Non-Sovereign Institutions

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Pascal Gielen and Sonja Lavaert interview Antonio Negri:

* Q: This leads nicely to our next question. You advocate complementarity of the three political strategies: pre-figurative politics, antagonistic reformism and hegemony. Existing institutions are abolished and new, non-sovereign institutions are created. What exactly needs to be abandoned when it comes to existing institutions?

We are currently witnessing the death struggle of the concepts that have dominated political thinking and practice in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The most important of these dying concepts are national sovereignty and property, both private and public. National sovereignty has been beaten by globalized capitalism, but at the same time actual capitalism is founded on those same barely surviving concepts that influence and mutually confirm each other. The concept or principle on which national sovereignty is based, in particular the ‘border’, has really become absurd. We transcend and cross borders constantly. Our brains are globalized and have no more use for the concept of border, so we need to get rid of it. That is the theoretical work that needs to be done: giving short shrift to moribund principles and concepts such as the border. As abundantly clear as this is for national sovereignty, so it is for ownership, both private and public: ownership is based on the same logic as the border, an obsolete concept that is at odds with reality. Even more so: property and border are one and the same thing.

The concept of the common, by contrast, is not one of ownership. In thinking about this issue it is extremely important to make a distinction between ‘common goods’ (beni comuni), which can be the object of ownership, and ‘the common’ (il comune) as in ‘commonwealth’, which is a production, something that is formed by the common from within and which consequently cannot be owned.

Q: Is there anything positive you could mention about what these new ‘non-sovereign’ institutions might look like? How should the three political strategies – pre-figurative politics, antagonistic reformism and hegemony over the institutions – work together exactly? Is there a sequence that these three strategies should follow, or should they be deployed in parallel?

That is a question of the political practice. I simply can’t answer that, as it is too hard to do this sitting at a writing desk. It is both impossible and undesirable. I don’t see it as part of my work, which is studying, philosophizing, providing general frameworks in a critical manner, studying the foundation of the discourse, questioning the principles and concepts. And then there is the practice of the struggle and it is within the struggle that debate and consultation should take place, among each other, about what should be done. We cannot be expected to predict the future, and it is not our ambition to do so. To me this is one of the core issues: we will have to wait until the future announces itself, breaks out. That takes place in practice, whereas in my work I wish to point out directions, and formulate a critique of the principles of ideas and structures." (