|Publisher||Harvard University Press|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-674-25121-0 (hardcover) ISBN 0-674-00671-2 (paperback)|
|LC Class||JC359 .H279 2000|
|Preceded by||Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form|
|Followed by||Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire|
|Part of a series about|
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.
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).: 6 : 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".: 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.
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).
This description of pyramidal levels is a replica of Polybius' description of Roman government, hence the denomination "Empire". Furthermore, the crisis is conceived as inherent to the Empire.
Hardt and Negri are heavily indebted to Michel Foucault's analysis of biopolitics and 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.
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." 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". 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."
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."
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. A number of publications and debates centered on the book, both positively and negatively. 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.
Michael Hardt published an essay titled 'Empire 20 Years On' in the November/December 2019 edition of New Left Review in which he provides a critical analysis of the book's legacy and his perspective on it looking back.
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)."
Indeed, it is the irrelevance of political beliefs or ideas and their replacement by what (thinking to follow Foucault) Hardt and Negri call the "biopolitical", that mark the special contribution of the discourse of terrorism, which we might more generally call the discourse of globalization.