|Alma mater||University of Padua|
Istituto italiano per gli studi storici
|Institutions||University of Padua|
Paris VIII (Vincennes)
Paris VII (Jussieu)
École Normale Supérieure
Collège international de philosophie
|Political philosophy · Class conflict · Globalization · Commons · Biopolitics|
|Philosophy of globalization · multitude · theory of Empire · Constituent power · Immaterial labour · Post-fordism · Altermodernity · Refusal of work|
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Antonio "Toni" Negri (born 1 August 1933) is an Italian Spinozistic-Marxist sociologist and political philosopher, best known for his co-authorship of Empire and secondarily for his work on Spinoza.
Born in Padua, he became a political philosophy professor in his hometown university. Negri founded the Potere Operaio (Worker Power) group in 1969 and was a leading member of Autonomia Operaia. As one of the most popular theorists of Autonomism, he has published hugely influential books urging "revolutionary consciousness."
He was accused in the late 1970s of various charges including being the mastermind of the left-wing terrorist organization Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse or BR), involved in the May 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro, two-time prime minister of Italy, and leader of the Christian-Democrat Party, among others. He was wrongly suspected to have made a threatening phone call on behalf of the BR, but the court was unable to conclusively prove his ties. Nevertheless he was convicted in 1984 and sentenced (in absentia) to 30 years in prison. He was given an additional four years on the charge of being ‘morally responsible’ for the violence of political activists in the 1960s and 1970s. The question of Negri's complicity with left-wing extremism is a controversial subject. He was indicted on a number of charges, including "association and insurrection against the state" (a charge which was later dropped), and sentenced for involvement in two murders.
Negri fled to France where, protected by the Mitterrand doctrine, he taught at the Paris VIII (Vincennes) and the Collège international de philosophie, along with Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. In 1997, after a plea-bargain that reduced his prison time from 30 to 13 years, he returned to Italy to serve the end of his sentence. Many of his most influential books were published while he was behind bars. He now lives in Venice and Paris with his partner, the French philosopher Judith Revel.
Like Deleuze, Negri's preoccupation with Spinoza is well known in contemporary philosophy. Along with Althusser and Deleuze, he has been one of the central figures of a French-inspired Neo-Spinozism in continental philosophy of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, that was the second remarkable Spinoza revival in history, after a well-known rediscovery of Spinoza by German thinkers (especially the German Romantics and Idealists) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Antonio Negri was born in Padua, in the Northeastern Italian region of Veneto, in 1933. His father was an active communist militant from the city of Bologna (in the Northeastern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna), and although he died when Negri was two years old, his political engagement made Negri familiar with Marxism from an early age, while his mother was a teacher from the town of Poggio Rusco (in province of Mantua, Lombardy). He began his career as a militant in the 1950s with the activist Roman Catholic youth organization Gioventú Italiana di Azione Cattolica (GIAC). Negri became a communist in 1953–54 when he worked at a kibbutz in Israel for a year. The kibbutz was organised according to ideas of Zionist socialism and all the members were Jewish communists. He joined the Italian Socialist Party in 1956 and remained a member until 1963, while at the same time becoming more and more engaged throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s in Marxist movements.
He had a quick academic career at the University of Padua and was promoted to full professor at a young age in the field of "dottrina dello Stato" (State theory), a peculiarly Italian field that deals with juridical and constitutional theory. This might have been facilitated by his connections to influential politicians such as Raniero Panzieri and philosopher Norberto Bobbio, strongly engaged with the Socialist Party.
In the early 1960s, Negri joined the editorial group of Quaderni Rossi, a journal that represented the intellectual rebirth of Marxism in Italy outside the realm of the communist party.
In 1969, together with Oreste Scalzone and Franco Piperno, Negri was one of the founders of the group Potere Operaio (Workers' Power) and the Operaismo (workerist) Communist movement. Potere Operaio disbanded in 1973 and gave rise to the Autonomia Operaia Organizzata (Organised Workers' Autonomy) movement.
On 16 March 1978, Aldo Moro, former Italian prime minister and Christian Democrat party leader, was kidnapped in Rome by the Red Brigades, his five-man bodyguard murdered on the spot of the kidnapping in Rome's Via Fani. While they were holding him, forty-five days after the kidnapping, the Red Brigades called his family on the phone, informing Moro's wife of her husband's impending death. Nine days later his body, shot in the head, was found dumped in a city lane. The conversation was recorded, and later broadcast and televised. A number of people who knew Negri and remembered his voice identified him as the probable author of the call, but the claim has been since dismissed: the author of the call was, in fact, Valerio Morucci.
