Antonio Negri

Antonio Negri (born August 1, 1933) is an Italian Marxist sociologist and political philosopher.

Negri is best-known for his co-authorship of Empire, and secondarily for his work on Spinoza. Born in Padua, he became a political philosophy professor in his hometown university. Negri founded the Potere Operaio (Worker Power) group in 1969 and was a leading member of Autonomia Operaia. As an authority of Marxist-Leninism, and proponent of the view that it is an ideology of violent revolution, he published hugely influential books urging "revolutionary consciousness."

He was accused in the late 1970s of various charges including being the mastermind of the left-wing terrorist group[2] Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse or BR), involved in the May 1978 assassination of Aldo Moro, two-time Prime Minister of Italy, and leader of the Christian-Democrat Party, among others. Voice evidence suggested Negri made a threatening phone call on behalf of the BR, but the court was unable to prove his ties.The question of Negri's complicity with left-wing terrorism is a polemical subject. He was indicted on a number of charges, including "association and insurrection against the state" (a charge which was later dropped), and sentenced for involvement in two murders.

Negri fled to France where, protected by the Mitterrand doctrine, he taught at the Université de Vincennes (Paris-VIII) and the Collège International de philosophie, along with Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. In 1997, after a plea-bargain that reduced his prison time from 30 to 13 years, he returned to Italy to serve the end of his sentence. Many of his most influential books were published while he was behind bars. He now lives between Venice and Paris with his partner, the French philosopher Judith Revel.

Early years

Antonio Negri was born in Padua, Italy in 1933. He began his career as a militant in the 1950s with the activist Roman Catholic youth organization Gioventú Italiana di Azione Cattolica (GIAC). He joined the Italian Socialist Party in 1956 and remained a member until 1963, while at the same time becoming more and more engaged throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s in Marxist movements.

He had a quick academic career at the University of Padua and was promoted to full professor at a young age in the field of "dottrina dello Stato" (State theory), a particularly Italian field that deals with juridical and constitutional theory. This might have been facilitated by his connections to influential politicians such as Raniero Panzieri and philosopher Norberto Bobbio, strongly engaged with the Socialist Party.

In the early 1960s Negri joined the editorial group of Quaderni Rossi, a journal that represented the intellectual rebirth of Marxism in Italy outside the realm of the communist party.

In 1969, together with Oreste Scalzone and Franco Piperno, Negri was one of the founders of the group Potere Operaio (Workers' Power) and the Operaismo (workerist) Communist movement. Potere Operaio disbanded in 1973 and gave rise to the Autonomia Operaia Organizzata (Organised Workers' Autonomy) movement.

Arrest and flight

On March 16, 1978, Aldo Moro, former Italian prime minister and Christian Democrat party leader, was kidnapped in Rome by BR. His five-men body guard was murdered soon after. While they were holding him, forty-five days after the kidnapping, the Red Brigades called his family on the phone, taunting Moro's wife about her husband's impending death. Nine days later his body, shot in the head, was found dumped in a city lane. The conversation was recorded, and later broadcast and televised. A number of people who knew Negri and remembered his voice identified him as the probable author of the call, and some months later an American voice specialist made the same assessment.[citation needed]

On April 7, 1979, at the age of forty-six, Antonio Negri was arrested for his part in the Autonomy Movement, along with others (Emilio Vesce, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Mario Dalmaviva, Lauso Zagato, Oreste Scalzone, Pino Nicotri, Alisa del Re, Carmela di Rocco, Massimo Tramonte, Sandro Serafini, Guido Bianchini, and others). Padova's Public Prosecutor Pietro Calogero accused those involved in the of being the political wing of the Red Brigades, and thus behind left-wing terrorism in Italy. Negri was charged with a number of offenses, including leadership of the Red Brigades, masterminding the 1978 kidnapping and murder of the President of the Christian Democratic Party Aldo Moro, and plotting to overthrow the government. At the time, Negri was a political science professor at the University of Padua and visiting lecturer at Paris' École Normale Supérieure. The Italian public was shocked that an academic could be involved in such events.

A year later, Negri was exonerated from Aldo Moro's kidnapping after a leader of the BR, having decided to cooperate with the prosecution, testified that Negri "had nothing to do with the Red Brigades." The charge of 'armed insurrection against the State' against Negri was dropped at the last moment, and because of this he did not receive the 30-year plus life sentence requested by the prosecutor, but only 30 years for being the instigator of political activist Carlo Saronio's murder and having 'morally concurred' with Lombardini's murder during a failed bank robbery.

His philosopher peers saw little fault with Negri's activities. Michel Foucault commented, "Isn't he in jail simply for being an intellectual?" French philosophers Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze also signed in November 1977 L'Appel des intellectuels français contre la répression en Italie (The Call of French Intellectuals Against Repression in Italy) in protest against Negri's imprisonment and Italian anti-terrorism legislation.

