Philosophers Hardt and Negri’s Empire is a Communist manifesto of the 21st-century. In Empire Hardt and Negri are seeking the best means for undermining imperial sovereignty. How can we be against the empire, the sovereign cruelty? Hardt and Negri think that we can defuse and defeat Empire by refusal, by desertion, by deliberately embracing exodus, mobility and nomadism. We resist the network system of regulation and power by desertion, which means that we do nothing more than deliberately abandoning the places of power. Exodus and desertion are the techniques which allow us to access the generic, “Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the area of imperial control it may be desertion” writes Hardt and Negri. Exodus does not mean to evacuate the place, “class struggle in the biopolitical context takes the form of exodus but the exodus does not necessarily mean going elsewhere. We can pursue a line of flight while staying right here.”
Who has embodied the joy of neo-communist struggle against empire? Hard and Negri’s answer is St Francis of Assisi. By identifying himself with the poorest and most oppressed Francis countered the key kernel of capitalism. This according to the authors, is an inherently revolutionary act.
“To denounce the poverty of the multitude he adopted that common condition and discovered there the ontological power of a new society. The communist militant does the same, identifying the common condition of the multitude its enormous wealth. Francis in opposition to nascent capitalism refused every instrumental discipline, and in opposition to the mortification of the flesh (in poverty and in the constituted order) he posed a joyous life, including all of being and nature, the animals, sister moon, brother sun, the birds of the field, the poor and exploited humans, together against the will of power and corruption.”
Francis’ obedience was another form of rebellion. He posited rebellion against the power symbols of church and world. Francis lived the communism of Gospels, “Once again in postmodernity we find ourselves in Francis’s situation, posing against the misery of power the joy of being. This is a revolution that no power will control—because bio-power and communism, cooperation and revolution remain together, in love, simplicity, and also innocence. This is the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist..” write Hardt and Negri.
Anyone who takes Jesus seriously is a communist. Francis took Jesus extreme seriously.