessness of the multitude really are ineffective? If this were the case, then the argumentation we have been developing up to this point about the extrinsic character of imperial government with respect to the ontological developments of the multitude would be contradictory. The gap between virtuality and possibility that we think can be bridged from the standpoint of the action of the multitude is effectively held open by imperial domination. The two forces seem to stand in contradiction.
We do not, however, think that this is really a contradiction. Only in formal logic is contradiction static; contradiction is never static, however, in material logic (that is, political, historical, and ontological logic), which poses it on the terrain of the possible and thus on the terrain of power. Indeed, the relationship that imperial government imposes on the virtuality of the multitude is simply a static relationship of oppression. The investments of imperial government are essentially negative, deployed through procedures intended to order coercively the actions and events that risk descending into disorder. In all cases the effectiveness of imperial government is regulatory and not constituent, not even when its effects are long-lasting. The redundancies of imperial command configure at most the chronicle that records political life, or really the most feeble and repetitive image of the determinations of being. The royal prerogatives of imperial government, its monopoly over the bomb, money, and the communicative ether, are merely destructive capacities and thus powers of negation. The action of imperial government intervenes in the multitude's project to suture together virtuality and possibility only by disrupting it and slowing it down. In this respect Empire does touch on the course of historical movement, but it cannot for that reason be defined as a positive capacity-on the contrary, the legitimacy of its command is only increasingly undermined by these movements.
When the action of Empire is effective, this is due not to its own force but to the fact that it is driven by the rebound from the resistance of the multitude against imperial power. One might say in this sense that resistance is actually prior to power. When imperial government intervenes, it selects the liberatory impulses of the multitude in order to destroy them, and in return it is driven forward by resistance. The royal investments of Empire and all its political initiatives are constructed according to the rhythm of the acts of resistance that constitute the being of the multitude. In other words, the effectiveness of Empire's regulatory and repressive procedures must finally be traced back to the virtual, constitutive action of the multitude. Empire itself is not a positive reality. In the very moment it rises up, it falls. Each imperial action is a rebound of the resistance of the multitude that poses a new obstacle for the multitude to overcome.
Imperial command produces nothing vital and nothing ontological. From the ontological perspective, imperial command is purely negative and passive. Certainly power is everywhere, but it is everywhere because everywhere is in play the nexus between virtuality and possibility, a nexus that is the sole province of the multitude. Imperial power is the negative residue, the fallback of the operation of the multitude; it is a parasite that draws its vitality from the multitude's capacity to create ever new sources of energy and value. A parasite that saps the strength of its host, however, can endanger its own existence. The functioning of imperial power is ineluctably linked to its decline.
Nomadism and Miscegenation
The ontological fabric of Empire is constructed by the activity beyond measure of the multitude and its virtual powers. These virtual, constituent powers conflict endlessly with the constituted power of Empire. They are completely positive since their "beingagainst" is a "being-for," in other words, a resistance that becomes love and community. We are situated precisely at that hinge of infinite finitude that links together the virtual and the possible, engaged in the passage from desire to a coming future. This ontological relation operates first of all on space. The virtuality of world space constitutes the first determination of the movements of the multitude-a virtuality that must be made real. Space that merely can be traversed must be transformed into a space of life; circulation must become freedom. In other words, the mobile multitude must achieve a global citizenship. The multitude's resistance to bondage-the struggle against the slavery of belonging to a nation, an identity, and a people, and thus the desertion from sovereignty and the limits it places on subjectivity-is entirely positive. Nomadism and miscegenation appear here as figures of virtue, as the first ethical practices on the terrain of Empire. From this perspective the objective space of capitalist globalization breaks down. Only a space that is animated by subjective circulation and only a space that is defined by the irrepressible movements (legal or clandestine) of individuals and groups can be real. Today's celebrations of the local can be regressive and even fascistic when they oppose circulations and mixture, and thus reinforce the walls of nation, ethnicity, race, people, and the like. The concept of the local, however, need not be defined by isolation and purity. In fact, if one breaks down the walls that surround the local (and thereby separate the concept from race, religion, ethnicity, nation, and people), one can link it directly to the universal. The concrete universal is what allows the multitude to pass from place to place and make its place its own. This is the common place of nomadism and miscegenation. Through circulation the common human species is composed, a multicolored Orpheus of infinite power; through circulation the human community is constituted. Outside every Enlightenment cloud or Kantian reverie, the desire of the multitude is not the cosmopolitical state but a common species. As in a secular Pentecost, the bodies are mixed and the nomads speak a common tongue.
