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Radical Thought in Italy

Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics

Paolo Virno
Michael Hardt
Maurizia Boscagli
Cesare Casarino
Paul Colilli
Ed Emory
Michael Hardt
Michael Turits
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Radical Thought in Italy
    Book Description:

    Radical Thought in Italy provides an original view of the potential for a radical democratic politics today that speaks not only to the Italian situation but also to a broadly international context. Contributors: Giorgio Agamben, Massimo De Carolis, Alisa Del Re, Augusto Illuminati, Maurizio Lazzarato, Antonio Negri, Franco Piperno, Marco Revelli, Rossana Rossanda, Carlo Vercellone, Adelino Zanini.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9903-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Laboratory Italy
    (pp. 1-10)
    Michael Hardt

    In Marx’s time revolutionary thought seemed to rely on three axes: German philosophy, English economics, and French politics. In our time the axes have shifted so that, if we remain within the same Euro-American framework, revolutionary thinking might be said to draw on French philosophy, U.S. economics, and Italian politics. This is not to say that Italian revolutionary movements have met only with great successes in recent decades; in fact, their defeats have been almost as spectacular as those suffered by the French proletariat in the nineteenth century. I take Italian revolutionary politics as model, rather, because it has constituted...

  4. Part I: Antidotes to Cynicism and Fear

    • The Ambivalence of Disenchantment
      (pp. 13-36)
      Paolo Virno

      An examination of the emotional situation of recent years constitutes neither a lighthearted literary diversion nor a recreational hiatus amid otherwise rigorous research. On the contrary, such an approach aims at the most pressing and concrete issues, at relations of production and forms of life, at acquiescence and conflict. It is an “earthly prologue” deaf to all angelic rustlings, intent instead on settling accounts with common sense and with the ethos that emerged from the 1980s.

      Byemotional situation,however, I do not mean a group of psychological propensities, but those modes of being and feeling so pervasive as to...

    • Toward a Phenomenology of Opportunism
      (pp. 37-52)
      Massimo De Carolis

      It is a peculiar fact that in different languages, corresponding terms can at times acquire diametrically opposed meanings. A noteworthy example is the wordselfconscious,which corresponds exactly to the Italianautocosdenteand which in everyday American English functions as a synonym forawkwardorunnatural.For a European with some philosophical background, this coincidence cannot but have a certain impact, given that our tradition from Descartes to Hegel has always found in selfconsciousness(autocoscienza)not only the apex of spirituality, but the premise of that reflective attitude that presides over every free and responsible action. Conversely, for the average...

    • Weak Thought between Being and Difference
      (pp. 53-60)
      Adelino Zanini

      The appearance of a “minimalist” or “weak” thought in Italy cannot be attributed to a will, but rather should be recognized as the fruit of a social condition. That is why it is so difficult to talk about it. What is chosen for it often does not belong to it, and what is proper to it is only the caricatural aspect—an ugly frame surrounding a tragic pseudorepresentation. Weak thought cannot be brought back to a single “site” of philosophical reflection, in any case, however often it touches base there. The modern condition has exhausted an expansive cycle of thought....

    • Two Hundred Questions for Anyone Who Wants to Be Communist in the 1990s
      (pp. 61-78)
      Rossana Rossanda

      In 1991 the world scene appears radically changed from twenty years ago, when we started the newspaper. The world was then bipolar, and now it is no longer so. The East-West atomic blackmailing that had characterized that world is now gone.

      Europe was then swept by a strong social conflict that, in five years, pushed half of the continent to the left—Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, with the Communist Party in the government majority, and France, with a socialist as president—whereas today we witness the opposite tendency. In Eastern Europe the system was creaking ideologically, but its State structure...

  5. Part II: Working in Post-Fordism

    • The Anomaly and Exemplariness of the Italian Welfare State
      (pp. 81-98)
      Carlo Vercellone

      In many respects, the experiences of the Italian Welfare State represent a particular case. The comparatively late industrial development, the continuity and ferocity of the workers’ struggles and social movements, the high levels of Mafia activity and political corruption, and above all the radical division between the northern and southern parts of the country all make Italy an anomaly with respect to the rest of the developed capitalist countries. Precisely because of these anomolous conditions, however, the Italian experience may paradoxically prove to be exemplary for the future of all welfare systems. The need to manage an internal relationship between...

    • Women and Welfare: Where Is Jocasta?
      (pp. 99-114)
      Alisa Del Re

      In the Oedipus myth, Oedipus’s body and his desires significantly contribute to the making of the individual’s free will, his autonomy as well as the relationship between knowledge and will. Yet the other body at stake, that of his mother, Jocasta, is hardly visible. We know nothing about her, neither her desires, nor her guilt, nor whether she is self-aware.¹ She is the Mother, unself-conscious and loving, and nothing is said about her concerns, her aspirations, and her needs. She has no desire: in Oedipus’s drama she endures and disappears. Not even Freud is interested in Jocasta, and in his...

