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In Conversation with Antonio Negri


Hans Ulrich Obrist: The last time we met was with Rem Koolhaas in 2001, and we spoke about what could be called your “city projects.” What are you working on related to this subject at the moment?

Antonio Negri: I can start by saying that while discussing the concept of the multitude, Michael Hardt and I found ourselves facing the question of the city, which we brought up as part of the question of the territorialization of the multitude, the space in which the multitude deploys itself. To be honest, I think that while a number of problems started to clear up after we wrote Multitude, others remained in the shadow, like this fundamental question of space. For example, we are very interested in this problem of the multitude’s temporality, that is, of transformative moments and raising consciousness, or the problems that arise the moment we think about what it means to “make” multitude, to construct it as a singularity that tends towards shared, common projects. But the big problem we have yet to consider concerns space. Because we still require a place in which this multitude will exist—not only a network through which it communicates, but also the power to decide its living conditions. This power to decide plays a role in developing a relationship between the multitude and state structures or institutions, and from a negative perspective this means an uproar; from a constructive perspective it means revolution. Now we could say that today this space is the contemporary metropolis. Half of the world’s population, maybe more, now lives in cities. The population itself, we could say, is a refugee in these cities. In fact, we may now have one to two thirds of the world’s population living in cities of over one million inhabitants.

HUO: And these numbers rise every year!

AN: That’s right! And if the question of the metropolis is central, then in my opinion it is because there is a structure of the common that is specific to it. This structure could be described as the tension that exists between the demand for services on the one hand, and the withholding of these services, or the refusal to consent to this demand, on the other. The refusal endangers the demand, and the claims made to it. And this demand becomes more and more important. I actually believe that two processes are currently underway. The first is a definitive neutralization of the traditional working class, which has allowed for the distinct working-class space—the factory—to be destroyed. But it goes beyond this to something more general, because we could also say that this disqualification has marked the disappearance of the productive space as a clearly defined one. The second process concerns the illegal reconstruction of urban space, the spaces not controlled by anyone, that are constituted by successive waves of immigration and by extremely profound cultural mixes. And all this produces two vast, enormous spaces, where all the energy of work, of construction, of sociality and solidarity, is centered.

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