Interview by editors of the weisse blatt and friends with Michael Hardt,
DWB: In Empire you assert the disappearance of the public sphere, the division between the public and the private is said to have collapsed. One of your papers is titled "The Withering of civil society". What do you mean by that? Isn't it more appropriate to talk about a redefinition of what is considered public/private, a redrawing of the lines by a conservative revolution. E. g. once political views and economic actions are now to be considered a private affair whereas formally private matters such as the mother's relation to her child or private virtues, moral values are considered as important public matters, as decisive affairs for the well-being of the state.
Hardt: Civil society is a difficult concept because it's used to mean so many different things. Often now, this is also true in the discussion about non-governmental organizations, I think there's a similar confusion about the term. Often civil society is used now to name all that is not the state which seems to me a very imprecise use of the term. I seems to us most coherent is the term civil society as the institutional mechanisms through which state and capital organize society and also distribute power and recuperate or control social forces. What seems to us the most useful and precise notion of the term civil society is the social mechanism for the organization of abstract labour. In a way institutional mechanisms like trade unions and other social institutions function in a way that they allow the state to exert its control through social mechanisms. Civil society is separate from the state but it functions always in concert with the state. It's this mechanism of social education that we think has changed from the 19th century, probably from the early parts of the 20th century. So it's in this specific sense, that we think in the understanding of civil society has been a shift. It's partly a sectarian polemic against a Gramscian politics or other, what we see as party-oriented marxist traditions. That's part of what is going on there. It's somewhat related but it's not exactly the same argument about public and private. I think it's useful to say that it's not that the distinctions between public and private have disappeared but that there has been a reorganization of the private. I was very interested in a book by a us-scholar named Lauren Berlant. She has an argument about the way the slogans of the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s have been recuperated in anti-feminist ways. And this is in a way what you say here: in a way that the person who was political has in certain senses been reversed as a mechanisms of the public control of women's lifes, public control of woman's bodies. Your question points it out perfectly: not only private matters such as the mother's relation to her child but also private matters such as a woman's relation to her body. What I'm not sure about in the question is whether I would like to say that there's now a new private sphere. I'm not convinced of the utility of saying that our political views for instance or our economic actions are now considered private affairs. What they are considered as affairs that are not the domain of governmental control - but the decline of the state's control is not necessarily the decline of public controls of power. I would be in favor of not reestablish privacy, I think the decline between the public and the private can also be a source of liberation. I would rather struggle for the power-control of what used to be regarded as private in other terms rather than trying to requalify this private.
DWB: In what sense do you see the shift of the moral regime as a liberation?
Hardt: I don't see it as a pure liberation but as a potential for liberation. I whish I could start in the positive way but let me start in the negative way. I think that the separation of our lives and the public and private and the splitting of ourselves in the public and the private, is something that drains our power in a way. It delimits what we consider political and therefore what we can change collectively in our lives. The reason, at least I understand it from the us-feminist movements of the 70s especially, for that we consider the personal political, is because we want to say that these are relations that are social and open for collective transformation. If they are considered private, what it seems to me that designation does is to limit the collective political activity we can exert over them. In other words for me then, what the potential for liberation is that it opens up for political action; it opens up as a political issue and therefore as an object of our political activity. We don't in a way limit our scope of our politics. In other words, sexual relationships, relationships of intimacy, relationships between men and women, between men and men, between women and women - all of these are political and social relationships. I guess in a way I'm also arguing against the notion of tolerance because what tolerance seems to me to say: these are relationships of believes of attitudes that are outside of the collective social sphere. Tolerance of homosexuality for instance can easily - and I think it does in a social scale - come with: "I hate homosexuals, I think they're wrong, I think they're disgusting - but I let them do what they want." That's what seems to me can often be the attitude of tolerance whereas I think there needs to be a more extensive social engagement and political engagement. Tolerance seems to me to be refusal politics.
DWB: This reminds me of a pledoyee written by Russel Jacobs in a book called "Social Amnesia".
Hardt: One of Pasolini early films called "Comizi d'amore" ("Love meetings") from 1964 is sort of a survey of sex in Italy. He went and asked all kinds of people about sex, they felt often uncomfortable... it's a very strange film. Michael Forcoult wrote a newspaper article about it after it was shown in Paris called "Le martin gris de la tolerance" ("The grey mornings of tolerance") which was in a way arguing that what tolerance does is to hide these areas of life rather than bring them to the open deal with them socially.
