The multitude

185 posts / 0 new
Last post
Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 10:21

none of which explains how the multitude can signify both the 'fundamental biological configuration' of the species as a whole and the working class. This is because the former is a concept of the whole and the latter is a partial concept, in both senses of the term. thus, if multitude refers to the species as a whole, Joe Hill's aphorism is equally apt to aim at it. As i said, Virno tries to address this by saying the multitude is not a class but a mode of being of the species, through which the working class can be (as could the bourgeoisie, presumably).

revol68 wrote:
Likewise the multitude is the ontology of the monarchy, what makes it possible and yet the same thing that terrfies it, the multitude represents both it's potential and it's very limits.

like i say, where are you getting this - i haven't seen it in the Theologico-Political Treatise or the Ethics, is it in the Political Treatise?

revol68 wrote:
Doesn't that bare some similarities to the infinity of 'substance'?

which is what i was arguing, quoting Spinoza on the relation of the whole to the essence of particulars, to which you responded ...

revol68 wrote:
Joseph why are you taking the 'multitude' as literally the same as 'substance'?

which i wasn't

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 10:50
revol68 wrote:
why are you banging on about Virno, all i've read of his is an essay on Exodus and he sounds god awful!

because he's the one who developed the concept of 'the post-Fordist multitude' in supposedly rigorous philosophical terms, and apparently influenced Negri and Hardt (getting an acknowledgement in Empire). his stuff on exodus is is piss poor though, there's something about philosophers and concrete politics ... a parallax gap perhaps tongue

consequently we seem somewhat at crossed-purposes, i'm going to read the political treatise soon anyhow since spinoza is the hegel of post-autonomia.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 20 2007 11:07

Hi Joesph, I think you're right: I've read both the Political Treatise and the Political and Theological Treatise, and I think it should be noted that Negri is bringing an awful lot to Spinoza.

Part of Negri's claims come from the trajectory that he identifies in the political treatise, which he sees as moving through different forms of government to steadily more democratic versions. Might be worth noting that Spinoza states at the beginning of the book that all forms of government - if they are fully and ideally realised - are as good as each other, but Negri says Spinoza is just saying that to get past the censors and the political trouble that would result from openly displaying himself to be the closet anarchist that he (Negri) takes him for.

At the base of each form of government is a sense of democracy constituting power. Negri takes this and extrapolates from it, on the basis that the final chapter of the book (On Democacry) was unfinished, and makes the claim that by identifying this theme of democratic constitution throughout the book, and by extrapolating beyond what Spinoza was able to complete, we can end up making explicit what is implicit within Spinoza's account. This then becomes negri's account of the multitude as a constitutive power, and the dichotomy between potesta and potentia.

So, Negri and Spinoza are being very much blurred together in this thread. Not sure if that's a problem, but for the indiviual writing the essay it might be an idea to keep an eye on that fact.

Further, the multitude can most definitely NOT be conflated with substance. Negru edges towards this position via Deleuze's reading of Spinoza, which claims that because the modes are continually effecting each other, they therefore constitute the shape of the substance: Everything is expressed through substance, but there is a kind of reciprocal constitution in which the interaction of the modes determine the shapes in which substance expresses itself. Presumably this (possibly problematic, but certainly interesting) reading informs any conflation, or link between substance and multitude in terms of constitutive power: but it's very important to remember that the multitude is comprised of a multitude (duh) of finite individuals, whilst the substance is an ifinite whose infinite nature cannot penetrate into the finite (hgence the reasons why analogies with totality are extremely unhelpful, as I';ve explained)

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 11:10
revol68 wrote:
I wouldn't bother it's just Hobbes but with a slightly subversive edge, I skimmed it a while ago, all written in that archaic style. I mean he basically says that the power of a sovereign comes from the fact that the multitude realise they can only gain real liberty by submitting themselves to it but Spinoza's a bit naughtier than Hobbes and points out the obvious, that the king is only king in soo much as the multitude don't turn on him.

the impression i have - though Virno's multitude, which apparently influenced Negri is based on a skewed reading of Hobbes which sees Spinoza and Hobbes as irreconcilable philosophical foes, so its worth reading the primary sources since the stuff that cites it is popular and somewhat influential. much as i hate 17th century english - fucking Leviathan, jeesus neutral

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I'll lend you my copy of the Subversive Spinoza if you want.

could be handy, though at the moment i'm reading through the Ethics and the Theologico-Political Treatise, then the Political Treatise, and some Hobbes neutral i'll give you a shout like

revol68 wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Yeah, he got in a lot of trouble for saying that!

well to be fair he was a dirty Jew too, so he wasn't to be trusted in the first place. ;)

he's not a renegade founder of the enlightnement, he's a very naughty boy!

