Saturday, December 27, 2014

Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri - Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri 

Multitude.. represents an important advance in our attempts to make sense of the profound societal shifts accompanying the rise of network forms of both resistance and control, and the possibilities for a better world that these shifts might enable.5 And Multitude actually stands alone quite well: if you’ve never cracked Empire but are curious, Multitude is a good place to start. If you picked up a copy of Empire a couple of years back and stalled 60 pages in, but remain interested in the ideas it grapples with, Multitude merits a look. If you read Empire and were excited by the ideas, but just wished sometimes they could express them a little more clearly, or relate them more directly to real world struggles, Multitude is the book you’ll wish they’d written first... (from the review by D. Oswald Mitchell)

One approach to understanding the democracy of the multitude is as an open-source society, that is, a society whose source code is revealed so that we can all work collaboratively to solve its bugs - Hardt and Negri, Multitude

(Extracts): The possibility of democracy on a global scale is emerging today for the very first time. This book is about that possibility, about what we call the project of the multitude. The project of the multitude not only expresses the desire for a world of equality and freedom, not only demands an open and inclusive democratic global society, but also provides the means for achieving it. That is how our book will end, bur it cannot begin there.

Today the possibility of democracy is obscured and threatened by the seemingly permanent state of conflict across the world. Our book must begin with this state of war. Democracy, it is true, remained an incomplete project throughout the modern era in all its national and local forms, and certainly the processes of globalization in recent decades have added new challenges, but the primary obstacle to democracy is the global state of war. In our era of armed globalization, the modern dream of democracy may seem to have been definitively lost.

War has always been incompatible with democracy. Traditionally, democracy has been suspended during wartime and  power entrusted temporarily to a strong central authority to confront the crisis. Because the current state of war is both global in scale and long lasting, with no end in sight, the suspension of democracy too becomes indefinite or even permanent. War takes on a generalized character, strangling all social life and posing its own political order. Democracy thus appears to be entirely irretrievable, buried deep beneath the weapons and security regimes of our constant state of conflict. Yet never has democracy been more necessary. No other path will provide a way out of the fear, insecurity, and domination that permeates our world at war; no other path will lead us to a peaceful life in common…

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Nothing annoys our economist friends more than reminding them that economics is a deeply reactionary discipline. Really ever since it was born between Scotland and France in the era that thought it had reached enlightenment, economics has evolved as a theory of the measure and the equilibrium among the parts of a whole-the economic whole of the production, reproduction, and distribution of wealth. Sure, the internal movements are dynamic, there is constant growth, the forms and foundation are always open to discussion, and thus conflict is never lacking, but the stability of the whole always overrules the movements of the parts.

As in Aristotle's world, for the economists, matter and form, movement and ends are necessarily compatible and united. For this reason economics, despite the appearance of constant movement, is really completely fixed and static. It is no coincidence that French physiocrats and Scottish moralists were the first to formulate the presuppositions of the analytic that would become in the course of a century the neoclassical "general theory of equilibrium." It was inevitable that statisticians and mathematicians would take over economics because they are the only ones with the techniques to manage it. The calculations and models are every day a confirmation, beyond the academic libraries and government dossiers of the utopia of political reaction. Why reaction?

Because the reproduction of society is analysed with the goal of keeping it exactly as is and formulating it in terms of quantitative measures that can make the relations of exploitation inevitable and natural, an ontological necessity. Economics is more disciplinary than any other discipline, and it has been ever since its origins. In the course of modernity, proceeding toward our times, there emerge more and more phenomena and institutions that do not square with the equilibria of the good and happy science of economics..

Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri - Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire