rc-am rcollins at
Sat Nov 20 22:03:55 PST 1999

dear friend,

i think you should attend to some outstanding queries (see last para) before you rush on to the next devastating critique of the next heresy, but...

first, a background point: in the same breath that you accuse negri of being fixed on the metropoles, you suggest a theoretical lineage that runs from o'connor to negri and the autonomists. negri's work is similar to o'connor's in theoretical presumptions (at least, that of the decisiveness of class struggles to crises), but his direct lineage is more accurately traced to folks like sergio bologna and mario tronti (whom i tend to prefer in any case). so, positing a rather innaccurate US-centrism as regards theoretical traditions is a little silly, especially if you want to make a big deal out of what you claim is negri's geographically limited theoretical focus.

second, some modicum of intellectual honesty or seriousness would require that, rather than simply hurling accusations as if they themselves constitute a self-evident basis for dismissal, you explain why, for instance, antistatism is an innapropriate strategic and theoretical position within communism at this particular point in history; why negri's account of keynsianism and really-existing socialism is wrong, etc... and whilst you're at it, explain for me what it is you get out of blubbering about 'sectarianism' when all you seem to do is demarcate out appropriate political circles -- negri = bad; hoxha = good... your new-found support for heterodoxy, in the accusation that negri is insisting that his communism is the true one, is really only a play to the really heterodox amongst us, a thin attempt to dismiss negri's critique without having to do the work of defending what he critiques, or critiquing it from another basis. if you want to defend keynsianism, social democracy, or indeed stalinism or the ussr, against negri's arguments, then why not just do so? that at least would be deserving of some respect compared to this.

moreover, that you situate negri as the theoretical representative of the autonomist movement is a claim that can only come from ignorance. negri's writings have been translated into english more so than others (and this in large measure due to the seminars on the _grundrisse_ he gave at althusser's request during negri's flight from imprisonment), but few who have any understanding of the debates within and around the autonomist marxist currents in italy would pretend that negri's positions exhaust those currents, least of all negri.

but, let's take another look at the 'criticisms' thus far:

1) that negri's "reading of _The Grundrisse_ -- 'The form of value is pure and simple command, the pure and simple form of politics' (_Marx Beyond Marx_) -- turns out to incorrect & misleading, trapped in the historical conjuncture that it sought to overcome."

followed by the opposite claim less than a day later:

2) negri's "assertion of the end of the law of value."

3) "Negri's voluntarism"

followed by the opposite motif of:

4) "Negri's recent theory mirrors"

if he was a voluntarist, he wouldn't be 'mirroring' anything much. (but, if 'mirroring' has a similar sense as 'inverting', then why not say that? oh, i know: 'mirroring' is supposed to be passive; inverting is active -- hence, why the accusations of 'voluntarism' and 'mirroring' are contradictory, at least at this level of meaning. nonetheless, only someone who thinks there is no antagonism would suggest 'mirroring' as the appropriate formula, which negri is as far from doing as you are from comprehending what he writes.)

5) "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"

then i guess you would have missed his writings on mexico, albania, the gulf war, migration, the chapter on the world market in _marx beyond marx_... take for instance, "The distinction between North and South is a distinction that no longer makes sense except when considered within the determinate arrangements in which the attempt to recontrol the movements of labor power have become fundamental."

6) "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."

say what? let me see if i've got this right: negri should wait until the state has withered away in the world before undertaking a critique of the state in theory? and until then, he should (what?) embrace the state as you do? or is it that you're claiming here there's no anti-statist political practice evident, or that negri does not engage in such? wow. i'll wager that negri, at age 64 and on day-release from jail is a more consistent activist (even in the reductivist proyectian sense) than you have been.

7) "rhetoric of anti-Statist radicalism"

negri's anti-statism is far from being rhetorical. this is really what gets under your skin, isn't it? if you want to revive a kind of keynsianism sans the crisis-tendencies, then why not have the courage of your convictions and argue that at some length without meandering through a half-read 'critique' of a less-understood writer?

8) "Is it not a tragedy, or a tragicomedy, that Negri's recent theory mirrors his current physical imprisonment?"

i find nothing comical about imprisonment and only a fool would look to make a point such as this in this way.

9) "he never provides detailed empirical analyses of labor composition, rates of profits, etc."

oh, look, i can't resist: does this mean from now on you'll be providing such analyses or do you just think others should do that for you?

10) "immaterial labor."

and what exactly would be wrong about a claim such as "Precariousness, hyperexploitation, mobility and hierarchy are what characterise metropolitan immaterial labour. Behind the label of the independent or dependent worker is hidden a true and proper intellectual proletarian, recognised as such only by the employers who exploit them."? but in any event, the debate over the labour process is an ongoing and lenghty one, in which various autonomists have taken varying positions. the issue here is not whether such changes have occured, but what they mean, and i'd have to say i agree with george caffentzis' arguments re enclosures. yet, the problem with negri is not that he wanders into this terrain, but that he is committed to a certain conception of the role of political writing when it comes to discussing this or that, hence:

11) "Hyperbole"

which is true, as it's also true of those bits of the _communist manifesto_ that many people like so much. and that, i think is a criticism; but it's not one that manages to bear everything else you want to hang there.

i'll be waiting for those analyses of class composition (i'm not too fussed: US, anywhere), but i guess i might have to stand in line behind ted, waiting as he is for you to name those darned pomoistas who dare to deny the existence of truth. but hey, i think i'm still waiting from some time ago for you to deliver on that much-heralded analysis of the class struggles surrounding the situation in east timor to back up that slogan of 'anti-western imperialism' of yours -- so, get back in line behind me ted! and, hey again, didn't you just complain more recently that foucault made out that 'the west' was some kind of homogeneous entity? gosh.

Angela _________

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