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Michael Hardt, "German Interview"

Michael Hardt "The Globalizers Block Globalization"

A German Interview with Stefan Krempl

What happens when a former disciple of the Italian terror movement Red Brigades and a fairly unknown American literature professor meet up and write a book together about globalization? In the case of Empire (Empire), Antonio Negri
(Negri) and Michael Hardt (Hardt) scored. Their opus stirred up quite a debate in left academic circles as well as in the so-called anti-globalization protest movements since its first publication in 2000. In fact, it became an early classic of neo-Marxist literature already.

Finally, a German translation
(German translation) has been released a few days ago. On his promotion tour, Hardt explained to the hip Berlin crowd in the equally hip Volksbuehne theatre as well as to guests of the British Council in the Deutsche Bank representation Unter den Linden the paradox of globalization and his utopian vision of a truly global citizenship. The soft-looking guy states that we
now have to reinvent democracy from the nation state to the global sphere and that we have to find new forms of representation. Of course, he also didn't spare with criticism on the Bush wars against the "axis of evil". In
his talk with Telepolis, Hardt clears up his position on al-Qaida,
anarchism, and on the new global organization of power.Empire has been hailed as the rewriting of the communist manifesto for our times. Do you feel comfortable with that?

Michael Hardt: Well, it's a communist book. I feel comfortable with that part. But it's not a manifesto. I mean, first of all a manifesto has got to be short. It needs to present a political program. Our book doesn't do that. In fact, it tries to understand the nature of the contemporary global order and then of course suggests some means of constructing alternatives. My
feeling is, that our philosophical work is not the best place to present a program. The practical work is better done in political movements.

You're talking about the coming of a new Empire. This of course reminds people of the Roman Empire, while looking back, and on the US in the present.

Michael Hardt: What we're trying to do is to name a different form of power or sovereignty from the imperialisms that were developed by the European nation states during the modern period. If the US nation state were now the directing force in the way that European nation states were in their own imperialist projects, we think rather that the form of contemporary world
order is different. Part of the argument is that this new power, this empire, is an empire with no Rome. It functions in network relationships. So in this sense, in distributed networks there is no center. The US does have a privilege role in it, especially in military terms. So there are privileged points in the network. But there's not the same centralized form that the previous imperialist relationships took.

Talking about networks, what role does technology play in your book or in the empire? We've heard a lot about the liberating force of the Internet. But on the other side, you describe high tech also as an oppressing power for the new working class.

Michael Hardt: It's the same as with the term globalization. Technology in general or the new information technologies more specifically are neither in themselves liberatory nor in themselves controlling. They do in fact provide a form for many new forms of domination, which are in certain ways more
horrible than previous forms of domination. But they do at the same time provide possibilities of liberation. So one has to regard technology in ambivalent terms.

Globalization is the big word for you -- and a paradox. On the one side you are against the inequality caused by the so-called globalizing forces. On the other side you say that there is not enough globalization. Can you explain this?

Michael Hardt: I think it is very important to emphasize the ways in which the protests movements -- which I think are an enormous political advance and wealth -- that these movements are not against globalization as such. They are against the specific and present form of globalization. What they are really saying is that there are many kinds of globalization possible.
Many times when globalization is presented in the press or by the several governments it is presented as 'globalization is this. You're with it or against it.' The better way to respond is to say that this is not the only possibility of globalization. In fact, there are many ways in which the kinds of things that these movements are asking for -- which are really greater freedoms, greater equality, and greater democracy -- might come true. They seem to me stronger arguments of globalization than the form of globalization that we have now. Because the present form restricts freedom in many regards, for example the movements of people. It creates greater inequality in both wealth and power.
It undermines the possibilities of democracy. So it's in that regard that those who were labeled the "anti-globalizers" are the ones who are arguing for a more productive and more democratic globalization.

One of your goals is to reach a truly global democracy. If we come back to the notion of Marx: do we need some kind of a new revolution then?

Michael Hardt: Certainly.

But you don't present a program for that? What about your term 'the will to be against'?

