Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri

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This antihumanism, however, need not conflict with the revolutionary spirit of Renaissance humanism we outlined earlier from Cusano to Marsilius. In fact, this antihumanism follows directly on Renaissance humanism's secularizing project, or more precisely, its discovery of the plane of immanence. Both projects are founded on an attack on transcendence. There is a strict continuity between the religious thought that accords a power above nature to God and the modern "secular" thought that accords that same power above nature to Man. The transcendence of God is simply transferred to Man. Like God before it, this Man that stands separate from and above nature has no place in a philosophy of immanence. Like God, too, this transcendent figure of Man leads quickly to the imposition of social hierarchy and domination. Antihumanism, then, conceived as a refusal of any transcendence, should in no way be confused with a negation of the vis viva, the creative life force that animates the revolutionary stream of the modern tradition. On the contrary, the refusal of transcendence is the condition of possibility of thinking this immanent power, an anarchic basis of philosophy: "Ni Dieu, ni maŒtre, ni l'homme."
The humanism of Foucault's final works, then, should not be seen as contradictory to or even as a departure from the death of Man he proclaimed twenty years earlier. Once we recognize our posthuman bodies and minds, once we see ourselves for the simians and cyborgs we are, we then need to explore the vis viva, the creative powers that animate us as they do all of nature and actualize our potentialities. This is humanism after the death of Man: what Foucault calls "le travail de soi sur soi," the continuous constituent project to create and re-create ourselves and our world.
Foreigners, please don't leave us alone with the French!
Paris graffito, 1995
We thought we were dying for the fatherland. We realized quickly it was for the bank vaults.
Anatole France
As European modernity progressively took shape, machines of power were constructed to respond to its crisis, searching continually for a surplus that would resolve or at least contain the crisis. In the previous section we traced the path of one response to the crisis that led to the development of the modern sovereign state. The second approach centers on the concept of nation, a development that presupposes the first path and builds on it to construct a more perfect mechanism to reestablish order and command.
Birth of the Nation
The concept of nation in Europe developed on the terrain of the patrimonial and absolutist state. The patrimonial state was defined as the property of the monarch. In a variety of analogous forms in different countries throughout Europe, the patrimonial and absolutist state was the political form required to rule feudal social relations and relations of production.[1] Feudal property had to be delegated and its usage assigned according to the degrees of the social division of power, in the same way that levels of administration would have to be delegated in subsequent centuries. Feudal property was part of the body of the monarch, just as, if we shift our view toward the metaphysical domain, the sovereign monarchic body was part of the body of God.[2]
In the sixteenth century, in the midst of the Reformation and that violent battle among the forces of modernity, the patrimonial monarchy was still presented as the guarantee of peace and social life. It was still granted control over social development in such a way that it could absorb that process within its machine of domination. "Cujus regio, ejus religio"-or really, religion had to be subordinated to the territorial control of the sovereign. There was nothing diplomatic about this adage; on the contrary, it confided entirely to the power of the patrimonial sovereign the management of the passage to the new order. Even religion was the sovereign's property. In the seventeenth century, the absolutist reaction to the revolutionary forces of modernity celebrated the patrimonial monarchic state and wielded it as a weapon for its own purposes. At that point, however, the celebration of the patrimonial state could not but be paradoxical and ambiguous, since the feudal bases of its power were withering away. The processes of the primitive accumulation of capital imposed new conditions on all the structures of power.[3] Until the era of the three great bourgeois revolutions (the English, the American, and the French), there was no political alternative that could successfully oppose this model. The absolutist and patrimonial model survived in this period only with the support of a specific compromise of political forces, and its substance was eroding from the inside owing primarily to the emergence of new productive forces. The model did survive nonetheless, and, much more important, it was transformed through the development of some fundamental characteristics that would be bequeathed to successive centuries.
The transformation of the absolutist and patrimonial model consisted in a gradual process that replaced the theological foundation ofterritorial patrimony with a new foundation that was equally transcendent.[4] The spiritual identity of the nation rather than the divine body of the king now posed the territory and population as an ideal abstraction. Or rather, the physical territory and population were conceived as the extension of the transcendent essence of the nation. The modern concept of nation thus inherited the patrimonial body of the monarchic state and reinvented it in a new form. This new totality of power was structured in part by new capitalist productive processes on the one hand and old networks of absolutist administration on the other. This uneasy structural relationship was stabilized by the national identity: a cultural, integrating identity, founded on a biological continuity of blood relations, a spatial continuity ofterritory, and linguistic commonality.
