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Critique of State Fetishism

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FR: The theme of the State is back in vogue on the contemporary scene (from Bolivarianism to the populisms on the European Left). And further, the necessity, for subalterns, of “taking the State.” It is a forceful reprise of Gramsci, often read through the lens of Togliatti. Can there be a communist experience – even more so in the era of the globalization of processes of valorization – without a radical critique of the State-form?


TN: Clearly the radical critique of the State-form is necessary, but in many ways it is also superfluous. I mean this in the sense that, if what we said earlier is true, i.e., that a complete break with mediation is a given, then the very function of the State can no longer be recuperated in reformist terms: it is simply an oppressive function. From this point of view, the State is something parasitic; as such, it can no longer occupy a place within revolutionary reflection. That said, however, we need to be careful, because the problem is not the use of the State as such. In any phase of transition, we cannot but utilize the general instruments offered by the State. In order to overturn them, clearly; in order to strip away, little by little, the (oppressive) power that they are laden with in themselves. The true enemy is thus the fetishism of the State. There are positions today, no longer reasonable, which in considering the uses of certain public functions – expressed in the constitution of the State – fetishize the sovereignty and autonomy of state power, and in this way dramatically compromise the freedom of the struggles. A fetishism of vanguards over the real movements – the only ones who transform the social. It needs to be specified, then, that behind the fetishism of the State there are always two ideologies or behaviors: one is the vanguard, while the other is anarchy, immediacy, messianic opening. It is these references which truly need to be done away with.



Antonio “Toni” Negri is a Marxist political philosopher, widely known for his book Empire, co-authored with Michael Hardt, and for his work on Spinoza. In 1969 he was among the founders of Potere Operaio, which he left in 1973 to become one of the main leaders of Autonomia Operaia. After moving to Paris, he taught at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint Denis) and the Collège International de philosophie, alongside philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze. His most well-known politico-philosophical writings, often co-authored with Michael Hardt, come from his time in France: The Labor of Dionysus, Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth.

Edited by Lazzarone
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