concept paola anzichè shannon bool sunah choi kerstin cmelka ayse erkmen valie export parastou forouhar april gertler simin keramati julia kissina nayon lee sandra kranich anny&sibel öztürk susana ortizmaillo anna ostoya jeannette petri bianca rampas judith raum martha
 giovanna sarti francesca d. shaw simone slee jinoos taghizadeh zpugmai zadran 

soziologie in frankfurt experimental publicspheres entgrenzung dissolution leonhardi kulturprojekte radio axiom harald szeemann artworld shanghai hiphop culture exit andvoice log philosophy & socialscience afghanistan projects durban  kosovo projects ayse erkmen utopia station dani gal kriege / wars drucilla cornell lena inowlocki hyunjae lee heikki ikäheimo florian agalliu 


(the following text here is without footnotes. If you are interested in reading the full version please send an email to: info(at)


In addition to the progressive political challenges, the sixties stand out as an important marker of cultural changes over inclusion and recognition. Freedom Summer [actually 1964] was a part of the civil rights movement and struggles demanding freedom, justice, equality across boundaries of race, gender and gender orientation.1 While the civil right struggles in the US were often took place in political terrains, the key issues were identity and cultural. What kind of people were [white] Americans that would define themselves on the basis of racial superiority? What kind of culture would sustain segregation vs. the inclusion, recognition and dignity of heretofore marginalized people of color, women and gays. Such movements were often concerned with legal guarantees voting rights, the legalities of discrimination and racial biases, but the fundamental questions concerned dismantling the barriers over who now enter into the real centers of social and political power. The 1968 moment remains an important marker of minority, feminist and gay struggles.


Today, 40 years after 1968, it is fitting that we might re-examine the causes and courses of social change. I will suggest the various social movements of the 60s, as emancipatory democratic mobilizations, were the harbingers of a variety of world historical social changes leading to greater democratization. Consider that the Soviet Union imploded and the democratic movements of East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were vindicated. Most South American governments today have democratically elected center left whose elections were the results of massive social mobilizations. The nature of gender roles and norms has been radically transformed in the wake of various feminisms, gay rights and sexual freedom movements. The civil rights movements of the US have had enormous consequences consider only the recent roles of Colin Powell, Condi Rice and above all Barak Obama. Moreover, less evident at the time, from the vantage point of today, we also witnessed backlashes to the progressive mobilizations and various conservative and reactionary movements such as fundamentalisms that remain important today.


How can we best understand what might seem the enduring consequences of the movements of the 60s, despite the fact that in the short run, it seems that not only did these movements fail, but led to State violence and mobilizations of conservative/reactionary groups.2 To understand the trajectory of the social movements of the 60’s, their causes, the actors, their motivations and the consequences I would like to suggest that we look at these movements in terms of identity, community and ideology. Otherwise said, I will suggest that the impact of the various social mobilizations of 40 years past is best understood in terms of what has been called New Social Movement theory, a theoretical position loosely identified with the work of Tourraine, Castells, Melucci, Offe, Klandermans and Habermas etc. These frameworks were in part inspired by the events of the 60s that required rethinking both the theories of the irrational mobs or the traditional Marxist frameworks in which economic crises led to a revolutionary proletariat led by a vanguard party. For NSM theory, au contraire, the precipitants of mobilization may be cultural, psycho-social, or indeed, a number of interdependent factors may coalesce. Habermas (1975) termed these “legitimation crises.” A culture that valorizes technology and its logic, typically fosters dehumanization, meaninglessness, and denies people recognition prompting anger and/or self destruction. One consistent theme of NSM theory argues that its goals are not simply a new reform, department or new program, but changes in the nature of identity, community and frameworks of meaning that would in turn change the direction of the society toward a more participatory democracy with more humanistic goals.


Social movements consist of communities, networks of people who create and articulate a common political identity, frameworks of understanding and vision who attempt to realize that identity and vision in more or less continuous collective practices, actions, if not struggles for various social, cultural or political changes. These range from slight reforms in policies or practices to revolutions that transform the very structure of society. Some people may wish to change highway speed limits or clean up a polluted river. Others may seek a religious renewal or perhaps a restoration or even proclaim a messianic purpose. (Watch your wallet when you hear this.) And still others would like to see a total revolution that changes the very fabric of the society. For the purposes of understanding 1968 I would like to focus on its three major and intertwined themes, the emancipatory movements1) democratizing the political-May 68 and/or 2) establishing a more inclusive community and meaningful/moral identity, civil rights movements/feminisms/gay rights; and 3), the life style movements seeking personal liberation unfettered by traditional, if not current standards of morality and decorum especially over dress, standard of modesty and even sexuality.3


