Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt's Empire has already caused quite a storm. After "anti-capitalist" demonstrations and books such as Naomi Klein's No Logo and George Monbiot's Captive State, a vacuum seemed to exist for an extensive, coherent philosophical take on where our world is going. Empire seeks to fill that gap by asking where globalisation comes from, what it means and whether or not it is a good or bad thing.
Negri, a Marxist imprisoned for his beliefs and his involvement with the Italian hard-left, and Michael Hardt, an English literature professor who had previously acted as Negri's translator (and the translator of an important, though philosophically more arcane, precursor to Empire, Giorgio Agamben's The Coming Community) have produced a key post-Marxist text (which builds on many of the arguments in Nick Dyer-Witheford's excellent Cyber-Marx) that views its world through lenses bequeathed to it by the best of the French post-structuralists. Negri and Hardt's accomplishment has been to apply the sometimes difficult work of theorists such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (especially A Thousand Plateaus) and Jacques Derrida to describe a world that has undergone a paradigm switch to a new Empire (in a way not dissimilarly than Thomas Keenan does particularly in his chapter on Marx's rhetoric in the much undervalued Fables of Responsibility). According to Negri and Hardt, this new Empire is the result of the transformation of modern capitalism into a set of power relationships we endlessly replicate that transcend the nation state (so anti-imperialism is out as a progressive politics). Vitally, the authors argue that the multitude, through their many struggles, pushed the world to this point and it is the multitude who can push through to a much better world on the other side of globalisation.
This is an optimistic, wide-ranging, defiant challenge of a book and Negri and Hardt should be commended on their erudition as much as their vision. While questions undoubtedly remain after reading the text, these should not stop the interested reader in coming to, and learning from, this profound piece of work. --Mark Thwaite
Stretching back nearly twenty years, Antonio Negri's work has been until recently one of the best-kept secrets of Marxist theory in the United States...["Empire"] is the culmination of Negri's lifework and a major contribution to Marx's uncompleted work on capitalism's international phase. Beyond its inherent scholarly merit, however, "Empire" provides a critical tool for understanding what the events following September 11th mean as history and politics.--Curtis White"Bookforum" (06/01/2002)