Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Fri Nov 19 01:09:01 PST 1999

>read beyond negri's works of the late 70's

Negri's theory gets worse after the waning of worker & social movement militancy. Hyperbole and optimism of intellect, which mirror the discourse of "post-work" futurists like Jeremy Rifkin and management gurus like Tom Peters, abound in his later works. His work has always been more focused on micro-dynamics within a nation-state at the capitalist core, paying little attention to the world market, but this tendency has become more pronounced as well. In _Constituent Republic_ (in _Radical Thought in Italy_, eds. Paolo Virno & Michael Hardt, 1996), Negri wrote:

***** The post-Fordist proletariat, the "people" represented by the "social" worker (_operaio sociale_), is imbued with and constituted by a continuous interplay between technico-scientific activity and the hard work of producing commodities, by the entrepreneuriality of the networks within which this interaction is organized, and by the increasingly close combination and recomposition of labor time and life time. There, simply by way of introduction, we have some possible elements of the new definition of the proletariat, and what becomes clear is that, in all the sections in which this class is being composed, it is essentially _mass intellectuality_. Plus -- and this is crucial -- we have another element: within the scientific subsumption of productive labor, within the growing abstraction and socialization of production, the post-Fordist labor form is becoming increasingly cooperative, independent, and autonomous. This combination of autonomy and cooperation means that the entrepreneurial power of productive labor is henceforth completely in the hands of the post-Fordist proletariat. (216) *****

And Negri's concept of money now sounds as problematic as populists', though he differs from them in the conclusion he draws:

***** ...[I]n today's world, what happens to the bourgeoisie as a class and to the productive functions of the industrial bourgeoisie? Well, if what we have said about the new definition of a post-Fordist proletariat is true, it follows that the international bourgeoisie has now lost its productive functions, that it is becoming increasingly parasitic -- a kind of Roman Church of capital. It now expresses itself only through financial command, in other words, a command that is completely liberated from the demands of production. "Money" operates here in the postclassical and post-Marxian sense, "money" as an alienated and hostile universe, "money" as a general panacea -- the opposite of labor, intelligence, and the immanence of life and desire. "Money" no longer functions as mediation between labor and commodity; it is no longer a quantified expression of the nation's wealth. In the face of the entrepreneurial autonomy of a proletariat that has materially embraced within itself also the intellectual forces of production, "money" becomes the phoney reality of a command that is despotic, external, empty, capricious, and cruel. (217) *****

Negri further asserts that the "'arms' and the 'monies' are no longer such that they can be put together in order to construct the State" (218). Despite his hasty proclamation of the end of the State, he is paradoxically as anti-Statist as ever:

***** The ideology of revolutionary Marxism too, albeit overturning the theory of State forms, nonetheless ended up affirming its validity. The "abolition of the State," _pace_ Lenin, assumes the concept of State as it exists within bourgeois theory, and poses itself as a practice of extreme confrontation with that reality. In other words, all these concepts -- "transition" as much as "abolition," the "peaceful road" as much as "people's democracy," the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as much as the "cultural revolution" -- all these are bastard concepts, because they are impregnated with a conception of the State, its sovereignty, and its domination, because they consider themselves as necessary means and unavoidable processes to be pursued in the seizure of power and the transformation of society. The mystificatory dialectic of the theory of State forms turns into the negative dialectic of the abolition of the State, but the theoretical nucleus remains, in the absolute and reactionary way in which the power of the State is affirmed.... (219-220) *****

It seems that Negri's philosophy is now primarily spent in its impossible pursuit of total purification, radical exorcism of the specter of the State tout court from theory _before_ practice arrives. His ideas have become prisoners of his own rhetoric of anti-Statist radicalism, the fate all too common to late modern exorcists'. Is it not a tragedy, or a tragicomedy, that Negri's recent theory mirrors his current physical imprisonment?


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