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Empireby Michael Hardt
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"'As...the twentieth century draws to a close,' write Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, 'capitalism is miraculously healthy, its accumulation more robust than ever.' For these writers, though not for most consumers and citizens, capitalism's capacity to survive, and even to flourish, poses a grave problem. 'How can we reconcile this fact,' they ask, 'with the careful analyses of numerous Marxist authors at the beginning of the century who pointed to the imperialist conflicts as symptoms of an impending ecological disaster running up against the limits of nature?' Everything that is flawed about this deeply flawed book is contained in the way the authors ask, and then try to answer, this question." Alan Wolfe, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"Empire...is a bold move away from established doctrine. Hardt and Negri's insistence that there really is a new world is promulgated with energy and conviction. Especially striking is their renunciation of the tendency of many writers on globalization to focus exclusively on the top, leaving the impression that what happens down below, to ordinary people, follows automatically from what the great powers do." Stanley Aronowitz, The Nation
"So what does a disquisition on globalization have to offer scholars in crisis? First, there is the book's broad sweep and range of learning. Spanning nearly 500 pages of densely argued history, philosophy and political theory, it features sections on Imperial Rome, Haitian slave revolts, the American Constitution and the Persian Gulf War, and references to dozens of thinkers like Machiavelli, Spinoza, Hegel, Hobbes, Kant, Marx and Foucault. In short, the book has the formal trappings of a master theory in the old European tradition...[This] book is full of...bravura passages. Whether presenting new concepts — like Empire and multitude — or urging revolution, it brims with confidence in its ideas. Does it have the staying power and broad appeal necessary to become the next master theory? It is too soon to say. But for the moment, Empire is filling a void in the humanities." Emily Eakin, New York Times
Globalization's positive side is, intriguingly, a message of a hot new book. Since it was published last year, Empire ...has been translated into four new languages, with six more on the way...It is selling briskly on Amazon.com and is impossible to find in Manhattan bookstores. For 413 pages of dense political philosophy — whose compass ranges from body piercing to Machiavelli — that's impressive. Globalization's positive side is, intriguingly, a message of a hot new book. Since it was published last year, Empire ...has been translated into four new languages, with six more on the way...It is selling briskly on Amazon.com and is impossible to find in Manhattan bookstores. For 413 pages of dense political philosophy — whose compass ranges from body piercing to Machiavelli — that's impressive. Michael Elliott , Time
"How often can it happen that a book is swept off the shelves until you can't find a copy in New York for love nor money?...Empire is a sweeping history of humanist philosophy, Marxism and modernity that propels itself to a grand political conclusion: that we are a creative and enlightened species, and that our history is that of humanity's progress towards the seizure of power from those who exploit it." Ed Vulliamy , The Observer [UK]
Hardt is not just bent on saving the world. He has also been credited with dragging the humanities in American universities out of the doldrums...[Empire] presents a philosophical vision that some have greeted as the 'next big thing' in the field of the humanities, with its authors the natural successors of names such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Sunday Times [UK]
"The collaboration between American literary theorist and Italian political philosopher has produced a strange and graceful work, of rare imaginative drive and richness of intellectual reference. However counter-intuitive its conclusions, Empire is in its own terms a work of visionary intensity." Gopul Balakrishnan, New Left Review
About the Author
Michael Hardt is Associate Professor in the Literature Program at Duke University.
Antonio Negri is an independent researcher and writer and an inmate at Rebibbia Prison, Rome. He has been a Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Paris and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Padua.
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