Social movements must also be understood historically and contextualized in terms of generations as Mannheim suggested (Cf. Whittier, 1997). Thus as will be argued, the social-historical context of a generation shapes its political outlook, life style values and can even change the trajectory of one’s life course.4 But within every generation, different segments, what Manheim called “generation units,” each experience and interpret social reality in different ways. While the various progressive mobilizations might have seemed more evident and salient, in the short run, these movements actually served to mobilize a number of conservative, if not reactionary counter movements that eventually carried the day. Nevertheless, the progressive movements, like canaries in the mine, were the harbingers of major social transformations and the precursors of the massive social mobilizations of today.


And while many of the issues of the political, social and cultural struggles of 1968 continue, today these struggles not only take place in a more globalized world, but that world provides unprecedented communication and interconnections that enable the proliferation of “virtual public spheres” and “Internetworked” Social Movements (Langman, 2005). I would suggest that the Global Justice Movements and mobilizations for freedom, justice, quality and democracy struggles are enduring legacy of the movement toward freedom as seen in the “spirit of the sixties” that yet endures that not only challenges neo-liberalism, ecological excess but the emptiness of materialist consumerism and the dehumanization that have accompanied capitalist modernity in its global phase.





Social movements serve as mediating structures through which tensions, conflicts and/or strains within the larger society impel certain agents to attempt what they see as meliorative social change if not transformation. The fundamental questions for of a sociological approach ask: 1) Why did it happen? What were the antecedent factors that impelled certain social actors either within certain social networks, or emergent network that function as movement organizations? 2), Who were the actors. In any society, its is always a minority of people that storm the Bastille, march on the Winter Palace or dance naked at a be-in. Who are these actors, how are they organized and why do they elect to act. Finally, 3) what are the effects or consequences of social mobilizations? 5


While after WWII many former colonies struggled for and won wars of independence in the 60’s, in some cases, the impact of a movement may not be evident at the time. Consider May 68, Prague Spring, or the Chicago Democratic Convention. In the short run, they failed to bring about major social change;, indeed, they mobilized repression from the State and reactionary counter-mobilizations in the larger society. But in the long run, Prague Spring presaged and inspired the break up of the Soviet Union. Sarkozy’s recent efforts to “liberalize” the French economy were stymied by a student/worker coalition. In 1975, long after the US leadership knew that there was no way they could “win” in Vietnam, facing massive anti war protests, the US pulled out.


Today, within the academy, there is now a large number of liberal to progressive academics in the universities and think tanks, and a plethora of small, local progressive movements and organizations devoted to a variety of social justice issues. While they were unable to thwart the US invasion of Iraq, they were able to impose some limits on the reactionary social agendas of the Bush administration. Little noted for example has been the preservation of social security and the effectiveness of thwarting of military recruitment efforts. Finally, as will be noted, while the movements of the sixties had a number of common causes and features, they were not fundamentally connected.6 But they did create enduring cadres of activists and legacies of political activism that is now clearly evident in the proliferation of various global justice movements that are globally connected and co-ordinate actions from global protests to the WSF.7



Social movements are overdetermined, they represent the outcome of a number of personal, social and historical factors-some have legacies that go back to struggles that took place long before many of the activists were born. In the case of 1968, some of the factors were unique to a particular movement. For example May 68, the French mobilization of students and workers were opposed some of the policies of the De Gaulle government, but this was a bottom up movement. The unions (CGT) and communist party (PCF) played little more than supporting roles and indeed, the PCF seems to have sided with the government. Prague Spring, was a popular movement toward reform, democratization and openness within the Czech Communist Party but it was led by Prime Minister Dubcek’s government who expressed the popular will. While both of movements were progressive and democratic, the circumstances were different as was the US anti-war movements in US. Like May 68, the movement came from below and was directed at the President (Johnson) and his loyal stooge (Hubert Humphrey).8 But in the US, most of labor unions supported the war [at first] and despised the demonstrators. The few communists were largely irrelevant. While each of movements was a “special case”, as were others in Germany, Italy, Pakistan and Japan etc there were certain common aspects of these popular mobilizations. They were popular, participatory and democratic, they were more concerned with issues of identity, morality and meaning and saw political actions/demonstrations as means to realize a saner, more rational society.


