Empire | Study Guide

Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri

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Empire | Quotes


Empire presents its order as permanent, eternal, and necessary.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The authors argue that Empire differs from imperialism in that it is not tethered to territories or nation-states. It is meant to evolve alongside the deterritorialized network it has created. Because there is no center of power, it has no weak point. It has embedded itself into the global world and its capitalism.


Moral intervention has become a frontline force of imperial intervention.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

The authors make the distinction that rather than using weapons—as modern imperialism did—Empire's tools of choice are moral instruments. The medium for this moral intervention is the news media, religious organizations, and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations). They are concerned with the notion of a "just war" that is conducted without weapons or violence.


Every nation must make the multitude into a people.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 2

A distinction can be drawn between the concepts of "a multitude" and a "people." A multitude is closely linked to the idea of subjects—those that are governed and dependent on their government for survival. A people can be defined as masses who are invested in their own liberty and democracy and force the government to respond to their needs and demands.


Power is not something that lords over us but something that we make.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 5

One of the distinctions of the transition from modern imperialism to Empire is the notion that the people have the ability to create and wield power as a counterbalance to government. This notion was seeded in the American Declaration of Independence and its constitution and has therefore become a global model that has influenced and changed the face of other nations.


Black slavery was paradoxically both an exception to and a foundation of the Constitution.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 5

The authors raise the important point that despite the concepts of freedom and liberty written into the U.S. Constitution, freedom and liberty was not available to all, particularly not to enslaved African American. The authors counted slaves as three-fifths of a person, thereby considering them less than human. The authors highlight here how even in a seeming utopia, inequality can be built into its foundation.


The binaries that define modern conflict have become blurred.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 6

Many divisions, such as inside/outside and other/self, defined modern imperialism. This was largely because modern imperialism concerned itself so greatly with territories and boundaries. In Empire, boundaries have become increasingly meaningless to its diffuse and global network. There is no longer an "outside" of Empire because everything is contained within it. The mobilization of people across the globe also blurs the concept of "Other."


Globalization must be met with a counter-globalization, Empire with a counter-Empire.

Narrator, Intermezzo

The authors struggle to conceptualize what would be required to "overthrow" Empire in the same way that modern imperialism was replaced by Empire. They conclude that it would likely need to be a force that runs counter to globalization. This back-and-forth struggle can be seen in historical cycles, yet the authors also argue that Empire lies outside this kind of historical cycle.


Capital is an organism that cannot sustain itself without constantly looking beyond its boundaries.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 1

The growth of capitalism is dissected and analyzed throughout the book, particularly in its relationship to imperialism and Empire. Capitalism is able to constantly evolve to adapt to historical circumstances, and the introduction of Empire is no exception. Yet if Empire is defined by not having boundaries, capitalism must find a way to grow within Empire's global networks, constantly reinventing itself.


Capitalism undergoes systemic transformation only when it is forced to.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 3

Capitalism is not separate from the forces that shape it. Its history is based on reacting to the world's economy rather than instigating change. Capitalism's only goal is profit, and therefore it won't willingly abandon a regime based on profit. Its hand must be forced by outside influences in order for it to transform.


Militancy today is a positive, constructive, and innovative activity.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 3

The archetype of the militant can be traced back through history and is most often seen in 20th-century revolutionary fighters. Yet this period coincides with modern imperialism in which agitation and destruction were goals to get revolution to the "outside." In contemporary times, the rules and targets have changed, and the inspiration and actions of the militant have changed as well. Because there is no longer an "outside," revolution must come from within through the creation of a counterpower.

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