The multitude

185 posts / 0 new
Last post
Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 00:28

it's not a case of whether a theorist's concrete politics are any good, but how and indeed if their theory is related to practice. wrt marx, well yeah i don't uncritically accept his theorising either, and the part of his work that would most relate to praxis was mostly left unwritten, leaving us with the undoubtedly objectivist-skewed Capital as his supposed magnum opus. i mean i haven't read much marx, so it's not that i don't apply the same standard, but that i haven't properly read him (yet).

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 08:59
revol68 wrote:
well I suppouse ole charlie marx gets it easy cos he's dead, but nonetheless if you are capable of grasping the Communist Manifesto passage and understanding how it can inform praxis then you should atleast do Negri the honour of approaching his work in such a manner too, instead of doing a Johan Hari impression.

which is what i'm discussing ...

revol68 wrote:
let's not pretend someone of his learning and influences is soo niave, rather his hopes on the multitude are based on it's potentiality and not as it is.

that's john holloway's criticism too, and aufheben's. appeals to authority prove nothing, but it's not an uncommon impression. i mean he repeatedly gets ahead of himself, saying 'Empire has put an end to imperialism' etc (i haven't read multitude but i guess they'd try and claim the mess in iraq means imperialism is dead, as if imperial powers never met bloody resistance before), and i'm sure there are passages where he celebrates the multitude as is, in positive terms, not as a negation. that was my lingering impression anyhow. though yeah i accept there may be passages that stress potentiality (is that quote from Empire or Multitude?), which seems more like a lazy juxtaposition rather than a dialectical contradiction, if they leave it unexplored (which i think they do?).

revol68 wrote:
The best analogy I can think of is if someone criticised Marx's "workers of the world unite! you have nothing to lose but your chains" on the basis of the 'class in itself' as opposed to the potentiality of a 'class for itself' and then went on to chastise him for not looking at how divisions, hierarchies and disciplinary regimes within the 'proletariat' are produce, sustain and ulitmately perpeuate capitalism.

the point i made ages back is, what does the concept of multitude offer praxis? surely its abstract plurality is a retreat from the concrete analysis of real divisions and unities contained in the concept of class composition? negri seems to have gone backwards within the very tradition he comes from, so the analogy doesn't really hold.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 10:43
revol68 wrote:
... So I fail to grasp how Holloway suceeds any further than Negri, rather we are left with two theories positive and negative which are mutually in/exclusive, the movement between them requires a necessary jump over a parallax gap.

i'm not saying he does, i've only read his 'theses on ...' not the whole book, but yeah his scream can be read that way, as can his use of terms like 'anti-power' etc. he may well be just as one-sided. the point is surely that the 'positive' only exists as potential because the proletariat is defined negatively as 'those who are cut off, alienated'. the criticism is that negri takes the virtual as the actual, perhaps for rhetorical effect like his pronouncements on imperialism's death etc, but premature nonetheless.

revol68 wrote:
... I would imagine that Negri and Hardt are too sophisticated to be ignorant of these issues in their own work and therefore I think some of Aufhebens criticisms if not baseless are atleast in very bad faith and that Negri and Hardts main problem is more an underdevelopment of issues rather than a brazen rejection of them.

bear in mind the aufheben critique is of immaterial labour - which as you say they overplay (at least) - not Empire per se. i think the problem is they collapse everything into production in a farcical repeat of the tragic orthodox marxism autonomia reacted against - the class is once more defined as those who produce, only production is broadened to include pretty much anything. i think this obscures more than it reveals, and is only useful if you attach some moral weight to being productive - e.g. Fortunadi contra Dalla Costa claims housework is productive labour not reproductive labour - there are important distinctions even if the interstices are far from clearly delineated: when i go home and cook my dinner i am not 'being exploited'1 in the sense of producing surplus value. i am however realising someones surplus value with the commodities i consume and reproducing my labour power for capital in order to be able to produce surplus value - vital elements of capital's circuit of accumulation for sure, but what is gained by labelling all this under a single category of 'productive'?

