Democratic Institutions II

MultitudeIn Commonwealth, Hardt & Negri set out a difference between 1) revolution/insurrection as the moment of emancipation by which the older order is upended and 2) transition/transformation through which the multitude is liberated.  In insurrection the multitude rises and becomes active, but in transition they must sustain that activity and transform their capacity for democracy into an ability to rule themselves.  This latter effort, H&N say, requires the process of creating institutions.  The multitude must create those institutions in such a way as to avoid “the danger of ineffectiveness and disorder” on the one hand, and “that of hierarchy and authority on the other.”  They are not specific on how to do this, but they tell us to focus on “the capacities that people already exercise,” which is to say the “horizontal networks of communication and cooperation” that already, they argue, “tend toward the autonomous production of the common.”  Of course that autonomy is currently prevented by capitalist social relations, but as those are removed, the project would be to help flourish this autonomous production that already exists and has its own power.  Transition, then, or what they call the “becoming-Prince of the multitude,” involves some ongoing mixture of insurrection and institutional struggle.  They only sketch the tracery of a pattern of this becoming-Prince, but again the question is raised: how can we both create new democratic institutions for a society to come and still refuse to accept relations of hierarchy, oligarchy, and heteronomy as inimical to democracy?

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