Cover of the first edition
AuthorsMichael Hardt
Antonio Negri
CountryUnited States
International relations
PublisherHarvard University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
ISBN0-674-25121-0 (hardcover) ISBN 0-674-00671-2 (paperback)
325/.32/09045 21
LC ClassJC359 .H279 2000
Preceded byLabor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form 
Followed byMultitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire 

Empire is a book by post-Marxist philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Written in the mid-1990s, it was published in 2000 and quickly sold beyond its expectations as an academic work.[1]


In general, Hardt and Negri theorize an ongoing transition from a "modern" phenomenon of imperialism, centered on individual nation-states, to an emergent postmodern construct created among ruling powers which the authors call "Empire" (the capital letter is distinguishing), with different forms of warfare:

... according to Hardt and Negri's Empire, the rise of Empire is the end of national conflict, the "enemy" now, whoever he is, can no longer be ideological or national. The enemy now must be understood as a kind of criminal, as someone who represents a threat not to a political system or a nation but to the law. This is the enemy as a terrorist ... In the "new order that envelops the entire space of ... civilization", where conflict between nations has been made irrelevant, the "enemy" is simultaneously "banalized" (reduced to an object of routine police repression) and absolutized (as the Enemy, an absolute threat to the ethical order).[2]: 6 [3]: 171–172 

Hardt and Negri elaborate a variety of ideas surrounding constitutions, global war, and class. Hence, the Empire is constituted by a monarchy (the United States and the G8, and international organizations such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization), an oligarchy (the multinational corporations and other nation-states) and a democracy (the various non-government organizations and the United Nations). Part of the book's analysis deals with "imagin[ing] resistance", but "the point of Empire is that it, too, is 'total' and that resistance to it can only take the form of negation - 'the will to be against'.[3]: 173  The Empire is total, but economic inequality persists, and as all identities are wiped out and replaced with a universal one, the identity of the poor persists.[4]

Publication history

Empire was published by Harvard University Press in 2000 as a 478-page hardcover (ISBN 0-674-25121-0) and paperback (ISBN 0-674-00671-2).


The book's description of pyramidal levels is a replica of Polybius' description of Roman government, hence the Empire denomination. Furthermore, the crisis is conceived as inherent to the Empire.

Hardt and Negri are heavily indebted to Michel Foucault's analysis of biopolitics,[5] as well as the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, especially their book A Thousand Plateaus. A number of concepts developed by Deleuze and Guattari – such as multiplicity, deterritorialization, nomads, and control – are central to Empire's claims. Before Empire, Negri was best known for having written The Savage Anomaly (1981), a milestone book in Spinozism studies which he wrote in prison. Empire is thus, unsurprisingly, also influenced by Spinoza. It is also influenced by the work of Carl Schmitt, in particular his theory of sovereignty, as well as Niccolò Machiavelli.

The ideas first introduced in Empire (notably the concept of multitude, taken from Spinoza) were further developed in the books Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004), Commonwealth (2009), and Assembly (2017), which were also written by Hardt and Negri.

Reception and legacy

Empire has been described by the London Review of Books as "the most successful work of political theory to come from the Left for a generation."[6] The book has been highly influential on numerous debates within the left, and has even been called "a bible of the anti-globalisation movement" by one critic and "the most influential book in recent decades on a classic sociological theme".[7][8] In a review of the book, Slavoj Žižek stated that the book "sets as its goal, writing the Communist Manifesto for the twenty-first century."[9]

Gopal Balakrishnan, reviewing the book for the New Left Review, wrote that when compared with influential conservative books such as Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, "Comparable totalizations from the Left have been few and far between; diagnoses of the present more uniformly bleak. At best, the alternative to surrender or self-delusion has seemed to be a combative but clear-eyed pessimism, orienting the mind for a Long March against the new scheme of things. In this landscape, the appearance of Empire represents a spectacular break. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri defiantly overturn the verdict that the last two decades have been a time of punitive defeats for the Left."[10]

Empire has created important intellectual debates around its arguments. Certain scholars have compared the evolution of the world order with Hardt and Negri's world image in Empire.[11] A number of publications and debates centered on the book, both positively and negatively.[12][13] Hardt and Negri's theoretical approach has also been compared and contrasted with works of 'the global capitalism school' whose authors have analyzed transnational capitalism and class relations in the global epoch.[14]

Hardt and Negri published an essay titled "'Empire' 20 Years On" in the November/December 2019 edition of New Left Review, in which they provide a critical analysis of the book's legacy and their perspective on it looking back.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (July 15, 2001). "Empire hits back". The Observer. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  2. ^ Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2000). Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press.
  3. ^ a b Michaels, Walter Benn (2004). The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the end of history. Princeton University Press.
  4. ^ Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2000). Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard University Press. pp. 179–180. The problem, as they see it, is that "postmodernist authors" have neglected the one identity that should matter most to those on the left, the one we have always with us: "The only non-localizable 'common name' of pure difference in all eras is that of the poor" (156) ... only the poor, Hardt and Negri say, "live radically the actual and present being" (157)."
  5. ^ Michaels, Walter Benn (2004). The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the end of history. Princeton University Press. p. 173. Indeed, it is the irrelevance of political beliefs or ideas and their replacement by what (thinking to follow Foucault) Hardt and Negri call the ìbiopoliticalì, that mark the special contribution of the discourse of terrorism, which we might more generally call the discourse of globalization.
  6. ^ Bull, Malcolm (October 4, 2001). "You can't build a new society with a Stanley knife". London Review of Books. Vol. 23, no. 19. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  7. ^ Thompson, Paul (July 2005). "Foundation and Empire: A critique of Hardt and Negri". Capital & Class. 29 (2): 73–98. doi:10.1177/030981680508600105. ISSN 0309-8168. S2CID 56380189.
  8. ^ Steinmetz, George (July 2002). "Empire . By Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. Pp. 478+xvii". American Journal of Sociology. 108 (1): 207–210. doi:10.1086/376266. ISSN 0002-9602.
  9. ^ Žižek, Slavoj (September 1, 2001). "Have Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri Rewritten the Communist Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century?". Rethinking Marxism. 13 (3–4): 190–198. doi:10.1080/089356901101241875. ISSN 0893-5696. S2CID 140777766.
  10. ^ Balakrishnan, Gopal (September–October 2000). "Hardt and Negri's Empire". New Left Review. New Left Review. II (5).
  11. ^ As a sample of those debates in the academic circles, look at this article: Mehmet Akif Okur, "Rethinking Empire After 9/11: Towards A New Ontological Image of World Order," Archived 2013-03-10 at the Wayback Machine Perceptions, Journal of International Affairs, Volume XII, Winter 2007, pp.61-93. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  12. ^ Passavant, Paul; Dean, Jodi, eds. (2004). Empire's New Clothes. doi:10.4324/9780203644003. ISBN 9781135950903.
  13. ^ Elia Zaru's book is an attempt to summarize the academic debate following the release of Empire "La postmodernità di «Empire»," Mimesis Edizioni, 2018.
  14. ^ Sprague, Jeb (2011). "Empire, Global Capitalism, and Theory: Reconsidering Hardt and Negri". The Diversity of Social Theories. Current Perspectives in Social Theory. pp. 187–207. doi:10.1108/S0278-1204(2011)0000029014. ISBN 978-0-85724-821-3.
  15. ^ Hardt, Michael. "Empire, Twenty Years On". New Left Review (120). Retrieved November 1, 2022.

Further reading

Quotations related to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri at Wikiquote