The multitude is common. It is ordinary and everyday, and it is also both the product and the producer of shared resources. It comprises what Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker term the “hewers of wood and drawers of water”: a “motley crew” of apparently disorganized labor (The Many-Headed Hydra 40, 212).
Though Negri sometimes flirts with an almost Leninist vanguardism, the multitude rebels against party organization or the privileging of so-called advanced sectors. The exercise of constituent power is a matter of habit, not training, indoctrination, or even will. The multitude seeks connections based on what we already hold in common; its polyvalent powers of connection open up new bases for commonality.
Negri and Hardt reverse the narrative that claims that capitalism has already destroyed the commons, and that privatization is now rampant, especially after neoliberalism. They argue that we have more in common now than ever before, and that the stage is set for the “common name” of a Communist liberty to come. The love of the common people is to ensure this transformation of what is now either private interest or public command into an immanent utopia.
And yet it can be hard to distinguish the multitude from the actual dystopia of Empire. Hardt and Negri oppose the multitude’s commonality to Empire’s corruption, but their analysis of corruption is confused and contradictory.
Indeed, the common and the corrupt often overlap: both are products of informal and unsupervised networks. Again, the multitude is ambivalent and the state has no monopoly on corruption. The principle of commonality suggests that there can be no categorical distinction between multitude and Empire: if constituted power is merely a particular (de)formation of the constituent, the point is rather to distinguish between such formations, to find a protocol by which to set apart bad from good, rather than to affirm the multitude at every turn.
When it comes to the multitude, Negri’s projective Marxism too quickly renounces critique.