DWB: I wanted to ask you about the title of the book you were talking about from Lauren Berlant...
Hardt: She teaches in Chicago... "The queen of America"
Hardt: One of the middle chapters deals with this personal is political - and the introduction deals with it, too. It's an uneven book but it's...
DWB: What kind of public is appropriate for the multitude? What kind of public sphere does it create? Is the existing worldwide media infrastructure something of use for the multitude or is it only an instrument for its oppression? Is there space for emancipatory content in the current media regime?
Hardt: These are hard questions. The person who wrote them was scared to come because she or he knew they were so hard. It seems quite clear to me that the media contains within it perhaps most obviously forces of repression or control but also, maybe this is obvious, too, possibilities for alternative organizing. The free radios of the 70s is one example, other cliche examples would be indymedia and Papertiger, as television documentary efforts. It doesn't seem to be hard to recognize what the spaces of possibilities are. It's also not hard to recognize the forms of control or repression that goes with it. What might be the best way to treat such a question that was to try to define what, at least at the moment, seem to be the inherent limitations of what seem like potentials for liberation. There's a view about the internet that one might center around Wired Magazine or such things which is internet as absolute liberation, as absolute democracy which is obviously not true and limited in many regards, within the Euro-American-Japanese sphere. There's a great deal of limitation of access and also knowledge. It creates a limited class. But I don't think that it's useless to have new forms of internet communities, even ones that are not political, even ones that are merely new spaces for a different kind of organizing and experimentation, even if such things go badly. I think there has often been often been liberatory inspiration if not potential, just in chatrooms which allow experimentation with gender or other sorts of internet experiences which not only allow contacts but also allow experimentations of who you are and how we present ourselves and how we relate to each other. The other, which is more obvious in TV and radio but which is also true for the internet, is that these media are evidently recuperated by the control of capital on one form or the other. This is happening slowly and in different ways on the internet but is much more obvious with television and radio. I'm not always sure that the efforts to maintain a kind of purity in the alternative efforts of radio and television are always the right way to go. It seems to me that many of the most interesting experiments are ones that work with the constraints of the financial impositions. When I've been presenting the part of Empire that dealt with what we called the communication of struggles and our first recognition in the mid-90s - which might have changed to a certain extent now - was, that it seemed to us that the large-scale events of revolt from the late 80s to the mid 90s seemed to have no communication to other struggles. They not only seemed to disappear quickly but also seemed to be irrelevant, like not having to do with us. We thought of Tien-An-Men that way, of the L.A. riots that way - Chiapas is different. The strikes in Paris in 1995 are another example or the students in South Korea was another thing we were thinking of. In a previous era there was a notion of a cycle of struggles in which struggles in different geographical locations communicated with each other in a sense that in one location we heard of what was going on and then we adopted as our own, transforming it obviously. In that way there was a kind of communication that constructed a cycle. It seemed to us that this was no longer possible or no longer happening and so we were trying to theorize what was different. When I was presenting this idea, one of the responses was that one of the reasons that struggles can't communicate - and this is in a way taking us down from our rather abstract theoretical plain - was the lack of media on the left. people just didn't know what was going on or heard of it only through the sort of official renditions which were so limiting. So the lack of a left press, the lack of the left media, is what the response was to me, is why struggles don't ' communicate. That might be partly true. But I think that there's more involved than that. It's not only a matter of knowing what's going on. There's also a kind of saturation of this feeling of impedance that allows us to recognize things. Also the superpowerfullness of the powers that oppress us block us from recognizing such things.
DWB: My theory on why there is no communication between the struggles would be as follows. In fordism they're always some kinds of elites. With the passage to flatter hierarchies and forms of organization, those elites, who formally communicated the struggles to the outside have also disappeared. To what extent do you recognize this change in a way of organization, for example in the case of Seattle or Quebeck with the Peoples' Global Action movement?
