Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 5, No 1 (2009)

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Chronicles of Insurrection: Tronti, Negri and the Subject of Antagonism

Alberto Toscano

Abstract


This article seeks to trace the origins of contemporary ‘post-workerism’ in the formulation of concepts of political subjectivity, antagonism and insurrection in Tronti and Negri. In particular, it tries to excavate the seemingly paradoxical position which postulates the increasing immanence of struggles, as based on the Marxian thesis of real subsumption, together with the intensification of the political autonomy or separation of the working class. In order to grasp the political and theoretical proposals of Italian workerism and autonomism, Toscano concentrates on the thesis of a historical transformation of capitalism into an increasingly parasitical and politically violent social relation, a thesis which is grounded in an interpretation of Marx’s notion of ‘tendency’ and which serves as the background to the exploration, especially in Negri, of increasingly uncompromising forms of antagonism. The article focuses especially on Tronti’s so-called ‘Copernican revolution’—giving workers’ struggles primacy in the understanding of capitalism—and critically inquires into the effect of this workerist axiom on Negri’s writings on proletarian sabotage and insurrection in the 1970s. By way of a conclusion, it notes the difficulties in prolonging the workerist gambit in light of capital’s continued effort, as Tronti would put it, to emancipate itself from the working class.

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