The multitude

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Steggsie
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Feb 28 2007 23:37
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
This looks interesting, haven't read it yet though.

Jack suggested Keep on Smiling - questions on immaterial labour from Aufheben #14 (2006) the other day, haven't finished reading it but it's looking like the best critique so far.

Thanks for this; looks good. For those with less time, there's a short critique of 'immaterial labour' which makes many similar points by Andy Blunden:

http://www.werple.net.au/~andy/blackwood/empire03.htm

SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Mar 10 2007 13:06

no worries - if you want to discuss it let me know, as I'm quite interested in the extent to which he mirrors everything that dialectics offers whilst slagging it off as a waste of time.

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Mar 12 2007 08:44

Here's an essay question for you.....

"Negri's self-distancing from dialectics is a continuation of a logic implicit in his early 'workerist' writings." Discuss.

wink

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Mar 12 2007 09:37

I don't see Negri as non-dialectical either, although it does seem to be a common criticism. To some people, I suppose that the notion of "self-valorisation" looks non-dialectical, because it's not agonistic enough. But fuck 'em, eh?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 12 2007 09:44

revol: i'm reading spinoza at the moment, so a verdict on your idiocy is pending.

i think the sense in which Negri is undialectical is that he sees 'the multitude' as this potentially autonomous force which just needs to push through that pesky empire, it's an 'absolutely positive force' that has everything we need already, whereas a dialectical approach would stress mutual destruction/sublation leading to communism. he also portrays capital as entirely reactive to the always-active multitude, rather than seeing endless action-counter-action, which again is one sided, and just for the button is rooted in his original over-subjectivist refutation of objectivist orthodox marxism. probably.

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the button
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Mar 12 2007 09:49

Another essay question....

"It would probably have been better for all parties concerned if Negri had died in prison."
Discuss.

wink

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the button
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Mar 12 2007 10:02

Spinoza should be right up your alley revol. Dialectics + desire = Jack's pillow beware.

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Mar 12 2007 10:03
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Tony Negri got one of them preggers

surely tony negri is the offspring of gilles delueze buggering* toni negri? wink

although to be fair the aufheben thing did say "allegations of being non-dialectical should not be taken as a banal insult. Being non-dialectical would not be too bad in itself, if this did not create serious problems in Negri and Hardt’s theorisation."

_______________________________
* not latent homophobia wink - deleuze referred to his technique of reading other philosophers as buggery.

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Mar 12 2007 10:35

did they start from the allegation of being non-dialectical, or did they analyse his theory of immaterial labour and conclude its failings were (at least partly) on account of its non-dialectical (or insufficiently dialectical) method? (can't remember neutral)

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the button
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Mar 12 2007 10:39

That's a very non-dialectical question, Joseph. angry

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 12 2007 10:50
the button wrote:
That's a very non-dialectical question, Joseph. angry

now that is a banal insult wink

revol68 wrote:
Quote:
"Being non-dialectical would not be too bad in itself, if this did not create serious problems in Negri and Hardt’s theorisation."

This would suggest that they start from the abstract and as we all know from Hegel and his analysis of the Prussian state, it always gives a circular answer.

when dealing with theories, methodology impacts results no? i might have to re-read it, but i seem to remember the critique referencing the concrete experiences of call centre workers etc and comparing them to the abstract theorisation of immaterial labour, concluding the failure of the latter to correlate to the former was somewhat on account of a poor ("non-dialectical") method.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 12 2007 11:13

they say the multitude is "an absolutely positive force" - so if there's parody it's of the auto variety

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 12 2007 11:49

well for negri and hardt it's a 'class concept' of all those who produce, with production defined very broadly, and the abstract emphasis on heterogeneity seems a retreat on the autonomist concepts of class (de-/re-)composition. people like virno seem more honest, and don't see the multitude as a class concept, merely a replacement for the political science category of 'People'.

