A British diplomat correctly stated in this context that the politician is better schooled for the battle than the soldier, because the politician fights his whole life whereas the soldier only does so in exceptional circumstances only. – The Concept of the Political, Carl Schmitt

Musings on Hardt & Negri’s Empire

Since I have grossly neglected to , I will hear share a few last notes on my reading of Hardt & Negri’s Empire. Citations will have quotation marks accordingly and my own thoughts shall be introduced in asterisks. Enjoy.

– “Sovereignty operates through the striation of the social field (binaries of inside/outside). Capitalism operates on a plane of immanence (network)”. (p.326)

-“The mass refusal of the disciplinary regime of material production was not only a negative expression but a moment of creation, reflecting Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values”. (p.272-274)

-[Resistance needs a body that is incapable of adapting to family life, to factory discipline, to the regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth. (If you find your body refusing these ‘normal’ modes of life, don’t despair – realize your gift!) – (p.216)

-“Endeavour to be a human soul, above and beneath classification…The refusal of work and authority, or really the refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of liberatory politics”. (p.205)

-“The new democracy had to destroy the trasncendental idea of the nation with all its racial division and create its own people, defined not by old heritages but by a new ethics of the construction and expansion of the community. The new nation could not be the product of the political and cultural management of hybrid identities”. (p.173)
*see Nicholas Rose’s articles “The Death of the Social” for more interesting insights
*Also need to solve the problem that liberal institutions as part of “the social” formulate fixed and regular (everyday) subjectivities that force people to self-regulate their actions (security and aleatory, Agamben’s ban). Institutions as necessary evil or imperative to realizing human development (ex: moral progress).

*Power as potentia for H&N versus Foucault’s productive subjugating power, Machiavelli’s virtu, Tilly’s and Nietzche’s version of violent subjugating power. More closely aligned with Fukuyama’s thymos (desire for recognition) and Mill’s human development/progress.

*War and hostility are perpetuated by the belief in the fixity and unitary nature of identity, rather than by its hybridity.

*Ideas are not meant to be spatialized, but universalized.  Concepts such as freedom are bounded concepts as per Hannah Arendt, as in nationalized under liberal democracies. Ideas should only be applicable to the individual.

*The masses as a social construct. Can one identify the self outside the community? Hardt & Negri make the claim that the “multitude” must make claims for global citizenship. Is there such a thing as uniting under the banner of humanity? Is this possible given the failure of the Rights of Man under the French of Revolution, meant to be universalized but never actuated? Critique: defaces ideological warfare of Soviets and papacy, but still adheres to Useful concept of need for re-appropriation of self-control and self production compared to the overarching bureaucratic, disciplinary, and securitizing management by the state.

A Critique of Critique

Criticism itself does not even need to be concerned with this matter, for it is already clear about it. Criticism is no longer an end in itself but simply a means. Its essential pathos is indignation, its essential task denunciation. – Karl Marx, Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Now that I actually have some time on my hands this week, I intend to churn out a few posts due to the wealth of information I’ve taken in through my intensive readings throughout the last two weeks.

Here, Marx articulates my essential problem with postmodernist thought itself. If we return to Plato’s earlier works, we can see that the Socratic Method is merely questioning for the sake of questioning. In his later works, Plato endeavours to fill this vacuum by finding the answers in his Republic. In Hardt & Negri’s Empire, the same problem is posed: the negative culmination of modern thought passes into a new era of postmodernist thought. That is, it is a critique of everything the modern theorists have tried to fill in the vacuum left after the struggle between the religious and the scientific.  Critique consistently creates a greater and greater vacuum to fill as theories become deconstructed or nullified. What is so important to remember is that critique should only be a means to an end, the end being truth (for the sake of argument and consistent with the aims of these posts).

Politics must include two components: the theoretical (philosophy) and the material (praxis or science). Now only must we theorize of the utopia of the social, but also how the politicized individual must act (in many ways, tied to ethics). Postmodern theories of politics must find their redemption in the ethos of their theories, not only by pointing out the moral aporias in current political structures, but also defining the scope of action (resistance in the Foucauldian sense) for the individuals caught in such aporias. For instance, Giorgio Agamben is quite adept at outlining the ethical aporias in state sovereignty, but he puts forward no modes of resistance or courses of actions against such structures like the camp and biopower. Previous political theories have always posited solutions: Conservatism:  tradition and reactionary caution, Liberalism: emancipation and the rights of Man, Marxism: communist revolution, Political anarchism: revolution and spontaneous community, Fascism: national militarism, corporatism, and social Darwinism, Socialism: social equality and distribution of wealth, and the list goes on.  Until postmodern theory is able to dictate the scope of political action for the individual and the community, its political clout will continue to be limited to the theoretical realm.