1 Alienated youth of the post war generation.


For post war Europe, Japan and the US, there was relative peace and economic growth and prosperity. Moreover, between rapid rebuilding of industry, mass media and growing incomes, the dominant trope of the 50’s and 60’s was consumerism that promised the best things in life were not free, but for sale in malls and departments stores. And while many people were more than happy to put war, devastation and destruction behind and enjoy the new era of peace, prosperity and the “goods life”, some folks found the crass materialism and conformity, shallow, dehumanizing and alienating. As Freud had shown, material things cannot gratify basic human needs for community (attachments), recognition (dignity) or provide a meaning system that provides moral guidance and assuages the anxieties of life (1930). Moreover, in the US, the fear of communism in general, paranoia of traitors within and nuclear annihilation from without were all pervasive. Thus while the post war generation may have been grown up in a conformist corpate era with relative affluence and consumerism as a lifestyle, so too was the post war period seen as age of anxiety and alienation.


One of the most salient factors about the sixties was the size and nature of its youth cohort. Given that wartime is not usually the best time for raising a family, from 39 to 45, the birthrates were suppressed. But after 1945, the postponers were fruitful and they did multiply. Further, there was a very rapid increase in the number of youth who went to college in the 60’s. In countries like the US and France, the population of college students quintupled. This post war generation provided many of the foot soldiers of the movements and quite often, some of the leadership came from within those movements rather than formal organization or political parties.


For many youth going to college and/or the postponement of entry into the work force coincided with the problematic nature of establishing an identity. In the 1950’s, the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1959) noted that the establishment of a coherent sense of self as a transituational, self reflective narrative was the central task of adolescence. Each person needed to both discover and craft his/her own coherent sense of self and a framework of values that not only established just what kind of person s/he was, but where s/he was going in life. One of the most important moments for many of this cohort was attending colleges and universities. For many who people who did go to college, there was an extended period of seeking, searching, trials and error of establishing selfhood. College life provided a momentary respite, what Erikson termed a “psycho-social” moratorium or extended period beyond the teenage years that enabled a person to join various groups and experiment with various s of self before fully embracing any one. Indeed, Kenniston (1968) argued that we needed to think of a new category, youth:

“we are witnessing today the emergence on a mass scale of a previously unrecognized state of life. . . youth, as a stage of life between adolescence and adulthood. The central conflict of youth was the “tension between self and society.” And the “refusal of socialization,” in which the individual rejects society after several adolescent attempts to fit into it. Finally, in youth great emphasis is placed on movement of any kind; adulthood is equated with stasis and death. The goal of youth is to move; the direction is secondary.3 Rock music spoke directly to that youth that Kenniston described, and its effect was its effect was magnified by the fact that in the sixties more than half of the population fit into this category.9

The psycho-social concerns of Erikson and Kenniston were complimented by the sociological concerns with the flow of generations through history that formulated by Mannheim ([1928]1952) would argue, every generation was shaped by its own specific historical context, that is in modern societies, the nature of social change was such that every generation came to maturity under different economic, political, cultural and social conditions. But within any generation, depending on one’s location in class, status or gender hierarchies, as well as individual differences, people might experience their context in different ways. Thus for Mannheim, we could talk of “generation units” within the same generation. Consider only the differences between classes or genders. In the US, by the late sixties, college students violently opposed the war in Vietnam while many blue collar and/or lower middle class youth, just as ardently supported the war.


2 Alienation, the Dehumanization of Technology and Emptiness of Consumerism

The critique of the shallowness of consumerism and mass media was perhaps most evident in France and the USA. In France, this critique of consumer society came from the existentialists, the Situationists and cultural Marxists. The existentialist circles of the Rive Gauche that included Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus, saw consumerism, encouraged by capitalism and its quest for profits, as a moment of “bad faith”, “inauthenticity”. The accumulation of goods and slavery to fashions anesthetized any concerns with the tragic side of life, where people experienced anxiety, soiled their hands and found no exit. For Debord and the Situationists, the “society of the spectacle” in which extraordinary images had become typical, and reality was displaced had become hegemonic (1967). But while this was the result of capitalism, for Debord, socialism was even worse- it was not only more authoritarian, but it was B-O-R-I-NG. Last but not least, in French intellectual/academic circles, the Marxism of Ernst Mandel and Henri Lefebvre exposed the extent to which the then current stage of capitalist profits depended on consumerism and bureaucratic regulation that now colonized everyday life and in so doing, made alienation and exploitation more palatable.


