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Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire Paperback – 23 Feb 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (23 Feb. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141014873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141014876
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Complex, ambitious, disquieting, and ultimately hopeful, Multitude is the work of a couple of writers and thinkers who dare to address the great issues of our time from a truly alternative perspective. The sequel to 2001's equally bold and demanding Empire continues in the vein of the earlier tome. Where Empire's central premise was that the time of nation-state power grabs was passing as a new global order made up of "a new form of sovereignty" consisting of corporations, global-wide institutions, and other command centers is in ascendancy, Multitude focuses on the masses within the empire, except that, where academics Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri are concerned, this body is defined by its diversity rather than its commonalities. The challenge for the multitude in this new era is "for the social multiplicity to manage to communicate and act in common while remaining internally different." Empire isn't breezy reading, but for those aren't afraid of diving into a knotty philosophical and political discourse of uncommon breadth, Multitude offers many rewards. --Steven Stolder, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

With their international bestseller, Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri established themselves as visionary theoreticians of the new global order. Michael Hardt is a professor at Duke University. Antonio Negri is an independent researcher and writer. He lives in Rome, where for two years he was under house arrest for his political beliefs.

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ldxar1 on 18 May 2006
Format: Paperback
The main purpose of this follow-up to "Empire" seems to have been to address some of the swathe of criticisms the book received in the wake of its phenomenal success. Some of these are attempts to deal with substantive problems such as how their theory of empire as a de-nationalised system can stand up to a post-911 world where US global power is asserted more forcefully than ever. Most are simply attempts to clarify points which were unclear in Empire, such as the status of immaterial labour and why it's given such a central place in Hardt and Negri's worldview.

Stylistically the book is an improvement on Empire - it flows better, is divided into clear sections, and includes a lot of empirical examples which back up the arguments. Politically and analytically it is basically the same points repeated in different ways or in a different context. The main exception is the first section on war, which includes a lot of new discussions of distributed network forms and their importance for resistance and power. Indeed, the appropriation of the network model is the biggest step forward they make from Empire.

The book also has fundamental problems, however. Basically, Hardt and Negri have taken an orthodox Marxist ontology and tried to impose it on a perspective of the social world which bears little resemblance to Marx's. The result is an attempt to fit square empirical pegs into round analytical holes - for instance, to portray the masses of excluded poor as really included but exploited. If you don't find persuasive the initial premises (such as that correct forms of resistance necessarily follow from dominant forms of production), chances are you won't find the conclusions persuasive either.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
The reasons why we need to move forward 2 Oct. 2004
By Malvin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Multitude" by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri is a follow-up to the author's widely-acclaimed "Empire". In "Multitude", Hardt and Negri discuss change and the possibility of global democracy, which they define as "the rule of everyone by everyone". The book offers a unique vision of how such a future might be developing around us and futher rewards its readers with numerous insights and top-notch analysis in a highly readable text.

"Multitude" appears to have been written in part as a response to the criticisms of "Empire" as presented in the excellent book, "Empire's New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri" edited by Passavant and Dean. For example, "Multitude" takes a slightly different approach to the themes of U.S. exceptionalism, network power structures, violence and the politics of identity; all of these topics were critiqued at length in "Empire's New Clothes". Consequently, it appears that Hardt and Negri may have profited from this dialogue and it may also explain why "Multitude" is a more substantive and less theoretical book than "Empire".

Section One of "Multitude" is entitled "War". Hardt and Negri discuss the perpetual state of war as a means to maintain the capitalist world order and social hierarchy. Interestingly, the authors show how insurgencies and counterinsurgencies have both taken on the characteristics of flexible, postmodern production networks. Importantly, the anti-globalization movement is lauded as an example of how such decentralized and distributed networks can support an "absolutely democratic organization" whose emerging strength might yet constitute the "most powerful weapon against the ruling power structure."

Section Two is about "Multitude". The multitude is both plural and multiple, wherein people maintain their individualities but act based on common interests. Hardt and Negri posit that global production is made possible by "the commons" of language and communications and information networks. Patents, licenses and other tools to control the commons and appropriate wealth for private investors has hampered the productivity of the multitude, the authors believe, thereby creating a tension that might lead to revolution. To that end, recent events in Argentina are held out as examples of how new forms of collaborative democracy might emerge.

Section Three is entitled "Democracy". Hardt and Negri explain how the ecological and economic grievances of the multitude are routinely suppressed in favor of corporate interests. The authors endorse a number of reforms that might alleviate some of the worst excesses -- such as the Tobin Tax on currency trades, the easing of copyright laws and the forgiveness of third world debt -- but they go much further, suggesting that the time may be ripe for a "new Magna Carta", or a fundamental restructuring of relations between capital and labor. To that end, the authors envision an "open-source society" of collaboration characterized by the self-rule of the multitude and using the commons as the basis of social and economic production.

