From (Anti-)Imperialism to (Counter-)Emperialism

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article is a critical presentation of the discourse on US imperialism, covering the work of both pro- and anti- imperialists. It presents the contrasting theory of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, to who "U.S imperialism" is far from an accurate description of the current from of sovereign power . Despite the popularization of the notion of a new American imperialism our reality is becoming one of a single network of various forms of sovereignty, novel in scope and intensity, not only colonizing territory, but controlling communication, freedom of movement, knowledge and truth.

This article is a critical presentation of the discourse on US imperialism, covering the work of both pro- and anti- imperialists. This includes a brief account of how the U.S.'s relatively non-violent politicking has very recently given way to an open determination to use and, just as importantly, to advertise its military power. second, it presents the contrasting theory of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, to whom "U.S imperialism" is far from an accurate description of the current form of sovereign power[1]. Despite the popularization of the notion of a new American imperialism our reality is becoming one of a single network of various forms of sovereignty, novel in scope and intensity, not only colonizing territory, but controlling communication, freedom of movement, knowledge, truth, technics, subjectivity, in short, all the processes of natural and social reproduction: life itself.

The most striking aspect of the standard definition of imperialism is its territoriality: imperialism is popularly understood as 'the policy, practice or advocacy of extension of a nation's power or influence over other territories' (The Chambers Dictionary). By this (modernist) definition one is said to live under imperialist rule if the defense and organizational affairs of one's nation are unilaterally managed by an alien governmental-military power. Hardt and Negri's contrasting theory of global emperialism[2] is based on the premise that by the late twentieth century, imperialism of the type familiar to all students of nineteenth century history is archaic, if not impossible. They hypothesize instead a (postmodern) mode of power - Empire, the imperial in the singular - a power whose potency derives from its facelessness and flexibility. Its model is not the hierarchy but the network. Its power is not restricted to control of territory. On the contrary, emperialism is deterritorialized. This social-technological change suggests both the necessity and (in the long term) the possibility of the revolutionary re-appropriation of emperial power toward the construction of a post-nationalist, post-capitalist global society.

Hardt and Negri expand on the Foucauldian premise that power has become 'a machinery that no one owns' (Foucault, 1980: 156). When governmental elites (and jihadist terrorists) come to believe that destructive power is the best guarantor of achieving radical social-political change, they misunderstand their own situation. Ultimately, neither group will be capable of violently imposing their values on the wider world (Hardt, Tamara: ??). Conversely, anti-imperialist refusal of military power is unimaginatively narrow and disappointingly unproductive. Counter-emperialism is borne of the recognition that the power of dissent can be more positively channelled into the constructive demonstration of real alternatives to militaristic and terroristic power.

However, Hardt and Negri do acknowledge the mainstream's accepted truth that we recently have witnessed the reassertion of imperialist power (Hardt, 2005; Negri, ef al., 2002). This essay seeks to reconcile the (anti-)imperialist and (counter-)emperialist theories of the organization of social power, with particular focus on the war on terrorism and the recent U.S.-led military campaign in lraq[3]. It raises the question of whether antiimperialist social and political theory is better served by treating the recent acceptance of U. …

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