Overcoming the Fragmentation of Struggles

Daniel Avatar

Now that the idea of an international proletariat is a thing of the past, Hardt and Negri, in Empire, invoke the specter of Hegel, or begin to flirt with Hegel in order to understand global capitalism.

In order to apply Hegel, Hardt and Negri argue that as a structural system, global capitalism is “good in-itself but not for-itself.” In other words, the propensity for the system to evolve in terms external and foreign to it’s own subjects desires, interests and wants makes it good for itself. what concerns Empire is capitalism’s internal mechanisms and tendencies. We all know too well what capitalism is capable of but we have no metaphysical grasp of her internal dialectical processes and structure.

The interlinkage between a global “narrative of struggle,” and a common foundation of resistance are non existent, that is to say they are at historic lows as far as communication amongst the subjects of capitalism.

Decades ago, what was left of the socialist movement, embodied institutionally in the comintern, a sense of a united global resistance to capitalism was alive. This movement was able to communicate a far flung struggle for workers rights in Cuba to events of disenfranchisement in Africa – was possible. It is the sphere of communication that we must turn our attention in order to revitalize not a sense of socialism but of ways to change the current order of capitalism.

At the outset we need to agree that the very formation of capitalism or shall we say of Empire is a response to the very failed proletarian internationalism of the twentieth century. There is no teleology to the struggles of the new globalization, each struggle is local, creative and inherently utopic – i.e. all dialectical force arise post facto.

What has come to replace the proletarian subject in the ascension of this new configuration of the proletariat (Hardt and Negri refer to as the multitude)?

Since struggles have become all but incommunicable, we have to realize that there is a new quality to social movements. This quality automatically alienates each movement from an international message – as the socialist narrative in its Trotskyite version was able to cross borders and translate common desires and fears into a mass movement of resistance, whereas our new interconnected global village is completely out of sync with itself, why?

In order to quell the tide of communication struggles we must put forth a new language, which speaks on the basis of differences, and speaks in singularities, that adequately addresses this fragmentation of struggle.

A new praxis must be invented; one that presupposes the present as empty for the future – a praxis that presupposes that the future must be invented now.

From a metaphysical viewpoint, our subject (the global citizen) is a part of a “multitude,” and as scholars of social change our real object of study is the cosmopolitan liberation – the old battle between the call for a radicalization of the proletariat with the educated classes of cosmopolitan elites. How do we bring them together, or how do we make them realize that their business is with one another? The traditional Marxist critique would wait for the Messiah to come.

Empire discusses this dialectical process as a “passage” towards sovereignty, which must engage the multitude directly. In this sense Hardt and Negri are materialist and they are teleological – in fact this is why Empire is so interesting as it is a recombining of Marx and Hegel for the twenty first century.

To understand global capitalism’s limitations, trajectory, and structure Negri’s brilliant grasp of political philosophy takes us through a history of sovereignty. Let’s take a historical trek through the rise of political philosophy that informs our current state of globalization and power.

Initially, it was Machiavellian modes of sovereignty which arose out of the “plane of imminence,” or the notion that divine powers were established in this world, and that each thing has a special essence in itself.

The birth of modernity is defined by immanent creative forces and the transcendent power aimed at restoring order. Eurocentric thought is the very struggle internal to European mastery, mastery of controlling the globe or the potential for utter control of the globe.

Descartes developed the concept of mediation, which is essentially the paradigm shift that brought knowledge as a thing that can only be achieved by pure reflection on the intellect. The entire ethical world is not innate but is only achievable by the schemata of reason, nature and experience are unrecognizable but only through the filter of phenomena. This successfully abolished the immediacy of human life and absolute humanist centered renaissance truth. What Descartes was really doing was establishing a humanist transcendent order.

