WARNING– like everything I write I could be wrong. I think that is why I rarely write thesis statements!
Prologue to pondering!—-
I feel adrift from folks living in the suburban wastelands of central Texas, not even close to Austin, working for my parents at their store. I am almost a hermit. So, to speak of actual politics without being part of a process seems fair enough! I am an outsider. I am not part of the problem or solution, just an aberrant admixture of function and being. That means I do stuff and I exist.
I would like to examine one recent movement for an example. I would like to understand it actions and see if there is something to answer to the question: What is a movement?
An Examination of a movement.
I was thinking whether or not the #metoo movement was really a movement or a phenomena. This is not taking away from it. The thinking was more like an aspect of a larger movement. If I was to speak metaphorically, it would be like the periscope of a submarine, or more fittingly it is the tip of an iceberg of the larger political movement. Though, I think that is a bad description of social or political movements. The question would be, “What is a movement?” The easy answer would be that there is no such thing as movements; there is only politics and phenomena. This means that politics are merely policies and actions and phenomena or events that produce these policies. That is wrong.
The #metoo movement is giving anecdotal and accounts of events that have happened. I said anecdotal being a strict term. It is not a logical or axiom so the use in rigor is not the point. The point is the expression and to give an account that is personal. It is personal, of course, but it is empathetic along with numbers. It is weird that this form of a confessional style of expression has caught on. I mean confessional as the practice that both the Stoics and Cynics used in opposition to Rhetoric. It is speaking the truth. It is a personal truth to the universal truth.
Of course, the Catholic confession is about oneself and their sins –that is not entirely what I saying. The action of speaking about oneself is part of the sacrament, which shares something in common with therapy. The confession is part of the therapy of psychology, beyond Freud to now. There is something to these practices and #metoo. The therapeutic quality is therefor not for oneself but for others. The vulnerability of speaking about something that has happened to them and gives “agency” to others.
There is an action, quite similar to Rakoff’s and Sedaris’ writings, but perhaps closer to Tig Nitaro stand up routine after receiving news about her cancer diagnosis. The truth is spoken for others. It becomes something of its own, which is very personal but universal. If one is a reader, it is quite similar to the thesis of Alan Badiou’s St Paul. The thesis is that a very personal (particular, or subject) event was the basis of a universal political philosophical argument. In this case a woman will make herself vulnerable by telling the world about a painful and personal thing that happened to her to strengthen others resolve. I am not sure if it empowers her but it does empower others.
This personal experience told aloud to others strengthens the movement, through the action of speaking. I speak ill of agency but that is merely a philosophical dispute and not a political one. Agency is always problematic! However, speaking to a wide audience does make one vulnerable, she is subject to dispute but also embarrassment.
Finally, just a few things about this specific movement. I realize this is really close to Foucault’s later works. Especially of his lectures The Hermeneutics of the Subject, The Government of Self and Others, and The Courage of Truth. Parrhesia runs quite strong in this analysis of the #metoo movement. The last thing I would like to say is that although these are testimonies from the women they do not constitute justice. Only when justice has failed can the #metoo movement exist. There is not really a right of innocent until proven guilty because the movement exists where the legal justice has failed.
A query of Social Movements
Recently, school children have taken to political action. They are marching and chanting and using hash tags. Their goal is to bring about change to the gun laws currently in place. This is unique. It is quite strange to have school age children walk out almost twice en mass in two years. Politics has changed a lot and quite significantly recently. Of course, more people are angry. It seems like everyone is angry recently. I can hardly go on twitter without seeing the rage of at least a few Achilles. That is on a slow day! I have been moving away from politics for some odd reason. I am hardly good at keeping track of anything but I cannot escape it!
I am uncertain what really constitutes a political or social movement. There is not a good and true way to get a hold of the ideal of a movement. It is not like the difference between a couple and a few. This is merely a stab at the amount and not for what the movement is gathering around. To be sure it is more than an issue, social movements are not simply stakeholders, but are active.
In what way are they active? That is difficult to define. Traditional structures such as parties, unions, and organizations usually- historically- occupy a space for movements, but hardly encompasses the entirety of political practice. I am not even sure the organizations are movements in themselves or really appendages of movements. We speak of ”raising awareness” but that is not a political movement. Neither are political actions such as taking to the streets simply a movement.
The reason I have difficult time describing or really pinning down the term political movement is because it is not indicative of belief or actions. I am even uncertain if it has anything to do with coordination. This is not simply semantics but rather something that say, Communist parties existed in 19th century Europe. Did that make the parties the political movement for economic liberation? Did the various German liberals make the movement for political liberation? There were movements to enfranchise women throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. There was even a larger movement to enfranchise non-land owners in England. There was an abolitionist movement in the United States. Were these a single movement or multiple movements? Why does movement sound weird if repeated enough times?
I think the problem is with language. There is of course a tendency to capture social phenomena and mark them and describe them. There are political movements, social movements, educational, artistic, and lifestyle movements. There was a weird protein only movement not so long ago! There were realist, modernist, and post-modernist in literature. There was idealism and materialism in philosophy. Then there was the Progressive Movement in the United States. The progressive were hardly coherent by any means- they opposed pornography and alcohol but were supportive of the Australian ballet and anti-corruption. Then there was the counter-culture of the sixties, along with hippies, popular music, anti-war movement, civil rights, and then Nixon. It is a problem of categorization of labeling. Though simply because the label is used it exist. It can be functional or like a broken hammer not functional.
