University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

"Social Movements: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" Prof. Michael Hardt Public Lecture

April 11, 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 Steve 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, 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.

Time: 5:30 - 7:00 pm
Location: Nau Hall 101


Michael Hardt is Professor of Literature in the Department of Romance Studies at Duke University. His writings explore the new forms of domination in the contemporary world as well as the social movements and other forces of liberation that resist them. In the Empire trilogy -- Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth (2009) -- he and Antonio Negri investigate the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. They also study the political and economic alternatives that could lead to a more democratic world. Their pamphlet Declaration (2012) attempts to articulate the significance of the encampments and occupations that began in 2011, from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, and to recognize the primary challenges faced by emerging democratic social movements today. 

Homer Statue
Nau 101
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm