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Intellectualism's Hottest Ticket?
July 6, 2001 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Intellectualism's Hottest Ticket? (New York Times link; my apologies) According to the cultural arbiters at the NYT, this book is picking up heat as one of the most important philosophical works of the new century. As near as I can tell, it's about the cultural and sociological impact of globalization, creating the new political state they call "Empire." Anybody heard of this, or read it yet? Wank or insight?
posted by logovisual (19 comments total)

 
try logging in as metafi/metafi : should work.
posted by moz at 11:03 PM on July 6, 2001


Where other scholars and the media depict countries vying for control of world markets, Mr. Hardt and Mr. Negri instead discern a new political system and a new form of power taking root. They call it Empire.

Unlike historical empires, however, this one has no emperor, no geographic capital and no single seat of power. In fact, given the authors' abstruse formulation, it's almost easier to say what Empire isn't than what it is: a fluid, infinitely expanding and highly organized system that encompasses the world's entire population.


I think that those of us who've paid any attention to the way communications technologies have almost negated traditional boundaries between people who are linguistically, geographically and ethnically diverse would view the above synopsis as making their "conclusions" rather unenlightening. If, as this quote seems to state, they don't really define their "Empire", it sounds like a bunch of pointless mental masturbation to me.

Of course, the self-appointed intellectual elite needs another Grand Unified Social Theory (GUST - as in wind, usually hot) to pontificate about and justify their lofty positions for another decade until everyone figures out they're full of shit once again...

I suppose we'll have to read and find out.
posted by RevGreg at 12:26 AM on July 7, 2001


one of the most important philosophical works of the new century

We're an astounding 7 months into the new century and it's here already? And anywho, the book was published last year so it's actually one of the most important philosophical works of the last one hundreth of the previous century...
posted by RevGreg at 12:30 AM on July 7, 2001


I started this book and ditched it about one third of the way through for being sort of pointless. Empire would fail the same way Communism does, for the simple fact that the powerful embrace the imbalances in power that keep them there.

The "playing field" will never be leveled because humans are simply too myopic as a species to really desire such things.
Reading it was similar to listening to a humanities student get semi-stoned and go on about how he'd run a nice planet.
Not a horrible read, but you can find similarly interesting theories about possible politics in a Neal Stephenson book, plus you get the witty dialog and explosions.

Pretty cover, though.
posted by dong_resin at 12:38 AM on July 7, 2001


[? Wank or insight?]

Insight for wankers perhaps?
posted by revbrian at 12:49 AM on July 7, 2001


Sounds `bout right.
posted by dong_resin at 1:02 AM on July 7, 2001


whoa-who, im readin the times, thanks moz. CHI-TOWN RULES.
posted by clavdivs at 9:43 AM on July 7, 2001


doug henwood has a little blurb on it in the left business observer and someone posted a chat about empire between negri and hardt to nettime.

nologo sorta let undergrads get on board the movement, i guess empire's there for the grad students! btw, i liked the eric vertommen review on amazon :)
posted by kliuless at 10:59 AM on July 7, 2001


Ah, Duke University - the academic institution at which theory rules supreme over everything. I think the key phrase in this article is that the author was granted tenure a year early - thus ensuring his academic and financial wellbeing for the years to come. I can practically guarantee you that this was the sole impetus behind Empire.

The theory itself - like all good theories which require their own unique and impenetrable vocabulary - is vague to the point of meaninglessness. In the heated atmosphere of academe, I'm sure there was considerable pressure to come up with any idea at all - and whoever had the sexiest idea (or the sexiest fans and/or proponents - and this guy had a 'revolutionary' in prison no less!) won.
posted by gsh at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2001


Hardt should have done something really relevant and earthshaking, like build a webpage. Loser.
posted by mecran01 at 11:53 AM on July 7, 2001


In the heated atmosphere of academe, I'm sure there was considerable pressure to come up with any idea at all - and whoever had the sexiest idea (or the sexiest fans and/or proponents - and this guy had a 'revolutionary' in prison no less!) won. While this is no doubt true, "globalization" the sexy concept, has been around awhile. In fact, ask an undergrad about it, and their eyes glaze over. It's quite unsexy in some corners.

My finest moment of scholarly wank, about five years ago, was when I proudly declared in seminar, "Parsons is full of shit, modernization is just a bunch of stuff that happened!" While this is also true of globalization, there is something out there not quite captured by "just a bunch of stuff that happened."

