hardt on the multitude, the metropolis, networks, and training

Michael Hardt spoke at Columbia yesterday. His goal, in speaking to a crowd of architects and urban planners, was to suggest the hypothesis that if the factory was the place of industrial production, the metropolis is the place of immaterial production. As such, he suggested that the metropolis would be the training ground for a new form of democracy. It’s safe to say that the school’s collective reaction was to question what he meant by Metropolis. Michael had been so precise with his terms but left this one undefined and it was something we are obviously so obsessed with so it was evident that it was crucial to refine it. One question was whether the network might be a better substitute for the city. You can imagine that this intrigued me greatly! Although Mark Wigley correctly pointed out that networks existed in and around factories (indeed, the modern factory exists because of the telephone and railroad networks…without which it could not have been located outside of the city) and that networks are not, by themselves, good (of course not, as I’ve been saying all along).

Still, hearing Michael’s lecture made me rethink something. Take the last page of Blue Monday:

At the onset of this project, we promised that these stories
wouldn’t add up and, as a collection of extreme conditions, they don’t.
As we suggested in the introduction, each of these investigations
posits a natural philosophy, an autonomous theoretical condition that
sometimes appears to mesh with the others but often doesn’t.

One day, against of all of our stated intentions, we observed a
theme emerging, a common concern with the very problem at the heart of
Empire (as well as of religion, the State and other institutions of
power): our overwhelming desire to acquiesce and give ourselves up.
Invariably, ignoring the admonishments of Nietzsche, designers and
theorists assume that power emanates from the top down, that the
oppressed individual wants to be free, and that action from the
bottom-up is the method for achieving this. But this is precisely the
inverse of what we observe. These stories of humans relentlessly
striving to be different only prove their desire for sameness.

So too, in our relationships with objects, collectively we don’t
so much wish to be free—to escape the world of objects and
attachments—but to immerse ourselves within them.

Do we really want freedom? If we can dare to say “maybe not” for
a moment, then what do our actions betray about our desires? Blue
Monday does not offer solutions, instead it suggests that our mass
drive to give ourselves up is not a passive action. Instead of
condemning this drive (as if we really wanted to or even could) this
book offers a collection of stories that just perhaps, hint at another
possibility, a first step: self-awareness.

As we say at the outset, Blue Monday sets out, from the start, to engage with Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Multitude point blank. As we wrote this, and no doubt as you read this, the obvious reading of this passage is to suggest that there is a problem with the multitude, which is the problem of our desire to submit.

But what if, in classic AUDC fashion (or dialectics, for that matter), we were to turn this on its head? What if submission were an absolute precondition for multitude? What if the temple of ether, the audio architecture of horizonality, and the nomadic capital of the multitude were all forms of training for future life? What then?


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