Paolo Virno  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Paolo Virno (born 1952) is an Italian philosopher, semiologist and a figurehead for the Italian Marxist movement. Implicated in belonging to illegal social movements during the 1960s and 1970s, Virno was arrested and jailed in 1979, accused of belonging to the Red Brigades. He spent several years in prison before finally being acquitted, after which he organized the publication Luogo Comune (Italian for "commonplace") in order to vocalize the political ideas he developed during his imprisonment. Virno currently teaches philosophy at the University of Rome.


Virno was born in Naples, but spent his childhood and adolescence in Genoa. He had his first political experiences when joining the social movements of 1968—the association between personal fulfillment and anti-capitalism, typical of the critique artiste of the 1960s, which then constituted one of the key reasons for his political philosophy. He moved to Rome with his family at the beginning of the 1970s, where he studied philosophy in university.

Simultaneously, Virno was involved in the labour movement and campaigned in the organization Potere Operaio, a Marxist group involved in the recruitment and mobilization of industrial workers. Potere Operaio, unlike political communists of the Soviet Union and China who sought to combine the student bodies with the workers' unions, focused mainly on factory and industrial workers in a program stemming from Marx's theory criticising the organization of work. Virno participated in the movement, organizing protests and strikes in northern Italian factories, until its dissolution in 1973.

In 1977 Virno presented his doctoral thesis on the concept of work and the theory of consciousness of Theodor Adorno, while actively participating in the movement of 1977, which organized around the precariousness of workers. The Metropolitan magazine, which he founded along with Oreste Scalzone and Franco Piperno, was revered as the body of the intellectual movement at the time. Two years later, the editorial board of Metropolitan France was jailed on charges of belonging to the Red Brigades.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Paolo Virno" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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