The reason for lack of specificity or concreteness is because it is too broad and too odd of a term. The typical use of the word “movement” is like the Hegelian use of spirit. The geist of an era is through flows of ideas. I think I prefer the word flow, perhaps of my Deleuzian disposition. It is far from exact and quite pointless to speak of anything concretely without just looking at it as practice.
My first contentious argument is that social and political movements are not goal oriented but rather are practices. This may sound strange but typically goals and results are merely products of desires. However, these desires do not produce anything on their own. The actual action is what actually constitutes the movement. Desire plus action is a movement? Maybe or maybe not because that is closer but still too broad.
I think a movement could consist of a single person or never be heard. That allows it to exist outside of the spirit of the age. Obviously, spirit of the age movements will be more productive or at least remembered. This can be a foolhardy useless action but it is an action nonetheless! It is still broad! I just made the definition broader! That is what you get when you define something. You get a whole lot of nothing.
The second argument is that movements rarely have a single group of interest. Often you will have a combination of interest developing a social and political transformation. Sometimes the groups can be at cross-purposes and antagonist in one area but agree on another. This is actually interesting because it makes movements not a belief but rather a grouping of actions. This is getting better!
If something is what one thinks and believes, which can give motivation, is not critical to a social and political movement, then we can dismiss right and wrong thinking. Right and wrong thinking, of course exist, but error is hard to resist. We are too prone to error and stupidity! I fall into error and stupidity at least half a dozen times a day. The problem with this is that I am not a political actor! I do nothing!
The third argument, there is not one-way of acting that constitutes a movement. Perhaps, movements are like Hardt’s and Negri’s multitude. There is not a singularity but a combination of singularities. This can be protest, speaking, writing, I suppose complaining -hey I am a political actor!-, and other activities. This means a movement is the broadest category. Socrates is an Athenian. Socrates can eat. Socrates can sleep. Socrates is a man. The last category is perhaps where movements reside in the old Aristotelian order. Perhaps or perhaps not.
Women’s struggles for political power, social power, and equality are almost as old as known civilization. It is almost hard to say equality because the struggle is much older than our good and, quite frankly, useful concept of equality. It could be said that the struggle is higher in the hierarchy than the movements that follow each other. Instead of looking at history as a long struggle, one can see millions of struggles that constitute many movements with the same aim but different strategies. The writers of chronicles and of course the beautifully insane Joan d’Arc are movements of their own. The writers Shelly and Virginia Woolf are separate but comparable. Oddly enough Pankhurst, Hillary Clinton and uggg Margret Thatcher can be seen with very similar goals and struggles but for different ends. Democracy has a similar tradition too. There is rugged Swiss Democracy, to Communism, to American Liberalism, to Compassionate Conservatism and a whole bunch of other groups. All of these have different beliefs, tactics and goals, of course, but are quite different movements.
Movements are not morals or even can be good. The Nazis were a political movement as well as the Fascist. There can be an ugly side of human interaction. I suppose human interaction is the broadest term for movements. Certainly movements can combat each other in strange warfare. Often times it is war by other means and is tamed but we have seen violent outburst of two clashing movements. Then again there is often times when a movement will simply vanish and to re-emerge completely different.
I suppose I prefer movement to the term ideologies. I suppose there is equal amount of stupidity in each. Ideology seems hardly tactile. I am ideologist! I am lazy and have crazy concepts. However, movements are of action regardless of their aims.
So the concept of movement is basically a social relationship. It is not a party or organization of its own. It is a productive relationship being that it is not a negative. That means in real people talk that movements are something in action. Movements can be small or large and sit in no place in categories. This means that a movement can be of its own or subservient to other political actions. It is not what the movement is about but simply the production of action that defines it.
Ending and outros
Thank you for reading this! I know it can be frustrating to read something that is not exact but the problem of no specifics is there is not a clear answer to questions. I suppose movement could be what my ninety hours of my history major told me, that they are labels of the social, political and, culture of an era. That is a good definition. Of course we see the use of term being broad and applied to many things. It has to be active or it is reduced to ideology. Ideology is to problematic to be relied upon for various reason.
I also wanted to counter Immanuel Kant public reason. I wrote about it once and you can find the essay “What is Enlightenment” here. I suppose the use of public reason can be active but that does not necessarily mean it constitutes a movement. There is a limit to a good argument I suppose. Of course, I respect Kant but there is something lacking in the engagement of politics or even art. I suppose that political movements are a combination of public and private actions.
I suppose I can pull apart things to see how they work. I use an odd little use of critique here. I will write more.
I actually got stuck on this whole city project. I bought books and books but stumbled a bit on actually finding a good place to start. I managed to make a doctorial paper of the documents and research. I really do not have an audience but I guess I let myself down. I am not hard on myself! Maybe I should be. If you got any question I suppose you can email me somewhere. Like that and subscribe that!