Only a Network Can Save Us Now

The Multitude and its Discontents

Stephanie Polsky


In the recent volume Multitude, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri introduce readers to a new political entity, the multitude, whose appearance signals not only the advent of a new global order in the form of Empire (the subject of Hardt and Negri's previous work), but also inaugurates the possibility of democracy for all the nations of the world. The capabilities and potential of the multitude are bound up with the singularities of the individual, as opposed to their race, gender, sexuality or class which have been traditionally used as the basis for common interest formulating a political activity. The multitude is not based on these discrete categorical groups acting in common, but rather on 'singularities acting in common.'1 As such 'the multitude is the only social subject capable of realising democracy, that is the rule of everyone by everyone.'2 From the outset Hardt and Negri assert that 'the project of the multitude not only expresses the desire for a world of equality and freedom, not only demands an open and inclusive democratic society, but also provides a means for achieving it.'3 Therein Multitude announces itself as not just as a social project, but also as a political manifesto and a revolutionary blueprint.

In an attempt to assess the merits of Hardt and Negri's Multitude I will look at the way they contrast the image of the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements with the tactics used by terrorists groups such as Al-Qaeda. This comparison exists mostly as a disavowal of terrorism and its aims. I question why they may be interested in using terrorism as an iconic foil in their prescriptions of how to oppose resistance to sovereign authority and how to intervene on the workings of biopower. Another image in their book I will address is that of political monstrosity. Hardt and Negri put forth the idea that the flesh of the multitude is monstrous insofar as it appears 'unformed and unordered.'4 Moreover, the political appearance of the multitude as monstrous has become symptomatic not only of the dissolution of an old society but also signals the formation of a new one.5 I will question what the appearance of the multitude as such a monstrosity means for the present and future of political strategy so vastly integrated with the promotion of sovereign affect and biopolitical production, as evidenced by the current war on terrorism. Finally I would like to touch upon the religious imagery in the book. In particular, I am interested in the allegories of Judeo-Christian exorcism and exodus that Hardt and Negri rely upon to illustrate the struggle of the multitude to free itself from the obligation of materiality and in this way inaugurate the common basis for 'the rule of everyone by everyone.' I will contrast this with Michel Foucault's investigations of the use of history by political entities in the volume of lectures Society Must be Defended. I will use Foucault's work in order to demonstrate how similar forms of historical imagery of oppression, uprising, and exodus aided the bourgeoisie in its contestation of sovereign rule and also formed the basis for Marx and Engels' writing on class struggle.6

My argument throughout will be that Hardt and Negri's Multitude is a redux of Marxism for a postmodern audience. As such it does little more than substitute one spectre for another in attempting to account for what is haunting the European political conscience. Instead of a materialist historiography of the struggle of the oppressed, we get an immaterialist historiography of the struggle of the oppressed. Moreover, despite their contention that the poor (included within this category are the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed and migrants) are a source of great creativity and productivity amongst the ranks of the multitude, and that 'no social line divides productive from unproductive workers,' only some of their activities, such as participation in the global protest movement, are paternalistically endorsed here.7 Others, such as the tactics of the suicide bombers, are condemned without full intellectual account of their motivations and intentions. One is reminded here of Benjamin's criticism of Social Democracy in the Theses on the Philosophy of History, when he reminds us that

Social Democracy thought fit to assign the working class the role of redeemer of future generations, in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.8

In the end the old Marxist solution remains unchanged. The (global) aristocracy is the class that must be violently overthrown so that the struggling classes beneath them can establish themselves as the new and just universal and, in turn, finally liberate all members of society. A new image of historical thought does not seem to figure in here, nor necessarily a radically new concept of how to inaugurate an age of democracy. What it does offer is the revival of an older dream of a communism not yet fully realised into political practice. What emerges from this reverie is an image of multitude that is fighting a war for political legitimacy on more than one front. The consequence this war holds great portent for the way in which we view the war on terror from the perspective of class warfare and the ongoing narrative of counterhistory dating back from the mid-eighteenth century. It is a narrative that runs concurrent with the inauguration of biopower as the chief instrument of State sovereignty. What we may have here is not a war to decide the future but rather one to decide the past, in the return of medieval race wars as opposed to perpetuated campaigns of State racism. Should that be the case, Hardt and Negri's multitude would be in the position of rear guard to forging a history of globalisation wherein we return to a narrative of history similar to that of ancient Rome. This sets the course for a new version of history of where we - under the rubric of Empire - are all in principle brothers in arms.

Each revolution must have its object of insurrection and for Hardt and Negri this is the global state of war. The multitude will be about 'a war against war.'9 We are told that 'war has always been incompatible with democracy'. Its inability to be assimilated into the democratic body politic justifies its annihilation as _the _enemy of democracy.10 All people can and must be recruited toward this action for the war against war to be waged and won. The battleground for waging insurrection is the new arena of biopolitics which includes within it 'all facets of social life, economic, cultural, and political' which are produced by it.11 This new arena of biopolitics is complemented by new forms of immaterial production, including the production of ideas, images, knowledges, communication, cooperation and affective relationships, which when combined in their orchestration tend 'to create not the means of social life, but social life itself.'12 According to Hardt and Negri, the new type of 'biopolitical production and its expansion into the common is one strong pillar on which stands the possibility of global democracy today.'13 Moreover, through the expansion of these new networked social economics, 'democracy on a global scale is becoming an increasingly widespread demand, sometimes explicit, but often implicit in the innumerable grievances and resistances against the current political order.'14

