The Perspective of the Multitude in Negri, Agamben and Virno

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In this paper I will focus on the concept of the multitude as put forward by the philosophers Negri, Agamben and Virno in the debate on democracy, capitalism and forms of rule. The three thinkers all start from the experience of the operaismo and the ideas of conricerca, as shaped in the Italian revolutionary movement of the 60s and 70s. However, as the concept of the multitude was launched with the publication in the early 80s of his book on Spinoza, it is Negri who takes up a key position, delineating an alternative modernity that begins with Machiavelli, is corroborated by Spinoza and leads to Marx and beyond. He shapes new paradigms, serves as a leading example in appropriating concepts of the cultural tradition, links criticism and resistance to imagination, collective subjectivity and creativity. Negri adopts the perspective of the multitude in the light of a radical democracy or a commun-ism. Within Spinoza's paradigm he posits 'the common' based on a multiplicity of differences rather than on identity. Crucial are the idea of cause as a convergence of factors, the role of imagination, the profanation of religion, the junction of love and art to politics, the procedure of reversal, the antagonism between potentia (power of resistance) and potestas (institutional power). Machiavelli's paradigm involving the concept of 'fortuna and virtù' meets with the Spinozian conception of cause. In Agamben and Virno we see how the attention shifts towards art and language practice; both adapt Negri's paradigm to include notions of experience and time from a historical materialist point of view. Agamben returns to the basic principles: he challenges teleological thinking, probes into the paradigmatic method, the analogic, and profanation. He discovers the concept of the multitude in the early renaissance and Dante. Virno on the other hand, explores applications of the teleological view, especially processes of labor. He uses the concept of transduction for a hypothetical creative knowledge, looks for the multitude in the ambiguous, undefined nature of human beings, and in the phenomenology of current forms of labor, forms of speech and forms of life.

Presentation PhD-thesis on February 24th, 2011 at Vrije Universiteit Brussels

Sonja Lavaert
Italian & Philosophy of Language and Politics
Department Applied Linguistics - Erasmuscollege EHB/Vrije Universiteit Brussel VUB
Pleinlaan 2 (B. 5.451) - B-1050 Brussels/Belgium ;
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2011
EventUnknown -
Duration: 13 Apr 2011 → …


Period13/04/11 → …


  • Political Philosophy


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