The Powers of the Exploited and the Social Ontology of Praxis

  • Michael Hardt
  • Toni Negri
Keywords: Karl Marx, bicentenary, 200th anniversary, capitalism, exploitation, praxis


This contribution is the first part of a debate between Michael Hardt/Toni Negri and David Harvey on the occasion of Marx’s bicentenary. The discussion focuses on the question of what capitalism looks like today and how it can best be challenged. This contribution asks: In what type of capitalist society are we living today? And what is the Marxian praxis that we need to challenge it? First, this paper analyses capitalism in respect to the extraction of value from the common, immaterial labour, digitisation, automation, and finance capital. The greatest abstraction in the productive process of value, in its implementation of languages, codes, immaterial articulations of being together, cooperation, affective elements, and so forth presents also in the multitude the virtuality of an extraordinary potential of resistance and autonomy from capital. Second, the paper discusses what forms of praxis are needed today. Marxian ontology is constituted and always renewed by class struggle, by the material antagonism that distributes the elements of real being and by the continuous excess of value that living labour expresses. Today, we discuss Marxian praxis in a society where intelligence is put to work at the centre of the productive process. Here emerges with great force the theme of the liberation of humans from work, on the basis of the transformations of work. Marx demonstrates how much cognitive and intellectual activity is central to production, and how much fixed capital is mixed with cognitive labour. In this context, the notion of the appropriation of fixed capital is of key importance for class struggles.

Author Biographies

Michael Hardt

Michael Hardt teaches in the Literature Program at Duke University and is co-director of the Social Movements Lab. He serves as editor of The South Atlantic Quarterly.

Toni Negri

Antonio Negri taught at the University of Padua and the University of Paris VIII. He has been one of the central figures of Italian autonomist Marxism. His work is devoted to studies of political philosophy and the analysis of capitalism and globalization.

Hardt and Negri have co-authored the books Labor of Dionysus (1994), Empire (2000), Multi- tude (2004), Commonwealth (2009), Declaration (2012), and Assembly (2017). Their books are considered to be among the most influential works in political philosophy today.

Karl Marx @ 200: Debating Capitalism & Perspectives for the Future of Radical Theory