Kant then placed the subject at the center of the transcendental matrix of bourgeois ideology, i.e. the enlightenment rationalization of society, the pacifying of social antagonisms and the melding of science with technique for profit. Kant emptied experience of phenomena, reduced knowledge to intellectual mediation and neutralized ethical action to the schemata of reason. Kant discovered the subject himself as crisis, the subject as always caught in conflict with the ethical will. It is impossible to reunite the appearance of the thing with the thing itself – mediation of phenomena. Kantianism is perhaps (to Schoppanauer) the liquidation of the humanist revolution.

Enter Hegel: his attack on the other was a negation of non European desire. Hegel brought modernity to a screeching halt with the dialectic and with the multitude being restored into the allegory of a blind order, with the rationalization of the state. From the political solutions offered by Hegel we evolve into the political sphere as the central space that modern sovereignty would play itself out. The dominant theme in politics as well as in metaphysics was to eliminate the medieval plane of transcendence which only inhibited production while maintaining transcendence’s effects of domination in a form adequate to the modes of association of modernity.

In addition to the adaptation of transcendent humanism Hobbseian notions of representation and political rule of the king sovereign would come to rule the Eurocentric rise of capital – it is this addition of capital that distinguishes other Empire’s rises and makes the case that Adam Smith made that much more apparent. The capitalist is led to an end which was no part of his intention. Smith asks that the state make sure that the well beings of private individuals correspond with the well being of the public.

The constitution of an absolute racial difference is the essential ground for the conception of a homogenous national identity. In the hands of the exploited, the concept of “nation” represents change and revolution whereas in the hands of the dominant it represents stasis and restoration. In each case however, the nation is a fortified line of defense against foreign agents and external forces. The day that a nation is realized in full is the day that the oppressive functions of modern sovereignty inevitably blossom.

Totalitarianism of the Nation-State:

The concept of nation and the practices of nationalism are from the beginning set down on the road not to republic but to the re-total overcoding of social life. The utopian tendency of the nation – the belief in the universal freedom and equality of humanity, is what forces us to encourage a movement of counter globalization. This movement began to take effect during the turn of the twentieth century with the rise of the United Nations idea which first manifested in the League of Nations. Its basic outline of thinking consists of:

1. Humankind is one and equal. Yet this is always in the view of “sameness” a Eurocentric perspective.
2. All liberty sought whether it is counter revolutionary re-affirms the nation and the hope of the multitude and what that unity could bring the revolutionaries rhetoric is always a borrowing of the master.

3. Recognizes that there is only one narrative of struggle and exploitation in the colonial communities under Europe’s hegemonic hold and therefore the superimposition of the western model has a twofold mission, 1. To destroy the Asiatic society and 2. To regenerate that society with a European model.

From the post colonial school thinkers such as Levinas, Said and others have contributed to an extension of Hegel’s dialectic of identity. The notion of Alterity and colonialism is produced. In this school of thought all difference must be dialectically pushed to the extreme and otherness is produced as a negation as the ultimate other. Because the difference of the other is absolute, it can be inverted as the very constitution of the self. In the other, one’s own radical evil is what makes him fully restored. The identity of the European self is produced in this dialectical movement. The modern European self is then bound to radical terror and subordination as they are disconnected to a centered dialectical process.
Reality is not dialectical but colonialism is. Colonialism is the universalizing process, it is the one that takes the singularities and turns those differences into universals. It is an abstract machine that produces alterity and identity. The European self needs violence in order to confront his other to maintain semblance of his identity.

Modern anti-racism positions itself against the biological divisions of race as a system constituted by cultural and societal factors. Since culture is now played to fill the role that biology filled, racial differences are then markers of social separation. This pluralist theory seeks to replace race from the back side, and thereby preserves race. This is a theory of segregation, not hierarchy. Racial theory is viewed as the effect, no longer as the cause of social circumstances. This market meritocracy of culture is the determining factor. In cultural racism, no one is excluded as other, there is not outside and it is a set of binary differences you subordinate difference on varying degrees of separation from whiteness.

The entire edifice of global capitalism is experiencing an invisible crisis, yet it is ever-present, or “omni” – invisible as the communicative modes of information have been hijacked. There is an indeterminateness of subjectivities formed in the institutions, which grows exponentially as the omni-crisis of institutions break down all the way from the prison to the family. When the omni crisis takes effect there begins to break down great blocs of separation between each of the institutions – they begin to experience a stage of overlap and intermingling of forces. What is exported in this phase of imperial break down is the very break down of the institutions which actually work to solidify subjectivity more effectively.
The three moments of imperial command include:

1. All are welcome in the domain. Inclusionary. Calls for setting aside differences to strip away all subjectivities. Inclusionary neutral indifference.

2. Empire seeks to create fluid networks of command. Modulating its form like a self-deforming cast that changes continually. Incorporate.

3. Management: the conflicting identities based on culture and linguistic difference are actually of great managerial advantage – they help to establish a more effective and fluid assembly.

Because imperial power is founded on the determinateness of every ontological relationship, there is an increasing indistinguishability of the cultural and economic movements. Cultural relations were working to redefine production processes and economic structures of value but the new challenge of post modernity stems from a new subjectivity.

Empire argues that the new problem is still tied to that of labor power and its new intellectual and communicative composition. It was the subjective front or the workers power that overcame the Soviet Union. The Soviet army was not able to handle the new alignment of the subjective workers revolt against the dominant paradigm of labor. Conversely, the real ontological revolt of the cultural revolution of the west during the 1960’s to 1970’s was tied to a new form of labor relations, a cultural refusal to perform old modes of labor.

Illusions of Development:

Economies are defined by their dominant position in the global economy. The underdeveloped and dependency theories point was that no matter how things change, the hierarchy determines the structure and mobility of a regional or national economy.

The high production value of services eclipses the relative historical theory that stages of development follow linear paths of development. The implementation of high technology machine making machines evolves the post industrial economy into the service sector informational economy.

Structure of Labor Relations

Empire asks for the invention of an “anthropology of cyberspace,” as instrumental action tied to the immediate response of production based on market data. The lightning quick response time to market fluctuations leads to labor that produces an immaterial good, knowledge, a cultural object or some intangible good.

Since the computer poses itself as the central hub by which all labor passes, the computerization of production passes into abstract labor. No longer does the sewing machine produce, the cotton gin, and the weaving machine, etc. Labor relations in the information age are no longer compartmentalized. The other face of the labor relations is affective labor: labor that involves human contact and interaction. In-person services create an effect, such as the entertainment industry – the entire sector of media and marketing is effect related production, i.e. abstract labor.
Distances are less relevant as is centralization. The assembly line is now the network. Laboring processes can be performed in a manner totally uniform with informational networks. Financial and trade related cities manage the overall networks of control.

The new roman roads are information highways. They are embedded in and completely imminent to the new production processes.

NGOs represent life in all its essence what ever is left of life, is found in the multitude? They work beyond politics on the terrain of biopower itself.

1. the monarchic unity of power and its global monopoly of power.

2. aristocratic articulations through transnational corporations and nation-states.

3. and democratic-representational comitia, presented in the form of NGOs, media organizations, and other popular organisms.

The people are an organized particularity that defends established privileges and properties. The multitude is the universality of free and productive practices. The society of control all rule is exercised by the movements of productive and cooperating subjectivities, institutions are formed and redefined continually according to the rhythm of these movements; and the topography of power no longer has to do with spatial relationships but is inscribed rather in the temporal displacements of subjectivities. The chaos of the subjectivities is where power is inscribed. In the inevitable ruptures and gaps in the system of global capital we find that there is a non-place of power. This is where the hybrid control functions operate.

Modern sovereignty depends on transcendence. Sovereignty is an overflow of codes, it breaks down all status title and prestige to the cash-nexus, to inherent economic terms.

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