Another political faction claims to have heard that same explicit, or perhaps more likely implicit demand. That group is comprised of U.S. leaders and members of what Hardt and Negri refer to as the 'global aristocracies,' defined as multinational corporations, supranational institutions, other dominant nation-states, and powerful non-state actors.'15 These are the parties who fight another war, but in the same biopolitical arena of battle. What I am referring to of course is the 'war on terrorism.' This faction promotes a global state of war 'that would have to extend throughout the world and continue for an indefinite period, perhaps decades of generations.'16 Hardt and Negri class this is as a war 'to create and maintain social order,' as such it 'can have no end.'17 They describe 'the war on terrorism is a regime aimed at nearly complete social control, which some authors describe as the move from the welfare state to the warfare state. Evidence of society's deterioration can be found in its 'diminishing civil liberties and increasing rates of incarceration,' which 'are in certain respects a manifestation of constant social war.'18 For the society under such profound social control, 'war must become a procedural activity and an ordering, regulative activity that creates and maintains social hierarchies as a form of biopower aimed at the promotion and regulation of social life.'19 Herein war emerges as something continuous with other mundane functionalities of everyday life.

Postmodern warfare such as this, however, cannot remain limited to the boundaries of nation-states if it is to fulfil its aim of totality. Rather it must involve itself not only in the maintenance of its own nation, but also in the building of others. 'This notion of nation building reveals, on one hand, that the nation has become something purely contingent, fortuitous, or as philosophers would say, accidental...on the other hand nations are absolutely necessary as elements of global power and security.'20 This paradox lends itself to the idea that war can be found simultaneously both in and outside of the bounds of the nation-states, and that other parties who are supranational can now be involved in its waging through various nodes of contingency. This paradoxical situation also applies to who wages it, and thus

the new [biopolitical] soldier must not only be able to kill but also to be able to dictate for the conquered populations the cultural, legal, political and security norms of life. It should come as no surprise, then, that the body and brain of such a soldier, who incorporates the range of activities of biopower, must be preserved at all costs. That soldier represents an intense accumulation of social labour, a value commodity.21

The same is true of his civilian cohort the immaterial labourer. This figure is involved in the promotion of new forms of biopolitical life through enactment of immaterial labour practices that make the premise of immateriality profitable. Practically speaking, this takes place through the sale of ideas, images, knowledges, as well as through communication, cooperation and affective relationships maintained between governments, universities and corporations. This type of economic solider is formed out of 'the contemporary scene of labour and production,' which is increasingly comprised of immaterial labour, 'that is, labour that produces immaterial products, such as information, knowledges, ideas, images, relationships and affects.'22 Whilst such immaterial work only constitutes a small percentage of the global whole, 'the qualities and characteristics of immaterial production are tending to transform other forms of labour and indeed society as a whole.'23 Immaterial labour has unique advantages over other types of labour insofar as it is able to engage and transform all aspects of society by the unbounded nature of its productivity beyond the scope of mere economics. Furthermore, its collaborative tendency fosters the development of social networks of all kinds. The result is a new social orientation through which ordinary individuals can mount, for the first time, a 'war against war' that will result in 'equality and freedom' for all.24 The evidence of the unprecedented power of this burgeoning multitude can be witnessed through the birth of new cultures of protest and demonstration that continue to emerge throughout the world to challenge sovereign authority.

Hardt and Negri point to the new international cycle of protest against the egregious practice of global capitalism in the late 1990s as evidence of a growing political movement:

The coming out party of this new cycle of struggles were the protests at the WTO Summit in Seattle in 1999...the riots against the IMF austerity programs, in one country, protests against the world bank in another and demonstrations against NAFTA in a third were all revealed as elements of a common cycle of struggles.25

They class 'the coordinated protests against the US-led war in Iraq on February 15, 2003,' as 'the pinnacle of this cycle of struggles, at least in quantitative terms, thus far.'26 Nothing is mentioned of the failure of this strategy of mass demonstration to influence any of the world leaders who had formerly committed themselves to the US-led coalition. There seems to be a monologic to this strategy that is too easily managed by the ruling powers, the police and judges who have seen this strategy employed time and again in post World War II protest movements. That these tactics are now globally linked as opposed to nationally linked says more about trends in media coverage and information distribution techniques than it does the political might of these strategies. Meanwhile we are instructed time and again by media outlets to think globally and act locally so much so as to become a consumerist cliché.

Hardt and Negri try to draw novelty from the events of the 1999 Seattle protests by expounding upon the virtues of cooperation between previously oppositional groups:

what most puzzled observers was that groups previously thought to be in opposition to each other - trade unionist and environmentalists, church groups and anarchists and so forth - acted together without any central, unifying structure that subordinates or sets asides their differences.27

Nonetheless, the very fact that individuals came to participate in these protests under the rubric of being trade-unionists, or environmentalists, etc. and thus were organised in that fashion, demonstrates a level of political unity and hierarchisation in which individual differences must be set aside or subordinated in order to conform to the appearance of traditional political constituency. Had people come to the protest merely as interested parties and spontaneously formed collectives during the events based on issues raised within them, such cooperation would match up much more closely with the definition of multitude as a new form of political organisation. As it was, there was a central organising structure in place, the convention of organising protest itself in the form of highly visible demonstrations. We must ask ourselves is this really the best way to combat a form of globalisation whose tactics have abandoned centralisation altogether in favour of networked and nodal economies of operation?

Hardt and Negri point out that 'many media commentators, in fact, especially those who felt most threatened by these movements, were quick after the September 11 attacks to equate the monstrosity of the globalisation protest movements with the monstrosity of the terrorists attacks: they both use violent means to attack the ruling power structure.'28 I agree with Hardt and Negri, that 'it is absurd, of course to equate the violence of breaking the windows of McDonald's at a demonstration with the violence of murdering nearly three thousand people' in the World Trade Centre attacks.29 The problem here is the emphasis on violence as the key feature that unites or divides these political movements. Instead, the emphasis should be placed on a comparative analysis of organisational structures, which Hardt and Negri themselves provide through the following series of contrasts drawn between the globalisation struggle and Al-Qaeda.

