Nietzsche once said that ‘everything is different and nothing seems to have change,’1 which could be seen as the theoretical manifestation for the scholars of critical approaches who tend to focus on both the changes and the constants of the contemporary era and theorize the globalised, networked and deterritorialised ‘brave new social world’ in contradiction to classical and rationalist theories which fundamentally deny such transformation regarding it either as the return of anarchical disorder (realism) or as the operation of international interdependence and the institutionalisation of poli tics (liberalism).
Hardt and Negri attempted, in their provocative and exten sive work Empire, to elaborate a distinctively postmodern analysis to show the remnants and novelties of our contemporary world, decomposing boundaries between political, economic or cultural studies while applying such postmodern tools as the Foucauldian notion of genealogy or the method of double-reading employed by Derrida for the concept of the new empire. The book opens up new horizons for linkages between the workings of capitalism in globalisation and the possibilities for governing the processes through some kind of a revised authority and therefore broadens the understandings of world politics on the theoretical level in a unique way. Throughout their work, they are re-reading and re-constructing the history of European and (later on) global operations of sover eignty while re-reading and re-constructing also the operation of capitalism, which contributed to the incremental invocation of the concept of empire for characterising the amorphous power (super) structure emerging in the beginning of the 21st century. In this sense, the spirit of Spinoza engages with the spirit of Hobbes, while Marx and Weber from the 19th century on the one hand, and Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari from the 20th century on the other, appear on the scene to give theoretical foundations to the arguments of the au thors. Precisely because of that, Walker regarded the book as a kind of textbook ‘with a rich exposition of various contemporary theo retical traditions.’2
In the reading of Hardt and Negri, an empire could no longer be conceived as a large, territorially bound polity with the imposition of a central rule over some kind of dependent periphery, consist ing of various political communities and created through forceful (whether with sword or agreement) expansion, which would be the working definition for empire by such scholars, as Beissinger, Suny or Lieven, but Empire is rather a concept embodying the new sover eignty logic and structure of rule which governs the processes being political, economic, social or cultural prevalent on the globe – without borders, without central command, without force. In their for mulation, ‘sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call empire.’3 Whereas Benedict Anderson claimed that ‘we study empires as we do dinosaurs, as things of the past, irretrievable except in the laboratory,’4 they are rather assuming the operation of empire in a different form, producing and reproducing its own subjectivities in the multitude (borrowing the concept from Machiavelli and Spinoza). On the other hand, resembling the Marxist tradition, they frame the operation of the new structure of rule in the dialectic be tween the multitude and the empire, and while they regard empire as an extensive command structure constantly producing its own subjectivities, they also see the multitude as the living, constructive and productive force which is able to escape empire and find new ways of resistance or liberation.
The operation of the empire is decomposed into juridico-polit ical and economic foundations, by which the theories of Foucault, Marx and Carl Schmitt are invoked. They create the model of imperial authority based on the Foucauldian term, biopower, which leads the disciplinary society to the society of control, where the subjectivities are produced and reproduced in a certain ‘democratic’ manner throughout certain social machines operating in flexible and fluctuating networks. On the other hand, they place the capitalist economy, moreover the transnational corporations as the connective fabric of the biopolitical world into their analysis.
Therefore, their argumentation intermingles the economic factors as the “content,” and the juridico-political factors as the “form” of the empire. Biopower, as a Janus-faced concept, aims at both the “body” of the subjectivity and the “population” as such. The first focuses on the bodies as referent objects expected to internalise certain norms through procedures of learning, training, imitation or other disciplinary techniques, while the second considers the population as a whole in which the “individual” represents just a number in a sta tistical analysis and certain measures, rules or norms are formulat ed to enhance its productivity and viability in the long run, protect ing its pure life from internal and external dangers.5 In such a way, it carries out the process of constant pacification for the “inside,”6 and aims at mobilising the population in cases of exceptional situ ations for its own purpose “outside” – for protecting its way of life.
In the concept of the empire, the mechanisms of biopower are adapted to the process of globalisation and therefore a new struc ture is created in which there is only place for an “inside.” It is the most important claim of the book and the authors centre their argumentation around underpinning it through the re-reading of certain passages of sovereignty and capitalist production. As Hardt and Negri formulated, ‘the spatial configuration of inside and out side itself seems to us a general and foundational characteristic of modern thought. In the passage from modern to postmodern and from imperialism to Empire there is progressively less distinction between inside and outside.’7 Therefore, conflicts only take the form of a police action and there is no place for the Other – and in the construction of such new order, a kind of radical immanence appears (revoking the tensions between transcendence and im manence). However, by eradicating the “outside,” Walker argues that they are ‘undermining the logic of a pluralistic states system,’8 which also makes the binary opposition between the Self and the Other problematic. How could the concept of the Other be formu lated when the machines of the new juridico-political authority overgrew the entire globe? Hardt and Negri places the problem atical question on a Marxist analysis and say that the possibility of resistance and that of ‘escaping’ control resides in the multitude which has to reorganize itself and develop positively its constituent projects inside the empire. Towards the end of the book, they say that ‘in effect, by working, the multitude produces itself as singularity. It is a singularity that establishes a new place in the non-place of Empire,’9 which means that they create new forms of life and coop eration, confronting the empire directly and giving an active power or as the authors say, posse, against the constant re-production and re-organisation of imperial strategies.
Concerning that the book was published before the attacks of September 11, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the ac tions of Al Qaeda could be conceived as a powerful attack on the bi opolitical strategies carried out formally by the United States, how ever also legitimated within the framework of the United Nations and on the global level as well – through the workings of various non-state actors, such as certain human rights groups and other activists hand in hand with the UN, it could be plausibly said, that the notion of empire offers a ‘more brutally frank account of the domi nant forces of our time than, say, ‘great power’, or ‘hegemony’’10 and therefore it could grasp and understand the workings of the under lying forces of globalisation with a special explanatory potential. The movement from multilateral action towards unilateral one in the case of the invasion of Iraq also shows that the US operates in the frameworks of a potential focal point of the emerging empire, carrying out certain police actions on the world stage. However, in other cases, as for example the Russian invasion in Georgia in 2008, it seems that Russia acted also as a kind of disciplining player attempting to preserve its sphere of influence and it seems that the EU also adopted certain imperial practices regarding the new mem ber states in its territory. Therefore it could be certainly claimed that the concept of empire as a new or a newly discovered logic of rule based on the Foucauldian notions of biopower is useful in ana lysing contemporary phenomena on the international arena, but on the other hand, the concept of the empire as such a global order which contain everything and eliminates the distinctions between inside and outside, is open to critical inquiry and theoretical ques tioning which places this imaginative and unique book from time to time under scholarly interest.
Foucault, Michel (1978). The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Pantheon.
Interview with Benedict Anderson. ’We Study Empires As We Do Dinosaurs:’ Nations, Nationalism, and Empire in a Critical Perspective. Ab Imperio. 2003. Vol. 3. pp. 57-73.
R.B.J. Walker. On the Immanence/Imminence of Empire. Millennium: Jour nal of International Studies. 2002. Vol. 31, No. 2. pp. 337-345.
Reid, Julien (2006). ‘Logistical Life: War, Discipline, and the Martial Ori gins of Liberal Societies’ In: Reid, Julien (2006) The Biopolitics of the War on Terror. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 17-39.
Notes to pages 260-263:
1 Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio. Empire (2000). Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp. 90.
2 R.B.J. Walker. On the Immanence/Imminence of Empire. Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 2002. Vol. 31, No. 2. pp. 339.
3 Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio. Empire (2000). Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. xii.
4 Interview with Benedict Anderson. ’We Study Empires As We Do Di nosaurs:’ Nations, Nationalism, and Empire in a Critical Perspective. Ab Imperio. 2003. Vol. 3. pp. 72.
5 Foucault, Michel (1978) The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Pantheon. pp. 262-263.
6 Reid, Julien (2006) ‘Logistical Life: War, Discipline, and the Martial Origins of Liberal Societies’ In: Reid, Julien (2006) The Biopolitics of the War on Terror. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 18.
7 Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio. Empire (2000). Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp. 186-188.
8 R.B.J. Walker. On the Immanence/Imminence of Empire. Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 2002. Vol. 31, No. 2. pp. 343-344.
9 Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio. Empire (2000). Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pp. 395.
10 R.B.J. Walker. On the Immanence/Imminence of Empire. Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 2002. Vol. 31, No. 2. pp. 344.