Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Negri, Antonio. "Art and Culture in the Age of Empire and the Time of the Multitudes," SubStance, vol 36, no 1, 2007.

Having read neither Empire nor Multitude, nor anything else Antonio Negri ever wrote, I am not well placed to take much away from this little text, published in English only last year (2007).

I am, I hope, slowly developing a personal ‘historical sense’—otherwise said, self-knowledge. This article has the taste of something that at first I think is gassy, at once too obvious and too subtle, but that later I come to appreciate. We’ll see.

The degree to which Negri relies on conceptual forms that I identify most strongly with Leibniz (monads) and Spinoza (materialist monism, something like this) is remarkable. I understand this to be a desire to return to some kind of pre-Kantian, (and therefore pre-Hegelian?) world. Although I’m not sure, I think this is best described as being a Deleuzian world-view. Parts of it strike me as foolish, in this case the description of globalization as an elimination of the ‘outside’ (point 5). Negri seems to be suggesting that the role of the artist in the contemporary configuration (situation)—or, rather, what constitutes art—has to do with reconstructing the larger world from within the body, through flesh, itself. The argument seems to be that since we can’t go out any longer, we can only go in. The premise is wrong, in my opinion, but even given the premise, the conclusion isn’t terribly inventive. No doubt I misunderstand. The most sensible, or comprehensible to me, possibility that he invokes is that of “engaging in politics by leading all the elements of life back to a poetic reconstruction” (point 6, pg 54). And this sounds to me very like Rancière, who himself sounds not unlike certain versions of Rorty.

No doubt I’ve much misunderstood Negri. I have a copy of Multitude, and perhaps soon I’ll read it.

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