  • 1. in the short documentary on negri off the net, he says 'when i am on the bus, i am being exploited' etc
Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 11:03
revol68 wrote:
also the stuff about the end of imperialism isn't exactly a fair criticism, afterall Negri and Hardt were discussing what they see as a developing trend, not an absolute. Negri and Hardt never argued that nation states would no longer behave like old 'imperial' powers but rather the shifting geo political terrain would make this ineffectual for maintaining hegemony. You only have to look at the shit the US has got itself into in Iraq and how it is now having to deal with Iran and Syria to see that unilateralism fell on it's arse.

There are criticisms and questions to be raised as to how much this is a paradigm shift or whether Empire exists in such a intelligent self regulating way but to claim that Iraq disproves their thesis is a tad simplistic.

like i say i haven't read 'multitude' so i was speculating what they'd say. i mean, surely capital has always been tendencially global, but nonetheless riven with internal power struggles that at times have lead to open war, conquest etc. i don't know that i accept lenin's proposition that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, which N&H seem to adopt, adding one higher stage of Empire. i mean i think it's a tendency that's always been present - the enclosures were just as imperialist as colonialism, unless we fetishise the nation-state. i mean they are right to analyse the 'mixed constitution' of how the bourgeoisie is recomposing itself as a global class, i just don't think they've achieved it yet - which N&H do say, at the start, that 'we are on the threshold of Empire' - but then they bang on about it like it's hegemonic already for rhetorical effect. negri's fetish for declaring the novel no doubt.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 11:22
revol68 wrote:
the alienation of the proletariat, it's negativity is only of such significance because it stands in direct contradiction the very fact that it produces the world

which is what i mean by saying the proletariat's positivity is only potential, or in deleuzian terms virtual. the actualisation of this positivity can be seen as either a neitzachean 'becoming what we are' style affirmation or a negation of the negation. i think the former tends towards seeing the proletariat as an autonomous will/productive force prayed on by a parasite - the 'distinctly feudal character' of Empire, whereas the latter suggests the sublation of productive relations - we don't want to self-manage our buisiness sans bosses like peasants freed from tillage, but to transform the productive relations into ones oriented to human need.

i mean i agree that 'rejecting dialectics' isn't the sole or even root reason for N&H's theoretical failings - of course such a rejection is already a political decision. but speculating about N&H's motives is less concrete than pointing out the theoretical consequences of a given methodology, though if i'm to speculate i think they return to spinoza and not hegel's development of him in order to paint themselves as the heirs to the enlightenment, finishing the job, inspired by the liberation from feudalism in the golden age Dutch Republic. whereas viewed dialectically such bourgeois freedom is inseperable, mobius strip-like from bourgeois despotism, we can't simply champion one against the other (pace Aufheben's forunati critique - "the dialectic of capital as despotism and bourgeois freedom") - bourgeois freedom to is premised on our freedom from the means to support ourselves, alienation.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 11:43
Joseph K. wrote:
bourgeois freedom is inseperable, mobius strip-like from bourgeois despotism, we can't simply champion one against the other (pace Aufheben's forunati critique - "the dialectic of capital as despotism and bourgeois freedom") - bourgeois freedom to is premised on our freedom from the means to support ourselves, alienation.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 11:57

no, but neither is it autonomous like peasants sans tithe. communism is not our positivity triumphing over our negativity, but the sublation of the two, transforming the ways in which our positivity flows. we don't want the same thing as now, only without bosses, but a qualitative transformation of social production.

i mean i haven't read multitude - do they posit the multitude as the alternative to Empire? or as its negation? i don't know, though from Empire i got the impression of the former.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 12:23

i'm going to have to read multitude i think, at the moment i'm debating a year-old memory of Empire and a bit of Virno (who loves a bit of the old exodus).

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 14 2007 15:26

Quoting Joseph K - what is it with these quote buttons? They seem al over the place, and if I do find the quote button that corresonds with the post that I want to reply to, I just get taken to a screen that just shows that post, and doesn't include a window that I can write within. This could confuse a stupid person.

Anyway, Joseph K, he say:

Quote:
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?

I haven't got my copy of the Ethics with me, but this may help: Substance is definitely self causing, but its not a totality - at least not in the Hegelian sense. It's certainly the truth of everything that exists, but a totality is a mediated relation of universals and particulars, developing through their interaction in a certain way, i.e. incorporating a teleology.