It is obvious that, although this process preserved the materiality of the relationship to the sovereign, many elements changed. Most important, as the patrimonial horizon was transformed into the national horizon, the feudal order of the subject (subjectus) yielded to the disciplinary order of the citizen (cives). The shift of the population from subjects to citizens was an index of the shift from a passive to an active role. The nation is always presented as an active force, as a generative form of social and political relations. As Benedict Anderson and others point out, the nation is often experienced as (or at least functions as if it were) a collective imagining, an active creation of the community of citizens.[5] At this point we can see both the proximity and the specific difference between the concepts of patrimonial state and national state. The latter faithfully reproduces the former's totalizing identity of both the territory and the population, but the nation and the national state propose new means of overcoming the precariousness of modern sovereignty. These concepts reify sovereignty in the most rigid way; they make the relation of sovereignty into a thing (often by naturalizing it) and thus weed out every residue of social antagonism. The nation is a kind of ideological shortcut that attempts to free the concepts of sovereignty and modernity from the antagonism and crisis that define them. National sovereignty suspends the conflictual origins of modernity (when they are not definitively destroyed), and it closes the alternative paths within modernity that had refused to concede their powers to state authority.[6]
The transformation of the concept of modern sovereignty
into that of national sovereignty also required certain new material conditions. Most important, it required that a new equilibrium be established between the processes of capitalist accumulation and the structures of power. The political victory of the bourgeoisie, as the English and French revolutions show well, corresponded to the perfecting of the concept of modern sovereignty through that of national sovereignty. Behind the ideal dimension of the concept of nation there were the class figures that already dominated the processes of accumulation. "Nation" was thus at once both the hypostasis of the Rousseauian "general will" and what manufacturing ideology conceived as the "community of needs" (that is, the capitalist regulation of the market) that in the long era of primitive accumulation in Europe was more or less liberal and always bourgeois. When in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the concept of nation was taken up in very different ideological contexts and led popular mobilizations in regions and countries within and outside Europe that had experienced neither the liberal revolution nor the same level of primitive accumulation, it still always was presented as a concept of capitalist modernization, which claimed to bring together the interclass demands for political unity and the needs of economic development. In other words, the nation was posed as the one and only active vehicle that could deliver modernity and development. Rosa Luxemburg argued vehemently (and futilely) against nationalism in the debates internal to the Third International in the years before the First World War. Luxemburg opposed a policy of "national self-determination" for Poland as an element of the revolutionary platform, but her indictment of nationalism was much more general.[7] Her critique of the nation was not merely a critique of modernization as such, although she was no doubt keenly aware of the ambiguities involved in capitalist development; and she was not primarily concerned with the divisions that nationalisms would inevitably create within the European working class, although her own nomadic passage through central and eastern Europe certainly made her extremely sensitive to this. Luxemburg's most powerful argument, rather, was that nation means dictatorship and is thus profoundly incompatible with any attempt at democratic organization. Luxemburg recognized that national sovereignty and national mythologies effectively usurp the terrain of democratic organization by renewing the powers ofterritorial sovereignty and modernizing its project through the mobilization of an active community. The process of constructing the nation, which renewed the concept of sovereignty and gave it a new definition, quickly became in each and every historical context an ideological nightmare. The crisis of modernity, which is the contradictory co-presence of the multitude and a power that wants to reduce it to the rule of one-that is, the co-presence of a new productive set of free subjectivities and a disciplinary power that wants to exploit it-is not finally pacified or resolved by the concept of nation, any more than it was by the concept of sovereignty or state. The nation can only mask the crisis ideologically, displace it, and defer its power.
The Nation and the Crisis of Modernity
Jean Bodin's work lies at the head of the road in European thought that leads to the concept of national sovereignty. His masterwork, Les six livres de la R‚publique, which first appeared in 1576, right in the middle of the Renaissance crisis, addressed the current civil and religious wars in France and Europe as its fundamental problem. Bodin confronted political crises, conflicts, and war, but these elements of rupture did not lead him to pose any idyllic alternative, not even in simply theoretical or utopian terms. This is why Bodin's work was not only a seminal contribution to the modern definition of sovereignty but also an effective anticipation of the subsequent development of sovereignty in national terms. By adopting a realistic standpoint, he managed to anticipate modernity's own critique of sovereignty.
Sovereignty, Bodin claimed, cannot be produced by the unity of the Prince and the multitude, the public and the private, nor can its problem be resolved so long as one holds to either a contractualist or a natural right framework. Really, the origin of political power and the definition of sovereignty consist in the victory of one side over the other, a victory that makes the one sovereign and the other subject. Force and violence create the sovereign. The physical determinations of power impose the plenitudo potestatis (the fullness of power). This is the plenitude and the unity of power, since "the union of[the republic's] members depends on unity under a single ruler, on whom the effectiveness of all the rest depends. A sovereign prince is therefore indispensable, for it is his power which informs all the members of the republic."[8]
After discarding the framework of natural right and the transcendental perspectives that it always in some way invokes, Bodin presents us with a figure of the sovereign, or rather the state, that realistically and thus historically constructs its own origin and structure. The modern state arose from within this transformation, and only there could it continue to develop. This is the theoretical hinge on which the theory of modern sovereignty is linked to and perfects the experience of territorial sovereignty. By taking up Roman law and drawing on its capacities to articulate the sources of right and order the forms of property, Bodin's doctrine became a theory of a united political body articulated as administration that appeared to surmount the difficulties of the crisis of modernity. The displacement of the center of theoretical consideration from the question of legitimacy to that of the life of the state and its sovereignty as a united body constituted an important advance. When Bodin spoke of "the political right of sovereignty," he already anticipated the national (and corporeal) overdetermination of sovereignty, and he thus opened an original and direct path that would stretch forward across the subsequent centuries.[9]
After Bodin, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there developed in Europe simultaneously two schools of thought that also accorded the theme of sovereignty a central role and effectively anticipated the concept of national sovereignty: the natural right tradition and the realist (or historicist) tradition of state theory.[10] Both schools mediated the transcendental conception of sovereignty with a realistic methodology that grasped the terms of the material conflict; both brought together the construction of the sovereign state with the constitution of the sociopolitical community that later would be called nation. As in Bodin, both of these schools continually confronted the crisis of the theoretical conception of sovereignty, which was itself continually reopened by the antagonistic powers of modernity and the juridical and administrative construction of the figure of the state.
In the natural right school, from Grotius to Althusius and from Thomasius to Puffendorf, the transcendental figures of sovereignty were brought down to earth and grounded in the reality of the institutional and administrative processes. Sovereignty was distributed by setting in motion a system of multiple contracts designed to intervene on every node of the administrative structure of power. This process was not oriented toward the apex of the state and the mere title of sovereignty; rather, the problem of legitimation began to be addressed in terms of an administrative machine that functioned through the articulations of the exercise of power. The circle of sovereignty and obedience closed in on itself, duplicating itself, multiplying, and extending across social reality. Sovereignty came to be studied less from the perspective of the antagonists involved in the crisis of modernity and more as an administrative process that articulates these antagonisms and aims toward a unity in the dialectic of power, abstacting and reifying it through the historical dynamics. An important segment of the natural right school thus developed the idea of distributing and articulating the transcendent sovereignty through the real forms of administration.[11]
The synthesis that was implicit in the natural right school, however, became explicit in the context of historicism. Certainly, it would be incorrect to attribute to the historicism of the Enlightenment the thesis that was really only developed later by the reactionary schools in the period after the French Revolution-the thesis, that is, that unites the theory of sovereignty with the theory of the nation and grounds both of them in a common historical humus. And yet there are already in this early period the seeds of that later development. Whereas an important segment of the natural right school developed the idea of articulating transcendent sovereignty through the real forms of administration, the historicist thinkers of the Enlightenment attempted to conceive the subjectivity of the historical process and thereby find an effective ground for the title and exercise of sovereignty.[12] In the work of Giambattista Vico, for example, that terrific meteor that shot across the age of Enlightenment, the determinations of the juridical conception of sovereignty were all grounded in the power of historical development. The transcendent figures of sovereignty were translated into indexes of a providential process, which was at once both human and divine. This construction of sovereignty (or really reification of sovereignty) in history was very powerful. On this historical terrain, which forces every ideological construct to confront reality, the genetic crisis of modernity was never closed-and there was no need for it to close, because the crisis itself produced new figures that incessantly spurred on historical and political development, all still under the rule of the transcendent sovereign. What an ingenious inversion of the problematic! And yet, at the same time, what a complete mystification of sovereignty! The elements of the crisis, a continuous and unresolved crisis, were now considered active elements of progress. In effect, we can already recognize in Vico the embryo of Hegel's apologia of "effectiveness," making the present world arrangement the telos of history.[13]
What remained hints and suggestions in Vico, however, emerged as an open and radical declaration in the late German Enlightenment. In the Hannover school first, and then in the work of J. G. Herder, the modern theory of sovereignty was directed exclusively toward the analysis of what was conceived as a social and cultural continuity: the real historical continuity of the territory, the population, and the nation. Vico's argument that ideal history is located in the history of all nations became more radical in Herder so that every human perfection is, in a certain respect, national.[14] Identity is thus conceived not as the resolution of social and historical differences but as the product of a primordial unity. The nation is a complete figure of sovereignty prior to historical development; or better, there is no historical development that is not already prefigured in the origin. In other words, the nation sustains the concept of sovereignty by claiming to precede it.[15] It is the material engine that courses throughout history, the "genius" that works history. The nation becomes finally the condition of possibility of all human action and social life itself.
