S E M I N A I R E

The Common in Communism

Article en anglais

samedi 16 mai 2009 par Michael Hardt

The economic and financial crisis that exploded in Fall 2008 resulted in an extraordinarily rapid sea-change in the realm of political imaginaries. Just as a few years ago talk of climate change was ridiculed and dismissed in the mainstream media as exaggerated and apocalyptic but then almost from one day to the next the fact of climate change became the nearly universal common sense, so too the economic and financial crisis has rearranged the dominant views of capitalism and socialism.

Only a year ago any critique of neoliberal strategies of deregulation, privatization, and the reduction of welfare structures – let alone capital itself – was cast in the dominant media as crazy talk. Today Newsweek proclaims on its cover, with only partial irony, “We are all socialists now.” The rule of capital is suddenly open to question, from Left and Right, and some form of socialist or Keynesian state regulation and management seems inevitable. We need to look, however, outside this alternative. Too often it appears as though our only choices are capitalism or socialism, the rule of private property or that of public property, such that the only cure for the ills of state control is to privatize and for the ills of capital to publicize, that is, exert state regulation. We need to explore another possibility : neither the private property of capitalism nor the public property of socialism but the common in communism. Many central concepts of our political vocabulary, including communism as well as democracy and freedom, have been so corrupted that they are almost unusable. In standard usage, in fact, communism has come to mean its opposite, that is, total state control of economic and social life. We could abandon these terms and invent new ones, of course, but we would leave behind too the long history of struggles, dreams, and aspirations that are tied to them. I think it is better to fight over the concepts themselves to restore or renew their meaning. In the case of communism, this requires an analysis of the forms of political organization that are possible today and, before that, an investigation of the nature of contemporary economic and social production. I will limit myself in this essay to the preliminary task of the critique of political economy.

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The Common in Communism
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Michael Hardt



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