Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hardt and Negri: Gramsci 2.0?

After reading through all the assorted texts for this week, I find myself drawing many parallels between the theories of Hardt and Negri and those of Gramsci.   In many ways, it seems that H&N’s project is largely an update of Gramsci responding to neo-liberalism and information abundance. 

Initially, the notion of biopolitics being created by the real subsumption of labor seems to mirror Gramsci’s move to look at more than pure material oppression.  Gramsci noted hegemony regulated behavior well outside the economic to maintain capitalism. Subalterns were also given piecemeal victories to regulate their behavior under the guise of progress.   In this way, it seems there was already a gesture towards the logic of capitalism engulfing all aspects of life in Gramsci.    While biopolitics adds nuance to the disciplining power of these hegemonic forces, and further expands understandings of their ability to be created by more than just dominant forces, both groups of texts seem to point towards the need to theorize the role capitalism plays in regulating our lives beyond traditional locations of productive action.

Additionally, the notion of multitude seems largely reminiscent of expansive hegemony.  While multitude would be constructed of an amalgamation of individual subjects rather than a combination of subaltern classes, both are constructed by the unification of divergent alienated interests around the common opposition to the oppression of hegemonic values that perpetuate the dominance of capitalism.  The explanation to the tensions created by immigrant economics in Commonwealth 134 highlights how dominant forces play divergent interests off of each other to maintain complicity in the status quo.  It is only when divided groups understand the unity of their interest (the commons) that they can become to operate as a collective of interests.  Additionally, as multitude is something that is constructed, it represents a counter hegemonic force to replace dominant structures – directly paralleling expansive hegemony.

Another prominent parallel is the necessity of the organic intellectual(s).   H&N further note that multitude must be created by cooperative interactions within the common (Commonwealth 175).  To me this seems reminiscent of organic intellectuals, theorizing the nature and direction of expansive hegemony based on their lived experience of subalternity (labor).   While the fact that networked society has deterotorilized labor, it stands to reason that a single organic intellectual in a single place would no longer be sufficient to theorize and mobilize resistance.

It may be because I saw these parallels that I do not share Nicole’s concern with the grouping of such a wide range of professions under the same label of “immaterial labor.”  Yes, the experiences of different professions (and even unpaid forms) of immaterial labor result in vastly different lived experiences, but H&N are not saying they experience capitalism at all in the same way nor that they are multitude in their current state. Rather the label seems mostly to help explain the new dominant logic of capitalism that has come to define all modes of production, be they agricultural, industrial, or informational.  Because this is the dominant mode of capitalism, it is the entry point where the theorization of the “common” between laborers across these industries can be found.  Only by recognizing that there is something common across all exploited classes can expansive hegemony/multitude be constructed in a way that can genuinely challenge capitalism in crisis.

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