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Mar 13 2007 05:57

I've seen Hardt speak a few times where he says "multitude equals autonomy plus cooperation" or something similar, and he usually references Lenin "communism = electrification+soviets". As I read him and Negri, they use the term in two ways. One is critical - where someone says "unity" they say "no, multiplicity." So, for instance, the bad old flattening understanding of the working class as just white men, really the working class is made up of all sorts of people who take part in surplus value production in different ways. This version, with regard to the working class, is an extension of the idea of the 'social factory' in operaist circles. The problem is, for some people that idea meant that the working class was always bigger than waged workers while for others the working class became bigger with the extension of capitalism into new areas of life. Negri often doesn't specify which he means, but he usually sounds like he means the latter.

The second is organizational - we can cooperate and control our lives and don't need a state or to seize a state. Same problem applies - some people (anarchists, for instance) say this was always possible while others say it's only become recently possible. For Negri this is a new possibility. For Virno, it's not new. He sees multitude as existing in the US frontier era, for instance.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Mar 13 2007 14:27

I'm quoting Revol - the quote buttons seem to be fucked up on some of these posts

Quote:
yeah i know why people claim he [Negri] isn't dialetical but it's retarded,

No it's not, he says himself that he doesn't like dialectics

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all they are arguing is that he isn't dialetical enough in a certain regard, or that he overeggs one pole of it, but to claim someone can reject dialectics per se is just empty rhetoric and doesn't even engage the issues, it's just talking shit about empty formal categories (in a comically pretentious manner),

No it's not; dialectics is one way of interpreting and understanding the world. So is thinking that the world is flat. If I subsequently decide that the world is round I'm not avoiding the issue, and nor am I 'talking shit about empty formal categories'. Negri's (deeply flawed) rejection of dialectics is neither empty nor formal; he's trying to come up with effective ways to think about change, politics and power.

Now, as this is all getting a little confused:

Negri doesn't like dialectics for the following reasons:

1) He never defines precisely what he means by dialectics, and as such leaps about from (a poor reading of) Hegel to Soviet Diamat

2) Because of this, on the one hand he views dialectics as involving a definite teleological goal, and therefore being 'closed', whilst on the other he associates it - because of Hegel's emphasis on the State, and the Lenin-Stalin-Mao dogma - with power.

So, dialectics for him becomes constituted, static, fixed power. And as I explained on the previous page, Negri uses Spinoza to talk about two forms of power: the constitutive power of potentia (power with a little 'p') and the established power of potesta (Power, with the capital 'P'). Consequently, he associates dialectics with Power - and because dialectics is, supposedly, fixed, dogmatic and closed, it stifles the constitutive power of potentia, which Negri associates with revolution and change (the potentia to constitute and challeng potesta).

So in opposition to dialectics, Negri offers an endless process of constituting and challenging power, an endless process of becoming. ...which is precisely what dialectics, if employed properly can offer - and dialectics has a further advantage, in that it incorporates an emphasis on history and self-consciousness. I think Negru to replicating precisely what Debord offers through Hegel, but I don't think he offers anything like as useful a schema as Debord.

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re: Spinoza, well from what I've read and listened to, it seems that there is a definite dialectic relationship between Spinoza's 'one substance' and the particulars that constitute it.

Yes, there is - you have the one single substance, which expresses itself through an infinity of attributes (we are finite and can percieve only two - thought and extension, i.e. mind and matter), which themselves are expressed in modes (instances). So there's a sequence of causality in that substance comes first. However, other people (Deleuze, I think) have read Spinoza slightly differently: The substance comes first, but the modes are all constantly affecting each other - and as the modes are all expressions of substance, there is a kind of reciprocal relation going on, where the modes shape the substance.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Mar 13 2007 15:22

quoting Revol again - quote buttons still fucked up (or I'm thick, one or the other)

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right so the problem is that Negri says he rejects 'dialectics' because of what it became under dia-mat?

