Date: Tue Jan 25 2005 - 08:33:28 EST
Note sympathetic reference to the writings of Diane Elson and socialist feminists on labor and value./In solidarity, Jerry > From: Nate Holdren <email@example.com> > Subject: [AUT] questions for M Hardt > > hey all- > I sent Michael Hardt the questions we discussed here. He responded. > Here's the inside scoop. > best, > Nate > > * > > Autopsy Interview > > * In Labor of Dionysus, you and Negri write that the definition of > labor is a political matter. Part of what is attractive in your most > recent work is the expansion of the definition of labor. How does this > expansion work? Is it that some non-labor has become labor? Or is that > we have realized that certain activities which weren't called labor > actually were labor after all? > > I found very useful in this regard something that Diane Elson wrote > several years ago about "the value theory of labor," and I think > socialist feminism in general is the field in which these questions > have been most clearly thought out. Determining what activities are > accorded economic value is often a political struggle. This was at > stake in many of the past feminist struggles to recognize domestic > labor or caring labor or kin work as productive. And, to take a very > different perspective, one might consider the entire notion of > productive externalities that economists talk about as activities > productive of capital but not recognized as such. We should note too, > and this has historically been a strong part of the feminist debates, > that there can be negative consequences to claiming certain activities > as labor. Some would say that calling labor what I do for those I > love (reproductive labor for children, partners, etc) degrades the > activity. Or, others might say, if everything I do is labor then I > can never escape from capital. > > Another way to approach this question would be with Deleuze and > Guattari. In Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, all is production. > Think of desiring-production as a way of expanding what is considered > labor. > > One other aspect to emphasize is that capital too progressively > modifies what counts as labor. In general, my view is that capital > follows behind the instances of refusal in this regard. I remember > that Toni and I made an argument â?" or, really not an argument, a claim > â?" in chapter 3.4 of Empire that the primary qualities of the refusal > of work of the 1960s and the corresponding expansions of what was > considered productive â?" including intellectual, affective, > communicative activities â?" were subsequently the primary bases for the > reorganization of capitalist production in the 1980s. This is just > another example of the general hypothesis of the active and creative > nature of the working classes and their refusal of work and the > reactive nature of capital. > > - How does the formation of new kinds of labor relate to the becoming > of the multitude you identify? Is there a becoming-multitude linked to > a becoming-productive, or 'realization of being multitude' linked to a > 'realization of being productive'? > > Yes, this is exactly what we are trying to explore with this notion of > a becoming-common of labor. In question here is not only the > expansion of what is considered labor but also the possibility of > communication and cooperation among the various different forms of > labor. This is one way in which you might think of our notion of > multitude as being very close to a traditional notion of proletariat, > that is, the class of all those who produce, once the notion of > production itself has been sufficiently revised and expanded. > > I should note also that "productivity" might not always be the right > way to think of this. Sometimes "creativity" seems like a better > term, but that doesn't always do either. Because we want to be able > to include in this not only coming up with a new idea in the shower or > lying in bed, but also sitting down for a cup of tea with a friend. > We need to think about what is productive of social relationships, of > society itself. > > > * We understand some of your writing to say that all of social > life-time is productive. This concept is attractive in that it expands > the definition of labor and of who can be a political subject. On the > other hand, do you mean that literally all of social life-time is > productive for capital? If we are always already productive for > capital, how can we think and practice ruptures and breaks? What sense > can Exodus have here, if we are always within Pharaoh's Egypt? > > In general I think of this as being "inside and against." Not all of > what the factory worker does while in the factory is directly > productive of capital. There is authorized and unauthorized time off, > and there are a thousand tiny subterfuges, and then there is sometimes > coordinated sabotage and revolt. I think it is in general terms the > same for all of us in capitalist society. Remember, of course, that > the capital that we are producing is not just commodities â?" they are > really only a midpoint in the process. The capital produced is > primarily a social relation. So we need to try to understand how in > all social life-time, as you say, through innumerable activities we > are producing and reproducing the social relation that is capital. Of > course, there is time off in this process, there are a thousand tiny > subterfuges that we invent, and sometimes we manage to mount > coordinated sabotage and revolt. My notion is that all this goes on > from the inside, if my topological imagination makes sense to you. > Our exodus or our nomadism is one that never leaves that inside, and > yet nonetheless manages to mount an opposition and pose an alternative > > > * Do you intend the concept of 'always-already multitude' to be a > critique of the idea that only the one can rule, that the many can not > rule itself (that is, the social and political body has always been > multiple, the many has always been able to rule itself, and now we > understand this) or a diagnosis of historical exhaustion of the rule > of the one (that is, the rule of the one was the only possibility > before, earlier attempts to produce multitude were pre-mature, only > now is the era of the one's rule passing)? > > I would tend to agree with your latter formulation, that the > exhaustion of the rule of the one and the formation of the multitude > are only possible today for the first time. The "always-already" is > meant to refer to the virtual existence of multitude. But I wonder if > there really have been earlier attempts to produce multitude or rather > if only today in retrospect we can read our history in those terms. > Maybe it's something like that line of Marx in the Introduction to the > Grundrisse about the anatomy of the human preceding the anatomy of the > ape. > > > - Following up on this question, if you intend the term multitude as a > form of criticism, how does it become action? On the other hand, you > are articulating the historical exhaustion of the one, is there an > avant-garde, a spearhead that leads the process? > > The second question is kind of self-contradictory, isn't