The devils in curriculum studies: multitude and multiplicity.

Author:Reynolds, William M.

Political action aimed at transformation and liberation today can only be conducted on the basis of the multitude. (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. 99)

The threat to political order is perhaps even more clear: political thought since the time of the ancients has been based on the distinctions among the one, the few and the many. The indefinite number of the multitude threatens all these principles or order. Such trickery is the devil's work. (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. 139)

How do we face the persistent movement in the present historical moment toward Empire and the curriculum of Empire? Hardt and Negri discuss the definition of Empire.

Empire is materializing before our very eyes. Over the past several decades, as colonial regimes were overthrown and then precipitously after the Soviet barriers to the capitalist world market finally collapsed, we have witnessed an irresistible and irreversible globalization of economic and cultural exchanges. Along with the global market and global circuits of production has emerged a global order, a new logic and structure of rule-in short, a new form of sovereignty. Empire is the political subject that effectively regulates these global exchanges, the sovereign power that governs the world. (Hardt & Negri, 2000) As Empire develops out goes national sovereignty, in comes supranational governance, controlled by a network of economic (IMF), political (the United Nations), and military (American) interests, whose decisions affect all of the Earth's billions. This investigation will discuss the possibility of instances of freedom in the time of Empire. It will do so by considering the concepts of multitude and multiplicity. These two terms are not to be treated as synonymous. Multitude refers to the larger global political matter of resistance to Empire and multiplicity refers to one context within that larger framework. So, the multitude can act with multiplicities and the manner in which they do demonstrate that it may be still possible to work toward the reconstruction of schools and society within this postmodern era.


The text, Multitude (2004), might be described as a hand book for those who view democracy as a yet unfinished project, one that might still be pursued in ways that work through institutions to create a mode of social organization that is based neither on imperial sovereignty nor on anarchy. The concept of the "multitude" is Hardt and Negri's way of identifying the possibility of such a project, and their way of not falling on either side of the unity/plurality binary. Rather, the multitude is an "irreducible multiplicity" not merely caught in postmodern fragmentation nor automatically enlisted as members of a cohesive proletariat, but bearing a "subjectivity that emerges from this dynamic of singularity and commonality." This singularity and commonality is addressed with many examples within their text one analogy is the description of the multitude as devils in the novel Devils by Dostoevsky. The analysis of Dostoevsky's novel variously translated as either Devils or The Possessed (1871) assists in the understanding of the many and the one, the commonality and the singularity. Hardt and Negri refer to this novel in one section of the text as a technique for understanding multitude. It is rather ironic I suppose that they would choose a novel that has been classified as reactionary--against radicals in a society, but Dostoevsky cautions against radicals and their foibles in many of his works and most times these radicals do not fare well. At the center of all Dostoevsky's writing is the problem of freedom. What is permitted and what is not permitted is a question that he dramatizes again and again, and we can regard the development of his work as a dramatic testing of the limits of freedom and a progressive refinement of what he meant by the concept of freedom. Revolutionaries, however, do not always end up with freedom; they may end up dead as in the case of The Devils.

In the Devils, Dostoevsky adapts the idea of a revolutionary group from a case that occurred in 1869. He combines the Nechayev case and his own beliefs in order to create the central plot of the Devils. Nechayev was a Russian revolutionary figure, influenced by the Nihilist movement and anarchism, and known for his single-minded pursuit of revolution by any means necessary, including political violence. He died in a Russian prison in 1882. In the novel, Dostoevsky depicts an ultra secret pseudo revolutionary political organization that desires to overthrow the government and undermine the Russian church and is bent on mindless destruction and includes members of the village's best families. The extremists hope to replace themselves at the helm of the country by displacing those who are currently in power. The strengths of the group are their ability to remain clandestine, their intelligence, and their ability to commit horrific crimes with little remorse. However, the entire group by the end of the novel have committed suicide, been killed by their own comrades, or are safely away in prison or exile. In effect it is Dostoevsky writing a reactionary novel against atheism and social revolution. In fact, he is in some ways, discussing the multitude by his use of the title, Devils

What is so fearsome about the multitude is its indefinite number, at the same time many and one. If there were only one unified conspiracy against the old social order, like Dostoevsky imagines, then it could be known, confronted and defeated. Or if instead there were many separate, isolated social threats, they too could be managed. The multitude, however, is legion; it is composed of innumerable elements that remain different, one from the other, and yet communicate, collaborate and act in common. Now that is really demonic. Implicit in his plural use of the word devils is the often cited biblical story of the possessed man in the Gospel of Luke and the reference to Legion. In the parable/story Jesus travels to and meets a man who is possessed by demons, a demoniac. The man had been seized many times by demons and was bound, but would escape the bonds and be driven into the desert by the demons. Jesus comes upon him.

And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. (Luke 8:30) Jesus takes the demons out of the man allows them to go into a herd of swine and the herd falls off a cliff into a lake and is drown.

Multitude as legion refers to the concept of the many in the one or the one and many. This is a manner in which to begin to conceive of multitude.

Why is Legion the demonic's name? Because he has such a powerful destructive force? Because the multitude inside him can act together? Perhaps, the real threat of this demonic multitude is more metaphysical: since it is at once singular and plural, it destroys numerical distinction itself. The threat to political order is perhaps even more clear: political thought since the time of the ancients has been based on the distinctions among the one, the few and the many. The demonic multitude violates all such numerical distinctions. It is both one and...

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