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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
You asked me to try to explain how I came to work on the book of Michael Hardt and Toni Negri and why I became enthusiastic about it and sought to persuade my colleagues that it was a book for us to publish and a very important one at that. In the 80s and 90s it seemed as if in the United States "official culture" of the Beltway and Ivory Tower was getting more and more remote from life as it was led by most Americans. The Clinton affair obsessed official culture and was of no concern to most people. What Greil Marcus calls "that weird Old America" was getting buried under more and more fancy chrome and veneer. When the manuscript that C.L.R. James called "the Struggle for Happiness" came out in 1993 as the book American Civilization, I fell in love with his picture of the promise of happiness that he argued the U.S. offered the world in this book he wrote on the eve of being kicked out of the country because he was a member of the Communist Party. He was absolutely upbeat about the promise held by the set-up of the U.S. republic. But in the U.S. in the 90s on Left and Right all one could see were pessimists. Then along came this book. I had known Michael for years because of my long-term interest in Italian things (I wrote my dissertation on Italian and English poetry), and he had advised me on a number of occasions. I knew of Tonio's work on Spinoza. When Michael offered me the book, it took me a while to understand what it was about. First of all , it was a shock to find true Marxists embracing the U.S. Constitution and for some of the same reasons thatC.L.R. James had. Second, it took me some time to understand the concept of the "multitude" and to see how it connected to that weird Old America that Marcus talks about and to the mass of non-elite Americans who were increasingly being ignored as the 90s wore on. I was wrestling with what it was that made me discontented with Richard Rorty's view of the United States in his Achieving Our Country. I was worried about the alienation of blacks and youth in the U.S. I was interested in globalization and was unsatisfied with knee-jerk rejections of it. This book is surprisingly pro-US for a book from the Left, but there is an important proviso that the US must live up to its radical democratic potential. The multitude is sovereign. This seemed to be a book that could shock into thought people stuck in ideological ruts Left and Right. We are an educational press. Helping people to think is our business. Our policy at the Press is that of Mao, "Let a thousand flowers grow." We are resolutely committed to publishing as diverse a list as possible. We had committed to publishng The Black Book of Communist. Our Board was enthusiastic about publishing this book. It has been a pleasure to work with Michael and Toni. I visited Toni last year in Rome at the apartment in Trastevere where he spends his day-time release hours from prison and we talked about this book, prison reform, and the poetry of Leopardi.
— (Lindsay Waters, Editor, Harvard University Press)