Global 1968 is a unique study of the similarities and differences in the 1968 cultural revolutions in Europe and Latin America.
The late 1960s was a time of revolutionary ferment throughout the world. Yet so much was in flux during these years that it is often difficult to make sense of the period. In this volume, distinguished historians, filmmakers, musicologists, literary scholars, and novelists address this challenge by exploring a specific issue—the extent to which the period that we associate with the year 1968 constituted a cultural revolution. They approach this topic by comparing the different manifestations of this transformational era in Europe and Latin America.
The contributors show in vivid detail how new social mores, innovative forms of artistic expression, and cultural, religious, and political resistance were debated and tested on both sides of the Atlantic. In some cases, the desire to confront traditional beliefs and conventions had been percolating under the surface for years. Yet they also find that the impulse to overturn the status quo was fueled by the interplay of a host of factors that converged at the end of the 1960s and accelerated the transition from one generation to the next. These factors included new thinking about education and work, dramatic changes in the self-presentation of the Roman Catholic Church, government repression in both the Soviet Bloc and Latin America, and universal disillusionment with the United States. The contributors demonstrate that the short- and long-term effects of the cultural revolution of 1968 varied from country to country, but the period’s defining legacy was a lasting shift in values, beliefs, lifestyles, and artistic sensibilities.
Contributors: A. James McAdams, Volker Schlöndorff, Massimo De Giuseppe, Eric Drott, Eric Zolov, William Collins Donahue, Valeria Manzano, Timothy W. Ryback, Vania Markarian, Belinda Davis, J. Patrice McSherry, Michael Seidman, Willem Melching, Jaime M. Pensado, Patrick Barr-Melej, Carmen-Helena Téllez, Alonso Cueto, and Ignacio Walker.
List of Illustrations and Tables
1. Revolutionary 1968: Contending Approaches to an Elusive Concept, A. James McAdams
PART 1. Foundations
2. The Slow but Long Coming of a Cultural Revolution, Volker Schlöndorff
3. Italian Catholics and Latin America during the “Long ’68,” Massimo De Giuseppe
4. Revolutionary Time and the Belatedness of Music in May ’68, Eric Drott
5. Non-Alignment and Student Protest in 1968 Mexico, Eric Zolov
PART 2. Images of Change
6. Pressure-Release Valve or Cultural Catalyst? The Revolutionary Potential of The Legend of Paul and Paula in the German Democratic Republic, William Collins Donahue
7. Out of Place: Students, Workers, and the Politics of Encounter in Argentina, Valeria Manzano
8. Protest Rock in the Soviet Bloc: Prague, Spring 1968, Timothy W. Ryback
9. University Reform in Tumultuous Times: The Uruguayan Student Movement before and after 1968, Vania Markarian
10. What’s in a Revolution? ’68 and Its Aftermath in West Germany, Belinda Davis
PART 3. Reactions To Change
11. Chile 1960s: Intertwined Revolutions in Music and Politics, J. Patrice McSherry
12. The French Sixties and the Refusal of Work, Michael Seidman
13. Clash of the Icons: The Iconoclasm of the Image of the United States, Willem Melching
14. The Anonymous Dead of 1968 Mexico: A Comparative Study of Counterrevolutionary Violence and Protest with Uruguay and Brazil, Jaime M. Pensado
PART 4. Then And Now
15. A ’68 chileno? Politics, Culture, and the Zeitgeist of ’68, Patrick Barr-Melej
16. Arvo Pärt:The Unexpected Profile of a Musical Revolutionary, Carmen-Helena Téllez
17. Words as Acts: A Literary Rebellion, Alonso Cueto
18. Reform or Revolution: Latin America’s Dilemma in the “Long ’68,” Ignacio Walker
A. James McAdams is the William M. Scholl Professor of International Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of numerous books, including Vanguard of the Revolution: The Global Idea of the Communist Party.
Anthony P. Monta is assistant professor of English at Holy Cross College.
“The essays in Global 1968 are fresh, based on an engaging mix of scholarly research and personal autobiography. As a whole, the volume is a pleasure to read, filled with original histories and provocative arguments.” —Jeremi Suri, author of The Global Revolutions of 1968
"In these essays, historians, filmmakers, literary scholars and others explore the events and impact of the tumultuous year 1968 and its aftermath in Europe and Latin America. . . . Global 1968 considers the short- and long-term cultural and political consequences of that memorable year." —Notre Dame Magazine
Why should we study the revolutions of 1968 today? At first glance, the answer to this question seems self-evident. Looking back on the tumultuous events that transpired more than a half century ago, one can hardly avoid raising the topic of revolution. Over the extended period that we associate with this year—roughly the mid-1960s to the early 1970s—this was a time of intense confrontation between the new and the old. During these years, societies were engulfed by conflicts over every seemingly in- contestable convention and practice. Students and workers protested against what they viewed as the unjust and corrupt institutions that held sway over their lives. Intellectuals and activists demanded that the ruling classes address systematic discrimination against marginalized social and political groups. Writers and filmmakers experimented with controversial themes and innovative forms of artistic expression. Remarkably, this explosive assault on the perspectives and practices that preceding generations had taken for granted was not limited to specific political systems,countries, or continents. It was a global phenomenon. In the words of Paul Berman, a student radical at Columbia University in 1968, “the weird quality of 1968 was the way that, for the first time since 1848, things took place nearly simultaneously all over the world.”
Because of this striking conjunction of events, scholars across a wide range of disciplines, from the social sciences to literature and the arts, have sought to capture the manifold dimensions of this period by speaking of the “Long ’60s.” In fact, some observers contend that these years marked the transition to a new age. Historian Arthur Marwick concluded his landmark study The Sixties with the following pronouncement. These years, he remarked, were “no transient time of ecstasy and excess, fit only for nostalgia or contempt.” In Marwick’s judgment, “there has been nothing like it.” And, he added, “Nothing [will] ever be quite the same again.” Other scholars have come to similar conclusions. For a group of German and American historians writing in the late 1990s, these events were evidence of “a world transformed.” Even onlookers who view these developments negatively have not disputed their influence. For the political theorist Harvey C. Mansfield Jr., “the late sixties were a comprehensive disaster,” an epoch, it seems, that is best expunged from liberal democratic society “like a powerful toxic waste.” In a campaign speech on April 29, 2007, the center-right French politician Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the memory of 1968 should be “liquidated” for having imposed “intellectual and moral relativism” on his country. Two weeks later, Sarkozy was elected France’s president.
Nevertheless, however contemporary scholars assess the events of the 1960s, positively or negatively, they must all confront an unavoidable question. Given the vast body of scholarship that already exists on the topic, are there issues on which there remains significant room for disagreement? The most fruitful way of responding to this challenge is to treat it as three separate questions: Can a given event or activity legitimately be called “revolutionary”? Has the event had the transformative effect that we typically associate with revolutions? Was this event a manifestation of a unitary set of developments, that is, evidence of a universal 1968?
The first question is the easiest of the three. It is also the least controversial. In the tradition of social theorists from Max Weber to Émile Durkheim, a revolutionary act is necessarily destructive. Unlike most challenges to authority, its instigators seek to overturn entrenched institutions, roles, and ideas and replace them with new ways of thinking and acting. In line with this approach, revolutionary events have been, if not frequent, at least recurrent features of the modern era. All of the best-known cases between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the North American, French, and Bolshevik revolutions, took the form of full-scale assaults on the status quo. Their proponents reveled in the opportunity to overthrow long-standing aristocratic regimes, upend seemingly impregnable class and social structures, and introduce new conceptions of justice and human worth.