I think this is going to do it for me on reviews of Hardt & Negri’s Empire. This time up: an essay by Marxist political theorist Samir Amin, as recommended by Chabert — the link is HERE.
Amin, like the other far-left critics I’ve read, doesn’t much care for H&N’s ideas. Amin too objects to their contention that Empire is already global, discounting the nationalism behind America’s global economic and military ambitions. He refers to the imperialistic triad of the US, Europe and Japan, which together dominate the rest of the world more through the expansion of capital than through conquest of territories. I’m not clear how Amin’s view differs significantly from H&N’s in this sense of an American-centered Empire penetrating local economies throughout the world, other than a difference as to how far this penetration has already taken place.
More importantly, Amin disagrees that the Left’s agenda should and must be achieved from inside the Empire. The US, which dominates the triad, is in many ways unique historically and culturally. American workers have virtually no class awareness, Amin contends; individualistic liberalism has always permeated American culture, making it a rocky ground for leftist-communistic inclinations to take root. The long history of American democracy is undeniable and Amin contends that democracy must be part of all future progress in achieving economic equality. However, Americans are nearly apolitical, participating in state affairs only at the ballot box. Economics dominates American life, and so its government is primarily an arm of the marketplace. Americans aren’t reluctant to acknowledge their intention to protect the resource-intensive American lifestyle, securing their own economic interests at the expense of other nations and ensuring their dominance through massive military strength. By submitting to the American-dominated Empire, other nations would be acting against their own self-interests.
The idea of Multitude is central to H&N’s vision of a better future: a congeries of individual agents shooting trajectories of energy into the world. By eliminating restraints on freedom of movement, along with assuring a worldwide minimum wage, an upgraded Empire can release a vast reservoir of creative force that will lift workers’ economic status and generate an explosion of creativity in the world. Amin says that here H&N completely subscribe to the liberal ideal of the free individual as the agent of change in the world. For most of the world individuals are pretty much powerless to resist the nationalistic hegemony and intrusive power of the American empire. Amin proposes agency resides with a variety of democratic, leftist hegemonic states that aren’t modeled on America but rather are compatible with local “political cultures.”
In essence, Amin writes off America altogether. Its democracy is essentially rightist; it wants to dominate the world militarily and to hoard the lion’s share of resources. To uphold the liberal ideal of individual agency for those who stand outside the American empire is to serve as an advocate not for a global Empire that will emerge from the Multitude but for American world conquest. America isn’t the portal for the emergence of global progress of the left’s economic agenda; it is the enemy that can’t be rehabilitated but that must be actively combated. So what do you do if you happen to have the (mis)fortune of being an American living in America? Apparently you have three options: go along with the liberal status quo, pursue a radical disruptive course that will probably bring you into conflict with the authorities, or leave.