In the USA, the critiques of consumerism and/or alienation were generally less likely to be framed in either philosophical critiques or neo-Marxist analyses. Indeed, prior to the 70’s, Marx rarely appeared on course syllabi, reading lists or the bibliographies of articles. Nevertheless, such a critique appeared in several forms. Perhaps one of the clearest expressions of the rejection of consumerism and what has been called the “middle class life style” was articulated by the writers and poets of the “beat generation” who not only disdained the consumerism and conformity of the mainstream, but their orientation to work, sobriety and sexuality as well.10 Instead they valued personal freedom which included the freedom to use a variety of illegal drugs from pot to heroin and cocaine, as well as pursue various kinds of sexual encounters outside the boundaries of either marriage or heterosexual normativity. Much like 19th C Romantics, they attempted to find “authenticity” through intense emotional experiences-such as drug enhanced sexuality. Perhaps the arch anti hero remains Holden Caulfield who told the world, fuck you.


Oddly enough, a critique of repression and conformity that came from the mass media began to migrate to wider audience when broadcasters found that there was a vast, untapped market for sensual and transgressive music with sexual overtones that reflected what in fact Americans actually did.11 Such music, long part of African American R&B, rendered palatable for white audiences became known as rock and roll music. Thus while no one might ever suggest that Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis or Elvis Presley were social philosophers, the powerful appeal of that music set a tone for the fifties in which growing numbers of youth began to question the dominant moral values of American culture. By the late 60s, transgressive music the frenzied rhythms of rock and roll had become a critique of the system while its carnivals of transgression offered respites. Given how the dominant culture and its affluent sector were hopelessly alienated, many found a way through the counterculture so clearly seen in the Summer of Love [actually 67] that extolled drugs and sex and rock and roll, then came the massive turn out of the 1969 Woodstock festival, followed by the tragedy of Altamont. It is also worth noting that two major films of this era, the Graduate [1967] offered other critiques of the alienation of the society, the shallowness of affluence and promise of “plastics” as the way of the future. And in the never to be forgotten Ann Bancroft/Mrs. Robinson seduction role, the ennui of the culture becomes blatant. And of course one escape from the mainstream culture would be to jump on a chopped motorcycle and head off to San Francisco-as was the theme of the 1969 hit, Easy Rider


While the critique of alienation, entrapment and anxiety was rather diffuse, and often ignored in academic discourses. Yet in the face of the Cold War and a potential nuclear Armageddon, there were some critical academics-however few and far between. American sociology, in it own way, hailed the “American Century” as loudly as did Luce. But at the margins of the academy, CW Mills chided the discipline in his classic Sociological Imagination (1959). As he put it, Americans everywhere sought to understand their world and why despite its seeming affluence, things weren’t quite right. Divorce (then at 25%) was rising, growing numbers of white collar workers were alienated in their work and despite the victory of WWII and growing affluence, not only was there widespread and growing ennui and angst, but sociology at that time ignored the malaise. Erich Fromm (19 ) decried the society in which the “marketing character” had become the ascendant, indeed the desirable social type-yet s/he was empty, devoid of self, a tragic figure whose life was a failure. Willy Lohman had become everyman.


Perhaps more than anyone else, it was Herbert Marcuse (1964) whose work, rooted in the neo- Marxist Frankfurt School, would influence a generation-or more. He offered a sophisticated analysis of alienation and domination in “one dimensional society” that was dehumanizing, shallow and devoid of meaning, yet fully capable of sustaining itself through mindless conformity consumerism and imperialism. His analysis of “one dimensional man” argued that people were alienated by “one dimensional “rationality. One’s understandings of self and world were mystified by the mass media, consciousness was colonized to dull critical concerns. Consumerism insinuated “artificial desires” within the psyche to prompt endless and mindless consumerism as the reward for embracing and reproducing both consumer capitalism and one’s own alienation. While the counter culture publicly rejected the repressive sexual morality of the Puritans, the dominant culture promised much the same kinds of gratifications, albeit privately. The reward for meaningless work was to valorize hedonistic indulgence via consumption that in turn enabled sexual gratification qua “repressive de sublimation,” that served as the private palliative for “alienation”. Marcuse’s critique of technology and its logic, and his critique of colonized sexuality found a receptive audience. His defense of “polymorphous perversion” as emancipatory, and his belief that the downtrodden minorities and alienated youth of privilege as agents of a “great refusal,” would be the new revolutionary class, struck a resounding chord.12 He was soon cast as the “guru” of the social movements and while he was never an organizer or member of an activist organization. Yet he inspired a number of youth whose “great refusal” was the embrace of civil rights and rejection of imperialist wars


3 Politics as an Avocation

For Max Weber, modernity as the product of Enlightenment rationality, had indeed led to great wealth, but following. Society had become a realm of banal, unthinking men and women dominated by “specialists without spirit and sensualists without feelings”. Locked within “iron cages” of rational organizations, there were few avenues available that might provide find one with a meaning for his/her life and realize one’s passion-indeed reclaim ones humanity. But for Weber there was one way out-politics! “Living for politics” came out of an “inner determination” much like the “salvation anxiety that impelled the Protestant entrepreneurs. For many America youth, between the idealism inspired by Kennedy, and the nature of the media at that time, two issues stuck out.


