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The Age of Immanence: Postoperaismo, Postcapitalism and the Forces and Relations of Production

Research output: Working paperWorking paper and Preprints

Original languageEnglish
Publisher or commissioning bodySPAIS, University of Bristol
DatePublished - 12 Feb 2020

Publication series

NameSchool of Sociology, Politics and International Studies Working Papers
PublisherSchool of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol
ISSN (Print)2633-6359
ISSN (Electronic)2633-6359


This working paper relates the movement between Marx and Spinoza in the postoperaismo of Antonio Negri to its subsequent reception on the contemporary left via the intellectual regeneration offered by postcapitalist and ‘post-work’ thinking. The latter, we argue, translates Negri's Spinozism into a hopeful assessment of political possibility not reflected in preset conditions. In postoperaismo, and in particular the turn to Spinoza in the work of Negri, key categories of Marx’s critique of political economy are reevaluated in line with a utopian analysis of the potentialities of contemporary capitalism and its immanent tendency towards a postcapitalist transformation. Through a close reading of Negri’s three translated books and collections dealing with Spinoza, the paper critiques the underlying ideas and consequences of this appraisal. In so doing it is informed by a countervailing appreciation of value, labour and class in capitalist society grounded in the ‘critique of political economy as a critical social theory’ approach. The working paper argues that Negri, owing to his positing of Spinozian plane of immanence of which all social principles are an ontologically equivalent part, essentially ends up at a conservative position that takes the world as it is, and reflects it back on itself. A political vision based around the immanent power of the multitude, constrained only by limits of its own self-valorising creation, possesses intellectual resources only for a very passive form of resistance which merely affirms capitalist development. From unorthodox beginnings, Negri’s worldview ends up little different to the most crudely deterministic historical materialism, paradoxically combining resigned quietism with revolutionary over-optimism. The wrong kinds of theory impoverish the critical resources undergirding political praxis, and Negri’s ideas, whilst innocuous in and of themselves, cascade through contemporary left politics. His celebratory account of societal and technological change is carried over in the left ‘accelerationism’, ‘postcapitalism’ and ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ discussed in the concluding section of this paper. It is suggested that the development of an alternative to technological utopianism is a necessary step for left renewal following the defeat of Corbynism and the failure of a policy agenda inspired in part by the worldview surveyed here.

    Structured keywords

  • Digital Societies
  • Perspectives on Work
  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy
  • MGMT theme Work Futures

    Research areas

  • Negri, Marx, Spinoza, Postoperaismo, Postcapitalism, Work, Labour, Technology, Corbynism, Production, Capitalism, Class



  • Pitts and Cruddas 2020 The Age of Immanence

    Final published version, 358 KB, PDF document

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