The new global cycle of struggles is a mobilization of the common that takes the form of an open, distributed network, in which no center exerts control and all nodes express themselves freely. Al Qaeda, experts say, is also a network, but a network with the opposite characteristics: a clandestine network with a strict hierarchy and a central figure of command. Finally the goals too are diametrically opposed. Al-Qaeda attacks the global political body in order to resuscitate older regional social and political bodies under the control of religious authority, whereas the globalisation struggle challenges the political body in order to create a freer, more democratic global world. Clearly, not all monsters are the same.30

What interests me here is the tacit connection Hardt and Negri are willing to make between the globalisation struggle and Al-Qaeda, an organisation most new political movements would do anything to disavow themselves from associatively during the time when this book was being written. They acknowledge both as political movements based around a formative network, but claim that they have opposite characteristics in terms of leadership and initiative. Oddly, they classify both networks as monstrosities, wherein one monster viciously attacks whilst the other merely challenges the global order, wherein one fights for a return to sovereign divine rule, the other protests for a future expansion of democracy.

One here is reminded of another pair of competing monstrosities: Frankenstein, which stood allegorically before us at the turn of the eighteenth century when biopower was first on the rise, and Dracula, which stood allegorically before us at the turn of the nineteenth century when biopolitics was introduced to all regulate aspects of life. Frankenstein allegorises the disaster resulting from the hubris and excesses of industrial capitalism, unregulated biological experimentation and the costs to society of a scientific positivism gone unchecked in the administration of State function. Dracula allegorises the persistence of medieval empire, the cruelty of blood rites, ancient aristocracy, and the perceived strict hierarchies of Eastern society. One monster challenges, whilst the other attacks the society that fosters its necessity to appear in the first place. In the end Frankenstein discovers that his (colonial) maker is dead, afterward he chooses to exile himself from the social model of which he is part(s). Dracula is hunted down by a group of Westerners, decapitated and stabbed through the heart. He turns into the very dust and sand his kingdom was purportedly built upon.

In the twenty-first century versions of these monster tales, both figures have become smarter, and instead of trying to go it alone to overthrow the capitalist master classes, they take on extensive networks wherein it may be possible to revisit such grim outcomes upon their oppressors. Those formerly 'excluded from the pretext of "everyone," that is to say women, the non-white, the property-less and negated others'31 will rise again to aid the ranks of monstrosity. For the globalisation struggle they are culled from the ranks of 'high school outcasts, sexual deviants, freaks, survivors of pathological families, and so forth...'32 For Al-Qaeda they are culled from the economically and/or culturally dispossessed postcolonial communities of Europe, religious extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Islamic students studying abroad in the West, and the Sunni aristocracy of a number of Arabic nations. Hardt and Negri are right they when they say not all monsters are alike. But that is not so significant an observation. More importantly, they point out, 'the monsters begin to form new, alternative, networks of affection and social organisation from where to draw influence and change the course of Western democracy.'33

One network seems to have the upper hand in terms of that influence after September 11th. Hardt and Negri note that 'After September 11, 2001, and the subsequent war on terrorism, all the protests against the global system were trumped by the global state of war.'34 This statement leaves one with the impression that Hardt and Negri have pointedly omitted the possibility that Al-Qaeda's attack on the World Trade Centre was also a form of protest against the global system. Albeit one that murderously departed from the rulebook of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest previously prescribed by US activists in their attempt to topple the World Trade Organization in 1999. The significance of the target's similarity can in no way be omitted if we are to take the concept of network seriously as a viable means to either challenge or attack the global system. The target in both instances, regardless of strategy, is the coupled relationship of capitalism to democracy that has created so much colonial and neocolonial hardship over the last two hundred years it has reigned supreme in the world.

Hardt and Negri lament that as a result of Al-Qaeda's actions 'in many countries it became almost impossible to protest because police presence at demonstrations became much larger and more brutal in the name of anti-terrorism.'35 Police brutality in this case says more about the terrorising tactics the global system resorts to when put under pressure by its normally docile citizenry than anything about the tactics of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. They add that 'against the suffering of war the various grievances seemed to fade into the background and lose their urgency.'36 This reads like a case of sour grapes. Surely the 9/11 attacks and America's subsequently devised 'war on terrorism' raised serious concerns over the security logic of a unipolar world and highlighted the economic and political inequities of such a system that ultimately raised sympathy for the anti-globalisation cause. It motivated ordinary people, rather than established left-leaning groups, to choose to join the global anti-war movement that was a direct offspring of the anti-globalisation movement, garnering sympathy for the combined movements amongst a large cross section of the global public. Those ordinary people experienced, many for the first time, the menacing stance of the police in ways that had largely before only been the purview of regular demonstrators and protesters, and created an urgency in public opinion for the first time in decades. This perhaps is the real significance of the multitude's appearance, as a spontaneous movement toward issue and not group-based politics, wherein the goal is not so much a lofty expectation of democracy to spring from the ruins of global capital, but rather for global poverty and economic inequity to be the grievance shared amongst all as the fundamental grievance of our times - regardless of one's network affiliations. Only then can terror stop being the exclusive trademark of the economically dispossessed, and rights to its use start to be rightfully charged to other elite political players, through the negotiation of war reparation and political-theological justice.

