Michael Hardt is an American political philosopher and literary theorist. His ongoing collaboration with Antonio Negri has resulted in some of the most exciting books published on politics in recent decades. Hardt and Negri have published three important critiques of late capitalism and globalization: Labor of Dionysus: A Critique of the State-Form (1994), Empire (2000) and Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004). These three works have been highly praised by contemporary activists. Empire, for example, has been hailed as “nothing less than a rewriting of The Communist Manifesto for our time” by the Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Others have referred to it as “one of the most comprehensive theoretical efforts to understand globalization.” In the end, Hardt and Negri’s most important contribution to activist praxis may be their promotion of a new concept of resistance – articulated in the figure of the multitude – that continues to inform contemporary debates on activist strategy.
Adbusters Contributing Editor Micah White asked Michael Hardt whether he thinks Generation O has revolutionary potential...
I’ve been really impressed by the activists in North America, the US in particular, in the last ten years. I think this younger generation’s ability to dispense with notions of purity – moral and political purity – is one element that marks an advance with respect to the activists of the ’60s. Contemporary activists have been able to recognize how political struggle has to be a joyful operation. Their actions involve a new kind of relationship to pleasure and desire by translating them into events that are sometimes carnivalesque and sometimes theatrical. There has also been significant decentralization and democratization within the movements themselves.
It seems to me that the young activists that I’ve met in North America, Europe and elsewhere all understand the important relationship between affect and activism. In other words, the young activists of today have completely dispelled an older notion of the serious and suffering, ascetic and often sad concept of political militancy. They recognize that an important aspect of political activism is the joy of struggle itself, the joy of political activism and the joy of communities that are constructed through political activism.
Obama’s election is, of course, not the end of political struggle or the end of modes of resistance. That is obvious. What it does mark is a new context in which struggles can be more rational and more productive. The hope is that we won’t have to engage with the most obvious and stupid struggles anymore, like we had to against the Bush regime. You know, the quality of one’s enemy has something to do with making one more or less intelligent. And I think that struggling against Bush made us stupid. Because we had to struggle against the most obvious of things: against torture, against the occupation in Iraq. I hope that we don’t have to struggle against these in the years to come. My hope for the Obama presidency is that we will be able to focus on struggles that really designate a better world. That does not mean utopian aspirations for the Obama presidency, but rather utopian aspirations for the kind of struggles that can be born under, and sometimes against, an Obama administration. I am hoping that the activists of Generation O can start from a more reasonable and advanced position, which can make their struggles more intelligent, productive and aspiring.