Populism and Empire: The Impossibility of Sovereignty

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In 2000 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri announced a new global paradigm that implied the shift from modern sovereignty to imperial sovereignty. Until now, they have developed a theoretical and political framework to account for the organization of multitude, a counter-Empire from below, to overcome the multiple and decentralized modes of domination characterizing Empire. Since multiplicity and immanence are the main features of the struggles of multitude, Hardt and Negri have rejected the return of the state, representative politics or ‘the people’ as subject of change. This position has made it difficult to establish a deeper dialogue with other approaches like populism (or left-populism) by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, despite the relevant reflections and implications for populism contained in the work of Hardt and Negri. This article engages in a critical reading of populism from the Empire perspective where special focus is placed on the
construction of incompatible dichotomies between globalization vs. the state, multitude vs. ‘the people’, and non-sovereignty vs. popular sovereignty. After discussing tensions and issues to reconsider from both Empire and populist theory, the conclusion points to the application of a multi-scalar and intersectional approach to populism in order to enrich its conceptualization and solve some of its contradictions.
TidsskriftSul Global
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)30-49
StatusUdgivet - 2021


  • Imperial sovereignty
  • national sovereignty
  • multitude
  • Populism
  • multi-scalar
  • Intersectionality