In 1983, four years after his arrest and while he was still in prison awaiting trial, Negri was elected to the Italian legislature as a member for the Marxist-led Radical Party. Claiming parliamentary immunity, he was temporarily released and used his freedom to escape to France. There he remained for 14 years, writing and teaching, protected from extradition in virtue of the "Mitterrand doctrine". His refusal to stand trial in Italy was widely criticized by Italian media and by the Italian Radical Party, who had supported his candidacy to Parliament.

In France, Negri began teaching at the Université de Paris VIII (Saint Denis) and the Collège International de Philosophie, founded by Jacques Derrida. Although the conditions of his residence in France prevented him from engaging in political activities, he wrote prolifically and was active in a broad coalition of left-wing intellectuals. In 1990 Negri with Jean-Marie Vincent and Denis Berger founded the journal Futur Antérieur. The journal ceased publication in 1998 but was reborn as Multitudes in 2000, with Negri as a member of the international editorial board.

Negri was released from prison in the spring of 2003, having written some of his most influential works while behind bars.

In the late 1980s the Italian President Francesco Cossiga described Antonio Negri as "a psychopath" who "poisoned the minds of an entire generation of Italy's youth."

Political thought and writing

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Among the central themes in Negri's work are Marxism, democratic globalization, anti-capitalism, postmodernism, neoliberalism, democracy, the commons, and the multitude.[citation needed] His prolific, iconoclastic, cosmopolitan, highly original and often dense and difficult philosophical writings attempt to reconcile critical terms with most of the major global intellectual movements of the past half-century in the service of a new Marxist analysis of capitalism.[citation needed]

Negri is extremely dismissive of postmodernity, whose only value, in his estimation, is that it has served as a symptom of the historical transition whose dynamics he and Hardt set out to explain in Empire. He acknowledges the influence of Michel Foucault, David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity (1989), Fredric Jameson's Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) and Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari's Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

Today, Antonio Negri is best known as the co-author, with Michael Hardt, of the controversial Marxist-inspired treatise Empire (2000). The thesis of Empire is that the globalization and informatization of world markets since the late 1960s have led to a progressive decline in the sovereignty of nation-states and the emergence of "a new form [of sovereignty], composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule." Their discussion is also concerned with the forms that affective labor takes within this context. The authors call this new, global reconfiguration of sovereignty "Empire." This shift both enacts and results from "the real [as opposed to formal] subsumption of social existence by capital," wherein there is no longer any "outside" to capital—everything is always already "subsumed" into the capitalist network. In order to resist and oppose what they identify as the injustices resulting from this imperial sovereignty, the authors call for autonomous constitutive resistance epitomized by the Wobblies, the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, and other loosely structured, autonomous resistance movements—what they call "the multitude."

Empire was criticized in the National Review as a "modern-day Communist Manifesto" and a "virulently anti-American book" that regards Islamist terrorism as being "a spearhead of “postmodern revolution” against American globalization."

The book has had widespread influence in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, but many activists and scholars have been critical of the work. It has inspired many initiatives including No Border network, Libre Society, and D-A-S-H. A follow-up to Empire, called Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, was published in August 2004. Unlike Empire, which was only published by Harvard University Press and was therefore targeted at a predominantly academic audience, the paperback edition of Multitude was released by Penguin Books and addresses a much less specialized readership. Whereas Empire, despite its explicit political orientation, is largely focused on describing the conditions of globalization, Multitude evinces a more activist bent.

Now in his 70s, Negri continues to teach and write. He divides his time between Rome, Venice and Paris, where he delivers political seminars at the Collège International de Philosophie and the Université Paris I.

In March 2008, Antonio Negri, who had been incarcerated from 1997 to 2003, abandoned procedures to obtain a visa for entry into Japan where he planned to give lectures on labor and other issues at the International House of Japan in Tokyo, Kyoto University, and the University of Tokyo. The Immigrant Control and Refugee Recognition Law bans entry to Japan by a foreign national if he has been given a prison sentence of one year or longer, except for political prisoners.

In 2009 Negri completed the book “Commonwealth”, the final in a trilogy that began in 2000 with “Empire” and continued with “Multitude” in 2004, co-authored with Michael Hardt. The book is a "witch’s brew of contemporary radicalism," according to conservative cultural critic Brian Anderson. "Capitalism deserves to die, Messrs. Hardt and Negri believe, for it has abused and corrupted “the common.” The common isn’t just “the fruits of the soil, and all nature’s bounty,” they tell us; it is the universe of things necessary for social life—“knowledges, languages, codes, information, affects.” Under capitalism, nature is ravaged, society brutalized.


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