michael on movements in crisis

Democratic Movements in Times of Crisis, with Michael Hardt and Katharine Wallerstein (https://dhi.ucdavis.edu/people/katharine-wallerstein) – oct 2020 – 80 min video

“This is what democracy looks like” has been for decades a frequent chant at demonstrations. Throughout the world, the demand for a new democracy has been at the center of a wide range of social movements, from the “indignados” of Spain and Greece to the “Be water” protests in Hong Kong, and from the Arab Spring struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, to the continuing Black Lives Matter struggles in the US. At issue is both the democratic organization internal to the movement, which often takes horizontal form, and the vision of a *democratic society beyond the movement. At a time when conventional conceptions of democracy seem ever more tenuous and the institutions that support them ever weaker, when even in the United States serious doubts are raised about the rule of law and the electoral process, what does it mean for social movements to claim the mantle of democracy? And what kind of democracy do they enact and evoke? Michael Hardt and Katharine Wallerstein will discuss the question of democracy in social movements in an international frame.

am thinking that any form of democratic admin is killing us.. perpetuating tragedy of the non common.. we need to let go of that

Michael Hardt teaches political theory in the Literature Program at Duke University. His writings explore new forms of domination in the contemporary world as well as the social movements and other forces of liberation that resist them. In the Empire trilogy — Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth(2009) — he and Antonio Negri investigate the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. They also study the political and economic alternatives that could lead to a more democratic world. Their most recent book, Assembly (2017), addresses the power of contemporary social movements and the major challenges facing them. He serves as editor of The South Atlantic Quarterly. With Sandro Mezzadra, he hosts The Social Movements Lab



2 min – m: i think a lot of the work we (he and toni) do is to struggle over our political vocab.. i think the primary concepts in our political vocab all seem corrupt.. not just democracy.. but equality, freedom, any number of other concepts.. almost seem unusable.. a lot of people on left do see democracy as unsalvageable.. elections et al.. and yet.. there is a legacy of struggles for liberation in which democracy is the term.. and freedom and equality too..

language as control/enclosure

4 min – m: and so for us.. it seems to me a concept worth struggling over.. you know .. people get annoyed when you invent new concepts.. and rightly slow

only because we’re in sea world.. if we were legit free.. i think we’d all love the freedom/flexibility/dance of idiosyncratic jargon ness

m: so the annoyance of new concept.. but there’s also the way you lose contact with the legacy..

maybe we need to do that.. no?.. ie: history ness.. killing us.. keep ing us in sea world

5 min – m: i would say there are 2 sides (to democracy) 1\ internal – w/in movements.. in us i see it as feminist movement in 70s.. horizontally/leaderless ness.. internal multiplicity.. 2\ external – movements of 2011, egypt, tunisia, indignados.. democracy is thematized.. ‘the real democracy’.. need to reinvent or create a real democracy..

7 min – m: so i think.. even when it’s not explicitly articulated like that.. in spain 2011.. i think the demands of the contemp movements in general over last decades have been aimed at a demand for a democratization of society.. ie: last 6 mos.. blm.. george floyd rebellion.. hasn’t been using word democracy.. but seems their slogans are implicitly that.. ie: demand to defund the police.. is about making a part of the community the jobs police have been doing.. (clearing a homeless camp, someone is mentally ill on the street, domestic violence.. who should come there) .. what is the appropriate person to arrive when something happens.. i think the kinds of solutions with ‘defund the police’.. all about a form of democratization..

9 min – m: maybe my point is simply.. even when not said explicitly.. i think democracy has been central to the demands of social movements..

m: another slogan.. i think is about a structural anal.. ‘all cops are bastards’.. at first this feels like infantile name calling.. but i think more.. really about that you can’t think at the level of the individual.. have to think structurally.. it’s that the structure in which they reside is racist..

yeah that.. grammatis broken law.. et al

but not sure that’s how a world of 8b legit free people would dance.. because all of them would be in their fittingness.. not crafting/engineering/accepting/assuming/perpetuating a non legit/humane structure.. et al.. which is global.. yet at same time discrimination to the limit of infinity.. as equity et al..

that dance..