No, Negri rejects dialectics because he doesn't read Hegel closely, and because he blurrs his version of Hegel with all other instances of dialectics, all of which he views as tainted by Soviet diamat

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Like I said however he clearly doesn't reject dialectics in the open ended form of process,

Yes, that's my point - he's doing something very similar to dialectics, but calls it something else. ...although it should be borne in mind that some versions of dialectics - Hegel's for instance - are not open ended, however much we might want to re-interpret them as such. Negri blurs them all together; all the positive aspects of dialectics are lost because he can't see past the bad ones.
He also differs from dialectics in that he has no satisfactory notions of history, self consciousness, theory or sublation: in the end, all he has is simply the relation between potesta and potentia, and a bunch of Spinozist baggage that seems more or less useless. This, he thinks, is the way we shoudl react to a postmodern world - but it's really just a poort demonstration of why a properly dialectical critique would be more suitable.

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this is largley because his whole argument follows a similar path to Marxs analysis of capitalism holding the possibility of communism,

yup

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Therefore Aufhebens criticism of Negri for being non dialectical is really empty semantics, as even the most superficial reading of his work should be able to detect a dialectical narrative

Maybe - but because he's using Spinoza as his paradigm rather than Hegel he comes off badly, as I suggested above. In that sense Aufheben's critique woudl seem to be both applicable and correct.

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, infact if anything Negri's dialectic is too singular,

What do you mean by 'singular'?

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So we see that Negri is both dialetical and not yet not dialetical enough, so any criticism of his theory has to go past simplistic shit like saying his explicit rejection of 'dialectics' leads him crap theory,

I disagree - I think his explicit rejection of dialectics has resulted in impoverished theory.

Quote:
In regards to Spinoza, well yeah from my understanding of what constitutes a dialectic relationship I always assumed it was dialectical

In what way do you think Spinoza is dialectical?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 13 2007 16:31

The relevant aufheben passage, for reference:

Negri and Hardt’s rather peculiar account of the emergence of immaterial production is based on a peculiar axiom: that history is moved by an autonomous will, the will of the autonomous class. This assumption, which traces its intellectual authority to one of the founding fathers of bourgeois philosophy (Spinoza), has already been shown to be undialectical.1

Allegations of being non-dialectical should not be taken as a banal insult. Being non-dialectical would not be too bad in itself, if this did not create serious problems in Negri and Hardt’s theorisation. Indeed, a view of history as pure will and subjectivity is bound to smash its head against its non dialectical counterpart: a view of history as pure objectivity - the bourgeois idea that we are ‘shaped’ by the paradigms of production. To the non-dialectical mind this second aspect of reality appears as compelling as the first, and still cannot find a place in their theorisation except as a juxtaposition. Empire and Multitude confuse the reader with contradictory assertions which are presented without any serious effort to resolve their contradictions. Do we create history as autonomous subjects? Or are our thoughts and actions dictated by the paradigms of production - then is history determined at every paradigmatical moment?2 (...)

To convince us that there is a revolutionary logic in saying that we are shaped by paradigms of production, Negri and Hardt manipulate our sense of respect for our elders and invoke the authority of old Marx himself. For Marx too, they say, 'of course [sic] everything starts with production' (Multitude, p. 143). For him too, they say, 'production makes a subject for the object' (Multitude, p. 109). This no doubt will defuse most objections. Since we in Aufheben are not confused by any sense of respect for our elders, we bothered to check on old Marx. We found simply that Negri and Hardt had cut quotes out of their context and twisted their original meanings! In fact for Marx everything starts with ‘the real individuals and their intercourses’.3 Marx’s Capital does not starts from modern industry to explain society but it starts from our relations of exchange to explain modern industry4

Marx himself would agree, of course, that all starts with production; but only if we intend production as something concrete, embedded in a social relation: as production of commodities for the market. As such, production is the reproduction of our social relations as market relations and as such it reproduces us as proletariat. However, this is miles away from what Negri and Hardt simplistically meant. By dismissing (and rewriting) Marx’s theory of labour, sadly, Negri and Hardt dismiss a theory that can effectively oppose technological determinism as well as understand its aspects of truth. This theory sees the real individual in their social relation with others as the concrete reality behind both the apparent objectivity of production and our continual challenge to this objectivity. This view, importantly, does not need any desperate separations of mythical past and mundane present, because it sees history as a continuous process and a continuous struggle.