Hardt: I agree completely. The positive element of this - the Italian have started calling it "The people of Seattle" - that there is a certain kind of continuity, even of personnel. There are certain people that, every time there's a protest, they're going to Prague, to Porto Allegre, etc. There is both, good and bad aspects in that. There is, I think, on the positive side a certain recognition of continuity not only for the people involved but also on a general social scale. There are two sides in a way to that; one is a continuity of struggles meaning that these are in a way the same but it's also a continuities of enemies if you like which goes now from FFTA to WTO to IMF and World Bank. There's in a way the gestures towards the outlines of a acapella goals of powers which is created by this continuity of struggles. On the other that seems to be limited is the mere protest culture of these struggles. For instance, I don't think that the WTO or the World Bank is a sufficient way of understanding the power that is oppressing the world. The destruction of the WTO, it would be fun but it really wouldn't help that much. It's a symptom rather than the problem itself. So there has to be some sort of educational development of those involved and more in general. The second thing that comes back to what you were saying earlier of the social institutions of fordism, is that these struggles haven't yet been able to link these protests to more general conditions of life, even to conditions of labor, to divisions of labor. It's true that there's an extending global element to these struggles, it's not, for instance, a Euro-American thing but it's not sufficiently articulated in what way various groups in the world have in fact different interests and common interests. There's no yet elaboration of the common forms of life and the difficulties of it. So in a way I think that the movement will have to expand its scope in order to be a more adequate treatment of the struggles.
DWB: You've mentioned the concept of tolerance. Do you think tolerance is also employed by conservative forces, in terms of saying for example: "we tolerate ethnic minorities but we don't want to deal with them"?
Hardt: I think that this is at least one aspect of it. I think that social tolerance can be a very important and necessary improvement over kinds of social oppression. Like the fact of the French government to that fact that it is tolerant say of "our communities in France" is much better than if not being tolerant. Just that there's a limitation of that notion of tolerance. I think it's not only among conservative political forces though, or rather political forces already understood to be on the right. I think on the left, too, there's a tradition of tolerance which in a way means "I don't have to deal with that; I can accept that and I leave that alone and wont harm such people but I don't have to really engage". There are differences irreconcilable and unknowable to me that might be another form of it. I mean, I don't want to be tolerated! I'd rather be hated but I prefer to be loved. It's too sentimental to say it that way but toleration seems to be a suspension of hate and love. And it can be used with certain conjunction with forms of power.
DWB: Especially in a paternalistic way...
Hardt: Right. The tolerated are often excepted as subordinated. Like for instance, this is from ten years ago but one of the most pleasurable political actions of the 90s, where this group called "Queer Nation" held what they called "Kiss Inns". They had Kiss Inns at the Morman Convention which is the Republican national convention. Men and Women would go and kiss each other which was a refusal of tolerance. It meant "You have to deal with my way of being!". To go and kiss in private would be the acceptance of being tolerated.
DWB: This reminds me of the concept of oppressive tolerance by Herbert Marcuse, I think he talked about it widely in "Eros and Civilization". According to my observations, I think, that oppressive tolerance creates a kind of in-group feeling for those tolerated which would disappear immediately if they'd be widely recognized and embraced.
Hardt: It's a long time since I've read the Marcuse book but I think that you're right that it's probably something similar that I'm saying. However, one also gets a strong notion of identity from direct oppression but that doesn't make me want to be repressed. It used to be much more empowering to have different sources for the formation of identity rather than a collective exclusion that creates the bond. But I agree with you that common exclusion, common toleration and common repression is a process of identity formation but it's not one I'd like to continue.
DWB: One of your thesis is that work and production are not confined to the world of the factory anymore but that the whole society is now put to work and every aspect of life is now integrated into production. For this you use the term social factory. This implies that whereas under fordism strike action and sabotage by factory workers was the central conflict strategy, now resistance can start from anywhere. Could you name a few examples of resistance in the everyday? What do you think of resistance in the social factory?