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 11:16

Satan, cheers that's quite useful. man i've always wanted to say that cool

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 20 2007 11:32
Quote:
See the problem is that Spinoza's substance is completely metaphysical, so any attempt to make analogy with the social world is going to be lacking somewhat, but only if one takes things literally. How I read the multitude as being similar to substance is that it is infinite in regards to capital (Empire if we insist), that capital can not exhaust it without destroying itself, swallowing it's own tail in the old Marxian rhetoric.

Can someone please take pity on me, and explain to me patiently and slowly how the fuck you use the quote buttons on these threads?

Anyway: The issue is clearly as to whether Negri is making an analogy with substance. He and Hardt could write Empire on the basis of his claims about the multitude, which he's extrapolated from the Political Treatise - I'm not conviced that they need to use substance as a way of talking about empire/capita/whatever.

Now, that's not to say that they don't; there are aspects of Empire, from what I remembere of it, in which their claims do evoke substance and Spinoza's version of metaphysics. The emphasis on 'biopolitics' recalls the interaction and essential unity of nature; the emphasis on being rather than becoming, and on power through communist association references Spinoza's ideas about becoming Godlike; and there's the big emphasis on being self-determining rather than determined; and of course there are others, all of which are essentially to do with defining the terrain of modern political contestation.

...which is where problems may perhaps lie: I've just opened the book, and this is a passage I marked in the preface:

"From the perspective of Empire, this is the way things will always be and the way they were always meant to be. In other words, Empire presents its rule not as a transitory moment in the movement of history, but as a regime with no temporal boundaries and in this sense outside of history or at the end of history."

Now, if Negri was as sensible as Debord (whom this passage is almost identical to), he would stress the extent to which this account of the 'terrain' is just an apeparance. But Negri constantly takes Empire on its own terms, and talks of tactics and theories that are appropriate to its own account of itself, rather than to what may really lie beneath its appearances (i.e. the real movement of real history...which means we shoudl all read HEGEL and not Spinoza)

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 20 2007 11:34
Quote:
Satan, cheers that's quite useful. man i've always wanted to say that

No worries

...but don't take my word for it

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 12:20
SatanIsMyCoPilot wrote:
...but don't take my word for it

of course, i've been reading hobbes/spinoza solid for the last fortnight so i can form my own opinion. indeed, insomuch as these texts have appeared before mine eyes, i hath beholden them, and my SENSE hath been exposed to a cause that hath produceth much TEDIUM, hitherto unbeknown in all of Christendom, yet such torture of the mind is the cost that such texts be known unto me wink

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Mar 20 2007 12:41

the interpretations are themselves more interesting if you know what they're interpreting. though obviously i don't take that to its logical conclusion or i'd be starting with the pre-socratics to discuss Negri, after all you can't really understand Spinoza unless you're familiar with Descartes, and you can't really be familiar with Descartes unless ... tongue

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 20 2007 13:45
Quote:
oh noes you will take uz backz 2 teh bad old binary of reality and appearance with all the shit like false consciousness it brings with it.

i suspect this is where we part company.

Could be

Dialectics shouldn't involve absolutely strict, polar, binary opposites: there be monsters in those seas
Much better to just concern yourself with desire and its denial - which is pretty much exactly what Negri does.
false consciousness was a horrible way of denouncing from a supposedly 'scientific' perspective the oppinions of those who disagree with you. But I don't really see how anyone could possibly avoid the fact that the vast majority of people don't agree with you smelly anarchist/communist types. Going the way of the left-wing intellectual and suggesting that they're all thick is just embarressing - but avoiding the issue is worse

SatanIsMyCoPilot
Offline
Joined: 22-12-04
Mar 20 2007 13:47
Quote:
nah you'd be best just reading other peoples interpretations, that's where the interesting shit is, unless you actually wanna be a Spinoza or Hobbes scholar, which would be pretty grim.

What absolute and total bollocks

Read Spinoza and Hobbes CAREFULLY (or at least as carefully as you can stomach - I did get very fed up with the Politcal and Theological Treatise) and learn from them, mistakes and all.