  • 1. For the non-dialectical approach in Negri and Hardt see, John Holloway, ‘Going in the Wrong Direction, or Mephistopheles, Not Saint Francis of Assisi’, link. Despite the reservations we have about John Holloway’s thought (see our review article in Aufheben, # 11, 2003, pp. 53-56), we think his critique of Negri is sound, clearly expressed, and very close to our criticism.
  • 2. Some readers like Maria Turchetto (L’Impero) blamed an alleged ‘dialectic’ in Negri and Hardt for the apparent contradictions in their theorisation. In fact these contradictions are due to an undialectical juxtaposition.
  • 3. Karl Marx, ‘The German Ideology’ in Early Writings, Ed. Lucio Colletti, Pelican, London 1975.
  • 4. Marx never held a material theory of labour, which started from material aspects of production or the products, but a social theory of labour. His ‘materialism’ was a theory that saw society as a material starting point, in opposition to idealism which started from ideas.
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Mar 13 2007 16:54

And from the John Holloway article they reference:

To treat the subject as positive is attractive but it is inevitably a fiction. In a world that dehumanises us, the only way in which we can exist as humans is negatively, by struggling against our dehumanisation. To understand the subject as positively autonomous (rather than as potentially autonomous) is rather like a prisoner in a cell imagining that she is already free: an attractive and stimulating idea, but a fiction, a fiction that easily leads on to other fictions, to the construction of a whole fictional world.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Mar 13 2007 17:06

Quoting Revol:

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Dialectics doesn't give you a meta theory of history or self consciousness, it's a vague concept that is essentially meaningless outside of a concrete context, two theorists could be 'dialectical' and yet come to vastly different conclusions. Unless of course you want to go down the crazed route of measuring people on their allegiance to an orthodox dialectics with everyone else not 'really' being dialectical.

This is precisely the problem: what version of dialectics are we talking about, whose version, etc. Are we talking about dialectics as a way of theorising an essentially indifferent object, or are we saying that dialectics is a method whose validity comes from the fact that the object is dialectical in-itself?
Further, how could it exist outside of a context? It's a way of getting to a truth; if there is no object of enquiry, where's the dialectic?

Anyway, if you're claim is simply that 'dialectics' is a pretty wide bracket to put things in, I'd agree - but then one of the advantages of dialectics - an advantage that Negri's rather simplistic account ignores, or at least misinterprets as an aspect of potesta - is the fact that we learn from each other, and from each others mistakes. There is a dialectical tradition, and that doesn't mean (or shouldn't mean) a body of orthodoxy, but rather a process of trying to get stuff done on the basis of theories that either work or don't work.

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I don't think he analysis conflicts and contradrictions within the multitude at all,

No, Spinoza does in the Political Treatise and Political and Theological Treatise. Both are very boring and don't really say much of interest, and I really don't see the appeal.

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and his simplistic split between potestia and potentia

...which I never really saw in Spinoza when I was reading the Ethics. Lots of this come from Negri's Savage Anomaly, which may or may not take some liberties with Spinoza.

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doesn't deal with how power must always be constituted around various regimes or nodes whilst always containing an excess, basically that potentia can only be articulated through potestia, ala Foucualt.

...no, that's the point - as you say, potentia derives from, reacts against and constitutes potesta. Potentia, as a revolutionary potential, is immanent to potesta.

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But what does that even mean? He clearly hasn't rejected dialectics per se as there is a huge dialectic running through Empire

He's rejected dialectics and has ended up with something whose general movement might look a bit like one particular version of dialectics if you squint a bit. He's also jettisoned all the useful theoretical tools of dialectics, and ends up with this simple movement of 'being' (rather than the 'becoming' which he ascribes to dialectics, but which, as I said, if one squints looks a wee bit dialectical-ish). My point is that he ends up saying something useful, but he says it is a comparativelly useless way. If both Hegel and Spinoza can be used to describe the same thing, the virtue of using the one over the other comes from the utility of each paradigm. My claim is that Hegel is far more useful than Spinoza (or at least Negri's version).

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In the sense that the substance is infinite but constituted by finites, that these finites effect each other and only hold meaning in relation to each other and ultimately the infinity of the substance.