    • Worker identity in the Factory Desert
      (pp. 115-122)
      Marco Revelli and Ed Emory

      If we review the political developments of the past quarter century in the light of concepts of “rootedness” and “movement,” it is easy to reach conclusions that are disconcerting, or, if you prefer, counterintuitive. What appears to have happened is that the central subject of transformation seems, over this period, to have become a motor that is immobile. The working class —the factor par excellence for contestation of the existing order of things —seems to have adopted as its principal weapon practices of preservation of the status quo, staticness, rigidity, andresistance,while, on the other hand, change, proteiformity, and...

    • Technological Innovation and Sentimental Education
      (pp. 123-132)
      Franco Piperno

      If, just for fun, in order to shake off the tedium of defeat, we were to choose Marx’s “Fragment on Machines” from theGrundrisseas a biblical passage, a place where the word resounds prophetically, then the appropriate commentary on that text would be a concise exposition of the theory of automatons, that is to say, a broad description of Turing’s machine. Conceiving production in terms of cybernetic machines gives production the character of a natural science, a scientifically reproduced natural process. At the same time, it reduces the work of the human body, living labor, to a simple element...

    • Immaterial Labor
      (pp. 133-148)
      Maurizio Lazzarato

      A significant amount of empirical research has been conducted concerning the new forms of the organization of work. This, combined with a corresponding wealth of theoretical reflection, has made possible the identification of a new conception of what work is nowadays and what new power relations it implies.

      An initial synthesis of these results—framed in terms of an attempt to define the technical and subjective-political composition of the working class—can be expressed in the concept ofimmaterial labor,which is defined as the labor that produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity. The concept of immaterial...

  6. Part III: Concepts for a Potential Politics

    • Form-of-Life
      (pp. 151-158)
      Giorgio Agamben

      The ancient Greeks did not have only one term to express what we mean by the wordlife.They used two semantically and morphologically distinct terms:zoé,which expressed the simple fact of living common to all living beings (animals, humans, or gods), andbios,which signified the form or manner of living peculiar to a single individual or group. In modern languages this opposition has gradually disappeared from the lexicon (and where it is retained, as inbiologyandzoology,it no longer indicates any substantial difference); one term only—the opacity of which increases in proportion to the...

    • Beyond Human Rights
      (pp. 159-166)
      Giorgio Agamben

      In 1943, Hannah Arendt published in a small English-language Jewish publication, theMenorah Journal,an article titled “We Refugees.” At the end of this brief but significant piece of writing, after having polemically sketched the portrait of Mr.Cohn, the assimilated Jew who, after having been 150 percent German, 150 percent Viennese, and 150 percent French, must bitterly realize in the end that “on ne parvient pas deux fois, “she turns the condition of countryless refugee—a condition she herself was living—upside down in order to present it as paradigm of a new historical consciousness. The refugees who have lost...

    • Unrepresentable Citizenship
      (pp. 167-188)
      Augusto Illuminati

      In our modern apolitical condition politics has spread out into spheres from which it has traditionally been excluded and where, hence, it has to be reinterpreted, just as an image reflected in a cylindrical surface has to be straightened anamorphically.¹ In this way we should single out the practices, tactics, strategies, objectives, and organizational apparatuses of a movement that articulates itself through either limited and provisory issues or permanent differences, such as sexual difference or the difference of ethnic or cultural minorities. The politicization of uncustomary spheres goes hand in hand with the desertion of ossified institutions.

      A reactive practice...

    • Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus
      (pp. 189-212)
      Paolo Virno

      Nothing appears so enigmatic today as the question of what it means to act. This issue seems both enigmatic and out of reach—up in the heavens, one might say. If nobody asks me what political action is, I seem to know; but if I have to explain it to somebody who asks, this presumed knowledge evaporates into incoherence. And yet what notion is more familiar in people’s everyday speech than action? Why has the obvious become clothed in mystery? Why is it so puzzling? The answer is not to be found in the customary realm of ready-made responses: the...

    • Constituent Republic
      (pp. 213-222)
      Antonio Negri

      When Condorcet suggested that each generation might produce its own political constitution, on the one hand he was referring to the position of constitutional law in Pennsylvania (where constitutional law was on the same footing as ordinary law, providing one single method for creating both constitutional principles and new law), and on the other he was anticipating article XXVIII of the French revolutionary Constitution of 1793: “Un peuple a toujours le droit de revoir, de reformer et de changer sa Constitution. Une génération ne peut assujetter à ses lois les générations futures [A people always has the right to revise,...

  7. Appendix:: A Future History

    • Do You Remember Revolution?
      (pp. 225-240)
      Lucio Castellano, Arrigo Cavallina, Giustino Cortiana, Mario Dalmaviva, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Chicco Funaro, Antonio Negri, Paolo Pozzi, Franco Tommei, Emilio Vesce, Paolo Virno and Rebibbia Prison
    • Do You Remember Counterrevolution?
      (pp. 241-260)
      Paolo Virno
  8. Glossary of Concepts
    (pp. 261-264)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 265-268)
  10. Index
    (pp. 269-271)