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After Foucault: Maurizio Lazzarato and Contemporary Critiques of Capitalism

Lecturer: James Muldoon

Originally Taught: Evening Sem 1 2013

Over the past fifteen years Maurizio Lazzarato has developed a distinct variety of political vitalism in which he has moved from Italian Marxism to a vitalist neo-monadology through his engagement with the work of French sociologist, Gabriel Tarde. This course will provide students with a critical reading of Lazzarato's most recent untranslated work and assesses the strengths and limitations of his unique brand of political vitalism. Lazzarato views politics as a clash of heterogeneous forces in which one must embrace the co-operative and affective powers of creation and innovation over the restrictive nature of transcendent principles. His reading of diverse thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault and Deleuze enables him to construct a novel critique of global capitalism pertaining to its most contemporary changes and transformations.

Course Schedule

Week 1: From Autonomist Marxism to Post-Workerism
Week 2: Gabriel Tarde's Neo-Monadology
Week 3: Metaphysics of Contemporary Capitalism
Week 4: Critique of Neo-liberal Insecurity & Debt
Week 5: Politics of Multiplicity

Maurizio Lazzarato, if known at all in the English speaking world, is regarded as one of Antonio Negri’s allies from the 1970s and as a theorist of ‘immaterial labour’. Very little critical attention has been paid to his work by Anglophone scholars, which is symptomatic of their general neglect of Italian Marxism more broadly. There is evidence, however, that this neglect of Italian post-Marxism is beginning to change with a number of recent English translations of Franco Berardi (Bifo) and Lazzarato himself which signals a broader shift of focus from predominantly French thinkers to their Italian interpreters. However, the precise resources and opportunities that such a move opens up have yet to be fully determined.

The course will proceed via five basic steps, each building on the last in order to paint an overall picture of the movement of Lazzarato's thought. First, it traces the genesis of Lazzarato’s work in the radical social experiments taking place in Italy in the 1970s. Next, it highlights the repositioning of his thought from Italian autonomist Marxism to Tardian neo-monadology, following his insightful study of Gabriel Tarde. It then turns to Lazzarato’s phenomenological descriptions of the changes that have taken place in contemporary capitalism which suggest the need for a revision of a traditional Marxist perspective. In one of his most recent books, Lazzarato has also drawn from Foucault’s lecture course, The Birth of Biopolitics, to give a critique of neo-liberal economic theories and their ‘micropolitics of insecurity’. Finally, it analyses Lazzarato’s distinct form of political vitalism and the possibilities this provides for a renewed critique of the dominance of neo-liberalism and global capitalism today.

Recommended Reading

Week 1:
Michael Hardt, Introduction: Laboratory Italy
Mario Tronti, Our Operaismo
Week 2:
Gabriel Tarde, Monadology and Sociology
Week 3:
Maurizio Lazzarato, From Capital Labour to Life Labour
Maurizio Lazzarato, From the Revolutions of Capitalism
Week 4:
Maurizio Lazzarato, Neoliberalism in Action
Week 5:
Maurizio Lazzarato, Multiplicity, Totality, Politics
Maurizio Lazzarato, From Biopower to Biopolitics

Level of Difficulty: Introductory-Intermediate.


Evening Sem 1 2013