Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Nov 20 13:28:12 PST 1999

>claim that negri is caught within the
>strategic or conjunctural limitations of the late 1970s

The Keynesian State & formerly existing socialism are the interlocutors that define & entrap Negri's thought. Anti-statist theoretical-radicalism has been constant in Negri's work:

***** The working-class struggle puts the functioning of the law of value in definitive crisis, not only in the sense that its practices determine and reinforce the functioning of the law of the tendential fall of the rate of profit, but in the even more profound sense of destabilizing the very terms on which the law holds, in other words, taking away the meaning of the relation between necessary labor and surplus labor (which, as Marx says, is in the final analysis the foundation of everything). At this very moment, socialism becomes impossible. Socialism and all the socialist utopias try to put forth the actual realization of the law of value, which amounts to saying the complete real subsumption of social labor into capital. This is possible, however, only in terms of the dialectic of the classes, only as a moment of class struggle. At this point, all the variants of the socialist utopia, both the objectivist ones (socialism as the socialization of the means of production and the rationalization of command) and the subjectivist ones (the new mode of production, cooperation, participation, comanagement, and so forth), are put in crisis, because the law of value is never realized except by at the same time shattering itself apart, imposing at an extremely high level the new antagonism among capitalist labor, command (however legitimated), and the set of productive social forces of the proletariat. (Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, _Labor of Dionysus_ [206-7) *****

Apparently, Negri thinks that not just social democrats & Eurocommunists but all variants of Marxist practice (except his own), as well as proponents of participatory economy, etc., have been so far about the realization of the law of value! In Negri's mind, his and his friends' theorizing is the only True Communism. Negri's reading of Marx is a very narrow one (he makes a great deal of _The Grundrisse_, Marx's remark on "general intellect," etc.), leaving aside all the elements in Marx's work that contradict Negri's philosophy (e.g. "Critique of the Gotha Program," Marx's criticism of anarchism, _The Poverty of Philosophy_, etc.) Now, leaving Negri's sectarianism aside, I think that his purism in the theoretical exorcism of "the state of the law of value" leaves him in political no-man's-land, evident in his privileging the figure of the "exodus":

***** Postmodern theories of the State, as we argued in the previous chapter, are just as implicated in this predicament as Keynesian theories. [Yoshie: About this, Negri is of course correct. It's just that he incorrectly thinks that he is not in the same trap.] The perception of an epocal passage that they interpret in terms of the search for an equilibrium based on weak subjects, with recourse to the techniques of systematism, does not in fact hold in the face of the solidity of the figures of the exodus that the crisis of real socialism has revealed. The weak practices of legitimation are now confronted with the exodus -- migration, chaotic dynamics of transformation, and mass refusal.

...Escaping from the crisis of the modern State, historically and theoretically constructed on the organization of the dialectic between the State and the constituent power of the multitude, can only consist in the State's attempt to reconstruct this dialectic. What happens, however, when for once the instigator of crisis is not a constituted power but a constituent power, one that refuses development and does not call for the dialectic? What does it mean that the masses have destroyed the socialist illusion and positioned themselves as a force of separation and self-valorization in the face of the State? When this emergence of constituent power is not episodic and insurrectional but continuous, ontological, and irreversible, what does this catastrophe mean with respect to law and the State? We understand exodus as a fundamental political reality of the present. As the Founding Fathers teach us, an enormous creative energy is accumulated in the exodus....

...The form of the present crisis in the East and the West is defined as an exodus from the political, as separation and social self-valorization. Finally, there exists a positive determination of the exodus and it can be defined on the juridical terrain: it is constituent power, the organization and the institution of the exodus. (_Labor of Dionysus_ 268-9) *****

Since the end of the 70s, Negri has not had an actually existing movement from which theory can originate, so his concepts of "exodus," "constituent power," "mass intellectuality," "immaterial labor," etc. float nebulously in the space of the internet & university presses. In the case of the "exodus," there is an optimism of intellect on Negri's part, in that he ends up endorsing the weak position of the relative surplus population (or the reserve army of labor) in the age of lean & mean production, devolution, austerity policy, deflation, etc. Not that it's really Negri's fault -- all forms of leftist theorizing have suffered from the same problem.


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