From Empire to Commonwealth

Communist Theory and Contemporary Praxis

Conference to be held at the University of Wollongong, 25-26 November 2010

With the publication of Commonwealth in 2009 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s three part series (which started with Empire and continued with Multitude) is complete. The series constitutes an almost unparalleled attempt to revitalise emancipatory communist politics for our time. Drawing on the Italian traditions of operaismo and autonomia and combining them with post-structuralism, Hardt and Negri attempt a radical reworking of the basis of anti-capitalist thought. Following the disasters of the 20th Century, two directions seemed open to radical thought: one denied the specificity of late capitalism and insisted that nothing had fundamentally changed while the other asserted that everything had changed and that the revolutionary transformation of society was no longer possible.

Hardt and Negri reject both these alternatives. They maintain the Marxian critique of capitalism, and emphasise the emancipatory potential of labour by attempting a challenging rethinking of the revolutionary project. They do so in a way which refuses the dominant ideologies of global capitalism, is heretical to orthodox Marxism, is refreshingly different from the staid left liberalism and reheated social democracy typical of the Academy, and resonates with struggles across the globe.

At From Empire to Commonwealth we would like to open up a space for critical dialogue about Hardt and Negri’s work, their understanding of the world, their politics, the traditions with which they engage and the criticisms they have faced. We would also like to generate our own ideas and critiques and contribute to the development of emancipatory and rebellious theories of the world. While this conference takes place within the boundaries of the university we would like to position ourselves on the edge of this space, challenging both the demarcations which separate the university from the rest of society and struggling within the university to open up the horizon of what and how we can think.

We are seeking papers on, but not limited to, the follow topics. Presentations that defy the genre of academic conferences are welcome:

  • The politics of love
  • Affective, precarious and immaterial labour
  • Feminism and autonomy
  • Empire as a theory of international relations
  • Capitalism and the control society
  • The intellectual history of autonomist Marxism
  • Queer struggles against capitalism
  • Post-structuralism and anti-capitalism
  • Multitude and class composition
  • Labour and value in contemporary capitalism
  • Contemporary anti-capitalist politics.
  • Identity and subjectivity

Please email abstracts of approximately 200 words to Alexander Brown at alexandersragtimeband@gmail.com by 30 July 2010. Further information will be posted on the conference blog, https://fromempiretocommonwealth.wordpress.com as it becomes available. We are considering publishing the conference papers.

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