[OPE-L] aut-op-sy interview with Michael Hardt

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
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 <nateholdren@gmail.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 ?" or, really not an argument, a claim
> ?" 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 ?" including intellectual, affective,
> communicative activities ?" 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 ?" 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 ?" 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,  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 ?"
> for example, as a horizontal, distributed network structure ?" 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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