10 min – m: so i think these two do go together.. the demand for a structural anal and the demand for democracy w/in the movements

15 min – m: one thing one notes w the movements.. the desire for this kind of multiple struggle.. at once anticapitalist, feminist, anti racist.. etc.. the too ness.. hard to use term intersectionality.. but there is a desire for coalition.. so the fact of failing is thru the internal critiques.. not that they’re being criticized from outside.. but from inside.. as not being successfully feminist.. or anti racist.. et al.. i trace that desire as a fundamentally democratic desire.. and i was thinking as you were asking this.. i think if you’re looking at the movements/encampments as in miniature of what the future world should be.. you’re always going to be disappointed

this is why revolution in reverse is so important.. we gotta let go of part\ial ness.. for (blank)’s sake

you know.. revolution – instigating utopia everyday ness

16 min – m: i think instead .. the kind of process/desire.. and the fact of always being unfulfilled.. so not to look at movements as a utopian miniature.. but rather as a project that’s always unsatisfied

or maybe it’s time to let go of all the ie: creative refusals.. and try something legit diff

17 min – m: maybe more important.. i’m all .. pointing toward importance of prefiguration.. that the movements can prefigure a better world and internal org is one way.. to transformation.. but it seems to me that prefiguration is not enough.. the passage form small society to a whole.. there’s all kinds of limitations to it.. even though i think it’s important..

18 min – m: what toni and i said at one point: 3 alts.. each of which is flawed.. and only a combo of the 3 could be a way forward.. 1\ prefiguration 2\ antagonistic reformism.. entry into and reform process w/in current system.. something like defund the police.. but not satisfied w minimal changes that don’t address the core 3\ taking power.. can take diff forms.. only appropriate in diff moments.. in any case.. only work if all three together.. which is to say.. our choice isn’t only prefig.. i think it’s an important thing that has to be with others..

20 min – k: seems to me you’re saying you’ve got to work w/in the system while also trying to take it down

what we need is not about taking anything down.. it’s about offering/showing/revealing/practicing/uncovering.. a legit other way to live.. that 8b people not only can .. but crave .. to leap to

we keep getting caught up in this part\ial ness.. of un-ing things.. of refusing/reforming/responding to things..

so.. we just keep ending up with the same song.. english accent little/lot bit worse

m: yes.. although i would almost consider that 2nd one.. this antagonistic reformism.. is that working w the system while trying to take it down.. i think there are moments when taking powers of possibility.. which is not working in the system.. and then the movements and their forms of prefig.. seem to be also not necessarily working w/in the system

oh yeah.. they are.. any form of m\a\p.. any form of democratic admin.. is tied up.. intoxicated.. in the system

21 min – m: but yes to what you’re saying

k: but this is always the struggle.. people have immediate needs.. need to be fed.. need housing.. med care.. so *immediate reasons to elect certain types of officials.. to pass certain ordinances.. right?.. even if it’s not a structure that one thinks is ultimately at all the right one.. t

that’s why we need to re org around legit/deeper needs (ie: a nother way).. via perhaps money (any form of m\a\p) as the planned obsolescence ie: perhaps w/ubi as temp placebo.. so needs (food, shelter) met w/o money.. until people forget about measuring

because *this is total whalespeak.. and why we keep perpetuating sea world/tragedy of the non common.. with all our bandaids..

we all need to listen deeper .. first..

the immediacy cry.. can be squelched via leap ing.. for (blank)’s sake.. for (blank)’s sake.. for (blank)’s sake

gi nor m o u s

m: absolutely.. but if we were limited to that.. it’s .. what do we call it.. the long march thru the institutions.. you end up getting lost in the institutions.. and never get out of them.. i think that on its own is as limited as prefig on its own.. it’s not an either or..

22 min – k: on your 3 rights in empire: 1\ to global citizenship 2\ to global wage 3\ to control means of production.. knowledge/communication et al.. how might those 3 have changed in 20 yrs since you first wrote about them

23 min – m: we were ending this long book.. and in a book where you have some revolutionary/hopeful tone.. a reader’s going to get to the end and say.. what’s your program.. what are you going to do.. and we weren’t being at all original at all.. we thought these were perfectly reasonable.. beneficial.. like.. if you want to do something.. here’s something to do.. and in retrospect 20 yrs later.. they do look pretty good.. things that at the time considered completely impossible.. now don’t

24 min – m: first one is essentially a no borders argument.. and granted.. it’s still a minor argument.. but much more considerations about the impossibility of the border regimes we have in n america and europe

siddiqi border law et al

m: 2nd one.. basic income.. 20 yrs ago seemed like a ridiculous thing.. people say now it has a great deal of purchase in a variety of places..

what we need is money (any form of m\a\p) as the planned obsolescence.. w/ubi as temp placebo.. so needs met w/o money.. until people forget about measuring

m: 3rd is hard.. re-appropriation of the means of production which.. in an era of knowledge and any number of things in addition to machines and algos.. although there too.. there are some interesting experiments.. i was thinking about these deliver workers in belgium that went on strike and their demand was to control the algo.. that seems to me exactly the thing we’re talking about.. control the algo for amazon drivers and..

norton productivity law.. production is drowning/intoxicating/numbing us..

