Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

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The refusal of work and authority, or really the refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of liberatory politics.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri are the co-authors of Empire and Multitude.

Michael Hardt (born 1960) is an American literary theorist and political philosopher and professor of Literature and Italian at Duke University.

Antonio Negri' (born 1933) is an Italian Marxist sociologist and political philosopher. Negri was accused of being the mastermind behind the left-wing terrorist group The Red Brigades 1978 kidnapping of Aldo Moro, though the court was unable to conclusively tie Negri to the organization. Negri fled to France to escape prosecution, only to enter into a plea bargain in which his thirty year prison sentence was reduced to thirteen years. During this time Negri wrote prolifically with many of his important works being written while he was incarcerated.


Page numbers refer to the first Harvard University Press paperback edition, 2001, ISBN 0-674-00671-2.

  • Empire is emerging today as the center that supports the globalization of productive networks and casts its widely inclusive net to try to envelop all power relations within its world order — and yet at the same time it deploys a powerful police function against the new barbarians and the rebellious slaves who threaten its order.
    • (20)
  • We are by no means opposed to the globalization of relationships as such—in fact, as we said, the strongest forces of Leftist internationalism have effectively led this process. The enemy, rather, is a specific regime of global relations that we call Empire.
    • (45–46)
  • The legacy of modernity is a legacy of fratricidal wars, devastating "development," cruel "civilization," and previously unimagined violence. Erich Auerbach once wrote that tragedy is the only genre that can properly claim realism in Western literature, and perhaps this is true precisely because of the tragedy Western modernity has imposed on the world.
    • (46)
  • Philosophy is not the owl of Minerva that takes flight after history has been realized in order to celebrate its happy ending; rather, philosophy is subjective proposition, desire, and praxis that are applied to the event.
    • (49)
  • [The] fact of being within capital and sustaining capital is what defines the proletariat as a class.
    • (53)
  • The multitude is the real productive force of our social world, whereas Empire is a mere apparatus of capture that lives only off the vitality of the multitude — as Marx would say, a vampire regime of accumulated dead labor that survives only by sucking off the blood of the living.
    • (62)
  • Reality and history, however, are not dialectical, and no idealist rhetorical gymnastics can make them conform to the dialect.
    • (131)
  • It is a commonplace of the classical literature on Empire, from Polybius to Montesquieu and Gibbon, that Empire is from its inception decadent and corrupt.
    • (201)
  • The refusal of work and authority, or really the refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of liberatory politics.
    • (204)
  • [No] effective blueprint [of a political alternative to Empire] will ever arise from a theoretical articulation such as ours.
    • (206)
  • Disobedience to authority is one of the most natural and healthy acts.
    • (210)
  • A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration.
    • (213)

About Empire[edit]

  • Empire is a very stimulating account of globalisation, but it is hopelessly wrong on two central issues. The state has not withered away. Strong states still exist—USA, China, Germany, etc—but the difference with the past is that there is now only one Empire and this is not the nebulous entity imagined by Cultural Studies, but a real, living organism and it has a name; the United States of America.


Page numbers refer to the first British edition, Hamish Hamilton, 2005, ISBN 0-241-14240-7.

  • The possibility of democracy on a global scale is emerging today for the very first time.
    • (xi)
  • When the general population no longer constitutes the armed forces, when the army is no longer the people in arms, then empires fall. Today all armies are again tending to become mercenary armies.
    • (49)
  • All wars today tend to be netwars.
    • (55)
  • The political program of nation building in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is one central example of the productive project of biopower and war. Nothing could be more postmodernist and antiessentialist than this notion of nation building.
  • It is not easy for any of us to stop measuring the world against the standard of Europe, but the concept of the multitude requires it of us. It is a challenge. Embrace it.
  • Perhaps some day soon we will have arrived at the point when we can look back with irony at the barbaric old times when in order to be free we had to keep our own brothers and sisters slaves or to be equal we were constrained to inhuman sacrifices of freedom.
  • The so-called communism of capital, that is, its drive toward an ever more extensive socialization of labor, points ambiguously toward the communism of the multitude.

The following page numbers refer to the Penguin publication, 2005.

