Paolo Virno

And then I just finished Paolo Virno’s A Grammar of the Multitude. Mixed feelings about that one. It has a good and very usable explanation of the concept of multitude. (Expect quotes later on). But for me Virno seems too caught up in his past as theorist of the 1970’s Italian workers movement.

Virno’s analysis of the Post-Fordist condition doesn’t strike me as very insightful in the sense that it basically seems to repeat what (one thinks?) one knows from let’s say the newpapers. (I am almost sure one can find better analyses in economic literature, also analyses of ‘virtuosity’, and the importance of language and talk at work).

The difference is that Virno’s analysis refers often to Marxist theory and indeed to the 1970’s worker’s philosophy of Potere Operaio. That is his ‘true’ background. Very interesting in itself, and surely the Italian Autonomist movement and its theories are very, very fascinating. As Lotringer states in the introduction, Virno takes up this past explicitely instead of not simply not referring to it too much, and that is a positive thing according to Lotringer. But at some point every sentence seems to bear the imprint of Virno’s involvement with the 1970’s workers movement, with the collectives — his theorizing seems a theorizing through that experience. Or rather, maybe I should write that this is the ’emotional feeling’ of Virno’s prose. And this put me off as the book progressed. I must admit, then, that I did not read the last chapter (his 10 theses on the multitude) very well.

But then, it might also come down to the fact that I am interested in the concept of the multitude as far as I can make it ‘work’ in reference to blogging, writing, the transformation of publishing and the media, the transformation of speaking/writing in public; I — personally — am not working on the issue of a workers movement, or on a theory of labor. And ‘new media’, indeed media, are not Virno’s thing.

en,reading matter,research | May 16, 2006 | 17:21 | Comments Off on Paolo Virno |


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