To prove further just how absurd it is for the anti-globalisation activists to see themselves as some kind of ideological victims of terrorism, we need only to review their goals for achieving democracy. They assert that 'democracy must use violence only to pursue political goals,' that 'violence must only be used in defense,' and finally that 'any democratic use of violence add a critique of arms, that is a reflection of what weapons today are effective and appropriate.'37 Surely the US coalition forces and Al-Qaeda would wholeheartedly endorse such a list of criteria. Whether it is in the aid of democracy or some other form of political organisation becomes irrelevant, if both the anti-globalisation movement and Al-Qaeda have in mind some revolutionary overthrow of the present global system that relies on violence as the basic necessity for achieving its aims. What is more, ideological violence, or biopolitical weaponry, are far from neutral or peaceful tactics of power sharing, despite their being less explicitly tied to death than the use of biopower. In the end 'radical insurrectional demand' cannot be easily coupled with 'love' for thy neighbour.38 This is a form of political dishonesty that attempts to cover over the fact of political tyranny. It is an act of violence, 'to be struck down by the violence of the powerful' if it is done solely for the purpose of testimony against that oppressor.39 It does not, as Hardt and Negri would like to believe, 'offer the possibility of a new world,' nor some 'byproduct of political action' that can be politically resuscitated in the future, but rather represents something no better than the futility of the suicide bomber who dreams of a paradise to come by leaving the constraints and injustices of this world behind.40 We must deal with this world as it is, not through the revolutionary conceit of a better world to come, once we get finished with destroying the vestiges of this one.

What Hardt and Negri refer to as the 'new world of the monster,' is not, according to what they say, 'the place where humanity has to grasp the future.'41 Furthermore it is not wisest to 'exceed the measure of any traditional social bodies' before we fully appreciate what they can do.42 Indeed, how can we be certain that the new productive flesh of Hardt and Negri's multitude is any less prone 'to chaos and social disorder' than Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in his artificial anatomy to create a new mankind, or Bram Stoker's Dracula in his couplings with Mina to create a new legion of vampires?43 Did not Dr. Frankenstein long to create commonality with his monster creation? One that would serve 'as the basis for future production in a spiral, expansive relationship?'44 Hardt and Negri forcefully assert that 'we need to use the monstrous expression of the multitude to challenge the mutations of artificial life transformed into commodities, the capitalist power to put up for sale the metamorphoses of nature, the new eugenics that support the ruling power.'45 Should such a challenge be successful? How can we ensure the ruling power of everyone by everyone will not create a zone of exclusion within itself between the organic and artificial life when life such as which still persists in having a negative value, if no longer an actual price?

Demonic Bargaining.

Hardt and Negri concede the 'multitude has a dark side,' a taint of immoral association with the undead and profaned life.46 They refer to the well-known New Testament parable of the Gerasene Demoniac, utilising it to throw some light on 'the demonic face of the multitude.'47

In the parable Jesus comes across a man possessed by devils and asks him his name, as this is required for him to perform an exorcism of him. The demoniac responses enigmatically, "My name is Legion; for we are the many." The devils ask Jesus to send them from the man into a herd of pigs, the pigs, now possessed rush off a cliff and drown in the water below in a mass suicide. The man now free of the devils, sits gratefully at the feet of Jesus.48

Hardt and Negri explain that the threat of the demoniac is metaphysical in nature. Since it is both singular and plural, it destroys the numerical distinction itself. Moreover, it is a threat to the political order, as political thought since the time of the ancients has been based upon distinctions between the one, the few and the many. The demoniac multitude, we are told, violates all such distinctions.49 It is both one and many. But then it could be argued that the term 'legion' on which this definition of modern multitude is based did have a definite numeric component of both the one and the many in when used in ancient societies like Rome to connote 'a military unit of about six thousand men,' to quote Hardt and Negri's own definition.50 Despite this, they continue to argue that 'the indefinite number of the multitude threatens all the principles of order' and 'moreover such trickery is the devil's work.'51 Numbers, in themselves, traditionally are used as systems of ordering, and the calculation of great quantities of anything only shores up their worth and validity. This is particularly true when undertaking the build up of political and military structures to control and give shape to populations. Certainly trickery does not figure here, but rather a cunning manipulation of a plurality of numbered bodies into a unified fighting force.

For Hardt and Negri 'the multitude....is legion,' because 'it is composed of innumerable elements that remain different from one another, and yet communicate, collaborate and act in common.'52 This may be said too of the Roman Legion. What is really demonic here is not the fact that the multitude as legion is being reckoned to a military-style operation. Rather what is demoniac is not a numerical factor at all, but a disavowal of the characteristics of one legion in making possible the creation of another.

The man is not 'Legion' in himself, he only becomes legion insofar as he has allowed the devils to invade and take possession of his sovereign body. In giving Jesus his name, he has brought in a sovereign proxy to fight his battles for him. In doing so, he is not the one with the power to negotiate life and death; rather it is the devils who cut a deal with his sovereign proxy Jesus, who request exile from the body of the man into the body of a herd of pigs. Here, what is significant is that the many devils need many pigs to follow through a pact of mass suicide made possible by Jesus' agreement to their request for a demotion in bodily rank from man to animal. Legion does not anywhere figure into the bargain of how their death will ultimately be met. Legion rather was the discrete vessel of life through which the devils, in uncertain numbers, could all persist in being. By contrast in enacting death upon the devils, Jesus must locate an equal number of bodies to account for their material losses.

As the one man left standing, Legion is granted pardon, presumably by Jesus, to whom he expresses his gratitude at the end of the parable, but in fact it is the devils-as-pigs that have sacrificed themselves so that he alone and as a man may persist in living. In the end it is Jesus who took possession of the life of many animals to preserve the life of one human, whereas before the devils took possession of the life of one human to preserve the life of many animals, or rather perhaps better put, sub-humans in the form of devils. There may be confusion when it comes to numerical distinctions on this issue, but there can be no confusion when it comes to distinctions in ranking life. Although the man and the devils are originally acknowledged by Legion as being of the same multitudal entity, clearly do not share the same value internally. Rather the man is always in a position of superiority based on his blood rites to the body, the devils by contrast have merely invaded temporarily and seized possession of something that was not theirs to begin with, placing them in an inferior position of occupation.

