from Commonwealth

Hardt & Negri, p. 236-237

Let us begin with indignation, then, as the raw material of revolt and rebellion. In indignation, as Spinoza reminds us, we discover our power to act against oppression and challenge the causes o f our collective suffering. In the expression of indignation our very existence rebels. Indignation thus includes a certain amount of violence. This relates closely to the fact, which we touched on earlier, that the resistance to power, the expression of freedom against the violence of power, always involves a dimension of force—when the worker confronts the boss, the colonized faces off against the colonizer, the citizen the state, and so forth.

The force and resistance that arise from indignation against the abuses and dictates of power, however, can appear immediate or spontaneous and thus naive (though not for that reason any less powerful). Indignation is born always as a singular phenomenon, in response to a specific obstacle or violation. Is it possible, then, for there to be a strategy of indignation? Can indignation lead to a process of political self-determination? In the history of modern political movements the great examples of self-organized rebellion based on indignation have often been called jacqueries: from the ferocious sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European peasant uprisings to the spontaneous worker revolts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from anticolonial insurgencies to race riots, various forms of urban rebellion, food riots, and so forth. Normally such events are portrayed negatively in political histories. Yes, certainly, the standard version goes, these people are suffering and have just cause, but the spontaneity of their actions leads down the wrong path.

The violence of the jacquerie, on the one hand, overflows reasonable measure and destroys the objects of its wrath seemingly indiscriminately: think of the tales of white colonists killed by revolting slaves in Haiti or the images of Detroit in flames during the riots of summer 1967. The spontaneity of the jacquerie, on the other hand, according to the standard narrative, leaves behind no organizational structure, no legitimate institution that can serve as an alternative to the power overthrown. The jacquerie burns out in a flash and is gone. The great poetry of Francois Villon is full of the brief adventures and tragic destinies of the jacqueries. And yet we have to recognize what some call the epidemic spread and constant presence of such uprisings punctuating modern history, from Europe and Russian to India and China, from Africa to the Americas and beyond. Despite their brevity and discontinuity, the constant reappearance of these jacqueries profoundly determines not only the mechanisms of repression but also the structures of power itself.



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