A book club I belong to wanted to nominate this book for discussion. I think I'll vote for it.
posted by rschram at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2001


My finest moment of scholarly wank, about five years ago, was when I proudly declared in seminar, "Parsons is full of shit, modernization is just a bunch of stuff that happened!"

As with all of the supposed "theories" - structuralism, deconstruction, poststructuralism, postcolonialism and New Historicism. We who aren't sitting on our cloistered asses in some musty university don't have time to analyze what just happened yesterday and place it in the context of outmoded social sciences and philosophers who have been dead for 100 years. We're too damn busy working on the next change to bother - while those who should be trying to make sense of what is happening now are busy looking backwards because it involves absolutely zero risk to their reputation. Wow, globalism. When did this genuis figure out THAT was happening?

From the article, "The most important point about `Empire' is that Michael is addressing the crisis in the humanities, which has reached the point where banality seems to pervade the sphere."

Shoudln't the word "addressing" have been the phrase "contributing to?"
posted by RevGreg at 1:52 PM on July 7, 2001


We're too damn busy working on the next change to bother - while those who should be trying to make sense of what is happening now are busy looking backwards because it involves absolutely zero risk to their reputation.

Who's this we? Are the 9-5'ers here bringing about some amazing change using MS Office products all day and dying for the weekend? There certainly is pomp and isolationism in universities, but I can't see how ignoring history (or its analysis) and going full steam ahead could be anything but suicidal.
posted by skallas at 3:02 PM on July 7, 2001


We who aren't sitting on our cloistered asses in some musty university don't have time to analyze what just happened yesterday and place it in the context of outmoded social sciences and philosophers who have been dead for 100 years. We're too damn busy working on the next change to bother

Well, then, let's all thank Greg for his hard work! Oh, hey, thanks for the Armageddon Bra link and the Lard Association link too. That's damn important stuff you've got going there. Beats the hell outta history, that's for sure.
posted by rodii at 5:43 PM on July 7, 2001


rodii: Ouch man.

Everybody, cloistered academics and 9-5'ers, has to tell themselves, at some point, that what they are doing matters, I suppose.

The one thing I have definitely learned in the past 8 years of Gradual school is that the University just isn't that different from any other job--except for those three month vacations. (most of which will be spent trying to write something for tenure).
posted by mecran01 at 7:41 PM on July 7, 2001


Thing is, they don't also have to tell other people that what they are doing doesn't matter, y'know? That's rude.
posted by rodii at 9:36 PM on July 7, 2001


Well, then, let's all thank Greg for his hard work! Oh, hey, thanks for the Armageddon Bra link and the Lard Association link too. That's damn important stuff you've got going there. Beats the hell outta history, that's for sure.

Thank your viewing my web page rodii - that's what I do to relax and unwind. Both of those links are good examples of social satire on our culture, if you bothered to look at them. Important? No, but it's what I do to unwind in my spare time.

As for telling people what they are doing doesn't matter, I didn't have to, the book does so itself. It attempts to encompass a global situation which is painfully obvious to those who deal with it every day, couches that situation in grotesque amounts of academic trivia and then states itself that it contains no conclusions or advice on said situation. The worst part is that the global situation as the book approached it when it was being written two years ago no longer exists per se, making the book even more irrelevant.

It has ALL the earmarks of a philosophy du jour and is merely a crutch for an area of academics which is currently floundering. I have yet to hear much positive feedback on this book and my excursions into have been frustrating due to it's utter banality. What have I gotten out of it? That this guy needs to go outside more often because he is out of touch with the real world - his analysis suffers from the same fatal misconceptions made by Marx and Hitler when formulting their visions of the future...

Your milage may vary but that is no reason for me to not express my opinion. BTW kliuless, I hadn't read the eric vertommen review on amazon, thanks for pointing it out - it was right on the mark.
posted by RevGreg at 3:59 AM on July 8, 2001


The Eric Vertommen review where he substitutes his personal cranky explains-everything theory for Hardt and Negri's? What's "right on the mark" about it?

It's good you've pulled back from your global disparaging marks about the academy. I'm still not impressed by the "we're the doers while they just sit in the ivory tower and suck their thumbs" picture. But let it pass. I'll look forward to seeing you in the NYT someday. From your remarks on Empire, it looks like you're saying you've read it, but I don't see anything that suggests any acquaintance with it beyond the NYT review. Have you read it?
posted by rodii at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2001


Guess not.
posted by rodii at 9:52 PM on July 9, 2001


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