Spinoza's God is infinite, and is not limited by anything outside it (as if it was, it would not be infinite). Therefore everything that exists does so in God. So existence itself is God. Substance, however, is the essence and basis of existence, and not all of this essence can be expressed - because the infinite cannot be expressed in finite modes. Spinoza also states that the eternal aspects of the attributes cannot be expressed as modes, but can only be grasped by reason. Consequently, the analogy with totality is incorrect, or is at the very least doesn't say much: you can say that Spinoza's God is a kind of totality, but when you look at the technicalities of his claims, the analogy breaks down, as substance is the essence, not the totality.

Further, I made this point yesterday, but no one seems to have picked up on it: Hegel's concept is NOT the essence of existence. It's not the source from which everything develops, and despite his frequent analaogies with and references to religion, the concept is not any kind of God who could exist independently of his creation (neither could Spinoza's). It's not the case that everything is experssed from the concept as is the case with Spinoza. This is a footnote from something I was writing the other day - too lazy to re-write its content, so I', just posting it here, page regerences and all:

...But whereas for Spinoza everything that exists is an expression of substance, for Hegel existence is a process that strives towards the realisation of the Concept. Frederick Beiser writes:

"Such was Hegel’s Aristotelian transformation of Spinoza’s monism: the single universal substance now becomes the single absolute idea, the formal-final cause of all things. Since he despised teleology, Spinoza would have turned over in his grave." (p.67)

However, Beiser’s presentation here implies that existence is the expression of the Concept, albeit an expression with a teleological purpose. But as Houlgate makes clear in his essay Why Hegel’s Concept is not the Essence of Things, existence is not an emanation from the Concept: “Hegel understands the world to be embodied reason itself, rather than the ‘effect’ of an immanent substantial ‘cause.’” (p.27) Where Spinoza writes that “A substance is prior in nature to its affections,” (p.2) Hegel claims that the Concept and being are one and the same thing.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 14 2007 15:36

ok cheers, i had a feeling i was being a bit loose with my totality-labelling. spinoza doesn't seem as difficult as he's billed, once you get over the presentation of the Ethics ... i've read little of hegel or spinoza so far so the probability of me talking shit is pretty high wink

Luther Blissett
Offline
Joined: 24-06-06
Mar 18 2007 23:14

btw, William Godwin also used the term 'multitude' in his 1793 work 'Enquiry concerning Political Justice'. When I read Godwin, I got the strong feeling that Godwin had read Spinoza's 'Ethics', but this hasn't yet been unproven, however I know that Godwin was influenced by David Hartley, who used the term 'Multitude', and both Hartley and Godwin were influenced by the ideas of Hobbes and Condillac. Godwin was also influenced by Ben Franklin, who was in correspondence with Hartley.

I'm guessing that all the above 18th/17th C writers were versed to some extent in classical greek and latin - if so, they might well have been exposed to the writings of Cicero. I know that the term multitude was used (often quite cynically) by Cicero e.g. in De Republica, Pro Domo, etc. Cicero's a good read wink

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 09:18
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
i mean i haven't read multitude - do they posit the multitude as the alternative to Empire? or as its negation? i don't know, though from Empire i got the impression of the former.

They say at the start of Empire that the multitude is capable of producing a counter-Empire, and they stress that the multitude is the driving force behind Empire, I don't think they ever refer to it as an alternative to Empire.

the impression i got when i read Empire was that the multitude was held up as a potentially autonomous force preyed on by a neo-feudal Empire, and it just needed to push through' the deterritorialising logic of Empire, to push its logic to its conclusion of a completely autonomous multitude. didn't they pose 'the republic of the multitude' against Empire? certainly in Virno, the multitude is not a class concept but 'a fundamental biological configuration' which is however 'closely linked to the needs of the labour class,' and Virno's big thing is to call for 'a non-state public sphere' which draws heavily on Spinoza's resident Dutch Republic - an early capitalist free-trade utopia he refers to as 'communal'- although he then comments that of course stuff is different today, without elaborating much. for virno the multitude has to use conservative violence to protect what already exists ('ius resistentiae').

