Hardt And Negri’s “Empire” Foreshadows Wall Street Protests

[October 17, 2011]

The October 2011 issue of the Journal of Communication Inquiry (JCI) marks the tenth anniversary of Hardt and Negri’s groundbreaking book Empire (2000) with a special theme issue devoted to its impact on critical communication studies.

The issue, guest edited by Jack Z. Bratich of Rutgers University, contains 19 essays from internationally recognized academics in communication, cultural, and media studies.

The focus of this issue resonates with the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement, as Hardt and Negri’s books (especially Empire) are believed to have predicted and helped shape the current wave of radicalism.

A key essay, “Corruption and Empire: Notes on Wisconsin” by M.R. Greene-May, directly links the concept of “corruption” from Hardt and Negri’s works to street action and thus would be useful in understanding current social activism.

Examining the (eventually failed) class struggle in Wisconsin that began with Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting legislation earlier this year, Greene-May argues how framing the solution to the problem of union busting as an electoral solution (through the ballot box strategy of recall and referendums) threatens the possibility of compositional and autonomous politics in class struggle. By demonstrating how party politics can politically capture and exploit class composition, as in the case of Wisconsin, Greene-May asserts that events of class struggle should “create their own conditions of possibility unfolding in their own time” rather than being defined and controlled by “the terms of the debate” by others. This claim parallels Hardt and Negri’s argument of how a successful radical movement should be like a “swarm:” that despite being decentralized, spontaneous, and free-flowing, a radical movement can self-organize, self-regulate, and self-govern.

We encourage those who are interested in seeing how Hardt and Negri’s works connect to current events to check out our entire October 2011 special theme issue.  The Greene-May essay abstract can be accessed at: http://jci.sagepub.com/content/early/recent. (Full text download is available to Sage Journals Online subscribers.)

Contacts: M. R. Greene-May (essay), North Carolina State University, mrmaygreene@gmail.com, Jack Z. Bratich (guest editor), Rutgers University, jbratich@rutgers.edu, Hye-Jin Lee (managing editor, JCI), University of Iowa, hye-jin-lee@uiowa.edu.

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