The Wednesday quotation, Part V: Spinoza on the union of bodies.
When a number of bodies of the same or different size are driven so together that they remain united one with the other, or if they are moved by the same or different rapidity so that they communicate their motions one to the other in a certain ratio, those bodies are called reciprocally united bodies (corpora invicem unita), and we say that they all form one body or individual, which is distinguished from the rest by this union of bodies. (Ethics 50)
I’m wondering about this extraordinary event that is the publication of the final Harry Potter book. There’s something strange here about the manipulation of time and the perversity of the market. I find it mind-boggling that practically each and every copy of the book will be sold at a loss. Also the ridiculous efforts to which Bloomsbury has gone to attempt to ensure secrecy.
But even I know that Ron dies. For what I care.
More on this, later.
As the subject of constituent power, the multitude is productive. Hence both its centrality and its ambivalence from the point of view of constituted power. For the multitude is not only economically productive but also socially productive; indeed, the multitude produces everyday life itself. Its activity is immediately biopolitical. Biopower’s parasitical relationship to this productive power is like capital’s relationship to labor, characterized both by indebtedness and by an anxiety that leads to denial. The multitude cannot be acknowledged directly but has to be misrepresented as a dependent subject in an inversion that posits the state and political society as the sole source and arena for power’s exercise. The state is fetishized and hegemony is thereby substituted for any other conception of politics, and civil society presented as a steering mechanism for the efficient control of state power. The multitude is recast in identitarian terms: as people, as class, or as a set of discrete social identities. But these categories are unstable, and they break down as the nomad takes flight in Exodus, while in the insistence of conatus the multitude constitutes a resonant community through quotidian encounters.
Insistently productive and self-organizing, the multitude is more than merely some subaltern remainder or excess. Like the multitude, the subaltern is beyond representation, an insurgent betrayal of constituted power. Moreover, as Alberto Moreiras puts it, “subaltern negation” is posthegemonic in that it constitutes a “refusal to submit to hegemonic interpellation, an exodus from hegemony.” (The Exhaustion of Difference 126). But the subaltern is a limit concept, “the absolute limit of the place where history is narrativized into logic,” in Gayatri Spivak’s words (“Subaltern Studies” 16), whereas for Negri the multitude is both central and beyond limit. The subaltern is defined negatively: for Ranajit Guha, it is the “demographic difference” or what is left when the elite are subtracted from the total population (“On Some Aspects of the Colonial Historiography of Colonial India” 44). The multitude, by contrast, is defined positively: it is “the ontological name of full against void, of production against parasitical survivals” (Negri, “Towards an Ontological Definition of the Multitude”). The subaltern is more abject than subject; indeed, Moreiras describes subalternity as “the non-subject of the political” (“Children of Light I” 12). But despite these differences, subaltern excess is an index of the presence of the multitude, indicating the failures of representation and so the asymmetry between constituent and constituted power. So subaltern insurgency can be a gateway to the multitude, whose positive sense of commonality may start in subaltern negation, in what John Holloway calls “a scream of refusal” (Change the World without Taking Power 1).
The Wednesday quotation, Part IV: lethal careerism.
In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic. That careerism may be as lethal as idealism, that ambition is an adjunct of barbarism, that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implication s of Eichmann in Jerusalem that neo-cons and neoliberals alike find too troubling to acknowledge.(Corey Robin, “Dragon-Slayers,” London Review of Books [4 January 2007]: 20)
The Wednesday quotation, Part III: the war on culture.
We have to redefine government based on conservative principles, we have to win the war against our culture, and we have to win the war on terror. (Tom DeLay, qtd. in Jeffrey Goldberg, “Party Unfaithful.” The New Yorker [June 4, 2007]: 45; my emphasis)
The multitude is a collective subject that gathers on affect’s line of flight, coalesces in habit, and expresses itself through constituent power. But the multitude, too, is ambivalent. After all, constituent power does lead to constituted power. Though the multitude makes its presence felt in revolution, all too soon something goes wrong. What begins as immanence and liberation, as cultural innovation and creativity, ends up as transcendence and normalization, as the state form and its repressive apparatuses. Constituent power makes and remakes the world, but that world is the one we see around us, characterized by oppression and exploitation. In Antonio Negri’s words, constituted power “feeds on this strength: without this strength it could not exist” (Insurgencies 325). For Negri, though the multitude resists constituted power, “this resistance is dissolved in the dialectic, over and over again.” From being a subject, the prime subject of the social, “the multitude is always objectified. Its name is reduced to a curse: vulgus, or worse, Pöbel. Its strength is expropriated. [. . .] Modernity is therefore the negation of any possibility that the multitude may express itself as subjectivity” (325). The multitude is like the proletarian: creator of the social world, but alienated within it. Negri argues that the conditions are now finally ripe for autonomy, for a liberation of constituent power in and for itself. But what guarantee is there that the multitude will not, as ever hitherto, simply call forth a new state form, perhaps all the more repressive and insidious? Can what Negri and Michael Hardt term “Empire” be so easily separated from the multitude? Finally, even were it actualizable, Negri’s utopia of a self-realized multitude, “the most extreme deterritorialization” and “the revolution of the eternal” (Time for Revolution 260, 261), is perhaps too invested in a theological chiliasm whose vision of eternal life is scarcely distinguishable from eternal death.