so maybe i'm remembering Empire through Virno-specs, but it certainly seemed to me that the multitude was posed as something that would be fine if we could just shake off that pesky parasitical Empire, a class that needs to free itself like a peasantry ousting the local lord, and not abolish itself like the proletariat transforming social production. i mean the thing with Virno's ius resistentiae seems to stem from his one-sided reading of Hobbes as the philosopher of state, whereas the Leviathan was intended to guarantee equality in the 'non-state public sphere' of the market, so we end up with a sort of crude anarchism, despite his protestations, that pits 'society' against 'state' with a kind of token class analysis tacked on. rather than viewing state and market as two necessary poles of capitalist social relations everything is framed as 'multitude' against state (or Empire), as humanity against an inhuman force which seems to collapse a communist class analysis into a sort of agonistic humanism.

but yeah my memory of Empire is definitely filtered through Virno so i could be talking shit wrt Negri

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 10:01
revol68 wrote:
that's one reading of Empire but I don't really think it's a particularly fair one

like i say i think my Virno-specs are colouring my reading/memory, though Virno's more complex than the above summary too, full of caveats and/or contradictions, like drawing on the 17th century at length for examples, then tacking on 'of course things are very different today', leaving you unsure quite what the point of the example was.

revol68 wrote:
Negri and Hardt are more guilty of restating the obvious as profound than anything else.

aye, the publishers' blurb was right afterall, it is a 'Communist Manifesto for the 21st Century' tongue

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 12:02
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
With them defining the multitude as a whole of singularities thats unified by the singularity of exploited labour, I think they essentially mean that it is the working class but viewed as composed of individuals rather than as a homegenous group?

with Virno it's "a fundamental biological configuration," so a humanist definition rather than a class one. with N&H i dunno, i mean nobody of any interest has viewed the working class as a homogenous mass since the orthodox marxists autonomia refuted back in the 60s/70s, and N&H's definition of 'productive' and thus exploitation is so broad the concept again seems to lapse into agonistic humanism rather than class analysis.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 12:52

yeah i suppose, perhaps more in academia though as even your average leftist SWP type seems to love the zapatistas these days, who are hardly blue-collared industrial proles. i mean if 'multitude' just means 'working class that isn't a homogenous mass', they've managed to spill a lot of ink saying something profoundly unprofound neutral

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 13:17
Negri wrote:
Multitude is first of all a class concept, then also a political concept. In so far as it is a class concept, multitude puts an end to the concept of working class as a simplistic concept, as a mass concept. From the point of view of politics the concept of multitude puts an end to the concept of people, of nation and of all that build by the state, providing it with a fundament of representation.

http://libcom.org/library/multitude-or-working-class-antonio-negri

Virno is all about the 'political concept' opposed to 'people,' which does seem humanist (agonist vs liberal respectively) ... it just seems really fucking convenient that they coin one word for two different things, which just so happens to allow their theory to appeal to liberals and the like while technically being communist in the small print. they pull the same trick with 'production', defining it so broadly that it obscures more than it reveals. i mean they're not averse to technical jargon or coined terms, so it seems odd one of their main concepts has two incommensurable definitions; a heterogeneous working class and humanity per se, multitude seems to refer to both to a part and the whole.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 13:38

the working class either in or for itself never refers to everybody or it would cease to be a class/partial concept. i mean the working class alone isn't the ontology of capital, capital is class struggle, it requires an other. we may produce the world but for us to produce the world as capital, alien, opposed to us requires an antagonistic class.

the multitude however seems to refer to both the species as a whole (Virno's 'fundamental biological configuration') and the working class understood heterogeneously. in spinozan terms the 'substance' is something infinite, self-causing and prior to the modes, which for Virno is the general intellect (which is already a little dodgy, as it isn't self-causing and infinite in the sense of Spinoza's immanent God).

