Stefan Krempl on Wed, 27 Mar 2002 05:16:00 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> interview with michael "empire" hardt

the german version of empire is out now. the publisher sent michael hardt on
a promotion tour to berlin, where i grabbed him for a talk. it's been
published in german in telepolis:

The globalizers block globalization

Stefan Krempl

Interview with Michael Hardt, co-author of "Empire"

What happens when a former disciple of the Italian terror movement Red
Brigades and a fairly unknown American literature professor meet up and
write a book together about globalization? In the case of "Empire"
(, Antonio Negri
( and Michael Hardt
( scored. Their opus stirred up quite a debate
in left academic circles as well as in the so-called anti-globalization
protest movements since its first publication in 2000. In fact, it became an
early classic of neo-Marxist literature already.

Finally, a German translation
EQ=00036994&MZB=1) has been released a few days ago. On his promotion tour,
Hardt explained to the hip Berlin crowd in the equally hip Volksbuehne
theatre as well as to guests of the British Council in the Deutsche Bank
representation Unter den Linden the paradox of globalization and his utopian
vision of a truly global citizenship. The soft-looking guy states that we
now have to reinvent democracy from the nation state to the global sphere
and that we have to find new forms of representation. Of course, he also
didn't spare with criticism on the Bush wars against the "axis of evil". In
his talk with Telepolis, Hardt clears up his position on al-Qaida,
anarchism, and on the new global organization of power.

"Empire" has been hailed as the rewriting of the communist manifesto for our
times. Do you feel comfortable with that?

Michael Hardt: Well, it's a communist book. I feel comfortable with that
part. But it's not a manifesto. I mean, first of all a manifesto has got to
be short. It needs to present a political program. Our book doesn't do that.
In fact, it tries to understand the nature of the contemporary global order
and then of course suggests some means of constructing alternatives. My
feeling is, that our philosophical work is not the best place to present a
program. The practical work is better done in political movements.

You're talking about the coming of a new Empire. This of course reminds
people on the Roman Empire, while looking back, and on the US in the

Michael Hardt: What we're trying to do is to name a different form of power
or sovereignty from the imperialisms that were developed by the European
nation states during the modern period. If the US nation state were now the
directing force in the way that European nation states were in their own
imperialist projects, we think rather that the form of contemporary world
order is different. Part of the argument is that this new power, this
empire, is an empire with no Rome. It functions in network relationships. So
in this sense, in distributed networks there is no center. The US does have
a privilege role in it, especially in military terms. So there are
privileged points in the network. But there's not the same centralized form
that the previous imperialist relationships took.

Talking about networks, what role does technology play in your book or in
the empire? We've heard a lot about the liberating force of the Internet.
But on the other side, you describe high tech also as an oppressing power
for the new working class.

Michael Hardt: It's the same as with the term globalization. Technology in
general or the new information technologies more specifically are neither in
themselves liberatory nor in themselves controlling. They do in fact provide
a form for many new forms of domination, which are in certain ways more
horrible than previous forms of domination. But they do at the same time
provide possibilities of liberation. So one has to regard technology in
ambivalent terms.

Globalization is the big word for you  and a paradox. On the one side you
are against the inequality caused by the so-called globalizing forces. On
the other side you say that there is not enough globalization. Can you
explain this?

Michael Hardt: I think it is very important to emphasize the ways in which
the protests movements -- which I think are an enormous political advance
and wealth -- that these movements are not against globalization as such.
They are against the specific and present form of globalization. What they
are really saying is that there are many kinds of globalization possible.
Many times when globalization is presented in the press or by the several
governments it is presented as 'globalization is this. You're with it or
against it.' The better way to respond is to say that this is not the only
possibility of globalization.

In fact, there are many ways in which the kinds of things that these
movements are asking for - which are really greater freedoms, greater
equality, and greater democracy  might come true. They seem to me stronger
arguments of globalization than the form of globalization that we have now.
Because the present form restricts freedom in many regards, for example the
movements of people. It creates greater inequality in both wealth and power.
It undermines the possibilities of democracy. So it's in that regard that
those who were labeled the "anti-globalizers" are the ones who are arguing
for a more productive and more democratic globalization.

One of your goals is to reach a truly global democracy. If we come back to
the notion of Marx: do we need some kind of a new revolution then?

Michael Hardt: Certainly.

