4.0 out of 5 stars
An Important Contribution, Nov 5 2001
Hardt and Negri's book is an important contribution to the current debates and an innovative attempt to map out a number of new concepts in political theory.
The rich flavour of the text, the erudition and wealth of references are a major strength of this work. They situate Hardt and Negri within a strand of Neo-Marxist thought that employs concepts developed by Continental theory, while rejecting postmodern and postcolonial analyses.
The examination of "Empire" as a new regime of power based on biopolitical production is an attempt to apply Foucauldian concepts while adding a Deleuzian spin. The characterization of Empire as an impersonal network that asymmetrically grows in all directions and operates through means of control is certainly pungent, if not entirely original (the notion of control society is taken straight out of an interview with Deleuze). Nevertheless, the discussion of Empire's own time and space are to the point. The authors present the idea that in Empire ethical and juridical categories are merged and a new paradigm of power and authority arises.
Biopolitical production refers to a power (Empire) that creates subjectivities, to be understood in this context as "life". While this is as very interesting point, the authors mix up economic production and ontological production. They are equally careless with the term "power" which at once refers to a Foucauldian conception of power (as micro-power) and at the same time to a monarchic conception of power (Empire as "the power").
The part on sovereignty is a superb discussion of the genealogy of sovereignty throughout European modernity and from a number of angles. Their critique of postmodernism and postcolonialism is based on Fredric Jameson's well-known book.
The third part is by and large an attempt to integrate a Marxian economic theory with the political analysis the authors provide in the second part. On the whole, I am much more impressed by the section on sovereignty, then by this somewhat stale revival of classical Marxian ideas. Nevertheless, there are some beautiful sections, in particular on imperialism
The fourth and final part is at once an elaboration of their ontology and a conclusion. In terms of conclusion, this book has not much to offer, but the attempt to operationalize an ontology of the multiple is impressive. Even though their references to "fluidity" and "networks" hide some obscurities, the authors made an impressive contribution in the field of "applied philosophy".