25 min – m: i guess what i should say about all that though.. this fits in w the kind of reforms i was talking about earlier.. these aren’t revolutionary propositions.. these are sensible reforms..

sensible? for who?

m: yeah.. i’ve had a lot of people over the years criticize me for saying things about bi.. and saying.. that’s not revolutionary.. of course that’s not revolutionary.. but it could still .. *be extraordinarily beneficial for people in the meantime.. reforms are important.. so these things aren’t meant to be sufficient.. they’re **meant to be something that one could do now

yeah.. not buying *that this time around.. those reforms are perpetuating the cage..

**today we have the means to legit re\set us (legit sufficient and legit now).. so that all those immediate needs you’re talking about instantly become irrelevant and/or addressed..

26 min – m: maybe i should say this another way.. maybe it’s the more generalized thing about it.. which is.. seems any revolutionary thinking pretentious.. has to go onto temporalities.. the *continued focus on what we want.. goals.. and necessities to get there.. shouldn’t contradict things that in the immediate have to be done to actually help people..

*exactly.. which they are.. even if we keep saying they aren’t.. ie: we’re not getting better at getting people what they need in terms of food, shelter, et al.. because we have no idea what legit free people need.. (certainly not what we’re thinking.. otherwise rich people in houses with lots of food.. et al.. would be happy.. no?)

27 min – m: ok.. a 3rd way of saying it.. this is more theoretical.. there are moments in history where distinction between reform and revolution have been super important and require lines of battle.. now it not one of those time.. shouldn’t be a contradiction between progressive reforms and a more thorough going transformation.. so i’m perfectly happy w those completely insufficient.. but beneficial pragmatic goals.. i would pose them differently now.. but (20 yrs back) not so bad

30 min – k: are there democratic mechs available to address something as urgent as the climate catastrophe.. basically .. we don’t have time to build it.. (new democracy).. and working w/in system doesn’t do it.. already do corrupt.. so what to do when we don’t have time to figure out democracy either via reform or revolution

31 min – m: my initial way of approaching it would be this dual temporalities.. it’s clear that capital is destructive of the climate.. that *an anti capitalist movement has to be part of.. a way of addressing climate change

*there goes the urgency.. let go of ie: creative refusal ness.. we need a legit leap

m: and it also seems.. this is harder to argue.. that ultimately *mechs for democratic decision making have to be part of it

oi oi oi .. decision making is unmooring us.. why can people talking about this .. supposedly on the edge of this.. not see that..

let go.. of any form of democratic admin

what we need is curiosity over decision making

m: the way we share the planet.. the way decisions have to be made.. but both of those things.. don’t provide for the urgency.. while maintaining our eyes on need for radical transformations.. *one has to be open to and pursue.. as strongly as possible.. all kinds of reforms.. a green new deal.. any other.. other people have better ideas than i do about the nature of those reforms..

that’s whalespeak.. distraction.. that’s what we’ve been doing.. we need to stop all that.. and listen deep enough to get to the root.. not just keep flailing at the symptoms.. oi

32 min – m: but one thing that does seem to me a powerful thing.. is how much the movements have changed a widespread social understanding of it.. there’s been a kind of global or very widespread public pedagogy that the movements have conducted

33 min – m: in last 3-4 yrs.. a new gen.. from 15-25.. have transformed the way.. sea changes of global public opinion are incredibly remarkable.. what the effects yet to be seen.. but it happened so rapidly.. that’s all i’m trying to point to

34 min – k: that in itself is encouraging.. that things can change so quickly.. and that the youth are onto something

we have no idea.. we can now leap.. but i haven’t yet heard a youth (anyone) coming up with a means to leap.. all just perhaps more clear.. statements of the symptoms.. with better ideas of bandaids..