...ok, you're viewing it as a totality. You could make that argument, but I don't think it would work, as the substance isn't the universal that governs the parts - it is the source of them, that from which they emanate. In a Hegelian sense the totality is, ultimately, the Absolute, the Concept. in the Marxist tradition, totaluty becomes the interrelation of the parts, which isn;t the same thing as the Substance. The Hegelian version is obviously closer to what Spinoza is describing - but the Concept is not the essence from which being emnates (as is the case with the Substance and its attributes); rather, Concept and Being are one and the same thing.

Quote:
I would see Spinoza's 'substance' in a similar light to Zizeks 'negative' universal of nothingness, in that it can only be known through it's concrete opposite yet the concrete only makes sense in a relationship with a kind of universal of the void.

Explain - I don't know Zizek.

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Mar 13 2007 17:56

from what i've read spinoza isn't dialectical in terms of substance/attributes:

Spinoza's Ethics wrote:
All things, I say, are in God, and all things that happen, happen only though the laws of God's infinite nature and follow (as i shall show) from the necessity of his essence. So it cannot be said in any way that God is acted on by another (...) God is the efficient cause of all things (...) God is a cause through himself and not an accidental cause (...) God is absolutely the first cause

so it seems Spinoza begins with a self-causing totality, from which infinite modes are derived. whereas doesn't Hegel arrive at a closed self-causing totality only after demonstrating the inter-relatedness of all particulars, as opposed to Spinoza's unidirectional causality?

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Mar 13 2007 19:44

wouldn't the parallax gap be the point which can never be reached, the impossible mediation, rather than the movement between perspectives? i don't know what zizek's negative universal is.

the problem of using substance on merely a social terrain - which indeed seems to be what negri & hardt (and virno) do - is that it goes against spinoza's fundamental ontological notion that there can necessarily be only one substance, so with a 'social substance' - the plane of immanance for negri and the general intellect for virno - we end up with an infinite substance that only accounts for human beings, not being as such - a partial infinity. this appears to have two consequences; firstly the ontology is fundamentally incomplete, it uses a schema that accounts for being as such to explain only human beings, leaving a logical gap for the accounting of being as such which is not addressed by multitude theorists, and secondly it means any concept derived from this One is necessarily humanist, not a class concept (contra negri).

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Mar 13 2007 20:10

so if it's caused by the movement it is not the movement, but "the point which can never be reached, the impossible mediation" no? like i say i don't know what his negative universal is - if it was in 'the parallax view' i must have missed/forgotten it.

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Mar 13 2007 20:15

S.etc. wrote

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This is precisely the problem: what version of dialectics are we talking about, whose version, etc. Are we talking about dialectics as a way of theorising an essentially indifferent object, or are we saying that dialectics is a method whose validity comes from the fact that the object is dialectical in-itself?

Yes, but we can state that dialectic always involves a concept of totalised inclusion, if not in terms of teleology then in the set-up of the relations of forces. Dialectics does not account for the significance of the ‘remainder’. It begins from the total so as to deduce the particular, and/or it begins from the particular and infers the total.

However, I would say, it is these leftovers that pro-revolutionaries tend to invest in: the singular, the undetermined, the counterexample, the untravelled road etc etc. In other words, that quantity which was once approached through aesthetics and ‘sentiment’ but which we now might designate as otherwise unrecorded experience.

I suppose the question (if we reduce it to a matter of agency) is whether it is our long-term intention to totalise these alienated and excluded fragments of human existence and thereby generate a further pole of negation in the process of history, or whether we consider the dark matter of what has been lost from humanity sufficiently destructive of the totalising form to then go on and develop an undialectical practice of power relation (as is proposed by the 'left-nietzschean' tradition in the french universities)

But it is a discussion we have had for a long time.

pilpil

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Mar 13 2007 20:52

right ok. i mean, i think you can probably read spinoza with (emo?) hegel specs on, but on the little i've read he doesn't seem to see any reflexive relationship between substance and modes, merely a unidirectional (logically, not temporally) causal one.

which would then be the genealogical root of the notion of Negri & Hardt's multitude as 'an absolutely positive force' (Empire) acting as an 'autonomous will driving history' (Aufheben critique), would it not?

