Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia

Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia

Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia

Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia


This book is a state of the art reassessment of the significance and consequences of the events associated with the year 1968 in Europe and in North America. Since 1998, there hasn’t been any collective, comparative and interdisciplinary effort to discuss 1968 in the light of both contemporary headways of scholarship and new evidence on this historical period. A significant departure from earlier approaches lies in the fact that the manuscript is constructed in unitary fashion, as it goes beyond the East–West divide, trying to identify the common features of the sixties. The latter are analyzed as simultaneously global and local developments. The main problems addressed by the contributors of this volume are: the sixties as a generational clash; the redefinition of the political as a consequence of the ideological challenges posed to the status-quo by the sixty-eighters; the role of Utopia and the de-radicalization of intellectuals; the challenges to imperialism (Soviet/American); the cultural revolution of the sixties; the crisis of ‘really existing socialism’ and the failure of “socialism with a human face”; the gradual departure from the Yalta-system; the development of a culture of human rights and the project of a global civil society; the situation of 1968 within the general evolution of European history (esp. the relationship of 1968 with 1989). In contrast to existing books, the book provides a fundamental and unique synthesis of approaches on 1968: first, it contains critical (vs. nostalgic) re-evaluations of the events from the part of significant sixty-eighters; second, it includes historical analyses based on new archival research; third, it gathers important theoretical re-assessments of the intellectual history of the 1968; and fourth, it bridges 1968 with its aftermath and its pre-history, thus avoiding an over-contextualization of the topics in question.


Vladimir Tismaneanu

The events of 1968 radically influenced the social, political, and cultural landscape of the post-1945 world. in the context of the Cold War, 1968 was a transnational moment of revolt against the status quo beyond the East-West divide. It represented a turning point in world history that brought about a sweeping axiological reassessment of politics. More than ten years ago, the editors of a collective volume about 1968 stated that [the memories of witnesses to the events of this annus mirabilis are still fragmentary and colored by partisanship, personal injury and defeat, or nostalgia for a heroic time, whereas historians have barely begun to treat '1968' as a coherent historical phenomenon.] a decade later, the present contribution to the understanding of this historical [puzzle] provides some of the answers that might not have been available in the 1990s. It does not, however, claim to have found a resolution to the dilemmas raised by the topic discussed. Nevertheless, all the contributors agree that 1968 cannot be understood if it is removed from the context of both its aftermath and build-up. To paraphrase Charles Maier's statement in his article, the premise of making sense of 1968 is the admission that it was simultaneously pregnant with its future and haunted by its past.

Gerd-Rainer Horn and Padraic Kenney, eds., Transnational Moments of Change:
Europe 1945, 1968, 1989
(Landham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004).

On the 1968 as the redefinition of the ground of politics and the complica
tion of the notion of the Left, see Geoff Eley's chapter [1968: It Moves After
All,] in Forging Democracy: the History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 341–366.

Carole Fink, Philipp Gassert, and Detlef Junker, [Introduction,] in Carole
Fink, Philipp Gassert, and Detlef Junker, eds., 1968: the World Transformed
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 1.

Immanuel Wallerstein offered an insightful formulation to the intricacies em
bedded in 1968: [World-historic events have lives of their own and they re-

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