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Negri’s conatus, constituent power, and maroon resistances

Katja Diefenbach, Ruth Sonderegger and Pablo Valdivia

July, 19th, 2023, 6 p.m.
European University Viadrina, Logensaal, Logenstr. 11, Frankfurt (Oder)
Livestream via Zoom

Negri’s conatus, constituent power, and maroon resistances

In 1979–1980, Antonio Negri, sitting in prison, writes a book about Spinoza that is published almost simultaneously in Italy, France, and Germany under the title The Savage Anomaly. It addresses the transindividual self-generation and self-government of Being. It is Negri’s most serene book, and the problems with which it grapples, which will continue to shape his thinking, can be summed up under the motto of a ›communism of conatus‹. Revisiting the French Spinoza readings of the 1960s, the book limns a philosophy of joy centred on the excessiveness of positive passions and the cooperative increase in power to act. The materialist character of Spinoza's philosophy is shown in the degree of reality and effectiveness granted to bodily experience, imagination, and passive joy that Negri presents as fundamental theorems for his project of constituent power and mass transitions, sustained by the affects, from imagination to intellect, i. e. from passive to active joy, without intervention of transcendent means.

In our talk, we will reconstruct the basic theses and aporiae of Negri's reading of Spinoza, his strong identification of politics and ontology, his mass standpoint in philosophy, and his savage combination of a theory of love, power to act, and violence. Using Negri's engagement with Spinoza's dream image of a black maroon commander, we spin a decolonial theory of the potentia multitudinis that envisions the creation of a new society from below, catalysed by corporeal and sensible experiences, within the shell of the existing one.

The talk is part of the international lecture series The Irrepressible Lightness and Joy of Being Communist. A Tribute to Toni Negri, hosted by, and the research project Natural Right, Valorization and Perception in Colonial Modernity. On the Nexus of Accumulation, Race and Aesthetics., Cultural Philosophy/ Philosophies of Culture, European University Frankfurt (Oder) & Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Supported by Volkswagen Stiftung.