Cross Cultural Poetics Episode #254: Commonwealth. This interview was transcribed by Holly Melgard
Leonard Schwartz: Great to have you back on the program and to have your new book Commonwealth (published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) and your soon to be published new text with Antonio Negri entitled Declaration also in hand, about which I hope we can speak. As I mentioned, this is a kind of trilogy. Your first work was Empire, the second was Multitude and now the third is Commonwealth. I wondered if you could say a little bit about the underlying architectonic of the three and where Commonwealth fits in the structure as far as your thinking is concerned?
Michael Hardt: Well, you know in some ways, calling it a “trilogy” for ourselves was a way of stopping us from writing more books like this. So unless we start something like prequels—like Star Wars would do—at least we have an end to it. But once we started calling it a “trilogy,” like you say, we did sort of create in our minds an architecture of the whole. In some ways, we considered Empire, the first of the three, to be focused primarily on the characteristics of the new global power structure. Multitude in many ways was both inspired by the alter-globalization movements and following new possibilities in the era of globalization—new possibilities of democracy, of alternatives.
As a final piece, Commonwealth is trying to articulate the notion of the common as both a perspective and an alternative, really, to the current economic and social possibilities. In some ways, “common” can be understood here as being something outside of alternatives we are otherwise presented with, which are these alternatives between private property and public property. You might say Neoliberalism focused on the role of “private property,” and some sort of Keynesian and/or Socialist solution focused on “public property” (meaning, property controlled and regulated by the state). We think of “the common” as something which is neither of those two, and which is, instead, characterized by open-access and self-management. So this might find a way outside of what seems to us to be a restrictive binary, which we’re often faced with (especially in these moments of economic crisis like we’ve had since 2008).