I think you're being overly generous trying to read the multitude as both substance and as mode (anyone would think you'd prised your spinoza from charlton heston's cold, dead hands wink). Virno makes more sense in saying that the multitude is a mode of being of the generic human faculties, but that leaves us in agonist-humanist territory. why the fuck would we then use exactly the same term to refer to a specific subset of that human population? it's all a bit marklar really (one for the South Park aficionados wink)

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 14:15

yes capital is dead labour, but it requires human agents to exist, a bourgeoisie or psuedo-bourgeois bureaucracy. the point marx makes by rooting the ontology of capital in labour is that it and its human agents are 'vampire-like' parasites which can be done away with - the ontology is revealed in order to demonstrate class antagonism, and the possibility of communism. this is distinct from the multitude as a humanist concept based on generic biological-cognitive faculties, which simultaneously calls everyone part of the multitude as merely potentially antagonistic singularities, and then defines a subset of this multitude as ... the multitude. marklar. marklar.1 with the multitude's double meaning we just end up with a fuzzy category that can happily serve liberal-come-agonist humanists and autonomia-inspired communists alike.

  • 1. there's a south park episode where some aliens only have one word for everything - marklar
Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 14:52

i'm not arguing that, i'm pointing out what the 'vampire-like' ontology of capital was supposed to suggest, that we produce our subjection. of course the bourgeoisie don't exist separately from labour because their existence is premised on ours - they do however exist, and marx never defines the labour or working class as both including and excluding the bourgeoisie, for obvious reasons.

revol68 wrote:
On the contrary it is not a matter of throwing off the parasites but rather of constituting labour in such a manner that such parasites become impossible, a change in the immune system rather than a chemical bath. This happens in the same moments, we attack the parasites but in doing so we form organs that are immune to them,.

this is precisely the aufhebung that seems missing in virno - where instead we have the multitude as humanity per se and as a subset, we end up with virno's vague call for "a new public sphere outside the state," "exit" and all that shite, with the multitude 'fleeing' in order to be itself - the ius resistentiae preserving that which it already is as opposed to the sublation which preserves while abolishing.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 15:36
revol68 wrote:
but labour is both one pole(mode) of capital and yet at the same time it is the ontology of it , the substance, potentia.

in spinozan terms labour can't be a mode of capital if capital is not the substance. you could probably argue abstract labour-power is substance, and capital and labour are modes though, that seems to work.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 15:48
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Isn't it a dialectic, labour is the substance and capital is a mode, yet labour is also a mode of capital as its subjugated by it?

that would be very unspinozan, for whom there is only One substance, and also isn't what Virno argues (his substance is 'the general intellect').

i think you could argue that labour-power (virtual, potential) is substance, while labour (living labour, labour actually done) and capital (dead labour, the products of living labour) are modes

edit: revol, i might be agreeing with you, but you seem to be using 'labour' in a very catch-all sense as opposed to marx's usage, potore opposed to labour-power (potenza)

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:05

but labour as marx used it is finite, actual - not a good candidate for substance. this is why Virno talks of a 'fundamental biological configuration' - it is the potenza, the capacity for labour - labour-power which is substance, of which living labour and dead labour would be the modes.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:23
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Labour as substance is in its pure form i.e. without exploitation, innit.

could be, it's not what Virno argues, can't remember Empire in enough detail to comment. though labour as concrete human activity is still finite whereas substance is meant to be infinite.

revol68 wrote:
Only if you insist on being literal to the point of autism in your metaphors.

There are clearly differences in what level you take things at. Afterall the material bodie is but a mode of the substance (universe).

well given as infinitude and self-causing are the criteria for spinoza's substance, our metaphors have to be pretty slack to abandon them completely, hence labour-power can be understood as (loosely) self-causing insofar as it reproduces itself and infinite insofar as it is virtual, potential, whereas labour in marx's lexicon can't be understood as either infinite or self-causing without far more strenuous mental gymnastics, and so can't be understood as substance.

(obviously this is all to some extent metaphorical, because spinoza's substance is the fabric of being, whereas we're talking of the fabric of capital - obviously labour-power can only be understood as substance if we exclude its causes - biological evolution included, all the way back to spinoza's god)

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:27
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Also, they say that immaterial labour:

Quote:
creates not only material goods but also relationships and ultimately social life itself.

