THIS book, co-authored by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, was originally written in Italian under the title Empire, which became a bestseller. In April 2003, after spending 24 years in conditions of imprisonment, exile and constraint, Negri was finally granted a passport. This gave him the opportunity to travel worldwide a number of times to expound upon his political theory, which explores and elaborates his revolutionary ideas. Thus the book is a collection of his lectures which have been grouped together from broad parts – Empire, Europe, post-socialist politics and political philosophy in imperial post-modernity. In a sense, these are travel writings on the topic of revolution.
In the initial talks given by him, Antonio defines his concept of Empire as “Empire is a process of constitution of sovereignty – a new sovereignty – over the global market.” Empire is thus a combination of sovereignty, aristocracy and democracy. The hierarchical structuring of Empire works by active action of three levels of power – first, the American monarchic level, which claims military, monetary and cultural hegemony; an aristocracy which extends its operations over all spaces of worldwide production (by this Antonio means big capitalist multinationals); there are then the remnants of the large nation-states which work to create alliances so as to participate effectively in the restructuring of the central command organs of political power in Empire.
In another talk that he gave, Antonio cites the case of the war in Iraq, which was to be an operation of international policing, but which failed to achieve the objective that was desired because it was a low intensity war. This was due to “the inconsistency of American strategy,” Antonio believes.
Antonio Negri also examines the political movements that are emerging today to challenge and resist the power of Empire (in this case, the ruling Super Power, the Americans); the hegemony of immaterial labour; and the subjective and objective conditions of social transformation in our contemporary post-modern world.
The concluding section of the book is devoted to the question of post-modernity with the latter and its freedoms conceived as the outcome of the neo-liberal/imperialist capture of the discourse of freedom. What Antonio Neri means to convey is that Empire may have played a role in putting an end to colonialism and imperialism, but it has led to construction of its own relationships of power based on exploitation and that is in many aspects more brutal than those that it had destroyed. He observes that nearly all of humanity is caught in the net of capitalist exploitation. A small minority controls enormous wealth but the multitudes live in poverty. The geographical and racial lines of oppression and exploitation that were established during the era of colonialism and imperialism have in many respects not declined, but instead increased exponentially, he says.
The book makes for heavy reading and would essentially interest political analysts and intellectuals.
(Polity Press, 65 Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UR, UK; www.polity.co.uk)