On 7 April 1979, Negri was arrested for his part in the Autonomy Movement, along with others (Emilio Vesce, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Mario Dalmaviva, Lauso Zagato, Oreste Scalzone, Pino Nicotri, Alisa del Re, Carmela di Rocco, Massimo Tramonte, Sandro Serafini, Guido Bianchini, and others). Padova's Public Prosecutor Pietro Calogero accused them of being involved in the political wing of the Red Brigades, and thus behind left-wing terrorism in Italy. Negri was charged with a number of offences, including leadership of the Red Brigades, masterminding the 1978 kidnapping and murder of the President of the Christian Democratic Party Aldo Moro, and plotting to overthrow the government. At the time, Negri was a political science professor at the University of Padua and visiting lecturer at Paris' École Normale Supérieure. The Italian public was shocked that an academic could be involved in such events.
A year later, Negri was exonerated from Aldo Moro's kidnapping after a leader of the BR, having decided to cooperate with the prosecution, testified that Negri "had nothing to do with the Red Brigades." The charge of 'armed insurrection against the State' against Negri was dropped at the last moment, and because of this he did not receive the 30-year plus life sentence requested by the prosecutor, but only 30 years for being the instigator of political activist Carlo Saronio's murder and having 'morally concurred' with the murder of Andrea Lombardini, a carabiniere, during a failed bank robbery.
His philosopher peers saw little fault with Negri's activities. Michel Foucault commented, "Isn't he in jail simply for being an intellectual?" French philosophers Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze also signed in November 1977 L'Appel des intellectuels français contre la répression en Italie (The Call of French Intellectuals Against Repression in Italy) in protest against Negri's imprisonment and Italian anti-terrorism legislation.
In 1983, four years after his arrest and while he was still in prison awaiting trial, Negri was elected to the Italian legislature as a member for the Radical Party. Claiming parliamentary immunity, he was temporarily released and used his freedom to escape to France. There he remained for 14 years, writing and teaching, protected from extradition in virtue of the "Mitterrand doctrine". His refusal to stand trial in Italy was widely criticized by Italian media and by the Italian Radical Party, who had supported his candidacy to Parliament.[failed verification]
In France, Negri began teaching at the Paris VIII (Vincennes) and the Collège international de philosophie, founded by Jacques Derrida. Although the conditions of his residence in France prevented him from engaging in political activities, he wrote prolifically and was active in a broad coalition of left-wing intellectuals. In 1990 Negri with Jean-Marie Vincent and Denis Berger founded the journal Futur Antérieur. (The journal ceased publication in 1998 but was reborn as Multitudes in 2000, with Negri as a member of the international editorial board.)
In 1997, after a plea-bargain that reduced his prison time from 30 to 13 years, Negri returned to Italy to serve the end of his sentence. He was released from prison in the spring of 2003, having written some of his most influential works while behind bars.
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Unlike other forms of Marxism, autonomist Marxism emphasises the ability of the working class to force changes to the organization of the capitalist system independent of the state, trade unions or political parties. Autonomists are less concerned with party political organization than are other Marxists, focusing instead on self-organized action outside of traditional organizational structures. Autonomist Marxism is thus a "bottom-up" theory: it draws attention to activities that autonomists see as everyday working-class resistance to capitalism, for example absenteeism, slow working, and socialization in the workplace. The journal Quaderni Rossi ("Red Notebooks"), produced between 1961 and 1965, and its successor Classe Operaia ("Working Class"), produced between 1963 and 1966, were also influential in the development of early autonomism. Both were founded by Antonio Negri and Mario Tronti.
In 2009 Negri completed the book Commonwealth, the final in a trilogy that began in 2000 with Empire and continued with Multitude in 2004, co-authored with Michael Hardt.
In this book, the authors ask themselves "How is it, then, that labour, with all its life-affirming potential, has become the means of capitalist discipline, exploitation, and domination in modern society?" The authors expose and pursue this paradox through a systematic analysis of the role of labour in the processes of capitalist production and in the establishment of capitalist legal and social institutions. Critiquing liberal and socialist notions of labor and institutional reform from a radical democratic perspective, Hardt and Negri challenge the state-form itself.
