Academic journal article New Formations

A Tragic Note: On Negri and Deleuze in the Light of the 'Argentinazo'

Academic journal article New Formations

A Tragic Note: On Negri and Deleuze in the Light of the 'Argentinazo'

Article excerpt

In 1798, when Kant engaged in that prophetic or divinatory exercise of historical reflection entitled 'An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?', he looked for 'an event', 'an historical sign' within the current affairs of the world that would allow him to justify his unrepentant optimism about the prospects of a universal and republican constitution for the human race.1 He found it in the revolutionary events then taking place in France or, more precisely - and somehow prefiguring the recent theme of fidelity to events - in the 'enthusiasm' that such political process was awakening in people across Europe.2

Arguably, a contemporary version of such divinatory optimism is to be found in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's recent work, specifically in their political philosophy of the multitude. They have postulated a 'materialist teleology' for the recent mutations of capitalist forms of production and communication. From their perspective, the end (seemingly in the double sense of goal and conclusion) of these recent re-configurations is the production of a new political subject capable of precipitating a radical Event. In these conditions, they claim: 'The possibility of democracy on a global scale is emerging today for the very first time'.3 The comparison with Kant is warranted not simply for the optimism displayed but for the justification adduced: die task of a political manifesto, and for which its prophetic character is deployed, is to participate in the realisation of its own divinations.4

If, as Kant did, one had looked a few years ago for an historical sign that Hardt and Negri's optimistic manifesto was indeed justified and participating in the process, the political upheaval then taking place in Argentina could have justifiably emerged as a strong candidate. As one commentator argued, 'the novelty and peculiarity of the social movements that emerged out of the crisis was seen by many as signalling the consolidation and growth of the global struggles against neoliberalism'.5 The participation of unemployed, women, students and the middle classes in general (which exploded any homogenous conception of proletariat), the vibrant experimentation with novel and immanent forms of political and economic organisation (to a great extent outside of traditional Left institutions), and even a repudiation of the capitalist order in the national and global stage: all of those could have been read as signs that Hardt and Negri's multitude was actually waking up in the southern cone of the American continent. A panoply of movements: piqueteros, asambleas barriales, fabricas recuperadas and clubes de trueque, gave a concrete illustration of how a multitude (consistent with Hardt and Negri's model) could come together as a constituent power. 'The revolt of Argentina', they themselves pointed out, 'was born with the common heritage of the global cycle of struggle at its back, and, in turn, ever since December 2001, activists from elsewhere have looked to Argentina as a source of innovation and inspiration'.6

And yet, just as much as the French revolution didn't herald the accomplishment of Kant's vision of cosmopolitan unity, nothing close to the spectacular event that realises 'democracy on a global scale' seems to have followed from the Argentinazo or, indeed, from any of the multiple and important struggles against contemporary capitalism that marked the turn of the century and subtended much of Hardt and Negri's analyses. Today, the radical climate in Argentina has largely receded, and the political and economic order of capitalist 'democracy' has managed, for the most part, to reinstate itself there once more. Arguably, despite the strength of its irruption and its exemplary character, which make it a singularity in contemporary history, the revolt can hardly be seen as a process of constitution in itself or, at any rate, as a step or contribution in a progressive and ideological sequence towards national or global post-capitalist democracy. …

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