The Left


David Aaronovitch, in The Observer column to which Harry links below, mentions “the recent accolades accorded to that darling of the anti-globalisation movement, Antonio Negri, co-author of the deeply fashionable and completely impenetrable book Empire.”

Are supposedly intelligent people still taking that book seriously?

A couple of years ago, Alan Wolfe of The New Republic magazine wrote a devastating review of Empire (unfortunately unavailable online).

According to Wolfe the authors argue that “Everything that dissents– even ‘piercings, tattoos, punk fashions and its various imitations’– foreshadows the stirrings that are necessary to challenge the new forms that capitalism is taking.”

Yeah, right. Excuse me, Antonio, but those are the new forms that capitalism is taking.

Wolfe quotes the following sentence from the book, which tops the most ridiculous parody Orwell could have dreamed up:

The analysis of real subsumption, when this is understood as investing not only the economic or only the cultural dimension of society but rather the social bios itself, and when it is attentive to the modalities of disciplinarity [it’s in the dictionary, believe it or not] and/or control, disrupts the linear and totalitarian figure of capitalist development.

Outside of unfortunate reviewers like Wolfe, has anyone actually read this monstrosity from start to finish?