This book, written solely by Negri, "explores the drama of modern revolutions-from Machiavelli’s Florence and Harrington’s England to the American, French, and Russian revolutions-and puts forward a new notion of how power and action must be understood if we are to achieve a radically democratic future."
In general, the book theorizes an ongoing transition from a "modern" phenomenon of imperialism, centered around individual nation-states, to an emergent postmodern construct created among ruling powers which the authors call "Empire", with different forms of warfare:
...according to Hardt and Negri's Empire, the rise of Empire is the end of national conflict, the "enemy" now, whoever he is, can no longer be ideological or national. The enemy now must be understood as a kind of criminal, as someone who represents a threat not to a political system or a nation but to the law. This is the enemy as a terrorist... In the "new order that envelops the entire space of... civilization", where conflict between nations has been made irrelevant, the "enemy" is simultaneously "banalized" (reduced to an object of routine police repression) and absolutized (like the Enemy, an absolute threat to the ethical order").
Empire elaborates a variety of ideas surrounding constitutions, global war, and class. Hence, the Empire is constituted by a monarchy (the United States and the G8, and international organizations such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization), an oligarchy (the multinational corporations and other nation-states) and a democracy (the various non-government organizations and the United Nations). Part of the book's analysis deals with "imagin[ing] resistance", but "the point of Empire is that it, too, is "total" and that resistance to it can only take the form of negation - "the will to be against". The Empire is total, but economic inequality persists, and as all identities are wiped out and replaced with a universal one, the identity of the poor persists.
Multitude addresses these issues and picks up the thread where Empire has left off. In order to do so, Hardt and Negri argue, one must first analyze the present configuration of war and its contradictions. This analysis is performed in the first chapter, after which chapters two and three focus on multitude and democracy, respectively. Multitude is not so much a sequel as it is a reiteration from a new point of view in a new, relatively accessible style that is distinct from the predominantly academic prose style of Empire. Multitude remains, the authors insist, despite its ubiquitous subject matter and its almost casual tone, a book of philosophy which aims to shape a conceptual ground for a political process of democratization rather than present an answer to the question 'what to do?’ or offer a programme for concrete action.
In this book, the authors introduce the concept of "the republic of property": "What is central for our purposes here is that the concept of property and the defence of property remain the foundation of every modern political constitution. This is the sense in which the republic, from the great bourgeois revolutions to today, is a republic of property". Part 2 of the book deals with the relationship between modernity and anti-modernity and proposes "altermodernity". Altermodernity "involves not only insertion in the long history of antimodern struggles but also rupture with any fixed dialectic between modern sovereignty and antimodern resistance. In the passage from antimodernity to altermodernity, just as tradition and identity are transformed, so too resistance takes on a new meaning, dedicated now to the constitution of alternatives. The freedom that forms the base of resistance, as we explained earlier, comes to the fore and constitutes an event to announce a new political project."
For Alex Callinicos in a review "What is newest in Commonwealth is its take on the fashionable idea of the common. Hardt and Negri mean by this not merely the natural resources that capital seeks to appropriate, but also "the languages we create, the social practices we establish, the modes of sociality that define our relationships", which are both the means and the result of biopolitical production. Communism, they argue, is defined by the common, just as capitalism is by the private and socialism (which they identify in effect with statism) with the public." For David Harvey Negri and Hardt "in the search of an altermodernity – something that is outside the dialectical opposition between modernity and anti-modernity – they need a means of escape. The choice between capitalism and socialism, they suggest, is all wrong. We need to identify something entirely different, communism – working within a different set of dimensions." Harvey also notes that "Revolutionary thought, Hardt and Negri argue, must find a way to contest capitalism and 'the republic of property.' It 'should not shun identity politics but instead must work through it and learn from it,’ because it is the 'primary vehicle for struggle within and against the republic of property since identity itself is based on property and sovereignty.'” In the same exchange in Artforum between Harvey and Micheal Hardt and Antonio Negri, Hardt and Negri attempt to correct Harvey in a concept that is important within the argument of Commonwealth. As such, they state that "We instead define the concept of singularity, contrasting it to the figure of the individual on the one hand and forms of identity on the other, by focusing on three aspects of its relationship to multiplicity: Singularity refers externally to a multiplicity of others; is internally divided or multiple; and constitutes a multiplicity over time - that is, a process of becoming."