  • It is no coincidence that the ABM Treaty was signed midway between the delinking of the U.S. dollar from the gold standard in 1971 and the first oil crisis in 1973. These were the years not only of monetary and economic crises but also of both the beginning of the destruction of the welfare state and the shift of the hegemony of economic production from the factory to more social and immaterial sectors. One might think of these various transformations as different faces of one common phenomenon, one grand social transformation. (39)
  • postmodern warfare thus has many of the characteristics of what economists call post-Fordist production: it is based on both mobility and flexibility; it intergrates intelligence, information, and immaterial labor; it raises power up by extending militarization to the limits of outer space, across the surfaces of the earth, and to the depths of the oceans.
    • (40)
  • We have to construct the figure of a new David, the multitude as champion of asymmetrical combat, immaterial workers who became a new kind of combatants, cosmopolitan bricoleurs of resistance and cooperation.
    • (50)

(a bricoleur is someone who constructs by piecing things together ad hoc, something like a handyman.)

  • Even when labor is subjugated by capital it always necessarily maintains its own autonomy, and this ever more clearly true today with respect to the new immaterial, cooperative and collaborative forms of labor. This relationship is not isolated to the economic terrain but, as we will argue later, spills over into the biopolitical terrain of society as a hole, including military conflicts. In any case, we should recognize here that even in asymmetrical conflicts victory in terms of complete domination is not possible. All that can be achieved is a provisional and limited maintenance of control and order that must constantly be policed and preserved. Counterinsurgency is a full-time job.
    • (54)
  • The contemporary scene of labor and production, we will explain, is being transformed under the hegemony of immaterial labor, that is, labor that produces immaterial products, suchs as information, knoledges, ideas, images, relationships, and affects. This does not mean that there is no more industrial working class whose calloused hands toil with machines or that there ae no more agricultural workers who till the soil. It does not even mean that the numbers of such workers have decreased globally. In fact, workers involved primarily in immaterial production are a small minority of the gloval whole. What it means, rather, is that the qualities and characteristics of immaterial production are tending to transform the other forms of labor and indeed society as a whole. Some of these new characteristics are decidedly unwelcome. When our ideas and affects, or emotions, are put to work, for insance, and when they thus become subject in a way to the command of the boss, we often experience new and intense forms of violation or alienation. Furthermore, the contractual and material conditions of immaterial labor that tend to spread to the entire labor market are making the position of labor in general more precarious. The is one tendency, for example, in various forms of immaterial labor to blur the distinction between work time and nonwork time, extending the working day indefinietly to fill all of life, and another tendency for immaterial labor to function without stable long-term contracts, and thus to adopt the precarious position of becoming flexible (to accomplish several tasks) and mobile (to move continually among locations). [...] The production of ideas, knowledges, and affects, for example, does not merely create means by which society is formed and maintained; such immaterial labor also directly produces social relationships. [...] immaterial labor tends to take the social form of network based on communication.
    • (65-66)
  • Beginning in the 1970s, however, the techniques and organizational form of industrial production shifted toward smaller and more mobile labor units and more flexible structures of production, a shift often labeled as a move from Fordist to post-Fordist production.
    • (82)
  • [on zapatistas] The goal has never been to defeat the state and claim sovereign authority but rather to change the world without taking power.
    • (85)
  • The groups are not unified under any single authoritiy but rather relate to each other in a network structure. Social forums, affinity groups, and other forms of democratic decision-making are the basis of the movements, and they manage to act together based on what they have in common. … These globalization protest movements are obviously limited in many regards. First of all, although their vision and desire is global in scope, they have thus far only involved significant numbers in North America and Europe. Second, so long, as they remain merely protests movements, traveling from one summit meeting to the next, they will be incapable of becoming a foundational struggle and of articulating an alternative to social relations. These limitations may only be temporary obstacles, and the movements may discover ways to overcome them.
    • (86-87)
  • Today we have arrived at a point when the thre principles [of modern resistance: 1. measure of efficacy, 2. the form of political and military organization correspond to the currest forms of economic and social production, 3. democracy and freedom] coincide. The distributed network structure provides the model for an absolutely democratic organization that corresponds to the dominant forms of economic and social production and is also the most poweful weapon against the rulin power structure.
    • (88)
  • recent researchers in artificial intelligence and computational methods use the term swarm intelligence to name collective and distributed techniques of problem solving without centralized control or provision of a global model. … the intelligence of the swarm is based fundamentally on communication. … the member of the multitude do not have to become the same or renounce their creativity in order to communicate and cooperate with each other. They remain different in terms of race, sex, sexuality and so forth. We need to understand, then, is the collective intelligence that can emerge from the communication and cooperation of such varied multiplicity.
    • (91-92)
  • we will argue that the dominant form of contemporary production, which exerts its hegemony over the others, creates "immaterial goods" such as ideas, knowledge, forms of communication, and relationships. … what is produced in this case is not just material goods but actual social relationships and forms of life. We will call this kind of production "biopolitical" to highlight how general its products are and how directily it engages social life in its entirety.
