Defining Movement. Giorgio Agamben

Seminar held in Padova at the Nomad University on the theme of war and democracy, January 2005.

The thoughts I am going to share with you today are born out of a malaise , or rather a series of questions that I asked myself during a meeting in Venice that took place some time ago and saw the participation of some of the people who are here today (Toni Negri, Luca Casarini …). At the meeting, a term kept coming up, that is, ‘movement’. As you know, this is a word with a long history in our tradition, and also seems the most recurrent in Toni’s intervention today. In his book too, the word recurs in strategic positions every time he attempts to define what is meant by multitude; for instance, when the concept of multitude needs to be torn away from the false alternative between sovereignty and anarchy. So, my malaise and questions emerged when realising for the first time that this word was never defined: those who used it, me included, neither could nor would define it. 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 realise 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.

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