It takes another sovereign power, Jesus, to intercede to banish these infidels and return to Legion's body its seemly contour. In the process a sacrifice must be made and a bargain is struck to allow the devils the option of exile, but also ritual sacrifice as a means of preserving their honour as failed aggressors. They request to conduct this sacrifice not as devils but as pigs, as beings more degraded then themselves. This is why the real threat of the multitude is metaphysical: since it is at once material and immaterial, its destroys the distinction between life substance and life form in the threat to the corporeal order thought, which has, since the time of the ancients, been based on distinctions amongst the body, the soul, and the spirit.

The demoniac sacrifice violates all such corporeal distinctions because the devils possess none of these characteristics in and of themselves and yet are still compelled to perish from the earth by Jesus in the form of suicide, an act that can only - it is believed by Christ's followers - result in damnation and thus the act would be something of a redundancy for the devils. This situation assumes that the devils were followers of Christ and were natural bodies created in the image of God.

What Hardt and Negri propose however, is that the multitude of devils is not made of natural flesh, but rather 'a kind of social flesh, a flesh that is not a body, a flesh that is common, living substance.'53 Flesh such as this, that is common and not divine in origin, social and not natural in derivation, is created in tandem with the image of man as a kind of fallen creature. It is in this sense that the multitude is not a graven image of God, but a profane image of mankind. What constitutes its 'flesh is not matter, it is not mind, is not substance.'54 It is a virtual rather than actual entity. Hardt and Negri describe

The flesh of the multitude [as] pure potential, an unformed life force, and in this sense an element of social being, aimed constantly at the fullness of life. From this ontological perspective, the flesh of the multitude is an elemental power that continuously expands social being, producing an excess of every traditional political-economic measure of value.55

It is no wonder that Jesus as God's sovereign body on earth cannot contain such elemental power for long. 'From the perspective of political order and control, then, the elemental flesh of the multitude is maddeningly elusive, since it cannot be entirely corralled into the hierarchical organs of the political body.'56 So much for the scenario with the pigs.

The martyrdom Hardt and Negri go to pains to explain has at least two social guises, 'which in various religious traditions can be divided into two primary forms. The one form of martyrdom, which is exemplified by the suicide bomber, poses martyrdom as a response of destruction, including self-destruction, to an act of injustice.'57 To participate in this form of martyrdom would be to mimic the actions of the devils when they offer to commit suicide when forced to leave the body of Legion that they have formerly possessed. The multitude - in this case Legion himself - practices a type of martyrdom that 'is completely different.'58 In this form of martyrdom, 'the martyr does not seek destruction but is rather struck down by the violence of the powerful,'59 in the same way that Legion comes to be possessed by a multitude of devils. Martyrdom in this form we are told,

...is really a kind of testimony - testimony not so much to the injustices of power, but the possibility of a new world, an alternative not to that specific destructive power but to every such power. The entire republican tradition from the heroes of Plutarch to Martin Luther is based on this second form of martyrdom. This martyrdom is really an act of love...60

Through such comments, martyrdom based on proto-Christian or Christian religious belief takes on the principle associations of generative power, truth, and love. By implication the other martyrdom based on other 'various religious traditions' takes on the principle associations of destructive power, falsehood and hate. Through an act of testimony to Jesus, in telling him his name and allowing exorcism to relieve him of his bodily possession, Legion opens himself up to the possibility of a new body. This is not something that arrives through divine intervention, but as a by-product of divine intervention and the reactions of the devils against it. The devils do not employ testimony, but rather ask Jesus to aid in a sentence they have already agreed to carry out upon themselves.

This produces at least two classes of martyrs, if we include Jesus, the sovereign, amongst the ranks. Those who are saved by Jesus through the act of exorcism are appropriate martyrs. Those who sacrifice themselves are inappropriate martyrs. Finally there are those in the position to arbitrate that stand above both ranks and are the subject of gratitude for their mercy or resented for their cruelty depending on one's inclusion in one or the other rank. Today Hardt and Negri, amongst many others, divide the multitude into such ranks of appropriate and inappropriate martyrs. The People versus the people. According to Giorgio Agamben,

it is as if what we call "people" were in reality not a unitary subject, but an oscillation between opposite poles: on one hand the set of the People as a whole political body, and on the other a subset of people as a fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies; or again an inclusion that claims to be total, and on the other hand an exclusion that is totally hopeless; at one extreme the total state of integrated, sovereign citizens, and on the other, the preserve ... of the wretched, the oppressed, and the defeated.61

The "people" are individuals who for whatever reason have been stripped of human dignity or societal rank. In Agamben's definition, the "people" is what in essence is lacking to itself and that whose realisation therefore coincides with its own abolition, it is what must, together with its opposite, negate itself in order to be.'62 He concludes that, 'in this sense our age is nothing but the implacable and methodical attempt to overcome the division dividing the people, to eliminate radically the people that are excluded.'63 How this exclusion is carried out has changed radically in recent decades

thanks to the coupling of the life and information sciences.' What has emerged in the wake of their joining according are 'the outlines of a cybernetic eugenicism which owes nothing to the politics of nations... everything, absolutely everything, to science --economic technoscience in which demands of the commercialisation of the whole of living matter, and the privatization of the genetic heritage of humanity.64

In this present era of globalisation, this outcome concurs with Derrida's assertion that

the relationship between earth, terra, territory, and terror has changed, and it is necessary to know that this is because of knowledge, that is, because of technoscience. It is technoscience that blurs the distinction between war and terrorism.65


It becomes necessary to appreciate that it does so coupled with commercialisation and privatisation of warfare. The blurring of distinctions has its erring based in a nationalistic mentality of the nation, which in the era of globalisation extends itself outward to include the temporary manufacture of a nation at any instance whatever, to contain elements of society that may need to be excluded at any one time.