But you don't present a program for that? What about your term 'the will to
be against'?

Michael Hardt: Well, there's definitely not a program in the book, as I said
before. Let's put it this way. Certainly, human history is full of the
refusal of authority and the desire for freedom. My faith and my conviction
is that these will continue to emerge. So the desire for greater freedom and
the desire for greater democracy are things that will transform our world.
But he nature of this transformation doesn't seem to me to be something
that's given. I want - and I think many others want - that the world will
change very rapidly. And the radical change of forms of power could be
received as revolution.

What role does September 11th play in this set?

Michael Hardt: September 11th was many different things. It presented in no
way any liberatory potential or desire for change in the world. I don't mean
that the forces involved in this recent war are morally comparable. They are
not the same. Both seem to be forces against greater freedom in the world.
Again, one has to be neither for the one side nor for the other, even if the
pressures especially in the US are very strong tending towards one
direction. It seems to me that it's much more appropriate to be against them
both. We're presented with a situation, which doesn't seem to have an
alternative. That is a social and political blackmail that has to be

That's why you are a critique of the war that US President George W. Bush
leads against Afghanistan and the "axis of evil"?

Michael Hardt: Let me start back with a more philosophical point. Modern
European philosophers created the notion of just war, which has surfaced so
often recently from the Gulf war to this present war. It was something that
belonged to the Middle Ages. They though that it was proper for the
religious wars, that it was proper for the crusades. They saw it as a
misunderstanding of the relationship between war and justice. So it should
be no surprise that these notion of 'just wars' comes up again, because of
two facts. One is that the present wars in many ways resemble the old wars
of religion. And secondly, that with the notion of justice is born its twin,
which is evil. I think that all of this is an analytical and political
error. I think that it's a destructive conception and a mystifying
conception. I don't mean to say that I have any sympathy for bin Laden or
that I want to defend al-Qaida. That's not my intention at all. But calling
them evil absolutizes and in fact misrecognizes a social and political
proposition, which will not allow us to treat it in the proper way. That
kind of demonization forces us to mistake how the world is organized.

Do you see a special role for Europe in building a new structure for a new
and more democratic world order?

Michael Hardt: Europe should play nor more or less role than all other
regions in the world. I don't think that democracy can be formed by the
imposition from above. There shouldn't be a central actor, neither the US
nor Europe nor Indonesia. It has to be a collective project. The
construction of democracy has to be democratic in itself.

You're also talking in your book about the role of anarchism and the end of
big government.

Michael Hardt: In the movements that have evolved in the globalization
protests in the US recently, anarchism has been an important term for many,
and particularly the young people involved. What anarchism has meant to them
is primarily a relationship of freedom. And also it fits with what has been
the center of the US punk ethic, which was 'do it yourself.' That's not
exactly what I understand anarchism to be. But my feeling is that today
there isn't the necessity of arguing such ideological distinctions, which
sometimes could amount to terminological questions. So I'm happy to
participate in what they call anarchism, which means: decide things
collectively. On the other hand we don't really argue for anarchist
relationships. In our understanding it would be a claim of an absence of
political organization. We're arguing rather for alternative forms of
political organization.

That is what you mean by the term multitude in your book?

Michael Hardt: Right, we mean a social subject that is always a multiplicity
and that isn't reduced to a unity in a kind of structures that parties have
always forced to. There remains a multiplicity, but one, which can also act
in common. That doesn't mean an archaic crowd or the mob. All of those are
understandings from a lack of organization, in fact, from the need of
external leadership. The multitude rather is a different kind of
organization. The best illustration practically have been this globalization
protests from Seattle to Genoa. They have been organizing in a different way
than previous political movements. It's not that they haven't been
organized. There is a plurality of groups that remain different in their
principles. But they can act in common with others and don't contradict with

So, do you consider the globalization protest movements as a new form of
Marx's 'Internationale'?

Michael Hardt: There certainly is a spirit of globalism or the desire to
construct global relationships in these movements. Proletarian
internationalism both in the Marxist age and throughout other forms of his
tradition does contain elements of this desire for global relationships.
Today, 'international' might not be the right term because it at least
implies that each national group retains its separateness. What happens
today is a different kind of mixture, which might be called a hybrid rather
than a patchwork of national identities. But there is a resonance of the
pleasure and the empowerment of linking together with others.

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