In the 60’s, media journalism, especially television, was still in the hands of more or less independent news networks. Unlike the world of today in which corporatization and centralization have turned news into profitable sources of entertainment in which talking heads blather, conservative scream diatribes or both, there was a period when journalism still served to inform people. Many journalists still believed that a free press and informed citizenry were essential to maintain a democracy-especially given the controlled press/media of dictatorships. This is not to ignore the importance of media as an essential moment of hegemony but in the sixties, journalism still had ambitions of informing the public. At this time, there were two major issues that led to the American political mobilizations of the 60s, the civil rights and anti-war movements. While there was a degree of crossovers and joint efforts, these were fundamentally different movements, civil rights was aimed at the inclusion of marginal groups, minorities, women gays within democracies. May 68, Prague Spring and Chicago Fall were attermpts to empower people and democratize power.


a. The Anti-War movement

In 1962, a number of progressive students, largely from the University of Michigan, had formed a group, Students for a Democratic Society came to Port Huron, Michigan to draft a statement of principles that took note of the national angst, doubt and defeatism, the technological logic that led to Auschwitz and Hiroshima, and the manipulation by corporations and governments that thwarted, “unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love”. As an antidote and alternative, they would call for participatory democracy, an end to racism, opposition to militarism and the cold war. This missive came to be known as the Port Huron Statement. Its principle author, Tom Hayden, has since had a long career as an activist.13 And one of the other authors, Dick Flacks, has since had a long and distinguished career charting progressive movements as both sociologist and activist. The subsequent movement that came to be known as the “new left,” was clearly different from the more authoritarian, often communist “old left”. Given the times, SDS and the movement in general slowly grew and spread to other campuses. But it soon exploded.


Given the general social conditions noted, including the recent nuclear war scare in 1959, civil rights activism, and the assassinations of JFK and RFK, many youth became especially angry when after the 1964 election, President Johnson escalated the war in Viet Nam. Following promises that he “would not seek a wider war”, the fabrication of a Tonkin Gulf attack did just that, “justified expanding” the war.14 Vietnam was the first war people could watch in the living rooms—as it was happening, including the napalming of villages with burning children running or prisoners shot on the spot. Thousand were repulsed.15Given the general disillusionment with society, the war in Viet Nam led to massive growth of anti war movements. Third world resistance leaders ranging from Mao to Fidel and Ho to Ché were seen as heroes for opposing US imperialism. If poor, 3’d world countries like Cuba or Vietnam could thwart the USA, surely a student movement in the US could change government policies.


As was noted, Weber suggested that one escape from the iron cage was to follow a charismatic leader. Many youth found inspiration in peasant struggles against imperialism such as Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, in which third world peasant armies stymied and defeated far superior powers.16 And thus various revolutionaries and/or intellectuals were cast as desirable role models, while peasant wars of national liberation were noble causes that should garner sympathy and support. By 1964, the collective outrage of college students, now joined with many others from anti war VN vets (VVAW) to liberal clergy (Clergy and Laity Concerned) including Rev King, and even some trade unionists had become so intense, that Johnson could not appear in public. He declined to run for re-election, nor did his eunuch vice president, Humphrey, dare challenge his boss. Massive demonstrations, beatings and tear gassings outside the Hilton Hotel in Chicago well served Nixon and the Republican Party who continued a doomed struggle for 7 more years.17


In some few cases, there were various Maoist or Trotskyite fringes of the movement saw violence as a legitimate strategy that would foster total revolution. But the violence of these fringes, culminating in the Lincoln Park Days of Rage, university bombings, and even the bizarre Symbionese Liberation Army bank robberies with Patty Hearst as gun moll, served to mobilize the conservative reaction that would discredit the left in general. With the ignominious defeat of the US in 1975, the end of the draft and changed economic picture, the movement had accomplished its major goal, and as is often the case in many such movements, it went into decline. But while down they were not out, they bequeathed a “spirit of the 60s. As will be noted, this “generation unit” would maintain it progressive values as it moved into various professions, businesses, the academy and even politics. When the struggles against neo liberal globalization became evident between the rise of the Zapatistas and Seattle WTO protests, there were a large number of “movement” people that could research, advise and organize what has now become the alternative globalization movement.


