Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Why is the primary framework of anarchist activity and theoretical production described as "The Movement"?

+1 vote
Where did this paradigm originate from, and why is it so ubiquitous among individuals who seek some sort of change at the social and/or institutional level of humanity? Are there different paradigms that have been and are being articulated by anarchists located in other politico-cultural environments?
asked Sep 18, 2010 by madlib (2,710 points)
edited Sep 18, 2010 by madlib

3 Answers

+4 votes
the primary framework of all political activity ("political" broadly defined as being concerned with how our society works and power relationships in it) in the u.s. is called "movement(s)". anarchists have not divorced ourselves from that.
i would call that an extension of the democracy/mass model, in which people gain validity based on how many people agree with them (or they agree with), ie numbers make right.
insurrection is a direct challenge to this model (except for where people try to hybridize insurrection with class struggle, in which case(s) it's just incoherent).

<edit> added to this is the need for a word to express the group and the actions of the group of people called (or calling themselves) anarchists. a logistical requirement that the word "movement" fills.
answered Sep 19, 2010 by dot (52,730 points)
edited Sep 20, 2010 by dot
Wow, that really harshed my mellow...
0 votes
My impression is that "the movement" became a buzz term following the Battle of Seattle, when it really must have seemed like there was some actual movement. In this sense it's shorthand for the anti-/alter-/counter-/from-below-globalization movement. I still see this term among many leftists that aren't (exclusively) anarchist, but not as much among anarchists these days.
answered Sep 19, 2010 by enkidu (6,110 points)
–4 votes
"Movement" is a term from the 19th century, but it's original use is from from music. If you think of movements as pieces of time in music, then we have segments of music that are supposed to represent the larger piece. Others use "milieu" which for all purposes is a really fancy way of saying "movement."

Incidentally, movements are often observed. That means, even if you oppose the notion of "movements" they will still be observed as such. Hence the confusion over a non-existent "black bloc" movement.

Unfortunately, because movements are defined by observation, there does exist a recognizable (not by us) "black bloc movement" and an "insurrectionary movement," which can be defined under the overture of nihili/commun/anarchy/ism.

Some believe the only way to quash movement observation is by "dropping out (ie defaulting)" or anonymity. The first is easier than the second.
answered Mar 21, 2012 by veranasi (190 points)
milieu is not a fancy way of saying movement, at least not when i use it. i use it to be roughly synonymous with "social circle", and it is specifically a way to talk about anarchist circles or people who are NOT engaging in "movements" or "movement building" (or who may be engaging with m and mb, but are not entirely defined by that). ie, a movement is defined by a desire to make a particular kind of change, and to be a particular kind of body.
I do understand this, but often these are just terms to use in critique. They are not the way others use these terms. However, milieu, by definition, in any place other than a very small post-left minority is synonymous with a movement. In fact, where both these terms are most used are in art (ie critical) theory where they mean specific moments in time.

As for movement building, there's a grey area. People want to pitch movements as an "activist" thing, and even then, the word "activist" has to be appropriated to mean something other than what the rest of the world defines it. Movements are definable, like milieus. There was a genuine "give up activism" movement and "give up movements" movement, just like there are stringent "anti-political" ideologies. People worked very, very hard to to "build" those anti-movement movements and spread anti-ideology ideology. It all comes off as hypocritical, and that's why newer terms are used. Even so, the origins of these words and their relationship to the Left and why they are used in common parlance still stands.

To be fair, milieu is a francophone extraction, which is literally, "the structures or scenes that produce the art movements." Movements are the "intellectual tendencies or scenes." Intellectual tendencies are the structures (or scenes).