Movement : Hagar Kotef

2. Political Operations: “Movement” in Politics and Political Thought

2.1 Regimes

Different forms and technologies of ordering movement were always central to the formations of different political orders and ideologies.8 The modern state—to take what is perhaps one of the most relevant examples—especially after the invention of the passport, and increasingly with the evolution of technologies of sealing and regulating borders, is to a great degree a system of regulating, ordering, and disciplining bodies (and other objects) in motion.9 Indeed, paraphrasing Max Weber’s famous claim, John Torpey proposes that the modern state was also consolidated by monopolizing the “legitimate means of movement.”10

More broadly we can say that we live within political systems that are by no means reducible to the state, which have an increasing interest in (or perhaps just an increasing effective control over) movements: who may enter (for example, the state, but also the gated community, sometimes even the street, the playground); who may stay (and for how long? the “guest” worker may stay, on the condition she will be willing to leave when no longer needed, but the “undocumented” immigrant—which is de-facto the same social position—is always already “illegal” by her very act of staying); who—or what—should be contained and constrained (young African-American men in prisons, asylum seekers in detention camps, demonstrations within tightly policed enclaves); on the circulation of what good (or capital) a tax must be paid; the exportation of what good (or capital, or people) should be hindered or promoted; which segments should be entrenched (segments of the border—a decision which is integral to the Schmittian decision regarding friend and enemy—but also segments of the city, the neighborhood, the public space). As Foucault demonstrates throughout his work, these systems are the substance, the transmission medium, through which the modern subject emerges.

2.2 Subjects

In his various writings, Foucault unfolds the different incarnations of these systems: their early formation as a system of confinement, the more complex modes of distributing bodies in space he identifies as the essence of disciplinary power, and a later attentiveness to circulation that eventually becomes, according to him, “the only political stake and the only real space of political struggle and contestation.”11

Through all these incarnations of logics and technologies, both subjects and powers take form via movement and its regulation. Different technologies of regulating, limiting, producing or inciting movement are therefore different “technolog[ies] of citizenship.”12 They are also technologies of colonization, gender-based domestication, expropriation, and exclusion—which always work in tandem with citizenship. Disability studies have long called our attention to the relation between ability and citizenship, between particular assumptions regarding the “normal” manners of carrying our bodies in space, and the construction of democratic spaces (in the dual meaning of this term).

Similar ties can be found when examining movement across global contexts: some patterns of movement—and stability—emerge as essential to free citizenship; other patterns of movement—and confinement, or stagnation—are deployed rather to preclude precisely this freedom. Ultimately, therefore, we can map different modes of configuring and ordering movement into different forms of subject-positions, and thus, into the production and justification of different forms of rule.

2.3 Ideologies

Many political ideologies have explicitly referred to themselves by an appeal to movement. Early in the twentieth century, in one of the first reflections on liberal theory, L.T Hobhouse defined liberalism as a political critique whose main “business” is “to remove obstacles which block human progress.”13 While liberalism also imposes restraints, those are but means for a greater goal: the construction and sustainment of a liberal society, which is conceived by Hobhouse as an organism almost literally moving forward. It is not simply, adds Michael Freeden, that “concepts such as civilization, movement, and vitality turn out to be inextricably linked to liberal discourse and the liberal frame of mind”; what “sets liberalism aside from most of its ideological rivals, whose declared aspiration is to finalize their control over the political imagination,” he argues, is tolerance, which “suggests a flexibility, a movement, a diversity—of ideas, of language, and of conceptual content.”14 It does not matter, for the current purpose, whether this diagnosis is correct or not; it is enough to argue that there is a liberal imaginary seeing itself as a moving body of thought which facilitates the movement of the political space itself.15

Yet despite this appeal to movement as a criterion “setting liberalism aside from most of its ideological rivals,” these rivals, too, have often appealed to the same phenomenon to define themselves. In State, Movement, People, Carl Schmitt’s juridical account of the structure of the third Reich, Schmitt defines the National Socialist state as composed of three elements: the state (a static element), the people (a non-political element), and the movement (which he later identifies with the party): the “dynamic political element” which “carries the State and the People, penetrates and leads the other two.”16

There are three crucial attributes of the movement in Schmitt’s account. First, it is the only political element in the trio. Both the state and the people may be political only through it. Second, it is the “dynamic engine” in it—it is the force vitalizing politics by moving it, and perhaps we may say: the force which is political by the virtue of its moving capabilities.17 Finally, it is the bearer or the carrier of a unity: through it the trio becomes a whole. This unmitigated nature of the movement that comes to encompass the entirety of the political structure, is, Schmitt argues, precisely what distinguishes the German National-Socialist state (together with its Fascist and Bolshevik allies) form liberal democracies.18 We can add here as an aside, that according to Giorgio Agamben, the systematic use of the term movement to refer to what we have come to term “political movements” emerged, precisely, with Nazism (although we begin to see the concept in the eighteenth century, around the French Revolution).19

Nazism and liberalism are not unique in this appeal to movement as a defining criterion. I cannot survey all other orders, ideologies, or political strands here, but we can briefly point to Marx’s identification of modernity and capitalism with a powerful movement; to postmodernist appeals to notions of hybridity and nomadism as symbolizing modes of movement that work counter to modernist ideologies; or to frameworks seeing globalization as a system typified by a growing flow of capital, culture, information and above all, people.

The point here is not to argue that these competing ideologies/orders share similar attributes. The point is rather to illustrate the appeal of the notion of movement to politics and to political thinking. It is not sufficient to dismiss this frequent appeal to the concept by claiming that all these are, indeed, political movements. Firstly, because this would merely beg the question and call for a previous question: why does the term “movement” emerge to describe this particular social and political phenomenon. This question, as Agamben has recently argued, is yet to be answered.20 But more importantly, “movement” in all the above descriptions is not used in order to point to the fact that we have here but one instance of a particular category (“social/political movements”); this would be redundant. Rather, it is used as a defining (and hence supposedly unique) attribute: it supposes to create a distinction, to mark a difference (and not to point to a quality of taking part in a shared attribute). The question thus remains: why “movement”?

8. Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (New York: Zone Books, 2010); William Walters, “Deportation, Expulsion, and the International Police of Aliens,” Citizenship Studies 6:3 (2002).

9. To evoke John Torpey’s important work. See John C. Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

10. John C. Torpey, The Invention of the Passport.

11. Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Vintage Books, 1973); Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage Books, 1979); Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 109.

12. William Walters, “Deportation, Expulsion, and the International Police of Aliens.”

13. L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 8.

14. Michael Freeden, Liberal Languages: Ideological Imaginations and 20th Century Progressive Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 11 and 3.

15. Michael Freeden, Liberal Languages, 21-22.

16. Carl Schmitt, State, Movement, People: The Triadic Structure of the Political Unity: The Question of Legality, ed. Simona Draghici (Corvallis, OR: Plutarch Press, 2001), 11-12.

17. Carl Schmitt, State, Movement, People, 18.

18. Carl Schmitt, State, Movement, People, 13.

19. Giorgio Agamben, “Movement.”, accessed March 2012.

20. Giorgio Agamben, “Movement.”

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