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In Empire (2000) and (more explicitly) in Multitude (2004), Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri adapt the Spinozian term to conceive of a new form of political subjectivity. Consisting of singularities rather than individuals, that is to say social subjects who cannot be reduced to their bare life, the multitude is, according to Hardt and Negri, the only form of political subjectivity capable of realizing democracy for what it truly is, namely the rule of everyone by everyone. It is an immanent rather than transcendent concept, so it should not be confused with the idea of a people—it is not unified, but multiple and plural; by the same token, it is not anarchic or incoherent, but joined up by power of what its constituents have in common. Hardt and Negri emphasize the changing composition of labour, particularly the increase in what they refer to as immaterial labour, in support of this point. In the era of the multitude, they argue, race and gender (among many other possible identity differences) will still be important, but they will no longer determine hierarchies of power, or, what amounts to the same thing, regimes of inclusion and exclusion. Hardt and Negri claim, somewhat problematically (as many commentators have remarked), that the multitude is constantly being brought into being by the changes to the composition of capital and society that capitalism itself is unwittingly bringing about.

Further Reading:

G. Balakrishnan (ed.)Debating Empire (2003).M. Hardt and A. Negri Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004).P. Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude (2004).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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