Hardt: First, we're not particularly original with this thesis that the dominant paradigm of work is no longer the factory in the dominant countries. That's a fact which is more or less obvious to everyone. This doesn't mean, of course, that factory production no longer exists - it still exists in the dominant countries, it still exists in subordinated countries. What it means though, we have to reconceive what production means and what forms of labor are. One of our efforts has been to reconceptualize what's mean by labor, in a way broaden what the concept covers. There are two sources of inspiration or knowledge for this. One is, especially US or anglo feminist theory >from the 70s, trying to rethink questions of reproduction starting from domestic labor and thinking of how to conceive forms of labor that are not included in the wage system. one of the positive aspects of their efforts was broadening what is recognized as labor or production. The other is Deleuze/Guaratti and various theorists around them trying to think of explaining the concept of production for instance in their discussion of desiring production. It's another way of broaden the notion of labor and production. It comes back to this earlier question about public and private: another challenging but I think real problematic is that we have to think at least progressive in distinction if not an end of the distinction between production and reproduction. It was not quite conceived as such but it was at least for me put on the agenda by US socialist feminist theory in the 70s because precisely that distinction between production and reproduction was used as a political weapon in a way against the kinds of work that was coded as reproductive. Anyway,, the ways in which the dominant forms of production have changed allow us today to recognize that perhaps never was this distinction sustainable. That's the way we're trying to think it now. This is also in a way the content of our notion of biopolitical production. It's not production of goods, or even goods and services but ultimately production of society itself. Production of subjectivities is also, and even fundamentally, what is going on. This requires an explanation of what we mean by immaterial labor. In the way we like to characterize the shift in global capitalist economy, beginning maybe from the 1970s - it's always difficult to date these things - is that there is now a hegemony of what we call immaterial labor. This doesn't mean of course that all labor is immaterial neither does it mean that the labor itself is immaterial. The term is supposed to grasp that the product of labor is immaterial in some sense meaning that in contrast, for instance, to the labor that produces a good such as a car or a television, this is labor that produces either knowledge or an affect. And these things are in that sense immaterial. Affect of production is an excellent example because obviously affect is all about the body. We're not merely talking about something incorporeal - it's eminently corporeal but the product is something immaterial. In this respect, because this kind of labor has achieved a hegemonic position in the economy meaning that it has the position of the highest productional value, it makes clear the unsustainability of such previous distinctions. The two most challenging ones are, like I said before, the distinction between production and reproduction which from the perspective of immaterial labor makes less and less sense; and the other is the distinction between labor time and the time of life. I mean, one is never not working if one considers production itself as the production of subjectivities.
DWB: Marx said that we're all producing life so that the human being emerges out of recognizing its being as labor. In other words, labor produces the human being which is the transition from not being human to be human. Would you agree that this is metaphysical since the production of subjectivity and the production of affectivity is actually a metaphysical act? Producing oneself in relation to the world appears to be a rather theological issue.
Hardt: I'm not sure if I understand metaphysics here. Let me try to start from some things that seem perhaps banal but maybe we can then move from them to your question. For instance, when you take the variety of kinds of paid labor that involve affective labor, think of it from health care workers which are in a variety of scales: of course health care workers they're actually doing material work, too; but they also produce affect labor. Another example would be flight attendants who are also doing some sort of material work although a large part of their work is a production of affect. Once we start thinking of the production of affect, for me it's easy to move from that to production of subjectivity. What's important about this, too, is we recognize the production of subjectivity not as the metaphysical instance in the sense of it being done prior to us. Once we realize our active involvement in the production of our collective subjectivities then we can take the power of changing it and on acting on it. It seems to me in this sense at least that the production of subjectivity is a very "everyday act". Does that link up with your question with metaphysics?
DWB: Yes it does. Health care, for instance, was originally related to the work of shamans whereas flight attendance reminds me somehow of the concept of angels.
Hardt: Maybe what you're doing is to bring down to earth what had formally been thought as metaphysical. That seems like a nice thing to me. I've nothing against angels.
DWB: When labor becomes immaterial the produced goods become immaterial as well. That can be a very simple good whereas the brand adds some sort of auratic aspect. Don't you think that this production of aura which is immaterial itself, also involves a metaphysical aspect?
