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Michael Hardt

(b. 1960)

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American*Marxistphilosopher, social theorist, and cultural critic best known for his collaborative work with Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Negri with whom he has co-authored four books.

Hardt was born in Rockville, Maryland in the USA, and raised in the suburbs of Washington DC where his father worked as a Sovietologist (specializing in economics) at the Library of Congress. He studied engineering at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania during the prolonged ‘energy crisis’ of the 1970s. His choice of major was motivated by a political desire to help develop alternative energy technology for the poor. He spent his summers in Italy working in a factory making solar panels. In 1983 he moved to Seattle to do a PhD in Comparative Literature, again because it seemed to offer the best way forward for him to advance his political thinking. At this time, too, he was volunteering for the Christian ‘Sanctuary Movement’ in Guatemala and El Salvador, which provided shelter for refugees trying to escape the CIA-funded wars ravaging those countries. With characteristic modesty, Hardt would later say his time in South America helped him more than he was able to help others.

In the summer of 1987, Hardt travelled to Paris to meet with Antonio Negri to go through some questions he had regarding the English translation of L'anomalia selvaggia. Saggio su potere e potenza in Baruch Spinoza (1981), translated as The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics (1991). The meeting proved fortuitous. Negri suggested to Hardt that he move to Paris, which he did, and invited him to join the editorial board of the journal he was founding, Futur Antérieur. Then when an editor at the University of Minnesota Press asked Negri to put together a collection of his early writings for publication, Negri countered by suggesting a collaborative book written with Michael Hardt dealing with contemporary issues. The resulting work, combining essays from Negri's previous books Operati e Stato (1972) (Work and State) and La Forma Stato(1977) (The Form of the State) with new essays by both him and Hardt, was the first step towards the work which would bring them both such international renown.

Hardt’s first solo work, Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy, a reworked version of his PhD, was published in 1993. One of the first full-length monographs published on Deleuze and still one of the most important, Hardt's book offered an astute reading of Deleuze as a political philosopher. In 1994, after spending two years at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), Hardt was appointed to the Literature Programme at Duke University. Over the next several years he worked on another collaborative project with Negri, which would be published in 2000 as Empire. Resonating strongly with the optimistic fervour for change ignited by the anti-WTO (World Trade Organization) movement that took to the streets in such numbers in Seattle, Genoa, and elsewhere as the 20th century drew to a close, the concept of Empire captured the millennial spirit of the moment perfectly and the book became an instant worldwide bestseller.


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