Goodbye Mr. Socialism: By Antonio Negri, 256 pgs. By Maddy

Here’s a basic statement: Despite the fact that history is one of my top three interests (anything and everything, from labor battles of the 1930s to Jefferson Davis), I am not interested in political theory, critical theory, or other kinds of similar theory I don’t know exist. I have plenty of friends who know a ton about theoretical debates within Marxist circles, but I just don’t care. I basically dismiss the whole thing as irrelevant. I mean, what non-academic person in the United States has ever been convinced to become a leftist by an abstract theory? People care about concrete issues. That’s how you organize. “You want better wages? And by the way, guess how much your boss makes? Why do you have to put up with segregation?” Am I being a bit simplistic? Probably. But here’s the thing, you could spend your whole life studying this stuff and you’d have nothing to show for it.

Anyway, this book is basically an extended interview with the Italian Marxist Antonio Negri, who is best known for co-writing the book Empire, which I haven’t read. The book basically argues (based on conversations with friends, mind you) that traditional imperialism has changed from being about individual countries into a new “empire” where power is absolute and formed in new ways: a monarchy of rich nations, a democracy (the United Nations, etc.), and corporate interests. Maybe this analysis is important to determine the most effective ways to resist, but who knows.

Interesting fact about Negri: He was accused of being involved in the assassination of the Italian politician Aldo Moro, but was acquitted, only to be convicted of involvement in other murders, leading him to flee the country. He later returned to turn himself in (apparently in part to raise political awareness) and served six years in prison. Okay, so what’s my point? If you’re interested in reading Negri, you should probably start with Empire and then read this book. Be warned that if you aren’t familiar with theoretical arguments about Trotsky and the struggle of Chinese proletarian groups, this book is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get anything out of, or even really to understand. –Maddy (Seven Stories Press, sevenstories.com)