Among other several crucial issues, the Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s new book Commonwealth productively discusses identity and differences (class, race, gender and sexual differences) and especially on how these relate to one another inside the common.This topic is extremely important since the complexity of contemporary society, the rich differentiation of living labour (i.e. activities and contents, time and space of labour, forms of contracts and salaries) and the proliferation of class, race and gender differences in postcoloniality have put us in front of the necessity to produce and invent forms of social cooperation and relationships able to bring together differences while avoiding their reinforcement, naturalization or neglection.
Hardt and Negri’s point of departure is that “we are increasingly facing paradoxical forms of ‘color-blind’ racism, ‘gender-blind’ sexism, ‘class-blind’ class oppression, and so forth”1 . However race, gender and class are still strongly at work in producing social segmentations and processes of hierarchization. This differences-blindness is – we can add – the result of decades of multiculturalism, that is to say decades of a precise strategy followed by nation-states to govern differences in multicultural societies. Thus, the authors of Commonwealth convincingly state that a revolutionary project towards the production of the common has to create – beyond multiculturalism and its empty recognition of class, race and gender differences – a space in which differences are able to highlight their specificity and partiality, however beyond terms of identity. This means that differences are not destroyed or neglected within the common nor they are assumed as identity that produce recognition but rather that they are valorised in themselves and experienced and acted outside hierarchy.
The Hardt and Negri’s common is “a social product, (…) an inexhaustible source of innovation and creativity”2 . In this sense, it creates new relationships among subjects, breaking the process of segmentation and hierarchization (such us racialization and gendering) through which capital valorises itself. Beyond the liberal idea of the supremacy of the individual and questioning the socialist idea of the primacy of the collective, the common proposes a peculiar and subversive form of articulation between the single subject and the collectivity in which they are immersed. This is, I think, one of the main assumptions in Hardt and Negri’s work: the possibility to think about and to invent new forms of relationships within living labour, new forms of being together, or more precisely being in-common, able to go beyond 20th century narratives: the liberal assumption of the supremacy of the white, male and wealthy individual, as well as the socialist idea of collectiveness as negation of the autonomy and freedom of its subjects.
In this sense, the common is a real revolutionary project and Hardt and Negri, feeling the inadequacy of current theoretical notions and ideas, shift from identity to singularity in talking about differences. This shift, they state, “clarifies the revolutionary moment of the process”3 which they sum up in three key futures. First, “Singularity (…) is defined by a multiplicity outside itself”4 : it exists only in relation with the other singularities and differences, it is not a monad but a part of the whole that express its own partiality in a process of “disidentification”; secondly, “singularity points toward a multiplicity within itself”5 meaning this is difference itself that shows the power of the multiplicity in face of the individuality; and finally, singularity is part of “a process of becoming different-a temporal multiplicity” which is to say its nature is dynamic rather then static. In this way, Hardt and Negri point out a strong metamorphosis at work within the production of the common. Revolution, they write, “is a monster. You have to lose who you are to discover what you can become”6 .