b. Civil Rights:

As domination fosters resistance, so too were there various struggles for freedom and equal rights for all. The civil rights struggle might be said to have begun 1775 when Quakers attempted to halt the practice of slavery. Despite a Civil War that “ended” slavery, the descendents of African slaves remained subordinated by racial practices which were often clearly “legal” such as segregation, poll taxes etc. The struggles for equality, inclusion, recognition and dignity continued. These struggles were aided by WWII in which the fight for freedom and democracy against fascism and racism made the contradiction between freedom and discrimination blatant. In 1947, Truman integrated the military. But further, given how many African Americans served in the military, albeit in often segregated units, nevertheless, many gained both leadership skills and following the war, access to GI bill. As this cohort matured and entered the work force, the contradictions between values and actual practices grew more evident.


While there had long been organizations like the NAACP and Urban League that attempted to work through the system, Rev Martin Luther King, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to use more confrontational tactics of demonstration and protest. The SCLC (King) was largely a movement of the near poor, organized through their churches and in some cases, unions. In 1963, vast numbers of Americans television viewers were aghast to see Bull Connor, chief of police of Birmingham Alabama, attack peaceful protesters with dogs and fire hoses. Many northerners could see for the first time how southerners defended white privilege. The visible indignities created a public sympathetic to the struggle. In that same year there was a huge march in Washington. The next year, Mississippi Freedom Summer inspired a number of young, idealistic and often white college students to become involved with the struggles. It was now evident that for many young people, working for justice and equality provided a more gratifying identity and meaningful life than the superficial conformity and materialism that had become the “American Dream. While the SCLC was very much a “traditional” social movement organization, it would soon be joined by a variety of other movements from SNCC to CORE to the Black Panther Party that were more typically popular movements in which “submerged networks” arose from the people (Melucci, 1989).18 In 1967, Dr. King linked opposition to the Vietnam War with the Civil rights struggles in that the brunt of the American dead were likely to be minorities, and the war diverted funds and attention away from domestic struggles. He was shot a year later.


The struggles for civil rights for minorities impacted a marginalized majority, women. Let us recall that it was a woman, Rosa Parks, a civil rights worker, who refusal to move to the back of the bus ignited the Montgomery bus boycott that ignited the civil right movement. While the struggles for equality and indeed the vote were clearly stated in 1848 at the Seneca Falls conference, when women did get the vote in 1920, 3 years later the National Woman’s Party asked for an equal rights amendment. That was almost 90 years ago. During the war, women had assumed a number of roles in factories, in the military and in business from which they had been excluded. By the sixties, as more and more women went to college, yet by and large were not only treated as subordinates, but women found that even when in involved with civil right movements and/or anti-war movements (see below), they were still treated as subordinates, fetching coffee, running mimeos, but without voice in strategy or roles as leaders . College women began to read women like Simone de Beauvior who pointed out the suffering of women as Other, Juliet Mitchell echoed the marginality of women, while Betty Freidan pointed out the suffering of the “illness without a name” (1965). The second wave of feminism was born. Many women began to wax indignant and found solace in newly formed consciousness raising groups. While the pill had given women some control over contraception, they were denied the rights to abortion. Needless to say, this was a major irritant for women.


c. Hedonism as a Lifestyle

While a large number of youth found gratifying identities, close communities and meaningful activities through civil rights/anti-war groups and activities, many others chose a more self indulgent hedonism. As heirs to the hipsters of the “beat generation”, the jr. hipsters, the “hippies”, embraced the same anti-authoritarian, anti-conformity, and anti-consumerist disillusionment with corporate American as did the politicals. Between the erotic hedonism of rock and roll that had come to dominate the airwaves, the “repressive de-sublimation” encouraged by capitalism, the supposed sexual revolution inspired by the “pill” and the rapid diffusion of marijuana throughout the youth culture, the hippies blossomed.19 Sexuality was publicly celebrated by public nudity, body painting and erotic dancing at its carnivalesque be-ins.