In May 2012 Negri self-published (with Michael Hardt) an electronic pamphlet on the occupy and encampment movements of 2011–2012 called Declaration that argues the movement explores new forms of democracy. The introduction was published at Jacobin under the title "Take Up the Baton". He also published an article with Hardt in Foreign Affairs in October 2011 stating "The Encampment in Lower Manhattan Speaks to a Failure of Representation."
In 2013, Negri published Spinoza: Politics and Postmodernity, a collections of essays on Spinoza and his contemporary relevance to philosophy and political theory, translated into English by William McCuaig.
In 2017, Negri and Michael Hardt published Assembly. The book provides a series of reflections on the nature of contemporary capitalism and social movements, drawing together the concepts and ideas explored previously in their Empire 'trilogy' such as the common, the multitude, and globalisation. It also introduces a new political concept of 'assembly', which draws on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concept of an 'assemblage' (French: agencements) as a way of thinking about mass movements and the role of constituent power. It also provides analyses of events that occurred in the years since Commonwealth was published in 2009, such as the rise of right-wing populism, Occupy Wall Street, the automation of work, and the digital economy. It continues their reflections on the character and goals of leaderless movements, and especially focuses on the ways in which these movements can seek to self-organise in radically democratic and egalitarian ways. They propose that instead of the usual model of leadership and movement in which leadership serves to articulate the long-term and 'large scale' programme of the multitude, this relationship should instead be inverted: leadership instead comes to serve specific, tactical, and short-term ends (such as the organisation of specific moblisations, protests, direct action, strikes, etc.), while the multitude (or collective) serves to "articulate the long-term goals and objectives" to which the leadership must submit and facilitate.
The book received generally positive reviews. Writing for Critical Inquiry, Kyle Perry argues that the central claim of the book is that "advocates for a truly democratic world must no longer refuse the demands of leading, strategizing, decision making, and institution building that can otherwise remain variously secondary, absent, or anathema amid left, liberatory, and progressive causes." It also rejects as a false binary the idea that liberal-democratic institutions should either be occupied or destroyed; instead, "The better move is to get creative about inventing new, effective, and crucially 'nonsovereign' institutions. Such institutions are not meant to 'rule over us' but to 'foster continuity and organization” and to “help organize our practices, manage our relationships, and together make decisions'." Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Terence Renaud argues that "Given how much the political terrain has changed since Empire appeared in 2000, much of Hardt and Negri’s project appears dead. It has said all that it’s going to say. Even so, the authors do an excellent job of highlighting the internal challenges that a resurgent left will face. Every new left risks degenerating into sectarian conflict, heavy-handed leadership, and complacency about its own righteousness. Hardt and Negri insist on a self-critical and internally democratic left that never ceases to call its own assumptions into question. In order to transform society, the left must first transform itself."
Between 2016 and 2019, Negri published a three-volume collection of essays written in various years, but translated, collected and published together in English in these volumes. The first volume was titled Marx and Foucault, and published on December 16, 2016. In this first volume, Negri aims to show "how the thinking of Marx and Foucault were brought together to create an original theoretical synthesis - particularly in the context of Italy from May ’68 onwards." The second volume was titled From the Factory to the Metropolis, and was published in February 2018. This second volume turns towards an analysis of the passage from the traditional proletarian 'mass worker' of industrial capitalism (especially as found in Marx's writing) to the contemporary 'socialised worker', as well as of the modern 'metropolis', which Negri describes as "a space of antagonisms between forms of life produced, on the one hand, by finance capital (the capital that operates around rents), and on the other by the 'cognitive proletariat'. The central question is then how 'the common' of the latter can be mobilised for the destruction of capitalism." The third and final volume of this 'trilogy' was titled Spinoza: Then and Now, and was published in February 2020. In this third volume, Negri "examines how Spinoza’s thought constitutes a radical break with past ideas and an essential tool for envisaging a form of politics beyond capitalism."
On October 29, 2021, Negri will publish the first volume of a new trilogy of books. This first volume will be titled Marx in Movement: Operaismo in Context, and will seek to provide an account and examination of the history of Italian Autonomist (or 'Autonomist Marxist') thought, particularly in terms of Negri's theoretical development of the concept of the 'social worker' as an attempt to update Marxism in light of the changes since the factory-based industrial labour of Marx's time.
Listed in order of their first publication in English.