In order to understand the significance of current biopolitical events we must examine the phenomenological subjects that have born out the West's current and potential political strategies carried out in the Middle East and elsewhere. What these political strategies have in common is an enactment of perpetual violence against those who are already not quite living, that is living in a state of suspension between life and death, and experience, as a consequence of a series of prior wars, colonial wars, the war on communism, the war on drugs and the war on poverty, all of which have left a legion of collateral damage in their wake, which according to Judith Butler, 'leaves a mark that is no mark; yet impresses itself in other significant ways upon the body.'66

The suicide bomber in today's biopolitical context stands as a figure that appears to have acceded to his own demise, and denied his dignity, not before Allah, but before Jesus, the figure for which the notion of dignity was first conceived. Dignity was initially understood as a second mystical body, stemming from 'Christ's divine person' which 'doubles his human body.'67 The suicide bomber is a figure who is deprived of all dignity, rank or function, meaning 'that he is merely human - and for this reason, non-human.'68 As such he exists under a status of persistent negation, in a kind of ontological no-man's land.

Hardt and Negri characterise the status of suicide bomber, as 'the ontological limit of biopower in its most tragic and revolting form' and judge his destructive action as something that 'only grasps the passive, negative limit of sovereign power.'69 The passivity of this act is put under question at a later stage when Hardt and Negri reason that whilst the sovereign power may hold the absolute weapon against bodies, nuclear weaponry, at his disposal, these weapons 'become neutralised when confronted by the voluntary and absolute negation of the body posed by the suicide bombers.'70 It may be indisputable that the body is negated in the suicide bomber's struggle to challenge sovereignty. What is disputable is Hardt and Negri's contention that this suicidal act, which challenges the sovereign power to exercise power over life and death - so much so that renders it useless - is altogether passive in its expression. This may have been the case in an earlier historical period where the sovereign was still reigning in aid of divine power, and 'death was the moment when we made the transition from one divine power -that of the sovereign of this world - to another - that of the sovereign of the next world ... who would decree upon us eternal life or eternal damnation' as he saw fit.71 Michel Foucault, however, contends that today in the era of modern biopower wherein all biopolitical initiatives are meant to intervene to improve life, death has been 'moved outside the power relationship.'72 Whereas under the previous right of sovereignty, death was the moment of the most spectacular manifestation of the absolute power of the sovereign; death now becomes in contrast, the moment when the individual escapes power, falls back upon himself and retreats, so to speak into his own privacy. Power no longer recognises death. Power literally ignores death.73

It is within this retreat to the personal privacy that the suicide bomber hopes, on one hand, to gain recognition of the previous kind of sovereignty, the bestowal of eternal life in a divine paradise. On the other, he wishes to intervene upon the present kind of sovereignty's rules of engagement, in such a way as to reveal their inherent hypocrisy. His voluntary disposal of his own body disrupts the workings of one major technique of biopower which is 'disciplinary and centres on the body, produces individualising effects, and manipulates the body as a source of forces that have to be rendered both useful and docile.'74 The fact this disposal is carried out so as to inflict death and destruction in such a way that will effect potentially large numbers of people around him disrupts the workings of a second major technology of biopower that is centred not upon the body but life: a technology that brings together the mass effects characteristic of a population which tries to control the series of random events that can occur in a living mass, a technology which tries to predict the probability of those events (by modifying them if necessary), or at least compensate for their effects.'75

Such compensation takes the form of lament by military officials of 'the very idea of terror, claiming the weak will react to the asymmetry of power' symbolised by the very body of the suicide bomber 'to employ new, easily transportable weapons against large innocent populations.'76 Furthermore, they will argue that, 'it will allow those in control to consolidate their power, claiming to unite their power in the name of humanity.'77 In following this line of rhetoric, the suicide bomber emerges as the embodiment of random violence, 'the dark opposite' of the honourable soldier, and 'the gory doppelganger of the safe bodyless war,' the Western military has been determined to carry out since the time of the first surgical strikes of the Gulf War. Hardt and Negri suggest that the horrible practice of suicide bombing 'might be understood as the manifestation of a contradiction in the technologist view of the new bodyless war... That contradiction is found in the definition of a bodyless war being based on the elimination of casualties only on the U.S. side. Enemy bodies are certainly meant to die (and increasingly enemy casualties, civilians and military, are not reported or even calculated).78 Such an attitude to asymmetrical conflict has made not only made 'counterinsurgency a full-time job,' but also made the act of dying in war more mercenary than ever.79

Foucault asks us to consider 'How can the power of death, the function of death, be exorcised in a political system centred on biopower?'80 At this point racism must intervene 'primarily as a way of introducing a break into the domain of life that is under power's control...and separating out groups that exist with a population.'81 From Hardt and Negri's perspective this situation of power quickly translates back to the relationship of race to war 'In order to live, you must destroy your enemies,' or is presented in its updated biopolitical form as the racist, 'If you want to live, the other must die.'82 The latter incitement to racism certainly features in U.S. moralising around today's asymmetrical conflicts in Iraq and Iran, which are still implicitly played out as a clash of civilisations. The former incitement to race division, on the other hand, is something tacitly adopted by the rhetoric of the multitude.

