The Precarious Proletariat

The following is a response to Hardt and Negri’s “The Multitude against Empire” in Empire and Georg Lukacs “Class Consciousness” from History and Class Consciousness

Hardt and Negri’s “The Multitude against Empire” from Empire and Georg Lukacs’ “Class Consciousness” from History and Class Consciousness are both representative of post-modern works influenced by Marxist ideals and laden with existential undertones. Post modernity is connected to essencelessness, where meaning is constructed and power is an arrangement of linguistic and institutional structures; ideologies of Truth have organized worldviews. Both works analyze current consumer society while deconstructing the existence of these systems.

Lukacs looks to history to understand the origin of social institutions and the relationships between men that result in the production of humanity. He focuses on Marx, who exposes this illusion of history embodied in the spirit of the people. History is not embedded, class-consciousness is held in social relationships. We are most removed from society when we believe it has concrete totality and that the system of production results in society divided into classes. It is this socialized consciousness, the hegemonic ideologies, that reinforce the vitality of establishing a position within the economic structure and not overstepping it.  As Lukacs states, the “fate of a class depends on its ability to elucidate and solve the problems with which history confronts it”. Classes possess the capacity to organize society in accordance with the interests of hegemonic ideals. Class consciousness functions similarly in obtaining and organizing power under the influence of these interests.

Hardt and Negri’s “The Multitude Against Empire” explores how restrictive the Empire is, “isolate[ing], divide[ing] and segregate[ing]” against the class consciousness and organization of the multitude. The multitude is an exploration of a new reality, a new geography of globalization and a network for the mass distribution of humanity. It is similar to Haraway’s cyborg, as it reproduces autonomously, creating a new form of social organization to transform the terms of class conflict and political subjectivity. It is a collective sociality; it reappropriates power structures and other capitalistic hegemonic interests.

The theorists focus on the proletariat as form new social organization. The proletariat has the means to transform social consciousness, creating a new form of social organization. It must recognize the unmediated dominance of the capitalist society. This is an issue, as capitalism occupies the center of class consciousness, and is the frame for analysis. Lukacs uses the example of ancient society deteriorating because it was built on slavery: no one rebelled against this system because no one could perceive its failure. This deteriorating society remains in the modern bourgeoisie, which has failed to discover a solution to its problem. Class consciousness is formulated within the ideologies of society, where we cannot observe society outside this standpoint. The transformation of social consciousness must be achieved within the framework of a failing modern system.

It is the proletariat that must disassemble the Empire and recreate a new proletariat through the multitude. It must resist the imperial command of the Empire, which restricts these movements of reappropriation to prevent the new proletariat from gaining any political legitimacy. In response, the proletariat must reform judicial status to reflect real economic transformations to create the global citizen. The “global citize[n] is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography” or design a new class consciousness. The proletariat must resist capitalism through recognizing social wage and guaranteeing income and compensation for the production of capital.

Hardt and Negri’s Empire is influenced by Donna Haraway’s theory of the cyborg, where identity is fragmented and meaningless and there is a political value to essence. The global capitalist scale functions as a network of hybridity, one where the subject and object are created simultaneously through historical and cultural observation. The cyborg is similar to Hardt, Negri and Lukacs’ theories, as it rejects the Truths held in our current mode of social organization. Just as what Harraway does to understanding identity on feminist terms, Hardt, Negri and Lukacs do on a global capitalist scale.

Simlar to Harraway’s cyborg, the proletariat must achieve central power of the multitude through hybridization of human and machine. Reframing conditions of post-modernity through reframing conditions of knowledge and reclaiming identity. The Empire is composed of modes of imperialism and participating in networks of hegemonic interest. Hardt, Negri and Lukacs seek to reappropriate the regimes of knowledge that constitute what is Truth, deconstructing the divide between what is real and what is unreal.


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