Tocqueville 21 on Mai 68
The events of Mai 68, of course, stretched beyond the month of May 1968 itself. But as we’re winding down our reflections on this fiftieth anniversary of these events, we thought we’d compile all of our posts on the topic in one place.
First, as a preview back in January, Art Goldhammer wrote on the possibility of resurgent youth movements across the transatlantic world. As the May Day protests broke out in France, Art later returned to assess some of these predictions as many youth activists explicitly drew on Mai 68 as an inspiration for their current protest movements.
Meanwhile, I tried to situate Tocqueville in the Cold War-era discussions of consumer culture that set some of Tocqueville’s greatest admirers—including Daniel Bell, Raymond Aron, and fellow liberals of the Congress for Cultural Freedom—against the emerging student protest movements, who nonetheless might have been closer to Tocqueville’s own view of America’s democratic culture. I returned to some of these themes in a later post about why Americans may be less interested in remembering and contesting the Sixties despite the continued force of culture war polemics today.
I also sat down with historian and activist Gilles Texier to try to understand what parallels there are in reality between the student protesters of the late sixties and those of the Macron era. For Texier, today’s struggles are less about contesting authority than about challenging the précarité that increasingly afflicts France’s educated youth. And in an original reading of Alain Touraine’s sociological work, the intellectual historian David Sessions put forward the provocative reading of Mai 68 as a form of populist revolt against the technocratic management society, suggesting a different sort of continuity with the present.
Both at Tocqueville 21’s discussion with the philosopher Frédéric Worms and the American University of Paris’s conference on Mai 68, we were able to continue some of these reflections in greater detail. We may still have some new posts come out of the conference papers, so stay tuned!
UPDATE (23 July): Sarah Kathryn Miles, in an edited version of her paper given at the AUP conference, describes the complex interactions between liberalism and the far-left in Québec in the late 1960s.
Photo Credit: Tangopaso, 1968-05 Évènements de mai à Bordeaux – Rue Paul-Bert, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.