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Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno

Subject History » Study of History
Legal and Political » Political Philosophy

Place World

Period 2000 - present
1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics labor, movements, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01057.x


Multitude describes an internally heterogeneous social subject that is capable of political action. The term has been used since the 1990s to refer to the new conditions and strategies of political organizing and political action, particularly those involved in the global justice movements. The concept “multitude” should be understood first in contrast to the more familiar concept of “the people” insofar as the people refers to a unitary representation of the population. “The people,” of course, is not an empirical category and it is not a natural or spontaneous formation. “The people” is constructed through a hegemonic operation to represent a heterogeneous population as one. As a unity, “the people” is capable of sovereignty insofar as the theory of sovereignty is based on the premise that only the one can decide. All sovereign subjects – including the people, the party, and the state – exercise a monopoly of decision-making. The unity and sovereignty of the people, therefore, links it fundamentally to the politics of the party and the state. The multitude, in contrast, is and remains internally plural. The multitude resists the political operations of representation and hegemony that would reduce its multiplicity to unity and render its heterogeneity homogeneous. This means that the multitude does not and cannot exercise sovereignty. The political effect of the multitude instead ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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