Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Significance of 1968

This is perhaps one of the most debated moments in Leftist history. The question of the failures and possibilities of this moment continue to inform how we regard the possibilities of utopian struggle in this moment. Below is Slavoj Zizek's interview on Democracy Now discussing the meaning of this moment. He correctly points out that the backward look to 1968 tend to read it as the moment of sexual liberation, personal expression, and creativity instead of a moment of intense international unrest, mass strikes, anti-colonial resistance, etc. Thus, 1968 remains a moment whose meaning becomes intense ideological struggle.

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Also, here is Barbara Epstein, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, and John Sanbonmatsu discussing the effectiveness of the strategies of 1968. What strikes me as interesting about this second interview is the ways in which the hedonism, the free love, and what is called "expressionist" aspects of these movements in the United States get connected to late capitalism's emphasis on consumerism. Issues of repression and torture by COINTELPRO forces are also treated upon. And John Sanbonmatsu engages in a slightly predictable, though seemingly out of context, rant against post-structuralism as the vehicle for the depoliticization of academia. If this is the venue of retreat for the 1960s radicals as many have argued, and the right (misreading Gramsci) fear, I suppose we may regard the temporary ascendance of post-structuralism in particular humanities departments as abstracting conversation outside of the bounds of everyday politics, etc. However, I don't believe the wider social relevance of this change is necessarily in operation to the extent Sobanmatsu suggests. Especially given how critical he is of the 1968 generation.

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