As they used to say in the early years of MTV’s Real World: “What happens when you stop being polite, and start getting real?” In law school, my teachers taught me to apply the law to the facts. Don’t get too fancy, just find the established rule of law on your subject, then apply the holding and reasoning of those cases to your fact pattern. I’m getting tired of reading theorists that make no attempt to tie their theories to current factual problems, which amounts to intellectual masturbation, quite honestly. That’s why I applaud Mr. Negri. First, I admire his prose style, which can change from direct (“We need new theories for the new reality”) to elegantly ironic: “Strangely, however, after beginning to walk ahead of Marx in this way, we have the haunting suspicion he was already there.”
More importantly, I admire his application of Marx’s method of historical materialism to the current economy. Let’s focus on his third phase, antagonism or exploitation. Consider how he deftly, but roundly, explains that Marx’s definition of exploitation (the amount of surplus labor time beyond that needed to produce wage value) is outdated. And notice that his new definition – “private appropriation of the public common” – is both expansive and yet well-tailored to his other writings.
Footnote: My only criticism would be that his example, “profits of financial capital,” is too broad. To me, there’s a difference between an individual buying stock, and a hedge fund trader short-selling the stock, or putting large bets on daily foreign currency values. The former is a financially responsible act, while the latter is pure exploitation.