Empire

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9780674251212: Empire

Imperialism as we knew it may be no more, but Empire is alive and well. It is, as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri demonstrate in this bold work, the new political order of globalization. It is easy to recognize the contemporary economic, cultural, and legal transformations taking place across the globe but difficult to understand them. Hardt and Negri contend that they should be seen in line with our historical understanding of Empire as a universal order that accepts no boundaries or limits. Their book shows how this emerging Empire is fundamentally different from the imperialism of European dominance and capitalist expansion in previous eras. Rather, today's Empire draws on elements of U.S. constitutionalism, with its tradition of hybrid identities and expanding frontiers.

Empire identifies a radical shift in concepts that form the philosophical basis of modern politics, concepts such as sovereignty, nation, and people. Hardt and Negri link this philosophical transformation to cultural and economic changes in postmodern society--to new forms of racism, new conceptions of identity and difference, new networks of communication and control, and new paths of migration. They also show how the power of transnational corporations and the increasing predominance of postindustrial forms of labor and production help to define the new imperial global order.

More than analysis, Empire is also an unabashedly utopian work of political philosophy, a new Communist Manifesto. Looking beyond the regimes of exploitation and control that characterize today's world order, it seeks an alternative political paradigm--the basis for a truly democratic global society.

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Review:

Empire is a sweeping book with a big-picture vision. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue that while classical imperialism has largely disappeared, a new empire is emerging in a diffuse blend of technology, economics, and globalization. The book brings together unlikely bedfellows: Hardt, associate professor in Duke University's literature program, and Negri, among other things a writer and inmate at Rebibbia Prison in Rome. Empire aspires to the same scale of grand political philosophy as Locke or Marx or Fukuyama, but whether Hardt and Negri accomplish this daunting task is debatable. It is, however, an exciting book that is especially timely following the emergence of terrorism as a geopolitical force.

Hardt and Negri maintain that empire--traditionally understood as military or capitalist might--has embarked upon a new stage of historical development and is now better understood as a complex web of sociopolitical forces. They argue, with a neo-Marxist bent, that "the multitude" will transcend and defeat the new empire on its own terms. The authors address everything from the works of Deleuze to Jefferson's constitutional democracy to the Chiapas revolution in a far-ranging analysis of our contemporary situation. Unfortunately, their penchant for references and academese sometimes renders the prose unwieldy. But if Hardt and Negri's vision of the world materializes, they will undoubtedly be remembered as prophetic. --Eric de Place

About the Author:

Michael Hardt is Professor of Literature and Italian at Duke University.

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Hardt, Michael, Negri, Antonio
Published by Harvard University Press (2000)
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