    • (94)
  • Multitude is a class concept. … Class is determined by class struggle. There are, of course, in infinite number of ways that humans can be grouped into classes - hair color, blood type, and so forth - but the classes that matter are those defined by the lines of collective struggle. Race is just as much a political concept as economic class is in this regard. … Class is a political concept, in short, in that a class is and can only be a collectivity that stuggles in common.
    • (104)
  • The task of a theory of class is to identify the existing conditions for potential collective struggle and express them as a political proposition.
    • (104)
  • A multitude is irreducible multiplicity; the singular social differences that constitute the multitude must always be expressed and can never be flattened into sameness, unity, identity, or indifference. … the compact identities of factory workers in the dominant countries have been undermined with the rise of short-term contracts and forced mobility of new forms of work; how migration has challenged traditional notions of national identity; how familiy identity has changed and so forth. **(105)
  • the question to ask, in other, is not "What is the multitude?" but rather "What can the multitude become?" … common condition, of course, does not mean sameness or unity, but it does require that no differences of nature or kind divide the multitude.
    • (105-106)
  • multitude is an open and expansive project
    • (107)
  • in any economic system there are numerous different forms of labor that exist side by side, but there is always one figure of labor that exerts hegemony over the others. This hegemonic figure serves as a vortex that gradually transforms other figures to adopt its central qualities.
    • (107)
  • conventional terms such as service work, intellectual labor, and cognitive labor all refer to aspects of immaterial labor, but none of them captures its generality. As an initial approach, one can concieve immaterial labor in two principle forms. The first for refers to labor, that is primarily intellectual or linguistic such as problem solving, symbolic and analytical tasks, and linguistic expressions. This kind of immaterial labor produces ideas, symbols, codes, texts, linguistic figures, images and other such products. We call the other principle form of immaterial labor "affective labor". Affective labor, then, is labor that produces or manipulates affects such as a feeling of ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, or passion.
    • (108)
  • Immaterial labor has become hegemonic in qualitative terms and has imposed a tendency on other forms of labor and society itself. Immaterial labor, in other words, is today in the same position that industrial labor was 150 years ago, when it accounted for only a small fraction of global production and was concentrated in a small part of the world but nonetheless exerted hegemony over all other forms of production. Just as in that pgase all forms of labor and society itself had to industrialize, today, labor and society have to informationalize, become intelligent, become communicative, become affective. (109)
  • affective labor is biopolitical production in that it directly produces social relationships and forms of life. … When affective production becomes part of waged labor it can be experienced as extremely alienating: I am selling my ability to make human relationships, something extremely intimate, at the command of the client and the boss.
    • (110-111)
  • the hegemony of immaterial labor does, though, tend to change the conditions of work. Consider, for example, the transformation of the working day in the immaterial paradigm, that is the increasingly indefinite division between work time and leisure time. In the industrial paradigm workers produced almost exlusively during the hours in the factory. When production is aimed at solving a problem, however, or creating and idea or a relationship, work time tends to expand to entire time of life. And idea or image comes to you not only in the office but also in the shower or in your dreams.
    • (111-112)
  • Some economists also use the terms Fordism and pos-Fordism to mark the shift from an economy characterized by the stable-long-term employment typical of factory workers to one marked by flexible, mobile, and precarious labor relations: flexible because workers have to adapt to different tasks, mobile because workers have to move frequently between jobs, and precarious because no contracts guarantee stable, long-term employment. Whereas economic modernization, which developed Fordist labor relations, centered on the conomies of scale and larga systems of production and exchange, economic postmodernization, with its post-Fordist labor relations, develops smaller-scale, flexible systems.
    • (112)
  • in general, the hegemony of immaterial labor tends to transform the organization of production from the linear relationships of assembly line to the innumerable and indeterminate relationships of distributed networks.
    • (113)
  • this is not to say, we repeat, that the conditions of labor and production are becoming the same throughout the world or throughout the different sectors ot the economy. The claim is rather is that many singular instances of labor processes, productive conditions, local situations, and lived experiences coexist with a "becoming common", at a different level of abstraction, of the forms of labor and the general relations of production and exchange - and that there is no contradiction between this singularity and commonality.
    • (114)
  • In the same way that the figure of the peasant tends to disappear, so too does the figure of the industrial worker, the service industry worker and all other separate categories.
    • (125)
  • The contradictory conceptual couple, identity and difference, is not the adequate framework for understanding the organization of the multitude. Instead we are a multiplicity of singular forms of life and at the same time share a common global existence. The anthropology of the multitude is an anthropology of singularity and commonality.
    • (127)
  • We share bodies with two eyes, ten fingers, ten toes; we share life on this earth; we share capitalist regimes of production and exploitation; we share common dreams of a better future.
    • (128)
  • All of those who are "without" - without employment, without residence, without housing - are really exluded only in part.