Doesn't all exploited labour do this?

yes, all labour in fact, exploited or not. all human action in fact. but they define immaterial labour as that aimed at immaterial results, so it's almost tautological that for N&H only immaterial labour can produce social life

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:38
revol68 wrote:
well clearly it's not meant to be infinite in the literal sense but in the sense that labour (substance) is not reducable to a particular formation, that it is always expansive (like language), it reproduces itself, it expands capital, it is the substance that sustains capital, though capital seeks to dominate it, it cannot dominate it totally without strangling itself.

which is why i don't think substance-mode is a great fit for discussing labour-capital. relations between modes can conceivably be dialectical, but positing one and the same thing as substance and mode is not at all what spinoza did, and even as metaphor doesn't seem to achieve much, whereas labour-capital tessellates nicely with hegalian ontology.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:46
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I think there point was about it being biopolitical labour, in post-Fordist societies these relationships are created on a different level than has ever been before, that of biopower...

yeah this is their novel take on Foucault whereby biopower ceases to be the state administration of life and becomes the (re-)production of subjectivity. i mean there's a kernel of truth here - increasingly (in the 'post-fordist' west at least) the cognitive potentialities of our labour-power are actualised in labour, even in the most mundane jobs (my ex had to do all sorts of calculations and shit working on a supermarket deli). on the other hand, subjectivity has always been the product of labour, of praxis, of being-in-the-world, of action - classically the class consciousness produced by throwing thousands of manual labourers together under one roof is an example of this. top marks to N&H for getting so many sexy concepts in though wink

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 16:52

yeah, but if we say that, we don't get to sound well intellectual like wink

though i do think the multitude as abstract diversity is a retreat on the autonomist class composition analysis, which looks at real divisions and unities.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 19 2007 17:54

yeah gone home, off out now wink

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 09:06
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Hows that different from an autonomist class composition analysis? Real divisions as in we're all singularities, but being united by the singularity of exploited labour.

at best, it's the same thing restated in abstract terms. the point of class composition as a concept was to look at concrete changes - the struggles of factory workers increasing their power vis bosses, and their role as mediators to housewives, housewives' role in value production, the role and scale of the unemployed etc, so the concept of multitude as 'heterogeneous working class' is already implicit in the autonomist notion of working class (as explained by Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically intro, for example). So you could generously say they are simply providing the high-level theoretical framework for such a heterogeneous working class. however, the fact multitude also seems to be a humanist concept for the whole species looks to my eyes like a retreat from the big bad proletariat to abstract territory that won't scare liberals with their love of 'diversity' and 'plurality' as euphemisms for cross-class shennanigans and their love of the petit-bourgeoisie (Jose Bové and the 'shop local' crowd on Urban75 i'm looking in your direction).

revol68 wrote:
well actually Spinoza did kind of do that with the 'multitude', a singular that was also the plural, the ontology of a regime but also it's greatest threat. The king is founded on the multitude, rules it, yet nonetheless is constantly haunted by it.

I don't know where you're getting this, Spinoza clearly states in the Ethics (well, as clearly as he gets) that what is common to all things (substance, the One) cannot be the essence of singular things, i.e. the One can be and be conceived without any given particular:

Spinoza in the Ethics wrote:
P37: What is common to all things and is equally in the part as in the whole, does not constitute the essence of any singular thing.
Dem.: If you deny this, conceive (if possible) that it does constitute the essence of some singular thing, say the essence of B. Then (by D2) it can neither be nor be conceived without B. But this is contrary to the hypothesis. Therefore, it does not pertain to the essence of B., nor does it constitute the essence of any other singular thing, q.e.d.

so how can 'the multitude' signify both the whole species and the working class? that which is present equally in the whole and the part - God or Nature or the General Intellect - cannot constitute the essence of a part such as the working class.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 09:44

we were discussing substance-mode, you said his metaphysics allowed for the multitude to both signify the whole and the part.

i've read some of the theologico-political treatise, and i haven't seen him claim the multitude is both the whole population and a part of it - where are you getting this? i mean he might say it, i'm no spinoza expert by any means, but i get the impression you're taking advantage of the death of the author.

I mean quite apart from what spinoza said, it's completely marklar to use the same word for different, even opposed concepts. Virno tries to get around this by saying classes still exist, but in the mode of multitude not the mode of people, then seems to use 'multitude' as shorthand for 'the working class in the mode of multitude.' i'm not sure any of this advances much on Joe Hill's "the people and the working class have nothing in common," tbh - in fact the amphiboly suggests they might, once the whole is understood as the multitude not the people. In fact Virno claims the multitude is 'closely bound to the needs of the labour class' - which implies it is not the labour class.