Over the past several months, The Conversant has published a series of three interviews conducted by Leonard Schwartz with Michael Hardt. This month, we’re pleased to present all three interviews in the chapbook, The Production of Subjectivity: Conversations with Michael Hardt.
Hover your cursor over the embedded chapbook and press “expand” to view the chapbook full size. It may take several seconds for the chapbook to load.
This is the last installment of three interviews Leonard Schwartz conducted with Michael Hardt. You can read the first interview, “Empire,” here and the second interview, “Love as Such,” here.
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).
LS: You’ve said that you’re interested currently in love as a political concept. I wondered if you could say a little bit about that, especially since in Multitude (your last book), it does come up. I was speaking with the political theorist Steve Niva who pointed out that it is very clearly there in your piece—in the beginning of the book about the golem. And then, toward the end of Multitude, a passage which reads as follows:
People today seem unable to understand love as a political concept, but a concept of love is just what we need to grasp the constituent power of the multitude. The modern concept of love is almost exclusively limited to the bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family. Love has become a strictly private affair. We need a more generous and more unrestrained conception of love.
Could you comment on that passage and on the direction your thinking has gone since then?
MH: In part it starts with a recognition that in certain political actions, in certain political demonstrations—the really good ones—you do have a feeling of something really like love. And so, it’s partly a way of trying to theorize that recognition of this feeling of…let’s call it a “collective transformation” that one experiences in certain kinds of political action. And therefore, to think about love, love which I do understand to be precisely a transformative power, something in which we come out different. And to try to think of it as a political concept. There are ways in which love has functioned as a political concept, more than it does today.
This is the first of three interviews Leonard Schwartz conducted with Michael Hardt. The second and third interviews will be published in the November and December issues.
From CCP Episode #112: Empire. September 21, 2006. This interview was transcribed by Holly Melgard and originally published in Rain Taxi Review of Books.
Leonard Schwartz: Your books Empire and Multitude have provided a rich humus for all kinds of other projects that have been created in their wake. Can you say a bit about the nature of your collaboration with the Italian philosopher Antonio Negri? The whole notion of a theoretical work of philosophy that is written by two people is intriguing.
Michael Hardt: I love the collaborative process. It is really quite liberating and obviously productive too.