Hardt: I'm not so sure. It might be good to bring that aura also back to earth. I think an example of what you're talking about might be Nike tennisshoes. Here it's quite obvious since they cost like $150 but they cost very little to produce. So obviously what's being produced is not merely the material tennisshoe but also what you're calling an aura. I would also like to call it a way of life what they're producing. It's not a way of life I want, but anyway that's what they're selling. First of all it's important to recognize that it's a large component and that it's an additive if not the major part of this material production of the production of a tennisshoe. But then the second question is how do we work in this? How do we conduct politics on the terrain of immaterial production. My hesitation about the concept of aura which I either associate with Benjamin or with Helios is that it seems ungraspable. I fear that it has the image that we can't intervene although in fact I think that these are actually facts that we can actively intervene. But I didn't really answer the question of resistance. I mean, there are traditional forms of resistance and it's quite obvious that they will continue. There's a lot of sabotage in the workplace that always existed and always will exist, like workers refusing discipline of the boss is inevitable and wonderful a thing; it happens at computers as much as it happened on the assembly line. There are ways in which many of us refuse forms of disciplinar control in ways that seem individual or even personal but in fact, I think, are collective and social. For instance, the refusal of the family, the refusal of marriage is something that can seem like and, I'm sure, is experienced as an individual and personal act but I think it should also be read as a collective and political act. What interests me next - and this is a kind of thing we're thinking about right now - is, that we have a fear that resistance thought of as isolated and idiosyncratic can never itself challenge structures of power. One has to define resistance in a certain way to say this, so this is why we're now trying to think the way that resistance can be linked in a necessary and internal way to acts of insurrection by which we mean collective revolt. I think it would be pretty close to the same thing what we're saying which is how to think an enact the connection between resistance and insurrection. Another way how one could say this would be how we can think resistance in a collective and social way - resistance though, thought as the revolt against structures of power rather than a passive refusal Often passive refusals can simply end in one's own disempowerment. It's maybe not a good example here, but the thing that occurs to me is that story about Bartleby <http://www.ukans.edu/~zeke/bartleby/weiner.html> : he's a script writer who refuse to write. He always says: "I prefer not to.", a very blank kind of refusal. But he ends up committing suicide. He has such a blank and individual refusal. I mean, it's obvious to the reader that one thing that he's doing is highlightening the boring, repetitive nature of office work and copying - the lack of life in such activity - but he does it in such a way that it's merely a kind of passive resistance that can only effect himself. Someone could maybe interpret this story better than me but when I said that Negri and I fear that resistance can only end in that way, then we would want resistance to be also something social and collective in such a way that it can effectively challenge and destabilize forms of power. So the everyday seems to me an excellent beginning but not a sufficient end.
DWB: It always seems come back to the fact that there's no outside of the system and also to individuality, subjectivity and the construction of identity. Also, you and Antonio Negri were talking a lot about monsters in your lecture.
Hardt: That the monsters seem individual?
DWB: Hm, well it reminded me of the Pockemon monster.
Hardt: Oh, yeah. You know, I don't know the Pockemon - but tell me about them.
DWB: It's just some 130 monsters and children like them.
DWB: They have different stages, they change all the time.
DWB: It seems to me that are kind of multitude. One the one hand, they're all evil Pockemons with weapons. And then you said that you don't want to be tolerated but either loved or hated.
Hardt: I prefer to be loved!
DWB: But hate is not exactly the opposite of love, it's a lack of love.
DWB: So I was had the idea that maybe you were suggesting that we should all become Pockemon monsters. On the one hand they seem to represent this kind of otherness within us that we can hate and be afraid of. On the other hand, we have to be loved because we're the cute Pockemon. Then you also mentioned Ya Basta and the White Overall movement who also seem to have this kind of aspect of having "weapons" they would use to smash windows, for instance. At the same time...
Hardt: they're cute and loveable!
DWB: Would you say that this is an appropriate interpretation of your concept of the multitude?
Hardt: Oh, au! I got to learn about the Pockemon, I'm not well enough informed. I have an unfortunate tendency to know more about rebellion than about things going on now.
It might be limiting if I start from a kind of experimental level that whenever we recognize our difference from norms or what people are supposed to be it appears monstrous to us. Given that we live in a homophobic society, for those who recognize their homosexuality it appears monstrous. This seems to me one of the most common places is seeing oneself and ones own desires, even hating them for recognizing them as being monstrous. And I think that they appear monstrous precisely because they refuse the norm, because they're outside. Here I'm talking about very individual terms, I guess, but allowing oneself to become a monster, loving being a monster would be a kind of resistance to the norm. I think I should try to think about other examples rather than just our sexuality.
Almost every time that we live differently it appears monstrous - and the monster seems like the right name for it.
DWB: There's also this concept of barbarism. I was also wondering if the concept of monsters was similar to that of the barbarians but that the creation of monsters could work as an answer to the construction of barbarism. Barbarism is quite negative and it seems hard to love barbarians whereas it to me it seems much easier to love monsters.
Hardt: Since we're talking about Rome and the Roman empire, in a way the barbarian is the one who appears irreconcilable and different in such a way that one can't deal with them. Doesn't the word barbarian come from the greek word for the one who's language one can't understand? Well, I think we could love the barbarian, can't we? We could see oneself as the barbarian.
