Material Temporalities in Twentieth-Century French Culture
Edited By Lisa Jeschke and Adrian May
Time Matters: The Mouvement du 22 mars and the Dawn of May ’68
← 62 | 63 → DANIEL POITRAS
The voluminous literature on the causes of May ’68 in France and elsewhere can hardly be summarized in a few lines. Nonetheless, we can identify one bias that continues to structure many interpretations: the use of an ideological grid. Through such lenses, the sudden surge of creativity and utopic thought and practices of the late 1960s is contextualized within a period characterized by: the constitution of a French ‘New Left’; the influence of fashionable intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse; a vague and encompassing Zeitgeist (spirit of the times); the imitative behaviour of histrionic students living in an obsolete, imaginary revolutionary world; and the influence of events (like the Berkeley students’ revolt in 1964) or philosophies (the variants of Marxism, the Situationist International). The list could go on. Despite being repeatedly declared obsolete throughout the twentieth century, the ideological grid is still used to label some things, generally to emphasize their ‘disconnectedness’ with an implicit ‘reality’. As David A.Snow and Scott C.Byrd have written, ‘ideology’ becomes a ‘cover term for the values, beliefs, and goals associated with a movement or a broader, encompassing social entity’.1
The extended life of the ideological grid is even more visible in new fields of research, such as the one currently turning its attention to student movements. This is no coincidence: the long sixties, identified with the rise (and almost the death) of so many student movements around the world, was an age in which ideology was as intensely...
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