Whatever the counter culture may have done, it put an end to the rigid and hypocritical Puritanism that had been a legacy of America’s colonial era. While many extolled the values of purity and modesty, ever fewer listened, and more and more of the moralists and defenders of virtue turned out to be hypocritical liars. Given their hedonistic retreatism, the hippies not only disdained the society, but political involvement in general. 20 They embraced the anti politics of Tim Leary who encouraged people to “turn on, tune in and drop out”. Their colorful appearances, lots of hair, really good music, and hedonistic life styles of drugs and sex and rock and roll become synonymous with the 60’s. In 1967 the “Summer of Love” carnivals of San Francisco, New York, London etc, promised a cultural utopia of peace and love, or at least hallucinogen induced visions intertwined with Eastern mysticism or Buddhism.


While the political and cultural movements may have had some common roots in the rejection of main stream culture, they chose different avenues. For some it was personal transformation and self indulgence or religion rejections of the world that were part of Eastern religions. There was a degree of tension between the political activists seeking social changes and the life style folks whom the politicals thought indifferent to war and suffering. Conversely, the hippies thought the politicals should chill out, puff some weed, get laid and not worry so much. While there were some connections and fraternizing across cultural boundaries, the hippies and politicals were discreet movements with different identities, communities and agendas. Yes some, ok many, politicals enjoyed Grace Slick, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix. Some politicals even tried marijuana, and some even inhaled it. And much like the rest of America, the politicals actively supported the sexual revolution.21 Further, sometimes the hippies became involved in anti war activities such as the 1967 attempt to levitate the Pentagon through chants and incantations. They failed. The next year, they showed up in Chicago to protest the war at the Democratic Convention. Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, well known hippies, joined Tom Hayden, David Dellinger and Bobby Seale in what the most farcical event of the 68’s, the trial of the Chicago 7.



1. Who were the activists?

Most people live quite lives of desperation; most do not raise intellectual or moral questions and then act upon them. They do not become political activists or critical academics; nor do they join cutting edges of cultural, lifestyle movements that challenge the status quo. To understand a social movement, we need to look at the actors involved and ask how and why they became actors. This becomes a tricky problem, if we attempt to offer individualistic answers, we move from a social analysis to individual psychology, and moreover, may find at least 5 explanations per person. If however we ignore the person, her passions, desires and sense of morality, we wind up with a shallow, one dimensional structuralism that reproduced the very domination the 1968 movements lamented. There is no simple relation of activism to one’s background. While to be sure, a small number of activists come from families who had progressive activist backgrounds, what are called “red diaper babies”, but they are a distinct minority. Many, but not all progressive activists, have come from families with liberal, yet mainstream, political sentiments that often had suspended for schooling, families etc.


While class is typically closely tied to political attitudes and dispositions to activism, many social movements come from the ranks of the poor peoples (Piven, 1977). But most poor people’s movements tend to be over interests such as enfranchisement, incomes or benefits, the more traditional concerns. While blue collar/working class people tend to be conservative, some who are involved with union activities in certain industries become progressive activists, but again most of these struggles concern interests. Many youth background, move in that direction when in college. Similarly, some activists come from wealthy families. Finally, people from a variety of backgrounds become activists when certain circumstances impact their lives for example the loss of a family member often turns people against war.


For the most part, the 1968 civil right and anti war movements were composed of people whose college/university experiences not only gave them time and space for contemplation, but exposure to critical thought and a variety of perspectives. This has been especially true for students in social sciences, history, philosophy or education which are likely to be disciplines rooted in philosophic critiques of being, truth and ethics that go back 2500 years. For all their faults and roles in supporting ruling classes, colleges and universities are the only places where various kinds of progressive research, theory and education of new cohorts take place.22 Some develop networks and ties to activists organization that while typical quite fluid, locate the person within communities that, given how such locations, often dorms, bars or student centers, intersect with the stage in life where people are most likely to question their self (identity, goals and values), ideologies, the world and especially the world run by the people in power. While the professoriate are not generally radical activists, social scientists and philosophers are most likely to teach critical thought and alternative ways of viewing things whether challenging sense data and experience as “true” or constructed eg (Locke vs Kant), or revealing the hidden operations and agenda of class or power (Mills), and/or perhaps most important, exposing the contradictions of ideology (Marx, Gramsci). It is therefore not accidental that many activists had majored in philosophy, sociology, political science, education or history.


