I have a slow internet connection so I don’t watch much internet video. So it took me a while to watch the video Unemployed Negativity posted of Michael Hardt. Hardt starts off presenting an admittedly simplified picture of what he takes to be the “primary [political] model that we [have] inherited” which he calls “the unity model, the party model, [wherein] there must be one agenda and there must be one central organization.” Against this, there arose “models of organization based on difference” rejecting leadership, agendas, and organization along the unity model, following instead multiple self-defined agendas. Hardt cites anti-racist, feminist, and queer struggles as examples.

These two models of organization – one based on identity and the other on difference – formed a political contradiction, being in some ways irreconcilable. This contradiction of identity and difference are organizing principles no longer predominates in the present. Hardt cites the 1999 WTO protest as evidence, though he states that the WTO protest wasn’t the first attempt (success?) at going beyond the identity/difference contradiction. Hardt characterizes the WTO protest as “something like an experiment in the multitude,” “an experiment in singularity, each group organized under its own agenda, its own form of organization and none the less despite their singularity or maybe even because of their singularity cooperating together.”

“[I]n conceptual terms that contradictory couple of identity and difference has now been displaced by a complementary couple (…) of singularity and commonality. The singularity of each group and the commonality of the struggle are no longer in contradiction.” Hardt characterizes this as “a new generation of activism,” while stressing that we can already see in the slogans of previous generations a desire for this, slogans that call for not “a world without difference” but “a world in which difference doesn’t imply hierarchy,” which he calls “already a demand for something like the multitude, singularity and equality of cooperation.” He quotes Audre Lord, “our differences are our strength,” as one such slogan.

(This project of experimentation with multitude is what Hardt’s recent discussions on love as a political concept aims at, thinking of love as “communication among singularities,” which bridges into his work and interest on Spinoza – love as (the joy of) increase of one’s power by an external cause (one which is recognized). Hardt calls this “a question of power based on difference.” Love as a political concept is a way to think and understand multitude as “a project of singularity plus cooperation or autonomy plus commonality.”)

I’m interested in the generations before the party form, the unity model. I think there are things left there – inheritance to be claimed, so to speak – which are neglected. I think some of the resources there anticipate some of the changes and slogans Hardt takes up from people and struggles that responded to the party form and unity. I’m not against those people or struggles of course, but I think there were discussions that pre-dated the hegemony of the party form, and some of them were raised against its growing hegemony. Those can offer additional resources to the project of rejecting or thinking beyond the party and unity as political models.

Advertisements