I used to assimilate recent Italian thought and post-operaismo to Negri. Later, I started to see some of the differences there (as Angela put it, “the significant divergences that did and do exist under that broad heading”, which are some of the most interesting aspects of that work). At either point I’d have been happy to take out a party card, so to speak. Lately I’m much less inclined in that direction. Still, there’s some important stuff in that varied body of work, for which I have a deep and abiding affection.

I had a conversation today with a friend who is, at least recently, unhappy in university. We talked about substantive intellectual work that we care about and love – in a sort of sense of vocation, about how that does and doesn’t fit in or appear in the university, and about the specifically job components of the university which, like any job, suck. We also talked about intellectual friendship, comparing that with our experiences of playing music with people as a sort of musical friendship.

I’m not generally fond of the term ‘intellectual‘, as a noun I mean. It’s one of the terms I set out to get clearer on when I started this blog (the terms which make up my outmoded no-longer-useful post categorization system). I’ve still not really done that, and I should get back to that (along with everything else). I prefer ‘thought’ or ‘intellect’, something everyone has and does, to ‘intellectual’, something only some people supposedly are. I particularly don’t like the term as applied to folks who work in universities in distinction from those who don’t. Academic is a much better word for that distinction in my book.

The term ‘general intellect‘ is a good term as well. It’s role in Marx and the way it has been thought are I think still up in the air, but there’s a lot of possibility there. General intellect is something shared, a common resource and a common project (a project in, drawing from, and working upon/productive of the common or commons). That’s a great insight in post-operaismo, and is in some ways a thought of intellectual friendship. In that sense, this material has been very true to and illuminating of some of my best experiences, having been gifted with some great intellectual friendship thus far, happily much more so than I understand or have terms to analyze intellectual friendship.

I like focusing on general intellect as intellectual friendship (though it’s not only that and that could be onesided, leaving out the servile and negative forms of general intellect that Virno discusses) in part because it emphasizes practices, relationships, and ethics in the sense of self making. Those are I think elements in common with Ranciere’s discussion of universal teaching. It’s also a way to think multitude.