  • The poor are thought to be dangerous, either morally dangerous because they are unproductive social parasites - thieves, prostitutes, drug addicts, and the like - or potentially dangerous because they are disorganized, unpredicatble, and tendentially reactionary. In fact the term lumpenproletariat (or rad proletariat) has functioned for times to demonize the poor as a whole. … The industrial reserve army is a constant threat hanging over the heads of the existing working class because, first of all, its misery serves as a terrifying example to workers of what could happen to them, and, second, the excess supply of labor it represents lowes the costs of labor and undermines workers' power against employers (by serving potentially as strike breakers, for example).
    • (130)
  • what is called the flexibility of the labor market means that no job is secure. There is no longer a clear division but rather a large gray area in which all workers hover precariously between employment and unemployment. Second there is no "reserve" in the sense that no labor power is outside the process of social production. The poor, the unemployed, and the underemployed in our societies are in fact active in social production even when they do not have a waged position. (131)
  • In the contemporary economy, however, and with the labor relations of post-Fordism, mobility increasingly defines the labor market as a whole, and all categories are tending toward the condition of mobility and cultural mixture common to the migrant. **133
  • Fleeing from a life of constant insecurity and forced mobility is good preparation for dealing with and resisting the typical forms of exploitation of immaterial labor.
    • 133
  • In faxt, the old Marxist distinctions between productive and unproductive labor, as well as that between productive and reproductive labor, which were always dubious, should now be completely thrown out.
    • 135
  • The old form of trade union, which was born in the nineteenth century and aimed primarily at negotiating wages for a specific trase is no longer sufficient. First of all, as we have been argueing, the old trade unions are not able to represent the unemployed, the poor, or even the mobile and flexible post-Fordist workers with short term contracts, all of whom participate actively in social production and increase social wealth. Second, the old unions are divided according to the various products and tasks defined in the heyday of industrial production - a miners' union, a pipefitters' union, a machinists' union and so forth. Today, insofar as the conditions and the relations of labor are becoming common, these traditional divisions (or even newly defined divisions) no longer make sense and serve only as an obstacle. Finally the old unions have become purely economic, not political, organization.
    • (136)
  • Contemporary capitalist production is characterized by a series of passages that name different faces of the same shift: from the hegemony of industrial labor to that of immaterial labor, from Fordism to post-Fordism, and from the modern to the postmodern.
  • [Michel Foucault] argues, prison resembles the factory, which resembles the school, which resembles the barracks, which resembles the hospital and so forth. They all share a common form that Foucault links to the disciplinary paradigm. Today, by contrast, we see network everywhere we look.
    • (142)
  • The regular rhythms of factory production and its clear divisions of work time and nonwork time tend to decline in the realm of immaterial labor. Think how at the high end of labor market companies like Microsoft try to make the office more like home, offering free meals and exercise programs to keep employees in the office as many of their waking hours as possible. At the low end of the labor market workers have to juggle several job to make ends meet. Such practices always existed, but today, with the passage from Fordism to post-Fordism, the increased flexibility and mobility imposed on workers, and the decline of the stable, long-term employment typical of factory work, this tends to become the norm. At both the high end and low ends or labor market the new paradigm undermines the division between work time and the time of life.
    • (145)
  • Material production - the production, for example, or cars, televisions, clothing, and food - creates the means of social life. … Immaterial production, by contrast, including the production of ideas, knowledges, communication, cooperation, and affective relations, tends to create not the means of social life but social life itself.
    • (146)
  • The capitalist call workers to the factory, for example, directing them to collaborate and communicate in production and giving them the means to do so. In the paradigm of immaterial production, in contrast, labor itself tends to produce the means of interaction, communication, and cooperation for production directly. Affective labor always directly constructs a relationship. (147)
  • A second part of criticisms [of our concept, Multitude], which relate closely to the first, focus on the economic conception of the multitude. … "You are really against the workers!" … Industrial labor has been displaced from its hegemonic position over other forms of labor by immaterial labor, which now tends to transform all sectors of production and society itself in line with its qualities. Industrial workers remain important, then, but within the context of this new paradigm. Here arises, then, but within the second criticism of this pair, that our argument of hegemony of immaterial labor replaces the old vanguard of industrial workers with a new vanguard of immaterial workers - Microsoft programmers leading us on the shining path. "You are just postmodern Leninist in sheep's clothing!" they cry. No, the hegemonic position of a form of production in the economy should not imply any political hegemony. Our argument about the hegemony of immaterial labor and the becoming common of all forms of labor is aimed instead at establishing that contemporary conditions tending to form a general communication and collaboration of labor that can be the basis of the multitude.
    • (223)
  • Every identity, such (third) critics say, even the multitude, must be defined by its remained, those outside of it, call them exluded, the abject, or the subaltern. … There can certainly be points or nodes outside a network but none are necessarily outside. Its boundaries are indefinite and open. … None is necessarily exluded but theis inclusion is not guaranteed: the expansion of the common is a practical, political manner. (226)
  • Our claim is that a common political project is possible. This possibility of course will have to be verified and realized in practice. … We are capable of democracy. The challange is to organize it politically.
    • (226)
  • Just sit back and listen to some of the clamorous grievances against the contemporary global system. Our list does not pretend to be comprehensive, and the partiality of its selections will undoubtedly reveal our own blindnesses, but it should nonetheless give a sense of the range and depth of today's grievances.
    • (270)

