In his rigorous review of The Idea of Communism for Libcom, Alasdair Thompson walks us through the main themes of this collection of essays by some of today's most important political thinkers. Edited by Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek, The Idea of Communism was developed in the wake of a 2009 conference of the same name at Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities. Thompson's review looks at a number of these texts in relation to each other, including work by Michael Hardt, Alain Badiou and Alberto Toscano.
If democracy—that is, the democracy we have been given—is staggering under the blows of the economic crisis and is powerless to assert the will and interests of the multitude, then is now perhaps the moment to consider that form of democracy obsolete?
This is the crucial question posed by the Occupy movement, according to Michael Hardt and Toni Negri. In a piece for Foreign Affairs, the authors of Empire situate the Occupy Wall Street protest in a "cycle of struggles" that began in Tahrir Square in January, extended to Europe with the Spanish Democracia Real YA! Movement and eventually reached the United States. The hallmark of this wave of popular mobilization has been the practice of "encampments" — ordinary people repossessing public spaces that had fallen under the control of financial corporations and corrupted politicians. At the heart of the protest are both "indignation against corporate greed" and a deep critique of institutional politics:
One obvious and clear message of the protests, of course, is that the bankers and finance industries in no way represent us: What is good for Wall Street is certainly not good for the country (or the world). A more significant failure of representation, though, must be attributed to the politicians and political parties charged with representing the people's interests but in fact more clearly represent the banks and the creditors. Such a recognition leads to a seemingly naive, basic question: Is democracy not supposed to be the rule of the people over the polis—that is, the entirety of social and economic life? Instead, it seems that politics has become subservient to economic and financial interests.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri write in the Guardian about the Arab uprisings and their hope "that through this cycle of struggles the Arab world becomes for the next decade what Latin America was for the last - that is, a laboratory of political experimentation between powerful social movements and progressive governments."