In this context, ontology is not an abstract science. It involves the conceptual recognition of the production and reproduction of being and thus the recognition that political reality is constituted by the movement of desire and the practical realization of labor as value. The spatial dimension of ontology today is demonstrated through the multitude's concrete processes of the globalization, or really the making common, of the desire for human community. One important example of the functioning of this spatial dimension is demonstrated by the processes that brought an end to the Third World, along with all the glory and disgrace of its past struggles, the power of desires that ran throughout its processes of liberation, and the poverty of results that crowned its success. The real heroes of the liberation of the Third World today may really have been the emigrants and the flows of population that have destroyed old and new boundaries. Indeed, the postcolonial hero is the one who continually transgresses territorial and racial boundaries, who destroys particularisms and points toward a common civilization. Imperial command, by contrast, isolates populations in poverty and allows them to act only in the straitjackets of subordinated postcolonial nations. The exodus from localism, the transgression of customs and boundaries, and the desertion from sovereignty were the operative forces in the liberation of the Third World. Here more than ever we can recognize clearly the difference Marx defined between emancipation and liberation. Emancipation is the entry of new nations and peoples into the imperial society of control, with its new hierarchies and segmentations; liberation, in contrast, means the destruction of boundaries and patterns of forced migration, the reappropriation of space, and the power of the multitude to determine the global circulation and mixture of individuals and populations. The Third World, which was constructed by the colonialism and imperialism of nation-states and trapped in the cold war, is destroyed when the old rules of the political discipline of the modern state (and its attendant mechanisms of geographical and ethnic regulation of populations) are smashed. It is destroyed when throughout the ontological terrain of globalization the most wretched of the earth becomes the most powerful being, because its new nomad singularity is the most creative force and the omnilateral movement of its desire is itself the coming liberation.
The power to circulate is a primary determination of the virtuality of the multitude, and circulating is the first ethical act of a counterimperial ontology. This ontological aspect of biopolitical circulation and mixture is highlighted even more when it is contrasted with other meanings attributed to postmodern circulation, such as market exchanges or the velocity of communication. Those aspects of speed and circulation belong, rather, to the violence of imperial command. Exchanges and communication dominated by capital are integrated into its logic, and only a radical act of resistance can recapture the productive sense of the new mobility and hybridity of subjects and realize their liberation. This rupture, and only this rupture, brings us to the ontological terrain of the multitude and to the terrain on which circulation and hybridization are biopolitical. Biopolitical circulation focuses on and celebrates the substantial determinations of the activities of production, self-valorization, and freedom. Circulation is a global exodus, or really nomadism; and it is a corporeal exodus, or really miscegenation.
General Intellect and Biopower
We insisted earlier on the importance and limitations of Marx's notion of "general intellect" (Section 1.2). At a certain point in capitalist development, which Marx only glimpsed as the future, the powers of labor are infused by the powers of science, communication, and language. General intellect is a collective, social intelligence created by accumulated knowledges, techniques, and knowhow. The value of labor is thus realized by a new universal and concrete labor force through the appropriation and free usage of the new productive forces. What Marx saw as the future is our era. This radical transformation of labor power and the incorporation of science, communication, and language into productive force have redefined the entire phenomenology of labor and the entire world horizon of production.