Quotes about Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri[edit]

  • Hardt and Negri ... mistake barbaric immediacy for bloodthirstiness. And how could it be otherwise? They are completely unable to comprehend what the barbarians are fighting for, since barbaric language is still incomprehensible to their ears. The cry of the barbarians is much too infantile for them, their boldness much too gratuitous. In the face of the barbarians, they feel as powerless as an adult at grips with roused children. In fact, for the ancient Greeks the barbarian was quite similar to the child, while in Russian the two concepts are expressed with the same word (and let’s consider the Latin infans, infant, that literally means not speaking). Well then, the thing that those who don’t speak, the stammerers, are most reproached for is the lack of seriousness, of reasonableness, of maturity. For barbarians, as for children, whose nature has not yet been completely domesticated, freedom does not start with the elaboration of an ideal program but with the unmistakable din of broken crockery. This is the thing that raises the protests of those who think, with Lenin, that extremism is only an “infantile disorder”. Against the senile disorder of politics, the barbarians affirm that freedom is the most urgent and terrifying need of human nature. And unbridled freedom makes use of all the world’s products, of all the objects, using them as playthings.
  • The reduction of Lafargue’s creole roots to an accidental biographical datum indexes a broader marginalization of Caribbean histories of slavery and emancipation in genealogies of antiwork Marxism. Consider the epigraph to this essay: ["The refusal of work and authority, or really the refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of liberatory politics."] Hardt and Negri’s qualification of “work and authority” as a relation of “voluntary servitude” effectively distinguishes their antiwork politics from historical refusals of involuntary servitude, from refusals of slavery. This hesitation over slavery, I suggest, amounts to a symptom of disavowal, an attempt to exorcise the specter of a Caribbean past that haunts the structures of rule and refusal constitutive of post-Fordist Empire.
    • Christopher Taylor, "The Refusal of Work: From the Postemancipation Caribbean to Post-Fordist Empire," Small Axe, Volume 18, Number 2, July 2014 (No. 44), published by Duke University Press