Practical Civil Virtues in Cyberspace: Towards the Utopian Identity of Civitas and Multitudo.

Fuchs, Christian and Rainer E. Zimmermann. 2009. Practical Civil Virtues in Cyberspace: Towards the Utopian Identity of Civitas and Multitudo. Salzburg/Munich. Munich Series in Design Science (Münchener Schriften zur Design Science), Volume 5. ISBN 978-3-8322-8341-4. 218 pages.

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The overall task of this book is to discuss the actuality, potentiality, and virtuality of participatory democracy in the age of cyberspace.

The book discusses Spinoza’s concept of the multitude, Hardt’s and Negri’s notion of the multitude, humanist materialism, transcendental materialism, class theory and informational capitalism, and the multitude in cyberspace.


1. Introduction  7

2. The Concept of the Multitude and its  Democratic Implications 10
2.1 The Multitude Defined 10
2.2 Ethics of Participatory Democracy I:  Humanist Materialism 25
2.3 Ethics of Participatory Democracy II: Trancendental Materialism 40
2.4 Ethics of Participatory Democracy III: Why Transcendentalism? 50

3. Multitude and Immaterial Labour  57
3.1 The Revolutionary Class Revisited 57
3.2 Negri, Dialectics, and Class Struggle 64
3.3 Class in Informational Capitalism 69

4. Multitude in Cyberspace 105
4.1 The Multitude in Cyberspace I – Economy: The Open Source Internet Economy 105
4.2 The Multitude in Cyberspace II – Politics: Cyberprotest and New Social Movements 111
4.3 The Multitude in Cyberspace III – Culture: Virtual Communities 119

5. Conclusions: Implications of Cyberspace 138
5.1 eParticipation: Democracy and Multitude in Cyberspace 145
5.2 Digital Divides: Limits to the Democracy of the Multitude 156

6. References 207


In recent years the rise of the network society (Fuchs 2008, 2007) and of the internet in particular has brought up the discussion of new forms and potentials of democratic co-operation. Concepts such as “digital democracy”, “teledemocracy”, “cyberdemocracy”, “eParticipation”, “eDemocracy”, “cyberprotest”, and so forth have emerged that signify hopes that the internet and network organizations can in fact enhance democratic participation. The network society has advanced and reactualized the idea that all citizens could be enabled to decide all matters that they are concerned with in joint processes.

But of course democracy and participation are not really technological issues. New information and communication technologies (ICTs) are merely media that facilitate and/or obstruct democratic participation; practical democracy however is lived and enacted by concrete human beings in the first place.

In this present text we relate the discourse on participatory democracy and eParticipation to the Spinozist category of the multitude, which has recently been revived in critical social theory by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt.

Research questions are:

What are the implications of the concept of multitude for democracy and participation in contemporary society?

What exactly is the multitude in the works of Spinoza, Hardt, and Negri (2.1)?

How can participatory democracy as an implication of the concept of multitude be philosophically founded on a hu-
manist materialism (2.2) or a transcendental materialism (2.3), respectively?

What are the implications of the concept of multitude for the class concept (3)?

More precisely, what is the relationship among class, multitude, and immaterial labour (3.1)?

How important is dialectics for conceiving the multitude (3.2)?

How can exploitation and class be conceived in terms of the concept of multitude in informational capitalism

What are then, the implications for participatory democracy if the multitude enters cyberspace (4)?

In particular, what is the economic potential of the co-operation of the multitude in cyberspace (4.1)?

What is the political potential of this (4.2)?

Finally, what is the cultural potential of this (4.3)?

What kind of digital divides can be found in the concrete world?

What are thus the limits of unfolding the multitude’s potential?