The Nation's People
Between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, the concept of national sovereignty finally emerged in European thought in its completed form. At the base of this definitive figure of the concept were a trauma, the French Revolution, and the resolution of that trauma, the reactionary appropriation and celebration of the concept of nation. The fundamental elements of this swift reconfiguration of the concept of nation that made it a real political weapon can be seen in summary form in the work of Emmanuel-Joseph SieyŠs. In his wonderful and libelous tract What Is the Third Estate? he linked the concept of nation to that of the Third Estate, that is, the bourgeoisie. SieyŠs tried to lead the concept of sovereignty back to its humanist origins and rediscover its revolutionary possibilities. More important for our purposes, SieyŠs's intense engagement with revolutionary activity allowed him to interpret the concept of nation as a constructive political concept, a constitutional mechanism. It gradually becomes clear, however, particularly in SieyŠs's later work, the work of his followers, and above all that of his detractors, that although the nation was formed through politics, it was ultimately a spiritual construction, and the concept of nation was thus stripped away from the revolution, consigned to all the Thermidors. The nation became explicitly the concept that summarized the bourgeois hegemonic solution to the problem of sovereignty.[16]
At those points when the concept of nation has been presented as popular and revolutionary, as indeed it was during the French Revolution, one might assume that the nation has broken away from the modern concept of sovereignty and its apparatus of subjugation and domination, and is dedicated instead to a democratic notion of community. The link between the concept of nation and the concept of people was indeed a powerful innovation, and it did constitute the center of the Jacobin sensibility as well as that of other revolutionary groups. What appears as revolutionary and liberatory in this notion of national, popular sovereignty, however, is really nothing more than another turn of the screw, a further extension of the subjugation and domination that the modern concept of sovereignty has carried with it from the beginning. The precarious power of sovereignty as a solution to the crisis of modernity was first referred for support to the nation, and then when the nation too was revealed as a precarious solution, it was further referred to the people. In other words, just as the concept of nation completes the notion of sovereignty by claiming to precede it, so too the concept of the people completes that of nation through another feigned logical regression. Each logical step back functions to solidify the power of sovereignty by mystifying its basis, that is, by resting on the naturalness of the concept. The identity of the nation and even more so the identity of the people must appear natural and originary.
We, by contrast, must de-naturalize these concepts and ask what is a nation and how is it made, but also, what is a people and how is it made? Although "the people" is posed as the originary basis of the nation, the modern conception of the people is in fact a product of the nation-state, and survives only within its specific ideological context. Many contemporary analyses of nations and nationalism from a wide variety of perspectives go wrong precisely because they rely unquestioningly on the naturalness of the concept and identity of the people. We should note that the concept of the people is very different from that of the multitude.[17] Already in the seventeenth century, Hobbes was very mindful of this difference and its importance for the construction of sovereign order: "It is a great hindrance to civil government, especially monarchical, that men distinguish not enough between a people and a multitude. The people is somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action may be attributed; none of these can be properly said of the multitude. The people rules in all governments. For even in monarchies the people commands; for the people wills by the will of one man . . . (however it seem a paradox) the king is the people."[18] The multitude is a multiplicity, a plane of singularities, an open set of relations, which is not homogeneous or identical with itself and bears an indistinct, inclusive relation to those outside of it. The people, in contrast, tends toward identity and homogeneity internally while posing its difference from and excluding what remains outside of it. Whereas the multitude is an inconclusive constituent relation, the people is a constituted synthesis that is prepared for sovereignty. The people provides a single will and action that is independent of and often in conflict with the various wills and actions of the multitude. Every nation must make the multitude into a people.

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