Here are my initial responses to Hardt’s and Negri’s Multitude:
Firstly, Hardt and Negri spend a lot of time to discuss the importance of communication for both neoliberal capital and the multitude. For example, they write: “The common does not refer to traditional notions of either the community or the public; it is based on the communication among singularities and emerges through the collaborative social processes of production.” (p. 204) However, it seemed that they never define what they mean by communication or examine its different modalities. They do talk about “linguistic hierarchies” and state that “the contradiction between linguistic hierarchies and linguistic production and commonality is what makes language today such a powerful site of conflict and resistance” (p. 132) but seem to leave this discussion on language on very general level. Can communication be understood as anything that happens between (human) singularities and involves some kind of social social relationship (smalltalk, moaning, singing a hymn, catcalling, etc)? What about singularities and (non-human) objects (an artwork, a handgun, a pile of burnt books, a lonely shoe on the street)? How does one draw lines between different forms of communication as part of the biopolitical activity of the multitude?
Secondly, on the page 192 they write: “[T]he flesh of the multitude is an elemental power that continuously expands social being, producing in excess of every traditional political-economic measure of value.” Later, they state that “the common marks a new form of sovereignty, a democratic sovereignty (or, more precisely, a form of social organization that displaces sovereignty) in which the social singularities control through their own biopolitical activity those goods and services that allow for the reproduction of the multitude itself.” (p. 206) As I understand this, there is always an excess (or surplus) that multitude produces through its labor (material or immaterial) and that it is vital for revolutionary struggle to remove this surplus from the circulation of capital and direct it to only by the multitude itself. Although Hardt & Negri trouble the distinction inside/outside in political activity and state that “today network movements are able to address [within, inside/outside, outside] simultaneously” (p. 88) I seem to have hard time to get my head around the relationship between the multitude, the capital, and the (potentially revolutionary) surplus that the multitude produces without putting them in a spatial relation with each other (e.g. the multitude can break “out” from the circulation of capital). Am I just missing the point or could we discuss about this relation with different terms? My concern is that the dichotomy inside capital/outside capital has not, I think, been very productive when it comes to theorizing new forms of resistance. But, I do have to acknowledge that it is very difficult to think some other form of relation…