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Imperialism as we knew it may be no more, but Empire is alive and well. It is, as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri demonstrate in this bold work, the new political order of globalization. It is easy to recognize the contemporary economic, cultural, and legal transformations taking place across the globe but difficult to understand them. Hardt and Negri contend that they should be seen in line with our historical understanding of Empire as a universal order that accepts no boundaries or limits. Their book shows how this emerging Empire is fundamentally different from the imperialism of European dominance and capitalist expansion in previous eras. Rather, today’s Empire draws on elements of U.S. constitutionalism, with its tradition of hybrid identities and expanding frontiers.
Empire identifies a radical shift in concepts that form the philosophical basis of modern politics, concepts such as sovereignty, nation, and people. Hardt and Negri link this philosophical transformation to cultural and economic changes in postmodern society―to new forms of racism, new conceptions of identity and difference, new networks of communication and control, and new paths of migration. They also show how the power of transnational corporations and the increasing predominance of postindustrial forms of labor and production help to define the new imperial global order.
More than analysis, Empire is also an unabashedly utopian work of political philosophy, a new Communist Manifesto. Looking beyond the regimes of exploitation and control that characterize today’s world order, it seeks an alternative political paradigm―the basis for a truly democratic global society.
Empire is a sweeping book with a big-picture vision. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that while classical imperialism has largely disappeared, a new empire is emerging in a diffuse blend of technology, economics, and globalization. The book brings together unlikely bedfellows: Hardt, associate professor in Duke University's literature program, and Negri, among other things a writer and inmate at Rebibbia Prison in Rome. Empire aspires to the same scale of grand political philosophy as Locke or Marx or Fukuyama, but whether Hardt and Negri accomplish this daunting task is debatable. It is, however, an exciting book that is especially timely following the emergence of terrorism as a geopolitical force.
Hardt and Negri maintain that empire--traditionally understood as military or capitalist might--has embarked upon a new stage of historical development and is now better understood as a complex web of sociopolitical forces. They argue, with a neo-Marxist bent, that "the multitude" will transcend and defeat the new empire on its own terms. The authors address everything from the works of Deleuze to Jefferson's constitutional democracy to the Chiapas revolution in a far-ranging analysis of our contemporary situation. Unfortunately, their penchant for references and academese sometimes renders the prose unwieldy. But if Hardt and Negri's vision of the world materializes, they will undoubtedly be remembered as prophetic. --Eric de Place
“Michael Hardt and Tony Negri have given us an original, suggestive and provocative assessment of the international economic and political moment we have entered. Abandoning many of the propositions of conventional Marxism such as imperialism, the centrality of the national contexts of social struggle and a cardboard notion of the working class, the authors nonetheless show the salience of the Marxist framework as a tool of explanation. This book is bound to stimulate a new debate about globalization and the possibilities for social transformation in the 21st century.”―Stanley Aronowitz, author of False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness
“Empire…is a bold move away from established doctrine. Hardt and Negri's insistence that there really is a new world is promulgated with energy and conviction. Especially striking is their renunciation of the tendency of many writers on globalization to focus exclusively on the top, leaving the impression that what happens down below, to ordinary people, follows automatically from what the great powers do.”―Stanley Aronowitz, The Nation
“Empire is a stunningly original attempt to come to grips with the cultural, political, and economic transformations of the contemporary world. While refusing to ignore history, Hardt and Negri question the adequacy of existing theoretical categories, and offer new concepts for approaching the practices and regimes of power of the emergent world order. Whether one agrees with it or not, it is an all too rare effort to engage with the most basic and pressing questions facing political intellectuals today.”―Lawrence Grossberg, author of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture
“An extraordinary book, with enormous intellectual depth and a keen sense of the history-making transformation that is beginning to take shape―a new system of rule Hardt and Negri name Empire imperialism.”―Saskia Sassen, author of Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization
“By way of Spinoza, Wittgenstein, Marx, the Vietnam War, and even Bill Gates, Empire offers an irresistible, iconoclastic analysis of the 'globalized' world. Revolutionary, even visionary, Empire identifies the imminent new power of the multitude to free themselves from capitalist bondage.”―Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Almanac of the Dead
“After reading Empire, one cannot escape the impression that if this book were not written, it would have to be invented. What Hardt and Negri offer is nothing less than a rewriting of The Communist Manifesto for our time: Empire conclusively demonstrates how global capitalism generates antagonisms that will finally explode its form. This book rings the death-bell not only for the complacent liberal advocates of the 'end of history,' but also for pseudo-radical Cultural Studies which avoid the full confrontation with today's capitalism.”―Slavoj Žižek, author of The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Political Ontology
“Empire is one of the most brilliant, erudite, and yet incisively political interpretations available to date of the phenomenon called 'globalization.' Engaging critically with postcolonial and postmodern theories, and mindful throughout of the plural histories of modernity and capitalism, Hardt and Negri rework Marxism to develop a vision of politics that is both original and timely. This very impressive book will be debated and discussed for a long time.”―Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe
“The new book by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire, is an amazing tour de force. Written with communicative enthusiasm, extensive historical knowledge, systematic organization, it basically combines a kojevian notion of global market as post-history (in this sense akin to Fukuyama's eschatology) with a foucauldian and deleuzian notion of bio-politics (in this sense crossing the road of a Sloterdijk who also poses the question of a coming techniques of the production of the human species). But it clearly outbids its rivals in philosophical skill. And, above all, it reverses their grim prospects of political stagnation or the return to zoology. By identifying the new advances of technology and the division of labor that underlies the globalization of the market and the corresponding de-centered structure of sovereignty with a deep structure of power located within the multitude's intellectual and affective corporeity, it seeks to identify the indestructible sources of resistance and constitution that frame our future. It claims to lay the foundations for a teleology of class struggles and militancy even more substantially 'communist' than the classical Marxist one. This will no doubt trigger a lasting and passionate discussion among philosophers, political scientists and socialists. Whatever their conclusions, the benefits will be enormous for intelligence.”―Etienne Balibar, author of Spinoza and Politics
“So what does a disquisition on globalization have to offer scholars in crisis? First, there is the book's broad sweep and range of learning. Spanning nearly 500 pages of densely argued history, philosophy and political theory, it features sections on Imperial Rome, Haitian slave revolts, the American Constitution and the Persian Gulf War, and references to dozens of thinkers like Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hegel, Hobbes, Kant, Marx and Foucault. In short, the book has the formal trappings of a master theory in the old European tradition… [This] book is full of…bravura passages. Whether presenting new concepts―like Empire and multitude―or urging revolution, it brims with confidence in its ideas. Does it have the staying power and broad appeal necessary to become the next master theory? It is too soon to say. But for the moment, Empire is filling a void in the humanities.”―Emily Eakin, New York Times
“One of the rare benefits to the credit [of the contemporary Empire] is to have undermined the ramparts of the nation, ethnicity, race, and peoples by multiplying the instances of contact and hybridization. Perhaps, at least this is the hope forwarded by these two Marx and Engels of the internet age, it has thus made possible the coming of new forms of transnational solidarity that will defeat Empire.”―Aude Lancelin, Le Nouvel Observateur
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