Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Negri, more on vitalism and humanism

Peter Gratton follows up my last post with this:
I think it’s a false choice, no? One can’t be both? I also think that though Negri is saying he’s not a vitalist that doesn’t end the point. I think Critical Animal is right, but let’s not pretend that Negri is the most consistent thinker on this and doesn’t often have confusing discussions on this point.

I think he's absolutely right that vitalist vs. humanist is a false choice. Sorry if I came across that way. And I am in now way trying to get onto anyone who has read Negri as a vitalist (including myself. I am sure if you searched through my various internet writing places you can come across some places where I described Negri as a materialist vitalist). Though I think, and I can in no way back this feeling up so thank god this is blogging, that the fault is not with Negri on this on. I would guess he has been pretty consistent on this issue, and our confusion rests with having read this position as being slightly closer to Deleuze's than it is in reality. But this has a pretty important implications for Negri's political ontology. The fact that I seem to create an obviously false contrast between vitalism and humanism is because I think the contrast is true for Negri. Vitalism destroys the power of humanism, for him. Not only does vitalism destroy the power of humanism, it opens the door for biopower (again, in his use of the term). A desire for a biopolitical humanism in a biopolitical enlightenment is absolutely essential for Negri's work, and there is no room for vitalism.

Now, I really can't prove it without combing through my Negri books (and right now my tendency would be to work a little backwards, starting with The Porcelain Workshop and In Praise of the Common and only later getting to A Savage Anomaly), which right now I am not inclined to do, but if there is real interest or a lot of discussion, who knows what will happen. So, if anyone wants to weigh in, feel free.