Michael Hardt: Well, there's definitely not a program in the book, as I said before. Let's put it this way. Certainly, human history is full of the refusal of authority and the desire for freedom. My faith and my conviction is that these will continue to emerge. So the desire for greater freedom and the desire for greater democracy are things that will transform our world. But tthe nature of this transformation doesn't seem to me to be something that's given. I want -- and I think many others want -- that the world will
change very rapidly. And the radical change of forms of power could be received as revolution.

What role does September 11th play in this set?

Michael Hardt: September 11th was many different things. It presented in no way any liberatory potential or desire for change in the world. I don't mean that the forces involved in this recent war are morally comparable. They are not the same. Both seem to be forces against greater freedom in the world. Again, one has to be neither for the one side nor for the other, even if the pressures especially in the US are very strong tending towards one direction. It seems to me that it's much more appropriate to be against them both. We're presented with a situation, which doesn't seem to have an alternative. That is a social and political blackmail that has to be opposed.

That's why you are a critique of the war that US President George W. Bush leads against Afghanistan and the "axis of evil"?

Michael Hardt: Let me start back with a more philosophical point. Modern European philosophers created the notion of just war, which has surfaced so often recently from the Gulf war to this present war. It was something that belonged to the Middle Ages. They though that it was proper for the religious wars, that it was proper for the crusades. They saw it as a misunderstanding of the relationship between war and justice. So it should be no surprise that these notion of 'just wars' comes up again, because of two facts. One is that the present wars in many ways resemble the old wars of religion. And secondly, that with the notion of justice is born its twin, which is evil. I think that all of this is an analytical and political error. I think that it's a destructive conception and a mystifying conception. I don't mean to say that I have any sympathy for bin Laden or that I want to defend al-Qaida. That's not my intention at all. But calling them evil absolutizes and in fact misrecognizes a social and political
proposition, which will not allow us to treat it in the proper way. That kind of demonization forces us to mistake how the world is organized.

Do you see a special role for Europe in building a new structure for a new and more democratic world order?

Michael Hardt: Europe should play nor more or less role than all other regions in the world. I don't think that democracy can be formed by the imposition from above. There shouldn't be a central actor, neither the US nor Europe nor Indonesia. It has to be a collective project. The construction of democracy has to be democratic in itself.

You're also talking in your book about the role of anarchism and the end of big government.

Michael Hardt: In the movements that have evolved in the globalization protests in the US recently, anarchism has been an important term for many, and particularly the young people involved. What anarchism has meant to them is primarily a relationship of freedom. And also it fits with what has been
the center of the US punk ethic, which was 'do it yourself.' That's not exactly what I understand anarchism to be. But my feeling is that today there isn't the necessity of arguing such ideological distinctions, which sometimes could amount to terminological questions. So I'm happy to participate in what they call anarchism, which means: decide things collectively. On the other hand we don't really argue for anarchist relationships. In our understanding it would be a claim of an absence of political organization. We're arguing rather for alternative forms of
political organization.

That is what you mean by the term multitude in your book?

Michael Hardt: Right, we mean a social subject that is always a multiplicity and that isn't reduced to a unity in a kind of structures that parties have always forced to. There remains a multiplicity, but one, which can also act in common. That doesn't mean an archaic crowd or the mob. All of those are understandings from a lack of organization, in fact, from the need of external leadership. The multitude rather is a different kind of organization. The best illustration practically have been this globalization protests from Seattle to Genoa. They have been organizing in a different way
than previous political movements. It's not that they haven't been
organized. There is a plurality of groups that remain different in their principles. But they can act in common with others and don't contradict with others.

So, do you consider the globalization protest movements as a new form of Marx's 'Internationale'?

Michael Hardt: There certainly is a spirit of globalism or the desire to construct global relationships in these movements. Proletarian internationalism both in the Marxist age and throughout other forms of his tradition does contain elements of this desire for global relationships. Today, 'international' might not be the right term because it at least implies that each national group retains its separateness. What happens today is a different kind of mixture, which might be called a hybrid rather
than a patchwork of national identities. But there is a resonance of the pleasure and the empowerment of linking together with others.