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Title: The multitude and hegemony
Author: Knott, Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2011
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This project critically interrogates the conceptualisation of the multitude in the works of Hardt and Negri. It challenges two of their central claims. Firstly, their assertion that early modernity is best understood through the lens of the conceptual battle between Hobbes and Spinoza, in terms of the people versus the multitude. Secondly, their contention that the multitude is the primary agent of radical politics in the twenty-first century. In terms of early modernity, this project examines the role the multitude plays in the thought of three republican theorists, Marsilius of Padua, Machiavelli and Spinoza. These theorists provide an equivocal account of the multitude, but also develop a coherent political project. This involves placing articulation - through consent, communication and the common notions - at the forefront of a new, mass, participatory and egalitarian politics. These three theorists do not oppose the people to the multitude, nor sovereignty to democracy, as Hardt and Negri claim. Rather, they develop a mobile account of political sovereign power founded on articulation. Hardt and Negri identify the multitude as the emergent agent of a contemporary communist politics. This identification is based on their reading of Spinoza's conceptualisation of the multitude, alongside broad historical developments in the second half of the twentieth century. They again oppose democracy to sovereignty, and express this opposition through hostility towards traditional organisational forms of the left, in particular, political parties and trade unions. Instead, they embrace the network as the appropriate form of organisation for the multitude. As in my discussion of the early modern period, this project argues that contemporary politics cannot be understood through the sovereignty-democracy dichotomy theorised by Hardt and Negri. Instead I defend an account of hegemony, which draws on Laclau's conceptualisation of articulation in political struggles. This entails developing a mobile account of sovereign power, allied to the development of Gramsci's account of hegemony. I demonstrate the conceptual links between Machiavelli's account of consent and more recent accounts of hegemony. Machiavelli's account of consent, in turn, is indebted to Marsilius' earlier contribution to this debate, and serves as a guide for Spinoza's subsequent development of a new form of politics based on communication and the common notions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available