Empire (Hardt & Negri)

"Empire" (2000) by Hardt and Negri lines many shelves and sits on many recommended reading lists on the Left. I have written up a summary of their 2004 book, for anyone interested - that book is also easier reading for those not interested or well versed in Marxist literature / terminology. Empire presents a detailed history of the nation-state, imperialism and their vision for a transition to a new form of empire. It is heavy reading, and probably not suitable for undergraduates. The world has changed significantly since the penning of this book in the mid-90s, which is another reason to pick up more recent works. A few notes from the book:

  • "Globalization, of course, is not one thing, and the multiple processes that we recognize as globalization are not unified or univocal. Our political task, we will argue, is not simple to resist these processes but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends. The creative forces of the multitude that sustain Empire are also capable of autonomously constructing a counter-Empire, an alternative political organization of global flows and exchanges." (p. xv)​
  • "We, by contrast, must denaturalize 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." (p. 102)​
  • "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 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, hand and feet bound, to the new bourgeoisie." (p. 132-133)​
  • "When we begin to consider the ideologies of corporate capital and the world market, it certainly appears that the postmodernist and postcolonialist theorists who advocate a politics of difference, fluidity, and hybridity in order to challenge the binaries and essentialism of modern sovereignty have been outflanked by the strategies of power. Power has evacuated the bastion of they are attacking and has circled around to their rear to join them in the assault in the name of difference. These theorists thus find themselves pushing against an open door." (p. 138)​
  • "Fundamentalism, however, is a poor and confused category that groups together widely disparate phenomena. In general, one might say that fundamentalisms, diverse though they may be, are linked by their being understood both from within and outside as anti-modernist movements, resurgences of primordial identities and values; they are conceived as a kind of historical backflow, a de-modernization. It is more accurate and more useful, however, to understand the various fundamentalism not as the re-creation of a premodern world, but rather as a powerful refusal of the contemporary historical passage in course." (p. 146-147)​
  • "Countries whose economic production is not presently at the level of the dominant countries are thus seen as developing countries, with the idea that if they continue on the path followed previously by the dominant countries and repeat their economic policies and strategies, they will eventually enjoy an analogous position or stage. The developmental view fails to recognize, however, that the economies of the so-called developed countries are defined not only be certain quantitative factors or by their internal structures, but also and more important by their dominant position in the global system." (p. 282)​
  • "Empire is characterized by the close proximity of extremely unequal populations, which creates a situation of permanent social danger and requires the powerful apparatuses of the society of control to ensure separation and guarantee the new management of social space." (p. 336-337)​
  • "Revolutionary political militancy today, on the contrary, must rediscover what has always been its proper form: not representational but constituent activity. Militancy today is a positive, constructive, and innovative activity. This is the form in which we and all those who revolt against the rule of capital recognize ourselves as militants today. Militants resist imperial command in a creative way." (p. 413)
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