MULTITUDE by Michael Hardt


War and Democracy in the Age of Empire
Email this review


Blend warmed-over Chomsky with dashes of Althusser and a pinch of Marx. Stir in some half-cooked network theory. Serve over a slab of post-Fordism. Voilà: you’ve got a lovely critique of imperialism, perfect for serving at a faculty lunch.

Hardt (Duke Univ.) and Negri (Univ. of Padua) follow up their Empire (not reviewed) with a presupposition that global politics is dominated not by a mere one or two powers (though, of course, the US is prominent) but by a network of advanced nation-states and their clients: the Empire, with a capital E. “Empire spreads globally its network of hierarchies and divisions that maintain order through new mechanisms of control and constant conflict,” they write. “Globalization, however, is also the creation of new circuits of cooperation and collaboration that stretch across nations and continents and allow an unlimited number of encounters.” These other circuits, they suggest, are the voice of the Multitude, an alternate network that holds the last best hope for democracy. “The conditions are emerging today,” Hardt and Negri hold, “that give the multitude the capacity of democratic decision-making and that thus make sovereignty unnecessary.” You may not want to hold your breath waiting for the state to wither away as the world’s masses get hip to the Internet. There are thickets of prose here to give you pause nonetheless: “What we really need are weapons that make no pretense to symmetry with the ruling military power but also break the tragic asymmetry of the many forms of contemporary violence that do not threaten the current order but merely replicate a strange new symmetry.” “Feminist struggles, antiracist struggles, and struggles of indigenous populations too are biopolitical in the sense that they immediately involve legal, cultural, political, and economic issues, indeed all facets of life.” “Numerous contemporary wars neither contribute to nor detract from the ruling global hierarchy, and thus Empire is indifferent to them.” And so on.

Just the thing for those who want their earthly salvation served up by postmodern social scientists. For the rest of us, thank the heavens, we’ve got Gore Vidal.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2004
ISBN: 1-59420-024-6
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2004