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Mar 13 2007 22:24

but nonetheless he seems to employ a spinozan typology of active/reactive wrt multitude/Empire respectively - a juxtaposition rather than a reflexive dialectic as aufheben would have it. it's been a year since i read empire, and i haven't read multitude yet, but it does seem plausible that his method of appropriating concepts from all over the place (following deleuze's 'theory is a toolbox' axiom), often without regard to their established meanings (pace biopolitics), does lead to the absence of any really systematic theorising - contradictions aren't developed or explored so much as simply posited, allowing him to create a wonderful bestselling theory that includes everyone in the 'movement of movements' (RIP) without having to, for example work out what it actually means that the multitude contains national liberationists alongside internationalists, communists alongside small business people etc.

As john holloway says, it's the avoidance of negation. by positing the multitude as already creative, autonomous, positive etc this is simply juxtaposed to Empire which must be 'pushed through' to allow the multitude to do its diverse pluralist thang. in contrast, a dialectical approach views the proletariat (widely understood) as negatively defined - potentially all those positive things (creative etc) but, denied them by material social relations, requiring an aufhebung, the negation of capital and the self-negation of the proletariat capital's 'being' and the proletariat's 'nothing' being sublated in a process of becoming. as you know..

the point is the political consequences of these approaches. negri concludes that we have to keep pushing through Empire, pushing it further towards deterritorialised global flows etc. in practical terms, this means we should welcome the privatisation of the NHS, because it represents the multitude's desire for freedom forcing the nation-state apparatus to crumble. obviously in practical terms this means accepting an attack on our living standards in order to 'push through' to communism. somehow. viewing the same dialectically, while of course we don't defend the state-form of health provision per se (as discussed at length on the NHS thread), we do see ourselves in a struggle, where we can be forced to react defensively and can also force capital to react to us. so viewed, it's idiocy to push through social wage cuts because they supposedly weaken the state, because the state is only one side of capital's coin - the market and state are dialectically related, the tension between the two being established as the basis of liberalism since Hobbes, neither is inherently more communist than the other and therefore communism will not come siding with the market against the state but by fighting for our living standards, thus developing our subjectivities in struggle to the point where be become a force capable of self-negation and thus communisation, then becoming what we always had the potential to be; the free, creative classless class that negri already celebrates the existence of.

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Mar 13 2007 22:25
Joseph K. wrote:
right ok. i mean, i think you can probably read spinoza with (emo?) hegel specs on, but on the little i've read he doesn't seem to see any reflexive relationship between substance and modes, merely a unidirectional (logically, not temporally) causal one.

which would then be the genealogical root of the notion of Negri & Hardt's multitude as 'an absolutely positive force' (Empire) acting as an 'autonomous will driving history' (Aufheben critique), would it not?

Spinoza does seem to allow for a reflexive relationship between the mediate modes within the attribute though, even while maintaining the ontological priority and unity of substance. Its also worth remembering that he conceives of individuals as basically positive (unlike Hegel, for whom they exist through negation, right?), striving to preserve or affirming its being (i.e. conatus), so its possible to talk about a positive force without that force automatically being substance itself. Finally, Spinoza has a rather idiosyncratic conception of what counts as an 'individual' - he seems to allow any collection of bodies acting collectively to preserve its being to count as one. So we get this in the Note to Lemma VII in Book 2:

Spinoza wrote:
We thus see, how a composite individual may be affected in many different ways, and preserve its nature notwithstanding. Thus far we have conceived an individual as composed of bodies only distinguished one from the other in respect of motion and rest, speed and slowness; that is, of bodies of the most simple character. If, however, we now conceive another individual composed of several individuals of diverse natures, we shall find that the number of ways in which it can be affected, without losing its nature, will be greatly multiplied. Each of its parts would consist of several bodies, and therefore (by Lemma vi.) each part would admit, without change to its nature, of quicker or slower motion, and would consequently be able to transmit its motions more quickly or more slowly to the remaining parts. If we further conceive a third kind of individuals composed of individuals of this second kind, we shall find that they may be affected in a still greater number of ways without changing their actuality. We may easily proceed thus to infinity, and conceive the whole of nature as one individual, whose parts, that is, all bodies, vary in infinite ways, without any change in the individual as a whole.