Such race distinctions creep into Hardt and Negri's argument at times where the political action of insurgency groups are rejected out of hand, in favourable comparison to the political activism of the multitude, classified time and again as a particular caesura of the population: those involved with the new immaterial form of labour. The producers of this new form of labour are said to reveal, by contrast, 'the positive active limit' of 'sovereign power with respect to labour and social production.'83 They achieve this 'by forcing it to negotiate a vital relationship with the ruled and solicit its consent in the economic sphere.'84 Their weapon is not the counterproductive one of suicide, but rather 'the refusal to accept their position of servitude and subtract themselves from the relationship.'85 That labour increasingly denies itself this authority says a great deal about sovereign power's ability at this time in history to 'exert hegemony over its subjects, generating in them not only fear but also reverence, dedication and obedience through a form of power that is soft and supple' in comparison to 'the hard but brittle' power of military occupation.86 Hardt and Negri would counter that 'even when labour is subjugated by capital it always maintains its own autonomy and this is never more clearly true than today with respect to the new immaterial cooperative, and collaborative forms of labour.'87 What this argument ignores are the practices of all those for whom inclusion into the capitalist system does not present a viable option, even at the lowest and most menial levels of the workplace. This is the case because their national economies have been utterly destroyed by conditions associated with territorial invasion and military occupation. For many, these [other] multitudes 'that are not peoples or nations or even communities are one more instance of the insecurity and chaos that has resulted from the collapse of the modern social order' despite the fact that they are victim to it.88 For many onlookers in the West their appearance represents little more than

the social catastrophes of postmodernity, similar in their minds to the horrible results of genetic engineering gone wrong or the terrifying consequences of industrial, nuclear or ecological disasters. ...The monstrosity of the flesh is not a return to nature but a result of society, an artificial life

lived out amidst the spectre of unending war.89

Democracy may take 'the form of a subtraction, a flight, an exodus from sovereignty,' only if you happen to be from that class of chosen people from whom productive labour still remains a viable option.90 Hardt and Negri tell us that 'every exodus requires an active resistance, and must stage a rear guard war against the pursuing powers of sovereignty.'91 One is left to wonder what kind of stance it would make toward those it leaves behind in the process of fleeing. The type of exalted exodus that Hardt and Negri endorse is only the reserve of those with the resources to get away from the servitude of capitalist labour without making any mortal sacrifice, or blood shed. It is not an option available to all. Therefore it is questionable if a rule of 'everyone by everyone' can be achieved, if only the social relations of exile participants are factored in to forge the institutions of a new society.

Finally what we find in Hardt and Negri is a return to the revolutionary discourse of the nineteenth century in Europe 'on the side of history-as-demand, of history-as-insurrection.'92 This revolutionary project and the revolutionary idea gained meaning during the bourgeois uprisings of the eighteenth century. Hardt and Negri proposed it will now gain meaning again from the anti-global, anti-capital and anti-war uprisings of today, when pitted against the historicism of the sovereign and the global aristocracy.93 What emerges alongside the ascendancy of this new class, the multitude, is the desire to write a counterhistory to the global state of war, which includes within it, 'the twin and simultaneous declaration of war and rights.'94 At the same time it now 'finds itself being constrained by a biblical, almost Hebraic history, which, ever since the Middle Ages, has been the discourse of rebellion and prophecy, of knowledge and of the call for the violent overthrow of things.'95 This history rests upon a 'binary perception and division of society and men; them and us, the unjust and the just, the masters and those that obey them, the rich and the poor, the mighty and those who have to work in order to live, those who invade and those that tremble before them, the despots and the groaning people, the men of today's law and those of the homeland of the future.96

Early indications are that we may be returning to the model of the race war, as

'Europe becomes populated by memories and ancestors whose genealogy it has never before written.'97 From here, 'a very different historical consciousness emerges and is formulated through this discourse on race struggle and the call for its revival.98 This discourse is not one authored solely by the oppressed peoples, but also by various other parties. In working collaboratively as the multitude, they formulate an opposition to aristocratic power.

The goal of such discourse is to redress a historico-political divide and correct the disparity amongst races. The combined objective formed the foundation of revolution discourse in the late nineteenth century, and is set to re-emerge as the foundation for multitude's activity in the twenty-first. In a letter Marx wrote to Engels toward the end of his life in 1882, he comments, 'You know very well where we found our idea for the class struggle; we found it in the French historians who talked about the race struggle.'99 The historical consciousness of postmodernity is built upon the same foundation of revolution, promises and prophecies of future emancipation as was modernity with one added element that Hardt and Negri are eager to figure in: biopower.

The theme of historical war that aided the discourses of race and class struggle will be replaced by the theme of a war for existence wherein the great divide is figured in terms of biopower. Management and ownership over life is the determining factor of victory or defeat, not battle plan. This new class war will not take place in a binary society of two classes, but in one that is politically conjoined under the auspices of Empire.

Originally, 'the theme of the counterhistory of races was... that the State was necessarily unjust.'100 Today it is this same theme that is being taken up by Hardt and Negri in the project of multitude, echoing the way the race war was formerly used as a historico-political weapon against Roman sovereignty. In the intervening historical periods of medievalism and modernity the themes of race struggle and biological racism have come to stand in for the role counterhistory once performed. By the end of the nineteenth century racism had well and truly inverted revolutionary discourse, making of it

an antirevolutionary discourse in such a way as to preserve the sovereignty of the State through the introduction of new regulatory techniques based on new disciplinary and medical technologies that would monitor and control the life of the People in a more centralized fashion than ever before.101

This blocked the call for revolution that derived from the old discourse of struggles, interpretations, demands, and promises to such a great extent in Europe that it wasn't until the 1960s that this counterhistorical discourse would again emerge. Hardt and Negri maintain that today the experience of insurrection

is being rediscovered, so to speak, in the flesh of the multitude. It may be that insurrectional activity is no longer divided into stages, but develops simultaneously. As we will argue in the course of this book, resistance, exodus, the emptying out of the enemy's power, and the multitude's construction of a new society are one and the same process.102

Within the philosophy of history, a relation of simultaneity is born such that both classes of multitude must ask the same question, 'what is, in the present, the agent of the universal? What is it, in the present, that is the truth of the universal?'103 This concern is no doubt typical of our present historical consciousness and is no doubt bound up with the reappearance of this strain of counterhistory which presses us to further query: 'Is there anything more to history than the call for revolution? 'I would simply add this question: 'And what if Rome once more conquered the revolution?104


Notes

  1. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New York, Penguin p. 100.

