The global movement, from Seattle forward, appears as a battery that only half works: it accumulates energy without pause, but it does not know how or where to discharge it. (Paolo Virno, 2004)
The motives, resolutions and execution of the movements present at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in december of 2009 expand a majority of topics that relate to our musings on being-together. The organized resistance that was present at the summit expresses bio-politics, elicits exposure, frames globalization, critiques culture, utilizes networks and, of course, is movement in and by itself. Yet, one point requires immediate address: the matter of its definition. What do we mean when we talk about movements?
The resisting multitudes that gathered in Denmark have interchangeably been named ‘anti-globalists’, ‘anti-capitalists’, ‘radicals’, or advocates for ‘global justice’ and ‘democracy’. Their seemingly neatly organized and motivated presence nonetheless escapes a fixed description? There is a fussiness about the presence of these deviant bodies: why are they there? How is it possible that movements continuously elide the fixing labels of a politicized gaze, while they continuously posit a distinctive agenda and particular interest. Taking note of may ’68, the ‘movement’ expresses itself differently today when compared to historical landmarks in collective resistance. The overall disappointment that dominates post-Copenhagen reflections is often extrapolated to the movement in both popular media and critical theorisation. Ten years after Seattle, many activists were eagerly awaiting a similar event where resisting movements could shut down the global summit, thus becoming the gesture of a political moment. Yet, discouragement prevailed: nothing happened. Or did there?
The opacity of the term ‘movement’ has become the perverted showcase of its contemporary thinking: how often do we hear nihilism of the sorts ‘why bother protesting for your separate causes (be it environmentalism, anti-capitalism, pro-democracy or whatever) when there is absolutely no agency in you?’ To speak of a disappointment at Copenhagen is perhaps not even about the incapacity of the market and the state to formulate a supranational accord for the reduction of carbon emissions, but rather the self-effacing activities of the protesting multitudes on the streets. This is a cynicism that needs to be addressed. I recollect my own disappointment after the summit collapsed, after it became a Machiavellian tumult of indignation, not because I believed anything sustainable could result (in fact, I expected precisely no other outcome), but rather my thinking of the movement. They are not operative! They do not enforce or provoke change! A similar disillusionment was expressed by a British journalist:
Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. […] I left Copenhagen more despondent than I have felt in a long time. After all the hope and all the hype, the mobilization of thousands, a wave of optimism crashed against the rock of global power politics, fell back, and drained away. (Guardian, 22 December)
But let us first ask what naming the movement at Copenhagen, this “mobilization of thousands”, amounts up to. The constructivist approach within the sociology of social movements as it developed over the last few decades delineates internal and external factors that contribute to the formation of a movement. Capacity and opportunity are key concepts, which nonetheless maintain the contradictory meanings of difference within that obscures movements (Hjelmar). This essay will however not conceptualize or even consider an introductory description of the movement in sociological terms, but rather reflect upon the conflictive concepts that are part of current leftist theoretical discourse on globalization, capitalism and resistance. This does not mean that their methodological or conceptual complexities need not crucially be administered and critiqued both positively and negatively by empirical analysis. I lack the required knowledge to make such a ‘scientific’ critique and therefore limit myself to an intervention of sorts, and let two broad concepts – Empire and multitude – ‘travel’ through the landscape of the contemporary movements. Along the way, I hope to clarify both the reason I still like to believe organized resistance remains necessary and, in situ, crucial for beneficial change and why generally accepted discourse of ‘resistance’ is ideologically embedded within theoretical paradigms that cannot account for their real functioning in the conceptual grid of ‘Empire’. There exists, of course, no true guidebook to explain us the global age. If it would have been that simple, why would there have been a need to return to the infinite complexities of Spinoza for articulating the problems that face us today? Radical leftist thought, if anything, is a fight against positivist designs that celebrate neoliberal global capitalism. Radical thought desires something else altogether. I will thus try to investigate the conception of movement from that radical theoretical perspective.
Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s immensely popular formulation of the current global rule of capital and its infrastructural basis, intriguingly named Empire, is as follows:
Empire establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers. It is a decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers. Empire manages hybrid identities, flexible hierarchies and plural exchanges through modulating networks of command. (Hardt and Negri, Empire: xii-xiii)
Taking Empire as a theoretical concept to fit the descriptive demand of the global age, Hardt and Negri characterize it fundamentally by its lack of boundaries: Empire not only manages bodies and territories, it also “creates the very world it inhabits” (xv). Therefore, the paradigmatic rule of Empire can be conceived as a non-historical form that exerts bio-power in a sustainable way. Its rule is expressed in a continuous practicality of conflict and violence (both symbolic and material), but conceptually pertains to a global distribution of peace in order to sustain its apparatus of rule. Moreover, the “passage to Empire and its processes of globalization offer new possibilities to the forces of liberation” (xv). It is at this point that Negri and Hardt’s work becomes a manifesto for rearticulating and emancipating the structuring power of Empire from the disastrous social rupturing by global capitalism and where they introduce their politico-theoretical novelty of the ‘multitude’. Multitude is a diverse and complex body of singularities that cannot be defined as such, but becomes articulated and expressed only in a continuous principle of individuation, bio-politics and affects that produce contemporary forms of life. Again, I will not question the term for its conceptual or practical use (for such description refer to Grammar of the Multitude by Paolo Virno) but rather compare its theoretical entwinement with other important concepts that attempt to define present-day being in order to better understand their inter-relatedness. An important break must be mentioned here: while they derive the concept multitude from Spinoza’s Political Treatise, it is a different beast all together.
An important addition to this search is today’s multitudes’ inherent entanglement with precarity. As a theoretical concept, precarity encompasses various forms of subsistence and vulnerability, in particular as related to productive labor and organization. As a term it is most often used to describe non-standard, low wage employment that increases insecurity and decreases communal agreements of livelihood. It moreover has a strong gendered bias. Precarity is global in the sense that it reaches and influences a multitude of bodies that are put to work in both material and immaterial cycles of production. Its critical theoretization is not limited to, or expressed by, one particular ideological agenda, but is informed by a manifold of anti-capitalist critiques: from neo-Marxist conceptions of surplus value and machinic capitalism to pre-Stalinist conceptions of communism and egalitarian democracy. I argue that precarity can be theoretized both as an effect of liberal capitalism and its uneven global exploitation of labor, but also actively produce resistance through a flexible identity and re-appropriation of space and time. Hardt and Negri point out this viability of the multitude (which is a precarious multitude) beyond its formal characterization: “mass migrations have become necessary for production. […] This is how the multitude gains the power to affirm its autonomy, traveling and expressing itself through an apparatus of widespread, transversal reappropriation” (398). The rhizomatic, nomadic uprooting is, if I am not mistaken, popularly perceived to possess its separate telos. It is external to the repressing policies of Empire and poses both a threat and constituent of Empire. The duality is concretized in this essay only when I felt it to be necessary, as I believe movement is also theoretically entwined with Empire and multitude. Placed together, my notes can hopefully ‘mediate’ that what is understood by the singular events of resistance at for example Copenhagen (taken only as an exemplum) by complementing and counter-arguing all too familiar discourse on the alleged ‘telos of movement’ and (re-)place that commonsensical discourse with a fuller description of the multitude, not in its practical or theoretical vicissitudes, but rather in its conceptual potentiality.
