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Capitalist Imperialism in Contemporary Theoretical Frameworks

New Theories

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Filip Ilkowski

This book analyzes the controversy surrounding imperialism associated with capitalist development. The last dozen years passed under the shadow of two momentous events: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted in the framework of the broader «war on terror», and the economic crisis. They occurred against the backdrop of global economic integration, but also against the contradictions in its development. Those events and processes are explained in the theory of contemporary capitalist imperialism that the author attempts to reconstruct.

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I. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri – Empire as post-imperialism

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“Empire is materializing before our very eyes”3. This is the first sentence of Empire, one of the most important books regarding not only contemporary theories of imperialism, but also of contemporary political philosophy and thought. Its success is the result of many factors, doubtlessly including the biography of one of its authors. While Michael Hardt, an American literary critic and university lecturer specialising in French post-structuralist theory, does not arouse particularly strong emotions, things are different in respect of the second author, Antonio (“Toni”) Negri. Negri was not only a respected philosopher, but also an active Italian politician from the “generation of 1968”, and in the 1970s the leading ideologue of operaismo and Italian autonomism4. Political activity led to Negri’s arrest in 1979 and a long prison sentence for cooperation with terrorists of the Red Brigades, a charge which he called absurd, and viewed as proof of the ridiculous nature of the Italian justice system. Negri went on to serve several years in prison, being freed after winning a parliamentary seat (and immunity) in 1983, fleeing Italy for France, and then again imprisonment following his return in 19975. The history of Antonio Negri is interesting to us in how the foundations of his views formed at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s are to be found, in modified form, in the theory of Empire he developed together with Michael Hardt. ← 15 | 16 →

1. The views of Antonio Negri in the years of operaismo and...

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