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Insurgencies: Constituent Power and the Modern State

Antonio Negri
Translated by Maurizia Boscagli
Volume: 15
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    At a time when political paradigms are collapsing, and the death of Marxism and the Left is proclaimed, Insurgencies offers an intellectually invigorating and historically wide-ranging appraisal of the real legacy and promise of revolutionary thought and practice. Here, celebrated political prisoner Antonio Negri explores the drama of modern revolutions-from Machiavelli’s Florence and Harrington’s England to the American, French, and Russian revolutions-and puts forward a new notion of how power and action must be understood if we are to achieve a radically democratic future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8518-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)

    THE HISTORY of modern Euro-American revolutions has often been read by scholars as a series of contrasts or alternatives. The dynamics of the American Revolution are opposed to the French, or perhaps both are contrasted to the Russian experience. Such studies end up by posing the different modern revolutions as emblems of opposing ideological positions — liberal, bourgeois, totalitarian, and so forth. Antonio Negri proposes, rather, that we trace the common thread that links these modern revolutions and read them as the progressive development and expression of one and the same concept,constituent power.Constituent power is the active, operative element...

  4. ONE Constituent Power: The Concept of a Crisis
    (pp. 1-35)

    TO SPEAK of constituent power is to speak of democracy. In the modern age the two concepts have often been related, and as part of a process that has intensified during the twentieth century, they have become more and more superimposed. In other words, constituent power has been considered not only as an all-powerful and expansive principle capable of producing the constitutional norms of any juridical system, but also as the subject of this production — an activity equally all-powerful and expansive. From this standpoint, constituent power tends to become identified with the very concept of politics as it concept is...

  5. TWO Virtue and Fortune: The Machiavellian Paradigm
    (pp. 37-97)

    THIS POEM by Machiavelli although unremarkable does mark a beginning, the beginning of a new historical era, and it reveals a problem, the problem of “mutation.” This is the initial dimension of Machiavelli’s thought. TheFirst Decennaleis dated “Ides of November 1504,” and therefore it was composed ten years after Charles VIII’s descent to Italy. It goes back to that fatal date and dramatizes it in the light of the events of the entire decade and in particular of those of the previous year, 1503, which had witnessed Julius II’s succession and the beginning of Valentino’s disgrace.

    In the...

  6. THREE The Atlantic Model and the Theory of Counterpower
    (pp. 99-139)

    CONSTITUENT ONTOLOGY is part of an absolute mutation. When Machiavelli formulates the concept of constituent power, he moves in a scene of mutation: in 1494, when Charles VIII descends on Italy and the independence, the political autonomy, and the internal equilibrium of a country that represents the world economy are put into question, a sudden and global mutation takes place. Here are born, together with the complex of Niccolò Machiavelli’s problematic, the themes of a mature and critical Renaissance thought. The Machiavellian Utopia goes hand in hand with a deepening consciousness of the crisis. “The heroic disillusion with which Machiavelli...

  7. FOUR Political Emancipation in the American Constitution
    (pp. 141-191)

    THERE is an image that dominates Edmund Burke’s speech when, on March 22, 1775, he presented his motion of conciliation with the colonies: the image of the Americans pushed beyond the Appalachians by the embezzlements of the British government and by their love for freedom, and here, in the immense plains, become “Tartars”: “English Tartars... pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry.”¹ Immense spaces and an unrestrainable love for freedom: in this approach we can recognize the man who, in 1756, had published an inquiry on the sublime.² But on the other side of this man...

  8. FIVE The Revolution and the Constitution of Labor
    (pp. 193-249)

    THERE is something that not even the most reactionary, the most regressive and continuistic interpretations can erase in the French Revolution understood as event: its temporality. I mean its temporal progress, its temporal rhythm, the dimension of the “mutation” that — either real or imaginary—remains nonetheless the most essential determination of its movement. The French Revolution has an unerasable temporality; all its course is a succession of events; its quality—both for its supporters and its enemies — is temporal. The termtemporalis a concern for its protagonists as much as for its adversaries: it is a concern with constituent...

  9. SIX Communist Desire and the Dialectic Restored
    (pp. 251-301)

    MODERN CAPITALISM brings to maturity the concept of constituent power by constructing it as the pervasive force of the entire society, as the continuity of a social power that absorbs and configures all other power, State power first of all. In modern capitalism all the characteristics of constituent power, which a long historical process had been shaping, are powerfully summed up and reorganized. Its ontological rooting, its function as social counterpower, its spatial dimension, and the continuity of its temporal action — all these become the figure of a constituent power that the modern force of industry distributes among the actors...

  10. SEVEN The Constitution of Strength
    (pp. 303-336)

    THE HISTORY of constituent power, considered in its development, reveals at least two continuities. One is demonstrated in a linear manner in the expansion and deepening of the Renaissance revolutionary principle of theex novoconstitution of the political arrangements of the new society. The great revolutions that followed expressed the continuity of a constituent principle that responds to the necessity to rationalize power. The rise and the development of capitalism and its form of organization of society revealed the constituent principle as crisis: crisis of the relation between the productive strength of society and the legitimation of the State....

  11. Notes
    (pp. 337-364)
  12. Index
    (pp. 365-368)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 369-369)