DWB: I think the problem is that there are no barbarians in empire because everything is part of it. And it is the same with homosexuals - these "monsters" are accepted parts of empire. So I think that this is some kind of resistance to a former regime but empire can integrate this.
Hardt: We're perfectly in agreement about these effects. It seems that the big political challenge is to recognize the ways in which the forms of power have changed and that previous modes of contesting it not only are no longer effective but seem to fit right in to the way that how power works. That is, partly I complained about certain political notions of what's called post-colonial studies. Often the notion of hybridity itself, for instance, is posed as liberatory where our argument, just like you're saying, is that this is something that is already part of the functioning of power and is not in fact contestatory in the least. It's ambivalent in a sense that once we recognize that empire functions through hybridities that doesn't mean that we should construct a new purity to oppose it. I mean, hybridizations and misagination are all good so we need to look for liberatory avenues within it rather than escape it.
DWB: I think that the special thing with Ya Basta and the White Overall movement is that they don't fight with stones in the "black block" but they are white and they use their bodies against the police. They don't really function as a border between the police and the rest of the demonstration but the oppression goes into their bodies, so that they pull their bodies against this border.
DWB: What are the main features of the biopolitical regime today. The most obvious example of biopolitics today is illustrated by the state in a rather old-fashioned way. At the moment, on observes a return to and an intensification of population policies, at least in Europe. States make increasing efforts to mobilize labor power through workfare policies, pension reforms and selective migration policies. Is there anything new about the current regime?
Hardt: These are exactly the kind of things that Foucault was talking about beginning in the 19th century. It are also the same kind of things that Marx talks about in The Capital talking about the health question about working population and the need of capital to treat the population as object of reproduction. Precisely, i guess on avenue of approaching the question of politics is through the concept of reproduction because, like I said before, one way that biopolitics functions is to try to think a productive regime in which the distinction between production and reproduction makes sense. I said this also before, that in biopolitical production there is increasingly less distinction between production and reproduction, and also temporarily less distinction between the work-day and time of life - a sort of expansion of the work-day to occupy all of life. But in any case, i don't think that biopolitics isn't new. What might be new is maybe an intensification in its relevance to an extent which before, in previous periods, it could have seemed that production of goods was the object of capitalist production whereas increasingly now the biopolitical dimension is recognized more prominently.
DWB: I would see the difference between disciplinary society and society of control in the increased importance of self-organization. In the former society the body was the object that had to be disciplinated whereas now body and mind are freed in order to become creative and therefore useful for empire.
Hardt: This also points out an aspect which seems relevant that this shift between disciplinary society and society of control that several of us are trying to make sense of. It isn't a qualitative distinction, it's not a different thing; it's rather an intensification because discipline itself has always involved an internalization of power. Precisely through the functions of institutions the subject is constructed in a way that it obeys. This is the way Foucault uses the example of panopticum in a sense that it's not only that the inmate is constrained by the bars or by the guards, but the inmate comes to act in line with this way to internalize the power into him- or herself. But like you're saying with this passage to the society of control, however, it's an intensification of that internalization in a way that it's not... I wouldn't say that the passage to the society of control means the end of discipline - it rather means the generalization of discipline outside of the institutions in which it previously made sense. For instance, it used to seem in the disciplinatory regime - and this is also the way Foucault describes it - as if the society consists of an archipelagic globe of institutions. For instance, I remember Deleuze and Guattari explaining this passage about discipline where it says: "You go to the barracks and you're not in the family anymore. Then you go to the factory and they say: 'Well, you're not in the army anymore.'", meaning that each institution had its own discipline and there was something defined by the walls of the institution about it. Or, for instance, the convent for many women seemed like a refuge from the discipline of the family. What seems to us to happen now in this passage is the extension so that there is a courseral disciplinary logic not only the prison but in a way throughout the social field. Also the patriarchical logic of the family exists not only within the limited family-space but is extended throughout... Also factory logic is not a thing made by the factory-society. it's not limited by the factory-walls but extends in a way throughout the social field. So the society of control is in that sense a generalization of discipline rather than an end of discipline. A rather scary notion...
DWB: But do you think that human society is thinkable without any form of discipline? I mean, the human as a model, do you think that it's thinkable without discipline? The first work that was done to form the human race itself...