FROM ROOTS TO UPROOTING
The historical roots of movements go far and deep, but lack a singular description. We can nonetheless discern how far the philosophy of material, communal resistance has become removed from prior, ‘classical’ definitions given to movement by for example Hannah Arendt. Her broad definition of ‘movement’ (understood here as the possibility of political action) derives from a theory that political organization becomes possible only through a continuous process of war and revolution. The liberation from tyranny and the establishment of political freedom can thus only be achieved through revolution, becoming its most authentic expression. Contemporary revolutions distinguish themselves, Arendt argued, from earlier societal rotations by not alluding to the reinstatement of a historical ‘paradise’ through absolutist necessity (a Hegelian approach to history Arendt always vehemently refuted in her work), but the hypothetical establishment of a new world, a new ‘Beginning’. The most important claim Arendt makes in On Revolution, however, lies in a comparative analysis between the constitutional design of the United States and France: in France, the Revolution found its roots in the resistance against the absolute sovereignty of the monarch, who had to be replaced by an evenly absolute body of sovereignty by the people. Her interpretation of the Napoleontic regime that however ‘became possible’ through the revolutionary turn, points out the lack of justification for an absolute, godly order, which in turn led her to the conclusion that this constitutional revolution could only be considered an anti-revolution, which simultaneously founded and limited public authority. This negative interpretation is counter-argued by Arendt’s moderate enthusiasm for the American constitution of rights, in essence a form of egalitarian ‘rapport’ between all members of a political community. Arendt concluded her historical analysis with the claim that the American constitution was founded on the promise by the people to form a political community, not without the metaphysical absolutism but despite of it.
Arendt consequently was a strong ideological figure for the ’68 movements, her prefigurative thinking of potentiality becoming a major contribution to the political action on display. This leaves unrequited her often ideological inconsistencies, as expressed by Ido de Haan (introductory chapter of Dutch translation On Revolution, 19): by placing the social scene so explicitly outside the political order, Arendt essentially handed it over to a de-politicized, technocratic regime. Her position as intellectual leader for the student movements in California remains as such ambiguous. A considerable contribution Arendt nonetheless made and one that applies to the topic for this essay, is that contemporary movements define themselves in an expression for political action, for the positivity that results in a hypothesis for the political moment: where action becomes possible through a shared agreement of revolution.
A further treatment on the historicity and legacy of all these movements requires months, if not years of singular labor. Writing on precarity is a precarious assignment indeed. The opening to a critical enquiry into the propositions by Negri, Hardt and other contemporary advocates for political revolution articulated through the concept of multitude becomes possible however by uncovering some of its preconceptions of the political, the social and the global condition of capitalist exchange. That is why I consider the following approach around the heuristic struggle valid: I will explore the operability of the term movement by tracing its roots in theory. I will bring together a scattering of observations, notes, discussions and predispositions that I gathered while attending the course, and then join – not illustrate – them with a case study that originally illuminated itself under a very different light, but expresses the current inoperability of concepts such as multitude, movements and, perhaps, even precarity, as they remain unthinkable through persistent concepts of particularity and community.
To start again: there is a etymological ambiguity in the concept of ‘movement’, which has been formulated by Giorgio Agamben as such:
In the past I would often use as an implicit rule of my thinking practice the formula: ‘when the movement is there, act as if it was not there; when it’s not, act as if it was’. Now I realize that I did not know what the word ‘movement’ meant: aside from its lack of specificity, everyone seems to understand it but no one defines it. (Agamben, transcribed audio file) 
Questioning movement in terminological frames, raises confusing but very legitimate issues. Indeed, what is movement? From what is the movement moving? How is it rendered visible, or does it visualize itself? Can a movement be heard ‘beyond’? Is movement articulated in sequence, dialectic, telos? Many intriguing, critical descriptions offer however no apparent consensus. This is somewhat surprising, Agamben notes, given the impetus of potentiality they all attribute to the multitudinous movement. The term movement furthermore exceeds the political: applied to many different cases or events. Agamben refers to Walter Benjamin’s important work on the Hitler Jug end Bewegung and how it has strongly influenced youth movements. Agamben even extends his enquiry by taking it to arguably the politically most dangerous area of current theoretical thinking: “the most embarrassing stage of my research, where blindness to the concept becomes visible, was when I realized that the only person who tried to define this term in the juridical and political field was a Nazi jurist: Carl Schmitt”.
