Michael Hardt Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Empire: Conversation with Michael Hardt, Professor of Literature and Romance Studies, Duke University, March 12, 2004 by Harry Kreisler

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Background

Michael, welcome to Berkeley.

Thanks.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Bethesda, Maryland, a D.C. suburb, and raised there.

And looking back, how do you think your parents shaped your thinking about the world?

I guess I don't know.

When did you start getting interested in ideas and questions broader than what was going on in Bethesda, Maryland?

Probably when I was in college; not in high school. I seemed to be interested in other things before I went to college.

Where did you go to college?

To Swarthmore College.

What do you remember about your education there that made the greatest impression, directed you to what actually you turned to?

I don't know. I guess if I did learn one thing at college, I did get an interest in ideas, a passion for studying, which I didn't have [and] which a lot of the other students did have. At the moment, though, I was still interested in other things. I was interested in relationships and sports. An intellectual life didn't seem like the most pressing matter at the time.

This would have been what years?

I entered in '78, and was graduated in '83.

What did you major in?

Engineering.

Engineering? Oh, okay. So a totally different vocation than you wound up doing.

Yeah. Yeah, I suppose so. Yeah.

And what did you do after college? Did you go right to graduate school?

No, no, no. I went traveling with a friend at the time, went to find other friends. I started working as an engineer. It was after being graduated from college that I began to learn the interests and the joy of political activity. In college, all the political struggles on campus seemed to me moralistic and useless, and a lot of posing. It was after that, early eighties, mid-eighties, I suppose, when I got involved in political work that seemed much more important and useful and engaging, joyful.

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