it? > > As for the first part, Multitude isn't just a form of criticism; it is > also a mode of social organization. And to answer the question of how > it becomes action, perhaps the best thing is to look at what people > are doing. In other words, how is it that today people are creating > horizontal, multiple organizations of singularities. Here is a time > when a theoretical question might be best answered by looking at > practice. > > > * You talk about a not-yet multitude, a multitude to-come. What do you > mean by this? How does this relate to Agamben's "coming community?" > And how does this not-yet/to-come relate to struggle? > > It does relate to Agamben's coming community, if I remember that > correctly, especially in the sense that he describes it as not being > based on belonging. He was experimenting with the notion of a > non-identity way of thinking and making social organization. That too > is the project of multitude. In philosophical terms, like Agamben, we > are trying to displace the contradictory couple identity/difference > and instead work with the common, singularity, and multiplicity. > > But our notion of "not-yet" is really very simple. In addition to > aluding to Bloch's notion of utopia, we merely want to emphasize that > multitude is a project, a political project, that must be brought into > existence through collective struggle. > > > - To follow up, in reading Agamben we get the sense that the only > reason the coming community did not erupt in Tiananmen Square was the > power of the Chinese government's tanks. This suggests that the > primary problem for the coming community or not-yet multitude is how > to survive attacks from bosses and the state, a matter of organizing. > How does organization relate to the temporality of the multitude, its > status as not-yet or to-come? > > How to survive attacks is certainly an important question, and more > generally the question is how to organize in a way that is powerful > enough to destroy the contemporary regimes of power. But I wouldn't > say that is the only or even the primary problem. Here is just one > other problem: how to deal with conflict within the multitude? The > multitude, of course, is not just a field of the common but also a > field of conflict. There is no guarantee of agreement among > singularities, nor should there be. That is the beauty of the > multitude, after all, its real multiplicity and its free expression of > differences and even conflicts. I suspect that the question of > conflict within the multitude is one of those questions better > addressed in more practical terms rather than at this rather > philosophical level. > > > * If multitude is defined as a political project, is this a telos? If > so, how is your approach different from those Hegelian marxism which > have sought to define the class according to a 'revolutionary' > essence, thereby relegating those aspects which are not > 'revolutionary' to the terrain of 'false consciousness'? > > Toni has talked for a long time about a materialist telos, and this is > just what he means â?" a telos that is constructed through our desires. > There is nothing necessary or ideal or pre-given about this telos. > Think of is as something like the log-book of our successive > collective desires and aims. > > > > * The far right in the US today has proven very capable in organizing > and mobilizing many people through talk radio, televangelism, and the > affective labor of missionaries, youth groups, etc. How does this kind > of activity relate to multitude? Can the multitude be or become > reactionary? Or is there a reactionary "anti-multitude" built on the > same ground as the multitude? What is the relationship between these > formations, whether it be 'good and bad' multitude, or 'multitude and > anti-multitude'? > > First of all (I know you're not asking this but it's useful to > repeat), it makes no sense to associate the concept of multitude with > that of Nazi masses or crowds, Ã la Kracauer or Canetti. All the > definitions of multitude make this distinction clear. > > Some definitions of multitude, however, do leave ambiguous its > political nature. If you define multitude in merely formal terms â?" > for example, as a horizontal, distributed network structure â?" you > could have reactionary multitudes. And then it would be important to > pose criteria that help us distinguish between them. > > I'm more inclined to give a more substantial definition of the concept > of multitude that limits these ambiguities greatly. For example, when > one poses the free expression of difference (which is included really > in any conception of multiplicity or singularity, it seems to me) then > you make clear how all of these reactionary phenomena, from US > populist formations to terrorist networks, have no relation to > multitude. > > > * If the destiny of the multitude lies in global citizenship, then > what do you see as the relationship between the project of the > multitude and the emergence of a global humanitarian militarism? > > I'm not sure I understand this question. Why should citizenship imply > militarism? Citizenship, in any case, is a troubled concept and it's > not immediately evident what it means. (I've admired, by the way, > what Etienne Balibar has made of it.) In Empire we used the notion of > global citizenship primarily in a negative way, that is, to indicate > the destruction of boundaries and thus the freedom of movement for > everyone. Citizenship can also have a positive face to include a > whole series of positive rights. But that isn't how we were using it > there in Empire. > > > * You have called for a general citizen's income, and recent movements > in Europe make similar calls. As we understand you, you justify these > calls by saying "we are all productive, all the time, since we are > always producing we should be paid a general income." You seem to be > posing a general income as a fair and reasonable thing, instead of as > a demand to be fought for and imposed upon the bosses (like the eight > hour day). Some movements of precarious workers call for a general > income with a different tone, they seem to be saying instead "we need > this income to live, the present arrangement is not working for us." > What is the status of the call for a general income? Do you see it as > something that is in the best interest of both capital and the > multitude, at least for the moment? Or do you see this as a possible > recompositional demand, something that the multitude can rally around > to start and spread new struggles going beyond capital? > > I do think you're right that a demand for a basic income especially > when associated with unemployed or precarious workers is a powerful > demand that can help frame and organize struggles. That, as you > imply, I think, is the central point. > > Our argument was simply that it is also justifiable using only the > logic of capital itself, that is, basing income strictly on productive > labor. This is a rather ironic argument, but a rather useful one, it > seems to me. It's an instance when capital's own logic points beyond > capitalist relations.
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