User:Eleanorg/1.3/Thematic/Reading/Multitude

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Hardt & Negri's 2004 book 'Multitude' is a useful survey and linking-together of various 'trending topics' in politics from the last few years. It proposes a model for genuine democracy which takes account of autonomy and doesn't demand the creation of a faceless unitary identity (eg, 'the people'):

"The concept of multitude, then, is meant in one respect to demonstrate that a theory of economic class need not choose between unity and plurality. A multitude is an irreducible multiplicity; the singular social differences that constitute the multitude must always be expressed and can never be flattened into sameness, unity, identity, or indifference. The multitude is not merely a fragmented and dispersed multiplicity." (-p.105) This is possible now, the text implies, because of the possibilities for decentralized coordination offered by communication networks such as the internet.

The idea of a coordinated network of autonomous agents is obviously nothing new (indeed, H & N could in a cynical moment be viewed here as neo-Marxists catching up with standard concepts in anarchism). But the phrase 'multitude' seems useful for our current networked circumstances. Their thoughts about the need to find ways of supporting each other without agreeing on everything offer relevant models for my own work, which at the moment is exploring the differences between 'solidarity' and 'endorsement'. H & N say: "In the multitude, social differences remain different. The multitude is many-colored, like Joseph's magical coat. Thus the challenge posed by the concept of multitude is for a social multiplicity to manage to act in common while remaining internally different." (-p.xiv)

The text does make interesting comment on the potential of current circumstances; namely, the growing hegemony of immaterial labour. They link this to the notion of biopolitics to make the case that immaterial labourers, producing social life, are ideally placed to produce a more democratic society.