The ability of theory to withstand any critique should be the true proof that it is worth something to look at and employ in the political praxis. The recognition that Mill’s The Subjugation of Women and the horrors of capitalist exploitation of the worker in Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto have withstood the test of time is an indication of the value of these concepts in finding new and innovative ways to address current day political problems. To say that they have all been solved by Fukuyama’s End of History-styled liberal capitalist democracy is an understatement. The one useful concept that postmodernist IR theory has brought to the table is the critique of state sovereignty. In this regard, political theory must now endeavour to fill the critical gap using both old and innovative abstractions to solve the gap in political praxis of the sovereign state.

War and Legitimacy

War Making and State Making as Organized Crime

Since governments themselves commonly simulate, stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers. – Charles Tilly

Continuing along the metanarrative of war, I don’t see much difference from the Marxist critique in the political anarchist critique of Tilly, but I find it interesting and reinforcing of material I’ve been reading (for fun, as luck would have it). Concurrent with Weber, war is the perfection and legitimization of violence on a large scale by the state, tracing from the feudal era to standing armies to modern day police and securitization. If we go back to Plato, we find that the source of war is acquisition. Is capitalism then conducive to a state of war due to its high competitiveness?

As Foucault says, even peace is a coded war. I then have the shadow of a doubt that an IR theory of peace is not so interesting or exciting as current IR theories of war and violence inherent in state sovereignty, that the concept of peace itself is subjective and only formed in binary with war as merely an empty absence of the fullness of war’s meaning. Is peace as productive (constructive) as war is (destructive yet productive)? Yet war legitimizes a system of sovereign states through its inside/outside practices.  Can peace therefore be found in and legitimize alternative modes of governance? Or what of the democratic peace theory, if we have faith in institutions other than the sovereign state?

Capitalism and Slavery

The slave production in the Americas and the African slave trade, however, were not merely or even predominantly a transition to capitalism. They were a relatively stable support, a pedestal of superexploitation on which European capitalism stood. There is no contradiction here: slave labour in the colonies made capitalism in Europe possible, and European capital had no interesting in giving it up…The point here is not simply to denounce the irrationality of the bourgeoisie, but to understand how slavery and servitude can be perfectly compatible with capitalist production, as mechanisms that limit the mobility of the labor force and blocks its movements – Hardt & Negri, Empire, pp.122-123

I have a certain fascination with the Marxist IR theory of Hardt & Negri, insofar as tracing the geneaology of the state through the imperial-colonial discourse. Capitalism is fundamentally meant for the free individual in the Lockean sense, that one is rewarded for the fruits of labour. The individual is free to produce whatever goods and services are in demand by whatever means at his disposal and be entitled to the benefits of its profits, exchange, trade, etc. As something Marx is concerned about in his critique of capitalism, it is interesting to note how this dynamic is utterly reversed by imperialism and the imposition of neoliberal policies on developing countries. That is, the means of extraction and production are not owned by the colonies, but by the imperialists. The colonies could only be productive insofar as they imported mass free labour from other countries and reap the maximum profits from such production, as well as justified by a rhetoric of a civilizing mission and a sense of racial/cultural superiority. The worker can as easily be enslaved by his labour as freed by it through the acquisition and tradeoff of goods/services.

In the idea of capitalism itself, the notion of equality of opportunity and outcome are emphasized by Adam Smith, but nothing explicitly dictates a relationship of inferiority or superiority concerning the means of production and the worker. If anything, labour is supposed to be emancipatory because it enables the individual to make a living in the pursuit of his own ends. So how do we revert to a purist form of liberal policies concerning the humane and equal human development of the colonized world? It must primarily be a domestic solution that emulates the United States’ original plan of economic development: protectionism. This enabled the growth and development of the manufacturing sector as a basis for a strong American economy. Once developed, a free market policy allowed for vast amounts of exports and profits. The whole world could have adopted such policies and developed horizontally, but such results were skewed by the overriding narrative of imperialism and a continued policy of neoliberalism.

So what now? There’s nothing wrong with capitalism on paper (ironically the same as communism), but is capitalism forever doomed to be linked with the subjugating exploitative tendencies of imperialist expansion and acquisition? I’d like to think not, that capitalism can return to a purer form if one takes the time to actually read The Wealth of Nations and use neoGramscian theory to dissect and rectify the current systemic problems with capitalism on a macroscale. Since property rights are protected by the state, similarly I think labour rights should be protected by international governmental institutions such as a re-modification the WTO or ILO (as such institutions already permit the reign of  the invisible hand). At the same time, states should take responsibility domestically to ensure the development of their industries through protectionism and resist the imposition of neoliberal policies that are ultimately premature for such entities.