  2. Ibid., p. 100\.
    

  3. Ibid.,p. xi.
    

  4. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  5. Ibid., p. 193\.
    

  6. Foucault, Michel. (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and Alessandro Fontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador.

  7. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New York,
    

    Penguin, pp 134-135.

  8. Benjamin, Walter. (1992) Illuminations, Ed. Hannah Arendt
    

    Trans. Harry Zohn, New York, Fontana Press, 252.

  9. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New York,
    

    Penguin, p. 67.

  10. Ibid., xi.
    

  11. Ibid., p. xiv.
    

  12. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New York,
    

    Penguin p. 146.

  13. Ibid., p. xiv.
    

  14. Ibid.p. xvi.
    

  15. Ibid., p. 320\.
    

  16. Ibid., p. 14\.
    

  17. Ibid., p. 14\.
    

  18. Ibid., p. 17\.
    

  19. Ibid., p. 21\.
    

  20. Ibid., p. 23\.
    

  21. Ibid.,p. 44\.
    

  22. Ibid., p. 65\.
    

  23. Ibid., p. 65\.
    

  24. Ibid., p. 67\.
    

  25. Ibid.,p. 213\.
    

  26. Ibid.,p. 213\.
    

  27. Ibid.,p. 217\.
    

  28. Ibid., p. 218\.
    

  29. Ibid., p. 218\.
    

  30. Ibid., p. 218\.
    

  31. Ibid., p. 241\.
    

  32. Ibid., p. 193\.
    

  33. Ibid., p. 193\.
    

  34. Ibid., p. 284\.
    

  35. Ibid., p. 284\.
    

  36. Ibid., p. 284\.
    

  37. Ibid., p. 342\.
    

  38. Ibid., p. 358\.
    

  39. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  40. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  41. Ibid., p. 196\.
    

  42. Ibid., p. 196\.
    

  43. Ibid., p. 196
    

  44. Ibid., p. 196\.
    

  45. Ibid., p. 196\.
    

  46. Ibid., p. 138\.
    

  47. Ibid., p. 138\.
    

  48. Ibid., p. 138\.
    

  49. Ibid., p. 138-139\.
    

  50. Ibid. p. 138\.
    

  51. Ibid., p. 139\.
    

  52. Ibid., p. 139\.
    

  53. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  54. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  55. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  56. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  57. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  58. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  59. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  60. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  61. Agamben, Giorgio (1998). _Homo Sacer_ (trans) Daniel
    

    Heller-Roazen, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998 pp. 177-178.

  62. Ibid., p. 178
    

  63. Ibid., p. 177\.
    

  64. Virilio, Paul (2000). _The Information Bomb _(trans) Chris
    

    Turner London: Verso p. 132.

  65. Borradori, Giovanna (2003). _Philosophy in a Time of Terror_
    

    Dialogues with Jurgen Hambermas and Jacques Derrida Chicago: The University of Chicago Press p. 101.

  66. Butler, Judith (2004). _Precarious Life_, 'Violence, Mourning,
    

    Politics' London: Verso p. 36.

  67. Ibid., p. 66\.
    

  68. Ibid., p. 68\.
    

  69. Ibid., p. 54\.
    

  70. Ibid., 332\.
    

  71. Foucault. Michel (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and AlessandroFontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador, p. 247.

  72. Ibid., p. 248\.
    

  73. Ibid., p. 248\.
    

  74. Foucault. Michel (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and AlessandroFontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador, p. 247.

  75. Ibid., p. 249\.
    

  76. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New
    

    York, Penguin, p. 346.

  77. Ibid., p. 346\.
    

  78. Ibid., p. 45\.
    

  79. Ibid., p. 54\.
    

  80. Foucault. Michel (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and AlessandroFontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador, p. 254.
    [lxxx] Ibid., p. 254.

  81. Ibid., p. 254- 255\.
    

  82. Ibid., p. 255\.
    

  83. Ibid., p. 332\.
    

  84. Ibid., p. 332\.
    

  85. Ibid., p. 333\.
    

  86. Ibid., p. 332\.
    

  87. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New
    

    York, Penguin, p. 54.

  88. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  89. Ibid., p. 192\.
    

  90. Ibid., p. 348\.
    

  91. Ibid., p. 348\.
    

  92. Foucault. Michel (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and AlessandroFontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador, p. 73.

  93. Ibid., p. 73\.
    

  94. Ibid., p. 73\.
    

  95. Ibid., p. 74\.
    

  96. Ibid., p. 74\.
    

  97. Ibid., p. 76\.
    

  98. Ibid. p.76\.
    

  99. Ibid., p. 79\.
    

  100. Ibid., p. 81\.
    

  101. Ibid., p. 82\.
    

  102. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. (2004). _Multitude, _New York,
    

    Penguin, p. 69.

  103. Foucault. Michel (2003). _Society Must be Defended_, Ed. Mauro
    

    Bertani and AlessandroFontana, Trans. David Macey, New York: Picador, p. 237.

  104. Ibid., pp. 83-84