Trust Theory

Patrick Harrison on Michael Hardt (via bookforum):

As the rest of the speakers greeted each other on stage with warm effusions and European pecks on the cheek, literary critic Michael Hardt, the sole American-born speaker at the London conference, stood apart from the crowd. With folded arms, he gazed out not just into but somehow beyond the audience of the packed lecture hall.

Hardt's behavior seemed to be a defensive performance of self-sufficiency, as if to pre-empt his inevitable failure to fit in with the rest of the “glittering array of Continental academic rockstars,” as Terry Eagleton put it, that had assembled that weekend for the conference titled “On the Idea of Communism.” Nearly the entire emerging canon of (mostly male) contemporary Continental philosophers—including Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Rancière, Eagleton, and Antonio Negri, Hardt's mentor and collaborator—as well as their translators and champions in the English-language academy and a few other European notables less well known outside the Continent joined Hardt at the conference. Hardt's reputation has always been doubled by a secret tendency to diminutivize him in relation to Negri—his more famous (or notorious), frequently jailed co-author on Empire and Multitude—and it was hard not to regard Hardt in this light when one saw him onstage next to the old masters. Yet he seemed even more out of place among the rest the other scholars who, Eagleton quipped, had “married in” to the elite circles of Continental philosophy, a group that included the two Badiou scholars—Bruno Bosteels and Peter Hallward—who joined Hardt in the first panel of the conference.

Ironically, what separated Hardt from the rest of the speakers at the conference was his distinctly American desire for everybody to get along.