In my view, one of the key attributes of "Multitude" is its convincing analysis and description of today's post-democracy world. Hardt and Negri describe how the three major tenets of U.S. democracy -- the media, the separation of powers, and representation -- have been irreparably coopted by corporate power. This, of course, is an observation that has been made elsewhere but rarely with the penetrating analysis and skill that these intelligent authors bring to bear on the subject. If "Multitude" does nothing else than to serve to widen the discussion on this critically important topic, it will have made an important and lasting contribution.

However, I am less convinced that the open-source community envisioned by Hardt and Negri will spontaneously emerge as they have suggested. The disconnect between the aspirations of the multitude for shared peace and prosperity on the one hand and the brutal realities of hierarchical power structures on the other has existed for centuries. While one is certainly hopeful that the historic moment has changed and has made a revolution in human relations possible, the authors provide little in the way of guidance as to how the multitude might cross the divide. Still, "Multitude" serves as a thought-provoking and inspirational work that helps us understand the reasons why we need to move forward to a more peaceful and humane world, if not how to get there, and easily deserves a five-star rating. I highly recommend it to all.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
A Fitting Follow up to Empire 8 Sept. 2004
By Nour Chatelaw - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Almost all the reviews that I read of the book "Empire" failed to recognize it as a philosophical text (e.g. they wanted charts and graphs or they wanted an easy read). But this point is important because a philosophical text is there to introduce you to a concept -- a new way of seeing and apprehending the world -- and to a new way of thinking. Fortunately this time around they say so immediately.

Multitude like Empire is a very rich and complex book interweaving different types of narratives in order to present a new way of thinking about our present. What has changed is the coherence and cohesion of the text. It is much more solid. It doesn't try to cover every single thing at the cost of the readers attention. But it is every bit as audacious as the first. It is quite daring and innovative, and for all that still completely analytically solid.

The major protesters are generally those who disagree that the world has changed. This is not necessarily a philosophical matter but an empirical one. Those people who disagree need to take issue with the thousands of economic, sociological and historical analyses that have charted these very changes. From there it is merely a matter of interpreting it all.

The second group of protestors to these books belong to this camp, who disagree with their interpretations of the events and their significance. What does the postmodernisation and globalisation of the global economy (for example) have to do with political struggle, for the labor movement etc.? It is here that this book shines above all its peers (and I do not hesitate in using such strong language). Whereas Empire gave cursory and rather abstract presentations of the present conditions political significance, Multitude is entirely invested with this presentation.

Reading this books to me seems that both Hardt & Negri took careful considerations of all the major trends of criticism and answered them in turn in a deep and very convincing fashion.

It is a shame that so many readers will concentrate and criticize their writings for its difficulty and terminology. I agree that in the first book these posed a lot of problems for those unfamiliar with many of the discourses, but if one understands that both books are books of philosophy and not simply another set of tired political polemics, then one should at least be prepared to make an investment in reading them. What one stands to get in return in terms of knowledge is I think highly worth it.
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
The least compelling of the Empire/Multitude/Commonwealth trilogy 22 Aug. 2004
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Negri and Hardt fail to deliver a new strategy for the Left in MULTITUDE, the follow-up to EMPIRE, their improbable sensation of 2000 on Harvard University Press. The idea of a decentered, heterogeneous "actor" replacing the old idea of a unified working class continues in the same vein Negri has been developing for some time, from the "social worker" or "immaterial worker" of previous writings.

I can't be too harsh when the authors are so clearly filled with desire and optimism about changing the world in the direction of our hopes and dreams. I must say, though, that I preferred Negri's writing before he teamed up with Hardt. His earlier works, including MARX BEYOND MARX and THE POLITICS OF SUBVERSION, were more exciting to read than the EMPIRE/MULTITUDE/COMMONWEALTH trilogy with Michael Hardt.

A philosophical footnote -- Negri is not part of the German idealist tradition, he is not "thinking in German neoplatonism" (as another reviewer asserted) and he is most emphatically not a Hegelian dialectician. His influences include Spinoza (see his THE SAVAGE ANOMALY: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics), Machiavelli, of course Marx, and more recently, Foucault. The Foucault influence began in his joint writing with the late Felix Guattari, and continues in the project with Michael Hardt.

Another recommendation, not so much for strategy as an "imagination pump" (Daniel Dennett's phrase) for activists, is Deleuze & Guattari's A THOUSAND PLATEAUS.

