In his collection of essays entitled The Winter is Over: Writings on Transformation Denied 1989-1995, Negri, a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist and eminent political philosopher, imparts penetrating analyses and reflections on the changing economic and political landscape.
You coin the term “metropolitan strike” to denote a form of protest in which the users and workers of a service coproduce the political action. This is seen in multiple forms of contemporary political resistance from Turkey to Brazil. What is the significance of its emergence?
The large-scale French strikes in 1995 were coproduced by the workers and the service users—in that specific case, the struggles concerned the transportation sector. If we compare them to the strikes and the social struggles of today, the examples of 1995 can at most be regarded as prototypes. Today, in the large-scale protest movements that we’ve seen recently in Turkey and in Brazil, for example, or even with the “Arab Spring”—and even earlier, in Spain and in several European countries—what fundamentally stands out is the rejoining of what the social democratic left has always sought to separate: the economic and the political. Today, the actors in these conflicts are no longer just union workers and social users, but a new, recomposed subject: a multitude, a social proletariat that is both heterogeneous and unified in its interests and its desires.
What do you think is the present state and future of Marxism in Europe and internationally?
Critiquing the political economy just isn’t possible without Marx. Political economy is a science of capitalist power; the development of the real economy under the dominion of financial capital offers ample demonstration of this. Marxism, on the other hand, provides the ability to see economics and politics from the viewpoint of the subordinated classes. Marx deconstructs and destroys political economy in order to create new social orders. These experiments take place through struggles and can only arise from them: this is why, it seems to me, it is impossible to be Communist unless one is also, and above all, Marxist. After Soviet dialectical Marxism ended—rightly and necessarily so—we witnessed the emergence all over the world of focuses of Marxist theory and practice that found new life through a radical critique of what the Soviet experiment had represented. But more than that, it is a radical critique of contemporary capitalism. In that respect, I think a good deal of contemporary philosophy absolutely has to be read in the light of Marx’s work.
In this book you briefly discuss the claim that every political revolution posits its own Utopia. What is the utopia of your political philosophy? Is the aim or purpose of every utopia to become a reality?
I’ve never situated myself as a utopian thinker. In the book I devoted to Spinoza in the early 1980s, I even spoke of a “disutopia”: political change not in an indeterminate and other time and place, but here and now. These days, I call disutopia the common. Right now, the demand for liberty takes the form of a need for the common: not an organic community or one of belonging, or even one of identity, but a network of connections and shared activities. This common is what allows for the organization of labor and the forms of life, as well as what they produce. To build the common thus means, paradoxically, both recognizing that it already exists in the reality in which we are situated, and also giving it a form—and an organization, and institutions—in the practice of life, work, exchange, affects. And above all, it means going beyond individualism and abolishing private property: the common belongs to all, and it is by and for all.