Common and the Forms of the Commune

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* Special Issue on the Common and the Forms of the Commune, Volume 22, Issue 3, 2010 of the Journal: Rethinking Marxism


Contextual Citation

"We want to ask, rather, what is the operative notion of the common today, in the midst of postmodernity, the information revolution, and the consequent transformations of the mode of production. It seems to us, in fact, that today we participate in a more radical and profound commonality than has ever been experienced in the history of capitalism. The fact is that we participate in a productive world made up of communication and social networks, interactive services, and common languages. Our economic and social reality is defined less by the material objects that are made and consumed than by co-produced services and relationships. Producing increasingly means constructing cooperation and communicative commonalities."

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri [1]


The editors:

"These observations by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri frame, but by no means limit or confine, the investigations, understandings, and interventions of the contributors to this special issue of Rethinking Marxism. Operating within and beyond each of the offerings contained in these pages is a profound play on precisely the question posed: What is the operative notion of the common today? Even the singularity of that question’s basic assumption is challenged by the scope of these inquiries for, indeed, a paradox begins to emerge when we consider them as a collection, one might even say as a common production of knowledge: recognition that the very foundation of a concept of the common its particularity may well be articulated in a multiplicity of ways. That is to say, can postmodernity or whatever we wish to designate our present condition tolerate a single ‘‘operative notion’’ of the common, or does it rather demand a constellation of understandings that contribute simultaneously to our experience of the common and to its neoliberal other, the promotion of individuation?"


On the Common, Universality, and Communism

"The first query posed by Anna Curcio and Ceren Ozselc¸uk to Etienne Balibar and Antonio Negri in their conversation ‘‘On the Common, Universality, and Communism’’goes to the heart of this paradox when it asks how we can ‘‘distinguish the affects, desires, and forms of cooperation that produce the common from those that reproduce capitalistic cooperation.’’ Although Negri and Balibar differ noticeably in their analytical emphases, each in his own way pushes back on the presuppositions of that question. Negri asserts that under current conditions of production the ‘‘problem of distinguishing between the ‘common,’ the ethico-political whole constituted by singularity and produced by the making-multitude , on the one hand, and the ‘communism of capital,’ the form of capital accumulation and the symmetrical representation of new processes of social and cognitive production of value, on the other, no longer exists.

Balibar similarly refuses the simple opposition inherent in the concept of common. Instead he insists on the term’s equivocity, its variety of meanings and applications as well as its evocation of a permanent tension between opposite meanings.

At bottom, Negri and Balibar tentatively agree that the current global crisis is a calamity not merely of economic mechanisms, but of civilization, and that, as Balibar puts it, ‘‘therefore, everything we can say today about alternatives, even alternative languages, be it based on the ontology of the common and the political philosophy of the multitude as global revolutionary subject, or on a certain conception of nonexclusionary citizenship and democratizing democracy, which Balibar attaches to a concept of equaliberty will probably have to be completely reexamined.

In the meantime, however, the spirited exchange between Balibar and Negri accentuates the ontological, epistemological, and ethical stakes of their work."


  • Jack Amariglio offers an analysis of Marx’s use of the forms of commune in the Grundrisse.
  • ‘‘The Common and Its Production,’’ the first of four discrete sections into which the remainder of the articles in this issue are organized, opens with Michael Hardt’s essay,

‘‘The Common in Communism,’’ which focuses on yet another dialectical tension of ‘‘the common.'’

  • ‘‘Five Theses on the Common,’’ by Gigi Roggero, extends Hardt’s assertion that our current mode of production has moved beyond the production of movable property to the creation of

‘‘immaterial’’ commodities.

  • In ‘‘Response: A Common Word,’’ Aras Ozgun masterfully fixes upon the paradox informing the discussion of property and its relation to the social in Hardt and Roggero’s essays, succinctly bringing together some of the main concerns of this section of the special issue. Ozgun lucidly points out that, in rejecting

‘‘public property’’ for the sake of a ‘‘communist project,’’ Hardt and Roggero also remove the term ‘‘‘public’ from its hegemonic status as expressing an abstract collective will/body/thing." (