DWB: ...yes, but society is the first thing that was produced by becoming human.
Hardt: Another way of asking what your asking feels to me is: "How can we combat discipline? How can we think of something different without just repeating discipline in another form?" I wonder if it's useful to think about discipline as a regime of normalization because maybe that would allow it easier to us to... or... Ok, I don't know the answer.
DWB: It might be a question to be answered in the future?
Hardt: I suppose but rather I feel like insufficient right now than there is no answer. I mean I think I'm just not thinking of it correctly.
DWB: Discipline might emerge out of love, I think.
DWB: Yes, actually that's what I was implying in the question. It's not thinkable to live together as human beings without any form of discipline. Animals have their instincts that guide their social lives in social groups. Also by certain educational forms, small animals, for example, are also being taught by members of their social group. So I believe that any form of social life needs some form of discipline. Being considerate means a form of discipline. (...)
DWB: You assert that empire is resisting the free movement of people. Why does it do that. One could assume that the free flow of the workers of the world is in interest of capital.
Hardt: This is something that isn't new in the history of capital that the movement of labor is important to capital but it's important to capital in controlled and selective forms. What we have today is a paradigm that involves a great deal of mobility. There are huge labor migrations today but they're ones that exist under heavy constraints. In fact, in the abstract it can seem like a liberatory fact to have mobility. But from the reality of lots of people's lives it would in fact be much better to stay still. I mean that movement is often forced, either through economic or political conditions. There is at the first view the impression in an age of globalization the world, either seeing in an economic, cultural or political sense is tending towards homogenization. That's certainly not true. There are certain ways in which there are effects of homogenization but also creation of new differences. Specifically in economic terms, capital requires and has always required divisions of labor within society and also geographically. From within each society these divisions of labor are incredibly resilient. This is another thing mentioning, for example, the efforts of socialist feminism in the 70s. It's remarkable to think that the gender division of labor in Euro-America has changed so little in the last 30 years. And it's almost not on the agenda. When it was such a primary focus in the 70s and 80s it seems to have with stood the forces of critique. Racial divisions of labor, too, are incredible resilient. But you're asking more about the geographical and global divisions of labor but all of these divisions of labor, I was trying to say, are necessary for the functioning of capital. Why are the divisions of labor necessary for the functioning of capital? you may now ask. Well, it's a mechanism of profits, it keeps profits high. Maybe in general, analytical way the critique of the various divisions of labor is an important political starting point. In more practical terms it seems to as an important political agenda that we should demand the freedom of movement of all labors. Part of this is along with the noborder-movement but in some ways also has a more general application. I mean the freedom to move and the freedom not to move should be able to be posed as a right meaning an element of political struggle.
DWB: Empire has achieved a wide acknowledgement since its release one year ago and it's being discussed in such different communities as radical left groups or in the art scene. Terms like empire, biopower or multitude have found their way very quickly into the theoretical discourse. It seems as if the concept of empire would be as important for a future theoretical discourse as, lets say, Guaratti/Deleuze's rhizome concept. Can you say something on your thoughts prior to writing Empire on decisive new terms, on your intertextual strategy and also on your positions as very important authors, especially Antonio Negri with his biography is becoming an icon for new social movements.
