Many Flowers, Little Fruit?: The Dilemmas of Workerism

  • Chamsy el-Ojeili


By any count, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s (2000) Empire is a remarkable work. Here is an accessible, sweeping Left vision, apparently equipped – with a mix of rhetoric and scope reminiscent of the Communist Manifesto, a smattering of post-structuralism’s intellectual highlights, the catchiest aspects of post-industrialism, network and globalization approaches to contemporary social change, as well as an extraordinary optimism and confidence (‘the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist’ [Hardt and Negri, 2000: 413]) – to compete with Fukuyama’s narrative of the end of history. The impact that Empire has had – immediately recognized by some as a Manifesto for our times, denounced by others as a silly book capable of inflaming only Leftists hopelessly out of touch with new realities, and viewed by some commentators as the closest theoretical and utopian expression of an emerging anti-globalization movement – demands an analysis and evaluation of its conditions of emergence, of its political-intellectual heritage. In good part, these conditions, this heritage, can be found in Italian operaismo or workerism, a Left communist strand contemporary with situationism. This is clear from the important tonal and conceptual similarities between Empire and a number of workerist texts: for instance, the demand for a social or political wage for all; the notion of the real subsumption of society to capital; the reconceptualization of the proletariat – most recently, as multitude; and the insistence that this multitude ‘is the real productive force of our social world’ (Hardt and Negri, 2000: 62).


Class Composition Capitalist Relation Class Struggle Political Struggle Total Domination 
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Copyright information

© Chamsy el-Ojeili 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chamsy el-Ojeili
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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