Schmitt defined the politico-constitutional function of movement on three elements: state, movement and people. The constitutional articulation of the Reich thus results from the articulation and distinction of these three elements. The first element, Schmitt says, is the state, which is the static political side: the apparatus of the offices. The people is un-political element that is sustained and protected under the wing of the movement. For Schmitt, the movement is the real political element, and his own application of it is more than telling: in ’30s Germany, movement found its form in the specific relation with the National Socialist Party and its direction by the Führung. Agamben notes that for Schmitt the Führer is no other than a personification of the movement. The implications of the tripartition for thinking movement are critically developed to serve as fillers for the aporias that the conceptual lack of movement as definition has created. First and foremost, the primacy of movement lies in its un-politicalization of the people. So whenever a democratic body of people becomes undone, the movement takes over its political role. Agamben notes:
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us to say that democracy ends when movements emerge. Substantially there are no democratic movements […] On this premise, revolutionary traditions on the left agree with Nazism and Fascism. […] The concept of movement presupposes the eclipse of the democratic notion of people as constitutive political body. This is the first thing we need to be aware of when using the concept of movement. (Agamben)
The second implication of Schmitt’s concept of movement is that the people is an un-political element whose growth must be protected and sustained by the movement. The un-political people here however corresponds with the un-political administration of the fascist corporatist state. Agamben: “looking at it today we can’t help seeing in this determination of the people as un-political the implicit recognition, which Schmitt never dares to articulate, of its biopolitical character” (Agamben). So for Schmitt’s theory, when during the 19th century the people ceased to be a political entity and turned into demographical and biological populations, the movement became a necessity. This is the era we still live in: the transformation of people into population is a bio-political mode of production and makes the concept of movement necessary. It is important here to note that Agamben wants to rethink the notion of bio-political, as he seems to both agree and disagree with Negri and Hardt’s rather transformative characterization of it in Empire:
If we want to think the notion of bio-politics differently, as Toni [Negri, TW] does, and I am close to him in this, though from a different perspective and with more caution, and if we want to think about the intrinsic politicization of the biopolitical, which is already thoroughly political and needs not be politicized through the movement, then we have to rethink the notion of the movement too: we cannot use this notion a-critically if we wish to rethink the politics of the biopolitical. (Agamben)
To overstress the point once again: defining movement is important because the threatening aporiae need to be accounted for. In Schmitt, in so far as the movement is the determining political and autonomous element and the people is in itself un-political, the movement finds its being political only by inscribing the body of the people with a caesura that allows for its politicization. “In Schmitt, this caesura is what he calls the identity of species, i.e. racism” (Agamben).
The final project of Schmitt’s concept of the movement is clear, frighteningly so. Agamben is right to note that wherever there is movement, there will be caesura that divides the people. In Schmitt’s case, this caesura identifies an enemy. Another axiom would be that the movement politically decides on the un-political. As is obvious, it can be racial, but today it can also often be a function of the management or government of the un-political element which is the population: the biological body of humankind that needs governing.
There is something about this inconclusiveness (or potentiality) of defining movement along the terms of politicization that makes it worthwhile to at least consider an ontological root for – an I phrase it as such only preliminary – an ‘un-rooted movement’. What would it mean to ask whether the phenomenologal un-rootedness of contemporary movement can re-appropriate the caesura of its becoming-political without a necessity of exclusion or identification, but rather a politics of whatever-singularities that shape and politicize the movement? We may also ask a related question here: what will the adjective precarious mean? Is the precarious movement something else and could it offer a better understanding of contemporary expression of movements? Movement, Agamben explains, is the impossibility, indefiniteness and imperfection of every politics, persisting always as a residue: “the movement is that which if it is, is as if it wasn’t, it lacks itself; and if it isn’t, is as if it was, it exceeds itself.” Movement is the precarious threshold between an excess and a limit-case that uncovers the constitute imperfection of any politics. In short: movement must be understood as the aporia itself. This is also what Jean-Luc Nancy has described as the inoperability of community – so in conclusion to Agemben’s ontological claim of movement: if we are to prevent the politicization (and all the obvious dangers of social exclusion) of the body of people by necessity for the implementation of a Schmittian movement, we need a radically different thinking that makes exclusion impossible; a definition that does not fix or stabilize, but rather deconstructs the discriminatory totatarialisation of the former. I will not go into this ‘undefining definition’ further here – these amusing words by Zapatista’s ‘leader’, Subcomandante Marcos, hopefully suffice for now:
Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a gang member in Neza, a rocker in the National University, a Jew in Nazi Germany, an ombudsman in the Defence Ministry, a communist in the post-Cold War era, an artist without gallery or portfolio. […] and of course, a Zapatista in the mountains of southeast Mexico. (quoted in Andrew Gilbert’s Anti-capitalism and Culture)
And now one final note that I think is worth mentioning before we engage in a discussion about the communities of movement. Slavoj Zizek makes sure to remind us of an insurmountable gap between thinking movement anno ’68 and thinking movement today, a insightful claim that fits well within the deterritorializing concept of both Empire and its inner discontent of the multitude:
’68 took place under the sign of the “here-and-now:’ its protagonists wanted a revolution now, with no postponements-one had to either join the Party or oppose it (as the Maoists did) . In other words, the ‘68ers wanted to unleash the pure radical activity of the masses (in this sense, the Maoist “masses who make history” are to be opposed to the passive fascist “crowds”) -there is no Other, no Elsewhere, onto whom one can transfer this activity. Today, however, to be a fellow-traveler is effectively meaningless, since there is no substantial movement in relation to which one might be a fellow… (First as Farce 2009, 153)
 ATTAC, the international organization and platform for over a 1000 grass-root movements from over the world is the most obvious player to mention in this context. It consists of a gathering over and representing of political and economic goals that include improvement of living conditions, development of democracy and self-determination and ecological sustainability in that process. ATTAC, in sum, stands for an ecological, solidary and peaceful economic world order and plays a representative function. In this essay, it is not about its activities as such, but rather its self-expression as movement and by which discourse such organized yet opaque forms of movement are probable.
 There exists no proper term to group the thinkers that I concern myself with here, but one important commonality among them is the conviction that the political scale of left and right no longer justify the ideologies embedded in political structures. As a response, each of these critical thinkers propose a wholly different thinking, linked loosely by concepts of potentiality, anti-capitalism and alter-globalism. Therefore the term radical thinking remains, however vague or imprecise it is, the best way to define their agenda.
 An uncritical use of bio-power & bio-politics perverts the strongly equivocal nature of the popular concepts. I will therefore keep on to the clear and pointed description of Paolo Virno: “The […] origin […] can be traced back, without hesitation, to the mode of being of the labor-power. The practical importance taken on by potential as potential [potential as a capacity for producing as such, TW], as well as its inseperability from the immediate corporeal existence of the workers, is the real foundation of bio-politics” (2004, 83). Bio-politics is here also derived from its Foucaultian roots. The bio-political apparatus includes “security mechanisms [that] have to be installed around the random element inherent in a population of living beings so as to optimize a state of life” (Society, 246). As such, bio-politics is juxtaposed in Foucault’s analysis to the power of sovereignty, leading to the important distinction between them: “It [bio-power, TW] is the power to make live. Sovereignty took life and let live. And now we have the emergence of a power that I would call the power of regularization, and it, in contrast, consists in making live and letting die” (247). Bio-politics thus is that which guarantees the continuous living of the human species. The negative reading of bio-politics by for example Agamben is rather an elaborative version of what I understand as the bio-political regime of control.
 As expressed originally by Charles de Montesquieu.
 See http://www.generation-online.org/p/fpagamben3.htm for a full transcription of this interview with Giorgio Agamben, taken at a conference held in Pad ova at the Nomad University on the theme of war and democracy, January 2005.
 Carl Schmitt was one of the Nazi party’s most influential philosophical apologists. His writing remains popular to this day, Agamben’s formulation of Schmitt’s theses on movement is prominent among them. The point of raising it here is that the ambiguity of the term movement is also expressed in its ethical interchangeability and political actuality. Hence, there can be no ontological ‘good’ to movement, as is sometimes pertained by resistance groups and theorists alike.