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Barbarians: the disordered insurgence by Crisso and Odoteo

Barbarians: the disordered insurgence by Crisso and Odoteo

Barbarians by Crisso and Odoteo is a text of some importance for anarchists and anyone else who sincerely desires the destruction of this social world of exploitation and domination

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Translator’s Preface

Barbarians by Crisso and Odoteo is a text of some importance for anarchists and anyone else who sincerely desires the destruction of this social world of exploitation and domination. It presents a devastating critique of a book that has become one of the most significant theoretical influences on a major part of the so-called anti-globalization movement, Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. When one reads these two texts together, two opposing ways of using language are exposed. Hardt and Negri use a language that is obviously meant to conceal at least as much as it reveals, and that should immediately tip one off to the recuperative nature of their text. Crisso and Odoteo, on the contrary, use direct language as sharp as a barbarian’s sword to cut through the murky web of Hardt’s and Negri’s postmodern doublespeak to reveal the essentially anti-revolutionary core of their perspective.

For example, Hardt and Negri claim to be post-dialectical and post-Marxist. It merely takes a slight rip of the veil to expose a historical determinism and a rigid dialectic of class struggle that reflects one of the crudest versions of Marxism. Negri and Hardt, in fact, justify the horrors of the present not merely as historically necessary for the development of communism, but as actual reflections of the power of the “multitude”, their historical subject.

It is particularly useful that, as Italians, Crisso and Odoteo are familiar with the various movements that have been influenced by Negri, as well as with recent works of his that are not available in English. This allows them to place Empire in a context that further exposes its recuperative significance.

Crisso and Odoteo clearly expose the love Hardt and Negri actually have for the Empire and its methods of homogenizing the world. This love, in fact, reaches the point of support for the European Union. Negri recently co-edited a collection of texts by leftists in praise of the political unification of Europe (choosing however to ignore the fact that this unification is a reality mainly in terms of the needs of the ruling class: a free flow of capital, the unification of policing networks and so on).

More frightening is Negri’s and Hardt’s unquestioning support of the totality of technological development – proclaimed to be expressions of the desires of “the multitude”. They go so far as to call for the “recognition […] that there are no boundaries between […] the human and the machine” (Empire, p. 215) and, thus, the acceptance of ourselves as cyborgs (see for example, Empire, p.92). For them the project of technologizing life – i.e., biotechnology integrated with cybernetics – is desirable and necessary, simply because it exists.

Crisso and Odoteo also clearly expose the nature of the “subjectivity” Hardt and Negri speak of repeatedly. This term, as the professors use it, has nothing whatsoever to do with individual choice, will, desire or self-activity. Instead it refers to the production of relationships which subject us to the needs of the social institutions. This is why “the production of subjectivity” must be grounded “in the functioning of major institutions, such as the prison, the family, the factory, and the school” (Empire, p.195).

In fact, Hardt and Negri absolutely reject the individual, seeing the very concept of individuality as contrary to their project. On page 388, they tell us that “No ontology, except a transcendent one, can relegate humanity to individuality”, and two pages later they say, “…there is corruption as individual choice that is opposed to and violates the fundamental community and solidarity defined by biopolitical production”. Thus, singularity is not a trait of individuals, but of “groups and sets of humanity”* biopolitically singularized by “the multitude” (p. 395). And “the multitude” to which they refer repeatedly is finally defined on page 316 of their book as “the universality of free and productive practices”. To put it more clearly: the forces of social production. The Marxist-leninist roots of their perspective are clearly exposed. For them the subject of liberation is precisely the productive apparatus for which we are mere cogs.

With a notion of liberation that, in fact, means the absolute subjection of individuals to the productive apparatus, Hardt and Negri are correct to see their path as going “through Empire”, because their project is that of Empire. But once the barbaric sword of Crisso and Odoteo cut through the professors’ convoluted language, it becomes clear that those of us who desire our own liberation as individuals, who want the freedom to create our lives on our times have a project “absolutely other”: the total destruction of the Empire here and now.

The time of the barbarians is at hand.

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