35 min – k: question about models.. are there any existing models to look to for inspiration.. so that the ‘multitudes can compose their forces into effective counterpowers’ ? .. how do we translate concepts of mutual aid on a global scale.. how do we think globally using these concepts.. galiano: ‘utopia is ont he horizon.. i move 2 steps further.. it moves further away.. so what’s point.. point is just that.. to keep walking’.. so direction to walk in?

37 min – m: what i’m thinking about models is in sync w the notion of struggle.. that we keep walking.. i’m a firm believer in that.. but to the models.. there have been a lot of experiments in last few decades.. (lists them).. they were all quite complicated.. but them together as a continental experiment were quite.. not as models to repeat.. but a train of experimentation.. plenty of others (lists them).. but what are they function.. asking about models.. but also how does it get beyond its locality.. to global..

39 min – m: what i look to for that is the construction of cycles of struggle


m: i’ll have to come back to those models.. like 2011.. (lists them) each diff and yet they do gain a kind of translocal and tangentially local residence when they function as a cycle.. take from each inspiration aspirations.. connections among them quite real.. something both extremely rooted in territory.. and yet.. able to extend..

41 min – m: i’m emphasizing it so much because there’s this global imagination that would say.. you need some global director.. whereas i think it functions completely diff.. more rhizomatically.. like by underground tunnels that are connected.. that’s where i would go for the.. how does it arrive at that global level

42 min – k: on the interconnection of all the diff movements.. what gave rise to those.. and what comes next from all this

43 min – m: hard part of that is how did that moment (seattle .. alter globalization.. et al) lead to present.. it was a great theoretical project.. movement was trying to understand what this global movement was.. and this hoping around had an important function.. ie: if they thought washington.. should have been in front of white house.. but they knew instead.. global.. so i see each summit a node to experiment in that new web of power.. wto, work bank, seattle, .. all together a constellation of a new global power.. so movements themselves were able to think globally..

45 min – m: so criticizing about not being enough local.. given that still important to recognize.. the extraordinary theoretical work done in movements.. always a very rich theoretical development of global power structure..

46 min – k: what about teh 99% slogan

47 min – m: it did serve important services.. could say bernie sanders campaign couldn’t have developed w/o..

48 min – k: in these cycles of insurgency.. you’ve talked about migration as an insurgency

m: once one calls contemp migration in an insurgency.. have to recognize a weird terms to use.. because migrants themselves not aware of being engaged in a large scale political program.. they’re seldom large scale orgs.. and yet .. one has to recognized ways in which migrants in their continual pressures are what is undermining the border regimes.. transforming global space.. an objective fact rather than asking about intentions of migrants.. it is transforming national borders.. it’s a force of internationalism..

50 min – m: i’m looking for movements in the present that are inheritors of great forms of internationalism of 20th cent.. seems to me an important essential element now.. migrants are an unusual subject to pin that on.. it’s not the tri continental.. political forms.. but a good place to start

51 min – k: last question.. about elections.. and how important it is to vote.. what are risks of biden winning

52 min – m: from convo we’ve been having.. one might view a choice like this in terms of selecting a better enemy.. biden is greater enemy to have.. a biden presidency would in some ways open a season of movements like the 90s.. something like clinton.. trump re elected.. all kinds of nightmares.. but the necessary and least productive/intell movements.. ie: fascistic elements of white supremacists are necessary to oppose.. but the least productive..

54 min – m: i remember feeling 2001-3.. the alter globalization s closed down and transformed into anti war movements.. all the qualities that made alter global relevant to me.. internal multiplicities et al.. got transformed into anti war.. and in some ways.. struggling against trump.. is something like anti war on a domestic scale.. it encourages movements that are militarized.. focused on questions of defense/force..

55 min – m: the danger you’re pointing to.. that if biden were elected .. people would breathe a sigh of relief and go home.. i just don’t see that as a real possibility.. that’s what i meant.. like the late 90s.. i think it’s a much more rich political context in which to struggle.. and i can’t see any reason why the already existing movements wouldn’t continue and flourish against that covenant

57 min – m: the real thing.. once he’s elected (biden).. recognizing that now we have the chance to challenge real struggles..

58 min – q&a

59 min – 1\ (on sovereignty and history).. we were saying empire was the set that could deal w global

1:00 – 2\ (on ionian feed).. italian project of migrant rescue.. we bought a ship et al.. a political project.. using humanitarian issue for that


1:03 – 3\ (on sanders and occupy)

quit listening to here