See my reviews of Empire and COMMONWEALTH (2009) as well.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A disappointing follow-up 12 Sept. 2004
By sean s. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Hardt and Negri are probably the most celebrated political philosophers living today. Their previous book, Empire (2000), was a sometimes convincing, always provocative analysis of the global socio-economic and political system, which had the merit of remaining largely "high level" and theoretical, where the authors are most competent.
Unfortunately Multitude does not share the same merit. Hardt and Negri make a few interesting observations, for example on the current hegemony of immaterial labour (rendering the traditional notion of "proletariat" obsolete), and they provide an elementary yet useful application of Deleuze and Guattari's notion of "body without organs" to the political realm.
However, these modest accomplishments are outweighed considerably by rambling passages in which the authors discuss international finance (derivatives, etc.), lay anachronistic guilt trips on their readers over inequities between the North and South, and warmed-over analyses of the relationship between identity politics and social pluralism. Conspicuously absent is any consideration of ecology, which is looming ever larger as an issue in the 21st century.
Perhaps Hardt and Negri's most blinding oversight is a tendency to take globalization, and the world's evolution (or revolution) towards a "global democracy" for granted. Following September 11, 2001, this is a far from obvious prognosis. In fact, one could more plausibly argue, as John Ralston Saul did in the March 2004 issue of Harper's, that globalization is in the process of collapse, for better and/ or for worse.
It is very possible that certain regions of the world, such as Western Europe, continue to progress toward more "postmaterialistic" values (cf. Jeremy Rifkin's the European Dream), while America and the Muslim world duke it out in a low-level perpetual war (with attendant perpetual fear), which Benjamin Barber presciently labelled "Jihad vs. McWorld".
Readers who were stimulated by the high theory of Hardt and Negri's previous book, Empire, would be well-advised to take a pass on Multitude, perhaps in favour of Hardt's earlier theoretical work Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy. Those who are interested in a more down-to-earth leftist reading of our post-9/11 world might want to check out Emmanuel Todd's After the Empire (Après L'Empire).
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Circular Utopia? 13 Jan. 2005
By CS - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Multitude is the much-anticipated follow up to Hardt and Negri's international bestseller Empire. In general Empire attempts to establish a firm contemporary understanding of the global order. The political theory of Empire addresses supranational sovereignty and its sources of legitimacy, while simultaneously analyzing the ways in which supranational sources maintain legitimacy through the legal process and how such is inextricably linked to the production of material and immaterial (knowledge, ideas, etc) production. As the previous sentence indicates, Empire is a dense and often times very difficult reading in political philosophy. Those who found Empire confusing or a difficult to understand will certainly find Multitude refreshing as the authors make it one of their clear and primary objectives to clearly define technical terms and philosophical concepts.

Multitude begins with the argument that war is no longer at the disposal of political powers (as it once had been) but rather war increasingly tends to define the very foundation of contemporary political systems. The authors address global warfare as an ontological (the nature of being) concept. Hardt and Negri argue that war "is becoming the primary organizing principal of society, and politics merely one of its means or guises" (p. 13). The authors insist that war has become a form of rule that not only controls the population but rather produces and reproduces all aspects of social life (see Michel Foucault).

The primary task of Multitude however concerns the conceptual rethinking of democracy. First, according to Hardt and Negri we need to understand that our current political order is not a democracy (in the true sense of the word) but rather more closely resembles what Rousseau refers to as an elective aristocracy. Hardt and Negri note that democracy is not unreasonable or an unattainable demand as the concept of the multitude (a class concept that refers to singularities that act in common) brings great hope to the future of democracy.

In order to implement a democracy and permanently rid the rampant corruption and disorder that plagues our current "democracy" the authors argue that the multitude needs to abolish sovereignty at a global level (e.g. the absolute destruction of authority). The authors also call for the abolition of private property by instituting what they refer to as a common. "The common does not refer to traditional notions of either the community or the public; it is based on the communication among singularities and emerges through the collaborative social process of production" (p. 204). The common moreover marks a new form of democracy, one that displaces sovereignty. With the rising of the common, continuity of modern sovereignty will ultimately be severed and in the Marxist sense demystify its core. The "new science of the multitude [is] based on the common" and when "these singularities act in common and thus form a new race, that is, a politically coordinated subjectivity that the multitude produces," a new humanity will result (p. 355-356).

Overall, I did not enjoy this book as much as Empire. I did find Hardt and Negri's careful assessment of criticisms levied against them (see Debating Empire a book edited by Gopal Balakrishnan) very interesting although not compelling. Perhaps the most problematic issue I have with Multitude is that the authors painstakingly denounce legitimate forms of violence for much of the first part of the book, however they come full circle by calling out to the multitude for the implementation of various forms of violence in the name of democracy. I do applaud Hardt and Negri for their faith and hopefulness in the human race, however their utopist vision is overshadowed by reality.
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