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Antonio Negri - Biography

Antonio Negri, Ph.D., is an Italian Marxist sociologist, scholar, revolutionary philosopher and teacher. Antonio Negri was born August 1, 1933 in Padua, Italy. He is most well known for his groundbreaking work Empire, which was wrote with Michael Hardt. Antonio Negri is influenced in great part by Karl Marx and Benedict Baruch Spinoza.. Antonio Negri was a founder of the group, Potere Operaio (Worker Power), in 1969 and was an active member in the group Autonomia Operaia.

Antonio Negri grew up in Padua, Italy becoming a militant in the 1950s. He joined the Roman Catholic Activist youth group Gioventú Italiana di Azione Cattolica (GIAC). From 1956 to 1963 Antonio Negri became a member of the Italian Socialist Party. During this period Antonio Negri was increasingly active within Marxist movements of the time. In the early 60’s Antonio joined the editorial board of the Marxist Italian journal, Quaderni Rossi. As a young man, Antonio began his academic career at the University of Padua where he was appointed to a full professor in dottrina dello Stato (State Theory). This Italian academic discipline focuses on juridical and constitutional theory. In 1969 Antonio Negri, Oreste Scalzone and Franco Piperno founded the group Potere Operaio (Workers' Power) and the Operaismo (workerist) Communist movement. Potere Operaio disbanded in 1973 and gave rise to the Autonomia Operaia Organizzata (Organised Workers' Autonomy) movement.

Antonio Negri was arrested in 1979 due to his relation with the Autonomy Movement. Aldo Moro, the former Italian prime minister and Christian Democratic leader was kidnapped in Rome on March 16, 1978 by the Red Brigades. While he was being held a phone call was placed threatining Aldo Moro’s wife that her husband would soon be dead, following the call, nine days later he was shot in the head and dumped in a city side street. Negri was accused of being the mastermind of the kidnapping and murder and accused of plotting to overturn the government. A year later Antonio Negri was exonerated from the murder charges, but was still imprisoned for other related charges.

Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze both protested Negri’s imprisoment and Italy’s anti-terrorism laws. Michel Foucault famously said, “Isn’t he in jail simply for being an intellectual?" While in prison in 1983, only four years after his arrest while he was still awaiting trial, Negri was elected to the Italian legislature with the Radical Party. He was then temporarily released and escaped to France for 14 years. He wrote and taught during his time in France and was protected under the “Mitterand doctrine". While in France Antonio Negri taught philosophy courses at the Université de Paris VIII (Saint Denis) and the Collège International de Philosophie, which was founded by Jacques Derrida.

During his stay in France, Antonio Negri was active amongst intellectuals. Antonio founded the journal Futur Antérieur with Jean-Marie Vincent and Denis Berger in 1990. In 1998 the journal stopped publication, but was renamed and rebirthed as Multitudes in 2000 with Antonio Negri was made a member of the international editorial board. In 1997, after a plea-bargain that reduced his prison time from 30 to 13 years, he returned to Italy to serve the end of his sentence. Many of his most influential books were published while he was behind bars. He now lives between Venice and Paris with his partner, the French philosopher Judith Revel.

Antonio Negri studies Marxism, anti-capitalism, postmodernism, noeliberalism, the commons, the multitude and democratic globalization. Antonio Negri is most well known for his book written with Michael Hardt Empire (2000). Empire deals with the globalization of information and markets and the effect they have had on politics. Hardt & Negri argue that the decline in nation-state sovereignty is directly linked to the increasingly globalized world. What happens with the decline of the nation-state is the rise of a new form of sovereignty under supranational organization with an increasingly unified logic of ruling. This new global matrix of sovereignty is called empire. The book examines how labor functions within such systems analyzing concepts such as living labor.

In Empire, Hardt and Negri offered the analysis of the functioning of current global power structures due to the transformation of imperialism and American dominance which happened after the Vietnam war. In this new state of affairs, the sovereignty of the nation state has declined and a new form of sovereignty was created, which they name the 'empire'. Following the poststructuralist model set by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the empire is seen as being characterized by flexible, mobile boundaries and hybrid identities, as a decentered global network and a dynamic pattern of breaks and flows. In this network of coordinated collaboration, no nation state is really sovereign anymore and even the most powerful nation is not able to control the global order.

Therefore, the main question Hardt and Negri were interested in was to try to define the new authority that guarantees the long-term survival of capital after the demise of the nation state which functioned as its main guarantee of sustainability. According to them, this authority is the empire, with no center or the binary opposition of the outside and inside. Further on, Hardt and Negri formulate the most relevant task today to be the mapping of the geography of global power divisions where power is seen as transcendental and not transcendent. Only through this we might reach some of the possible answers to the question, 'what forms of contestation of power are possible today?' As Hardt and Negri remind us, the most dangerous thing would be to fight the enemy that no longer exists.

Upon completing Empire, Hardt and Negri felt the need to further elaborate on the subject or form of an alternative for which they believed remained at a poetic level in their previous analysis. Therefore, in Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire they examine the possibilities of cooperative resistance to the new global order. Hardt and Negri decided to work upon this question by rethinking the concept of the working class which they refuse to see as a homogeneous group. They formulate the need for a political party that will have a form of a horizontal network structure without a centralized point of decision or leadership. For this, they have found the inspiration in several organizations created after the 1960s in order to defend the rights of marginalized groups such as the black power, civil rights movement, homosexual and queer organizations. Established in such a way with no centralized power, these organizations raised the question of the possibilities of multiplicity to act together.

According to Hardt and Negri, the power of resistance is much stronger than what we might think and if held the right way, any tool can become one's weapon of revolution. Instead of trying to answer the question of what is to be done, they propose answering the question of what are people already doing, as a way to create a particular catalog of ideas for revolutionary practices. According to them, the main question about what democracy is today and what it could be in a global world will remain unanswered and in the realm of fantasy unless there is a subject that can fill it. Therefore, the new subject of democracy is exactly this entity they named 'multitude', and the democracy of the future can be saved only if there is a freedom to determine what are we to become.

In their third part of the trilogy entitled Commonwealth, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri offer a framework in which to restore the meaning of the many corrupted concepts of political vocabulary. They will further elaborate their previous suggestions for the social change that can be obtained by using the current forms of class oppression by joining it with the necessity to rethink the common in communism in order for this change to actually happen.

Antonio Negri is an Italian Political Philosopher.