May '68 and Its Afterlives

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 26, 2008 - History - 247 pages
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During May 1968, students and workers in France united in the biggest strike and the largest mass movement in French history. Protesting capitalism, American imperialism, and Gaullism, 9 million people from all walks of life, from shipbuilders to department store clerks, stopped working. The nation was paralyzed—no sector of the workplace was untouched. Yet, just thirty years later, the mainstream image of May '68 in France has become that of a mellow youth revolt, a cultural transformation stripped of its violence and profound sociopolitical implications.

Kristin Ross shows how the current official memory of May '68 came to serve a political agenda antithetical to the movement's aspirations. She examines the roles played by sociologists, repentant ex-student leaders, and the mainstream media in giving what was a political event a predominantly cultural and ethical meaning. Recovering the political language of May '68 through the tracts, pamphlets, and documentary film footage of the era, Ross reveals how the original movement, concerned above all with the question of equality, gained a new and counterfeit history, one that erased police violence and the deaths of participants, removed workers from the picture, and eliminated all traces of anti-Americanism, anti-imperialism, and the influences of Algeria and Vietnam. May '68 and Its Afterlives is especially timely given the rise of a new mass political movement opposing global capitalism, from labor strikes and anti-McDonald's protests in France to the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle.
 

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Contents

ONE The Police Conception of History
19
TWO Forms and Practices
65
THREE Different Windows Same Faces
138
FOUR Consensus and Its Undoing
182
List of Abbreviations
217
Bibliography
219
Index
233
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Page ix - Romanticism (2005), supported by fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.
Page 22 - The police say there is nothing to see, nothing happening, nothing to be done but to keep moving, circulating; they say that the space of circulation is nothing but the space of circulation. Politics consists in transforming that space of circulation into the space of the manifestation of a subject: be it the people, workers, citizens. It consists in refiguring that space, what there is to do there, what there is to see, or to name.

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About the author (2008)

Kristin Ross is professor of comparative literature at New York University. She is the author of The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune and Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture.

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