March 5, 2018
A philosopher and a politician, a revolutionary and a former teacher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, linked at the same time to Italy by his origins and his political commitment, and to France by his education and exile, he worked notably on the translation of Hegel's Philosophy of Law, on Spinoza (Spinoza Subversive: Variations (in) 1994, Spinoza and Us, 2010), and Marx (Marx Beyond Marx: Grundrisse, 1979).
Constantly contemptuous of capitalism and opponent of globalism in its neoliberal form, he developed his ideas of the state in the Empire, a work through which, during the French referendum on the European constitution, he explained his position: he calls to approve the Constitution to eliminate the nation-state; Europe could be a guard against the single thought of economic unilateralism - capitalist, conservative and reactionary - and a counter-power against American unilateralism, as he declared in 2005 (Libération, 2005).
As he was saying it in the Paris headquarters of Columbia University, his work still seeks to think that this nation-state he thought obsolete, yet seems to resurface today.(The Great Continent , 2017).
We meet Toni Negri standing, sipping a coffee, in the Paris headquarters of Columbia University. His first gestures, the features of his face, the tone of his voice, at first glance, could make one think of a kind of a transformation of the slender and complicated look of the character of the Magic Mountain, Leo Naphta. Yet immediately, he presents us with a kind of kindness and spontaneous listening, something that ends up making him appear as the double of his character, Ludovico Settembrini.
In your book Empire, you take from Deleuze and Guattari the strategy of accelerating the process of globalization, so as to constitute a "counter-globalization". Yet it is undeniable, already for Deleuze and Guattari, that the process of deterritorialization of globalization is accompanied by a "reterritorialization" which, while changing scale, brings back a certain archaism (the Basque, Irish identity, the territoriality of cities, perhaps even the Daesh). Can we separate the revolutionary process from archaisms?
We wrote Empire in 1995, it seemed to us at that time that concept of nation-state had become obsolete. This was twenty years ago. Today history has shown a resurgence of nationalism.
In your book the concept of Empire is clearly oriented towards the destruction of the nation-state, do you think this story should to be reviewed?
We must understand what the nation state is, it is precisely in this direction that my current work is oriented. We must recognize that today the national resurgence is a fact, especially when it is accompanied by populism. This is an undeniable political fact, the nation exists in the opinion.
We propose a geopolitical analysis of this phenomenon. We should analyse how the reference to the nation is not at all in a historical continuity with past nationalisms. The geographical representations of the FN do not correspond to the representations of classical French nationalism: we will not want to "kill the German” nor take England for our enemy. Even in this nationalism we can observe a form of internationalization: the strategies are shared.
In all forms of populism there is a desire to renew the old world. We must understand what is pathetic in this attempt. It's a grotesque sloppy repetition. In Italy in particular, lepenism is interpreted today by people who until yesterday were regionalist or who played the game of ‘south against the north’. This shows us the strength of this position, its ability to change the referent or not have one must be understood.
March 5, 2018