So Negri's reading of Spinoza ought to occur purely at the level of the modes, with his potentia/potestas distinction adding a vaguely nietzschean notion of active and reactive forces. I've no idea whether it actually does mind you, because I found The Savage Anomaly largely incomprehensible last time I tried to read it. It would make sense though, given the emphasis Deleuze places on the modes in his reading.

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Mar 13 2007 22:35
nighthawk wrote:
its possible to talk about a positive force without that force automatically being substance itself.

true - virno though explicitly defines the multitude ontologically as the many derived from the One, he calls it a 'mode of being' but only relates it to 'the people' as another mode of being, though not dialectically as far as i can see, more an either/or. negri i'm not sure. though yeah i suppose modes are all inter-related, and these relations could conceivably be dialectical. i dunno, i'm only a little way into the ethics at the moment.

nighthawk
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Mar 13 2007 22:51

Fair enough. That would be in keeping with the way Negri tends to dress up his politics in grandly metaphysical language. One thing he tries to do in The Savage Anomaly is offer a radical reading of Spinoza's ostensibly liberal political works, and make these integral to the metaphysics outlined in the Ethics. Just found this in some notes I made when I tried to read The Savage Anomaly:

Negri wrote:
The Theologico-Political Treatise is not a secondary and marginal episode; it is, instead, the point on which Spinozian metaphysics is transformed. Stating that politics is a fundamental element in the Spinozian system, therefore, is correct, but only keeping in mind that politics itself is metaphysics. It is not a decorative addition, but the soul of metaphysics.

He then tries to makes human activity constitutive, continually constructing reality in what, so far as I can see, is an open ended dialectic. Which is fine, but I remember being a bit confused about the details (something to do with 'imagination') and how it was all rooted in Spinoza. I think you're bang on with this actually:

Joseph K wrote:

the problem of using substance on merely a social terrain - which indeed seems to be what negri & hardt (and virno) do - is that it goes against spinoza's fundamental ontological notion that there can necessarily be only one substance, so with a 'social substance' - the plane of immanance for negri and the general intellect for virno - we end up with an infinite substance that only accounts for human beings, not being as such - a partial infinity. this appears to have two consequences; firstly the ontology is fundamentally incomplete, it uses a schema that accounts for being as such to explain only human beings, leaving a logical gap for the accounting of being as such which is not addressed by multitude theorists, and secondly it means any concept derived from this One is necessarily humanist, not a class concept (contra negri).

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 13 2007 22:55
revol68 wrote:
Joseph K for all the criticisms I have of his shite politics this is a ridiculous strawman argument

well what does he actually mean by welcoming Empire's erosion of the nation-state? are there any practical implications - is it political theory or radical poetry?

i mean, they say we shouldn't react to wars with anti-imperialism, on the grounds there is no imperialism, only Empire, but we should oppose wars. so i suppose they could say we shouldn't oppose privatisation with nationalisation but we should oppose it. but its all so abstract i can't really remember thinking there were many practical implications.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 13 2007 23:55

yeah ok, that's the theoretical point that capital produces its own gravediggers, but in terms of say, NHS privatisation ... ?

i've no idea what tankies say, i'm fortunate not to know any, jonnyflash excepted. my interest in theory goes as far as it informs practice, i'm not really sure how Empire does - or rather it's sufficiently abstract to be a 'toolbox' for all sorts of things. i think they even say as much, but insofar as Empire does imply a practice, it's the practice of liberal alter-globalism summit hopping i guess. which is pretty useless in terms of everyday struggles. i mean Empire's not without merit, e.g. i seem to remember the discussion of how 'postmodern racism' has incorporated the discourse of liberal multiculturalism quite prescient, and with obvious practical implications. but the concept of multitude as a class concept? seems to retreat from concrete analyses of class composition to an abstract championing of heterogeneity.