Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The multitude is a collective subject that gathers on affect’s line of flight, coalesces in habit, and expresses itself through constituent power. But the multitude, too, is ambivalent. After all, constituent power does lead to constituted power. Though the multitude makes its presence felt in revolution, all too soon something goes wrong. What begins as immanence and liberation, as cultural innovation and creativity, ends up as transcendence and normalization, as the state form and its repressive apparatuses. Constituent power makes and remakes the world, but that world is the one we see around us, characterized by oppression and exploitation. In Antonio Negri’s words, constituted power “feeds on this strength: without this strength it could not exist” (Insurgencies 325). For Negri, though the multitude resists constituted power, “this resistance is dissolved in the dialectic, over and over again.” From being a subject, the prime subject of the social, “the multitude is always objectified. Its name is reduced to a curse: vulgus, or worse, Pöbel. Its strength is expropriated. [. . .] Modernity is therefore the negation of any possibility that the multitude may express itself as subjectivity” (325). The multitude is like the proletarian: creator of the social world, but alienated within it. Negri argues that the conditions are now finally ripe for autonomy, for a liberation of constituent power in and for itself. But what guarantee is there that the multitude will not, as ever hitherto, simply call forth a new state form, perhaps all the more repressive and insidious? Can what Negri and Michael Hardt term “Empire” be so easily separated from the multitude? Finally, even were it actualizable, Negri’s utopia of a self-realized multitude, “the most extreme deterritorialization” and “the revolution of the eternal” (Time for Revolution 260, 261), is perhaps too invested in a theological chiliasm whose vision of eternal life is scarcely distinguishable from eternal death.