Hardt: There's a difficult tension between the need to invent new terms because the invention of terms helps us think things differently. Always continuing to think with the same terms would be very limiting, especially with the recognition that something is different. For instance, the project began with our saying to each other that US imperialism is not the adequate term to conceive contemporary global order. It never seemed very sufficient to say empire instead imperialism. I wished we had some better alternative. But in any case, we knew we needed some different term than imperialism because it didn't seem like it was sufficient to say this is a new form of imperialism. It seemed to us that it was different enough that it couldn't be used with the same term. I guess what I mean though, that there's a need to invent new terms when one is trying to grasp something different. But a tension because if one just goes about inventing new terms no one will ever know what you're talking about. It tends to become an isolated language. So our adoption of these new terms is sometimes rather casual in the sense of accidental but a lot of it, though, is really part of a much more collective process. For instance, Negri started writing about the multitude because he but also other scholars reading Spinoza were trying to figure out what Spinoza meant by multitude. But then multitude is not only a Spinozian term, it's a much broader term and it seemed to allow us to think not just about the working class or about the proletariat. It allowed us to view the same phenomena differently. We're never really attempted to explain the relationship between multitude and proletariat. And I haven't yet felt that we've sufficiently understood what that relationship is. In any case though, the term multitude is a very useful term, I think, and it's maybe one of the most important term in the but the least developed term. We don't really articulate what it means. I often think of it that we used it in an almost poetic way. And it's something that ought to be done. What is the multitude and how do different kinds of social movements embody it? I think a lot of the other terms, though, are more or less parts of traditions that we adopt from others. Like when you mentioned Deleuze and Guattari's notion of the rhizome, even for not using the term rhizome, that concept already itself is embedded in this notion of multitude, I think. I think of it rather than really inventing terms it's more like fitting in in lines of others using in such terms. Then this slogan "There is no more outside" - I'm not exactly sure where that came from either but I think it's sort of part of what other people are saying. I think, that when you were saying before that it seems all surprising that a lot of the terms or arguments from the book have had a kind of a circulation quite quickly, I think this is one of the things we said when we were writing the book was: "We're not really saying anything new. We're just saying what everyone else is thinking." One of the things I felt was a big challenge of the book or one thing that made me feel good about the project throughout its writing was that we were trying to recognize shifts that are going on a variety of social spheres but try to pose them together. And that's what was the big challenge. But we were not really original. I think it's true that things are read in a general way when they meet with an already unconscious concept.
DWB: And how about the acknowledgement in all kinds of different communities and scenes?
Hardt: I was talking with some people in London about this and they were saying: "Aren't you upset and scared that all of these people actually like this book and agree with it? Isn't that a problem?" I thought: "No." They were upset about the documenta thing, they were saying: "You know, that's the art establishment. Why are you mixing with them?" I think that in general it is a good thing. One element of what we need is the recognizing of our combinality in a variety of different things and among a different variety of social groups. I mean I think there are ways in which we do have common desires and needs. On the other hand, the next project will probably be more practical in proposition of action or alternative, that will be much less popular. But that's ok.
DWB: But it was definitely a strategy to use these terms like multitude?
Hardt: No, I didn't imagine a popular book. All I wanted that it would get out of our small... my partner said that Toni and I had a small and highly disturbed readership. And so I wanted to get outside of our little... And the effort to do that wasn't through the calculation of the invention of terms. it was trying to write in a language that would be less obscure and common to a group. And you think I might have succeeded in halfway but only in halfway. But it's a great effort and it's not always easy. Like if you try to say: "Well, we shouldn't use the term deterritorialization." How else you're going to explain that. And it's already a way of thinking. So in a way the Marxist vocabulary we have, French philosophical vocabulary we have - there are a variety of ones we have to... And then even obscure references to, I don't know, Augustin or any number of other things that has to be... It's more like trying not to be obscure, that's my effort.
DWB: Some of the old autonomous people I know, who discuss theoretically since the 70s, are not happy about the book.
Hardt: That's fine. I've also read that Hardt and Negri are no longer Marxists. Well I say: "Fuck you. I don't care." Anyway, being criticized is good, though.
DWB: I think it was fun to have you at the documenta with you main topic being insurrection.
Hardt: Yes, and they liked it! They said: "Yes, insurrection!" I don't ' know if they know what would be meant by that.
DWB: I have another question. in previous discourses, especially in postmodern discourses, the notion of subversion was very popular. in which ways does this correspond to your notion of resistance and in which way does it not.
Hardt: One of the things that's so useful about the term subversion is the recognition of our already being implicated in forms of power. Subversion only happens from the inside. Sabotage too. You can start from Judith Buttler's notion of subversion in a sense of reperforming the norm but differently. So we're always already implicated in a certain performance of a normalizing social space but if we introduce difference into it, that's in a way a subversion of the norm. Sabotage would be probably slightly different because I think that the evocation of sabotage is the throwing the wooden shoe into the machine and therefore blocking its functioning. What sabotage emphasizes is that the machine itself is abstracted by the act. So there might be a continuity between subversion and sabotage but sabotage emphasizes that notion of blocking the machine. It's hard, though - I mean this is what Toni and I are struggling with now - it's hard to know what can be meant by sabotage today, it's hard to know how to do it. It seems that every act of resistance is met with indifference or silence. Anyway, for us it's on the agenda.
DWB: In your thought, is empire a combination point of capitalism or is it a transitory moment?
H: Is it finally the final stage? I have no idea.