Where Have all the Leaders Gone?

Michael Hardt, Duke University Literature Program
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Gowen 1A

Michael Hardt is the co-author, with Antonio Negri, of many books, including: Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), Commonwealth (2009), Declaration (2012), and Assembly (forthcoming 2017).

We continue to witness each year the eruption of “leaderless” social movements.  From North Africa and the Middle East to Europe, the Americas, and East Asia, movements have left journalists, political analysts, police forces, and governments disoriented and perplexed.  Activists too have struggled to understand and evaluate the power and effectiveness of horizontal movements.  The movements have proven able to pose democratic ideals, sometimes to force reforms, and to pressure and even overthrow regimes – and, indeed, widespread social processes have been set in motion in coordination with or as consequence of them – but the movements tend to be short-lived and seem unable to bring about lasting social transformation.  Many assume that if only social movements could find new leaders they would return to their earlier glory and be able to sustain and achieve projects of social transformation and liberation.  Where, they ask, are the new Martin Luther King Jr.s, Rudi Dutschkes, Patrice Lumumbas, and Steven Bikos?  Where have all the leaders gone?

Leadership has become a conundrum that today’s movements seem unable to solve, but the leadership problem in revolutionary and progressive movements is not entirely new.  In this lecture Michael Hardt will use some examples from past theory and practice to situate and clarify some of the issues and alternatives involved in the organization of social movements today.


Sponsored by:  The Department of Political Science, the Bridges Center for Labor Studies, the Washington Institute for the Study of Inequality and Race (WISIR),  and the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE).

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