Multitudes 9 on the Concept of the Multitude

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  • Special Issue: Multitude 9 on the Concept of the Multitude.



Michel Bauwens, 2004:

The concept of the Multitude should be distinguished with the concept of "people", which implies a transcendence in the figure of the sovereign: it is pure immanence and difference. It is a class concept in the sense that the multitude is productive, but productive of life, and yearning to constitute itself as the General Intellect; but it is much more broader than 'working class'.

The multitude is also non-representational. Because it is diverse, it cannot be represented. It is not a mass, because it does not consist of individuals, but of creative interlinked bodies, which are multitudes in themselves.

The concept of multitudes, though derived from Spinoza, is a new concept born of the epochal change that is post-modernity and which makes it possible. Negri, the originator of the new concept, specifically refutes the characterisation of late modernity.

Liberalism says that individuals have to transcend their singularity, by considering themselves to be universalized citizens, subject to the same laws. Thus the people are seen in their identity. This is a modern 'conventional' position.

Foucault says contrarywise that we have to be able to transcend ourselves, by experimenting with the multiple others that we can be, thereby shedding as many possible false and partial identities as we can. In that sense, he has to be as 'post-legal' as possible and liberate himself from necessity and the need for governance.

Whereas liberalism wants to eliminate the antagonism of friend vs enemy, which is at the basis of the political theology of Carl Schmitt, Foucault wants to render these oppositions as fluid as possible.