Paolo Virno

Paolo Virno is the author of several books, including A Grammar of the Multitude (Semiotext(e), 2002).

Multitude between Innovation and Negation

Paolo Virno

Translated by Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito and Andrea Casson

The publication of Paolo Virno’s first book in English, A Grammar of the Multitude, by Semiotext(e) in 2004 was an event within the field of radical political thought and introduced post-’68 currents in Italy to American readers. Multitude between Innovation and Negativity, written several years later, offers three essays that take the reader on a journey through the political philosophy of language.

Few thinkers take the risks required by innovation. Like a philosophical entrepreneur, Virno is engaged in no less than rewriting the dictionary of political theory, an urgent and ambitious project when language, caught in a permanent state of emergency impossible to sustain, desperately needs to articulate and enact new practices of freedom for the multitude.

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A Grammar of the Multitude

Paolo Virno

Translated by Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito and Andrea Casson

Globalization is forcing us to rethink some of the categories—such as “the people”—that traditionally have been associated with the now eroding state. Italian political thinker Paolo Virno argues that the category of “multitude,” elaborated by Spinoza and for the most part left fallow since the seventeenth century, is a far better tool to analyze contemporary issues than the Hobbesian concept of “people,” favored by classical political philosophy. Hobbes, who detested the notion of multitude, defined it as shunning political unity, resisting authority, and never entering into lasting agreements. “When they rebel against the state,” Hobbes wrote, “the citizens are the multitude against the people.” But the multitude isn’t just a negative notion, it is a rich concept that allows us to examine anew plural experiences and forms of nonrepresentative democracy.

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