Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

TAMARA Interview with Michael Hardt

Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

TAMARA Interview with Michael Hardt

Article excerpt

TAMARA: You seem to present two different and apparently opposed types or instances of technology: technology as a 'biopolitical tool' - meaning technology in the service of Empire; and technology as central in the self-constitution of the multitude. If I am right in this, when is a technology (or a technological practice) the latter and not the former? And how does this fit with your depiction of Empire as always in a state of reaction to the productive activity of the multitude?

Hardt: It seems to me that we have a not-uncommon view of technology as fundamentally ambivalent. In other words, that technology, various technologies, can be used both as means of oppression and as means of liberation. One instance that occurs to me is precisely Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto," in which she talks about the developments of military and disciplinary technologies. I think she refers at the time to the military phrase "C3I." She starts really from the perspective of how new technologies and the blurring of the boundary between the human and the machine are new modes of oppression. And then she tries to reverse that logic and show how the cyborg can also be a means of liberation. So I think she too sees the ambivalent nature of technologies. That technologies aren't, in themselves, either libratory or oppressive but can be used in various ways.

TAMARA: Would you think there might be limit examples or limited counterexamples of this model? For instance, nuclear weapons being just purely destructive. This also raises also the issues of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, as well as things like nanotechnology and the argument about technological relinquishment - that until we know the consequences of some of these things like, human cloning and certain genetic engineering or biotech that we relinquish the technologies.

Hardt: That seems absolutely right to me. What you're suggesting, I think, is that one shouldn't say that all technologies are necessarily ambivalent in this way.

TAMARA: They could be positively used; some are destructive.

Hardt: I imagine that even prior to the development of nuclear weapons, but already biological and chemical weapons at the beginning of the 20th century are already examples of that. It seems right to me that one should at least make distinction among technologies.

TAMARA: What about biotechnology and the debate about relinquishment? The argument that some things we just shouldn't implement, like cloning, human cloning, until we know what the consequences are.

Hardt: Right. I think that it's certainly true, and this isn't special or new to those technologies, that there should be social control of the uses of technologies based on social interests. And I guess also with other techniques, a society has to think in a prudent way about the effects of these. Yes, I certainly I agree with you. I mean, one doesn't just, and I think this has always been true, accept the application of all technological innovations without views to the consequences. There has to be social control of them.

TAMARA: About the depiction of empire as always in a state of reaction to the productive activity of the multitude, maybe you could explain what that is?

Hardt: Well, one way with regard to technology - I remember the example that Marx gives in Volume I of Capital, in the chapter about the factory and specifically about machines, where he says that, "One could write a whole history of technological developments since 50 years previously by simply following the strikes of workers". In other words, that workers' refusals of certain technological systems not only allowed but forced capital to implement new technology. So that, in a way, technological advance was based on the capital's reaction to workers making certain technological systems impractical. A more recent example of that would be in the 1970s, strikes of typesetters at many newspapers allowed newspapers, and really forced newspapers, to adopt computer typesetting. …

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