Posted by: rogermitchell | February 26, 2011

Praying success for the uprisings in the Middle east and North Africa

For those reading the Guardian newspaper, following the New Statesman’s daily top 10 best newspaper articles, or following me on twitter, you will know that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri had a brief but hopeful article on the current uprisings published in yesterday’s Guardian [25th February]. The many comments to their article show just how cynical people are, and how ideologically driven whether they recognise it or not. But I believe that Hardt and Negri’s hope is a source for thanksgiving and that we should pray against the widespread cynicism and would like to explain why.

Firstly it is important to point out the link between the economic determinism of both communism and capitalism. The assumption that either class struggle or the free market would lead to equality has been undermined by the experience of the last century. The failure of the Soviet Union is therefore one source of cynicism, but so is the current devaluation of human worth by biopower. Biopower refers to the way that the Western economic system has evolved into the commodification of everything with the result that the raw material that feeds the economic engine is now life itself, hence ‘bio’ or ‘life’ power. Although Western propaganda regards the Western world as the epitome of democracy, its debasement of human existence is so complete that deep down many are barely able to stave off despair. The result is a cynicism that equates political power with the subordination of human freedom and gives rise to the expectation that all forms of structured power lead to disappointment.

Secondly there is an even deeper source of cynicism underlying the embrace of materialism that lies behind both communism and capitalism. This stems from the oppressive partnership of church and state which led to the conviction that domination and transcendence go together which is why materialistic remedies were attempted instead. This is deeply imbedded in history and substantiates the fear of all kinds of religious systems be they Christian or Islamic or whatever. The assumption is that they will always lead to domination.

I would argue that despite these sources of cynicism, we can look to the Middle East and North Africa with hope at this time and that Hardt and Negri’s thinking can help us to do so. Their brief article honours the youthful vision and determination seen throughout the current uprisings. They place their hope on the capacity of human desire, not on the inevitability of economic progress whether by class struggle or the free market. They assert that the desire for a different life in which the rising generation can put their full capacities to use has been unleashed and simply will not die. They point out that the insurrections are not aimed at a traditional liberal constitution that merely guarantees a Western style society but a form of democracy adequate to the new forms of expression and needs of the multitude. They conclude that a radical response must invent a common plan to manage natural resources and social production and point out that neither Western representative democracy  nor Islamic rule are adequate to meet these needs.

I am not suggesting that youthful desire can accomplish this alone. But then nor are the neo-Marxists. I am suggesting that a partnership between the neo-Marxist  perspective and a radical Christian one can help. Interestingly the conclusions of Hardt and Negri’s books Empire and Multitude suggest the same. This is what my next few posts will explore.



  1. in light of what you’ve written today – you’ll enjoy this:


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