Within the movements, there tend to be at least three separate groups, “entrepreneur”, “intellectuals” and “foot soldiers”.23 The entrepreneurs are really the heart of a movement. They have the people skills (emotional intelligence), often charisma and motivation to do the work of organizing, persuading, getting folks out and getting things done. The activist intellectuals are the ones who are far better at writing theses, articles and books, than the nitty gritty grunt work of organizing people, creating activist networks and implementing activities. While there is always a tension between the doers and the thinkers, and many folks do both, a movement must have a coherent analysis of reality in which to frame issues and garner sympathy, if not support, as well as a vision of what can be. Those skilled at understanding and critiquing domination, and hopefully coming from and representing the people, represent what Gramsci called “organic intellectuals. Without an analysis, plan of action and vision, we have angry incoherent mobs. Finally, every movement requires live bodies, folks who pass out literature, knock on doors and show up event other have organized to public show that many people support the movements. They are not likely to attend the many, lengthy planning meetings with endless debates or strategy sessions. Nor are they likely to spend time in libraries, but they are the ones who make movements possible. Yet their support is necessary and while they may not be the heart of the movement, long after the movement has waned, they retain a sense of identity tied to the movement and remain sympathetic with its goals, values and visions.





What was the impact of 1968? Were such movements perhaps like Luddites, Shakers or witch burners, interesting moments of a time long past, but without much impact on our lives today. Marx, influenced by Hegel, saw history as teleological, e.g. the telos (endpoint) of history was the movement of Reason toward freedom, e.g. the realm of freedom would replace necessity and human self realization would be universal. In this view, we can see history as the unfolding of a movement toward greater freedom and democracy, including the self understanding that enables transcendence. But the course of history is not necessarily a smooth, linear process. Indeed, progressive movements toward freedom often maintain imminent domination. Thus capitalism valorized market freedom and claimed that free, unregulated markets were the basis of personal and political freedom. But capitalist domination, alienation and its actual exploitation is especially invidious as it is mystified by ideological proclamations of freedom. Moreover, as Lukacs (1920) noted, and the Frankfurt School developed, [Instrumental] Reason, unlike dynastic rule, is far more powerful, all pervasive and yet embedded within language, more invisible.24 So too have we seen that various Marxisms, when gaining/seizing power to “enhance” human






freedom and promote democracy in the name of the “people”, often became instruments of the most retrograde domination of “the people”. From the vantage point of 40 years later, let us now evaluate the mobilizations of 1968, were they a colorful blip in history, or crucial mileposts toward making the world a better place. While 1968 may have been the year of massive demonstrations and riots, as well as State repression and violence, it might seem that they emerged, ended legal segregation, ended a war, and faded.25 As many note, the impact of social movement is not always evident in the short run, change often requires institutional changes as well as attitudes and values. It took hundreds of years from the time abolition organizations began until the Civil Rights Act was passed. Yet and the goal of racial equality in the US has not yet been reached.

A. The USA: In the years that followed 1968, some of its structural impact would be evident. As Tom Hayden (2008) put it:

To say the Sixties were about only a “cultural” shift rather than a political one is to ignore the lasting legal, regulatory and institutional significance of these reforms. But one cannot read the list without wondering where it all has gone. Are we still restless, or pacified, or in between? This is the second paradox: the Sixties largely ended when our most popular demands succeeded. When order was reformed, order was restored. In the five years after 1968, these rapid changes [in the USA] unfolded like domestic dominoes:

The Vietnam War began to end in 1969 and imploded in the Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, were driven from office years 1973-75; ;

The compulsory military draft was ended;

The War Powers Act was passed as a curb on the imperial presidency;

The Democratic Party and national election rules were radically reformed;

Earth Day arose apparently from nowhere, historical environmental laws were passed, and the planet Earth was seen in a photo for the very first time;

After 25 years of failing passage, the 18-year-old vote became law;

Black studies, Latino studies, women’s studies, and environmental studies were integrated into the curriculum of high schools and universities;

While the conservative reaction to the sixties enabled electoral domination, social and cultural values continued to become more liberal. While surely conservatives won the presidency in 68, 72, 80, 84, 88 and stole it in 2000 and 2004, and conservative political agendas set the dominant tones in which the public rhetoric, amplified by right talk shows, seemed to concern only welfare queens, guns, gays, God, Jesus abortions and tax cuts, below the surface, there was a gradual move away from more conservative positions. “In September 1968, US feminists disrupted the Miss World competition in Atlantic City, warning shots in a women's liberation movement that would change women's lives by demanding recognition, independence and an equal voice in a male-dominated world” Ali, 2008) While the feminist label is often derided, the legacy of feminism and women’s rights have become strongly entrenched. While the work place is far from egalitarian, a great deal of progress has been made. Half of all applicants to law, medical or business schools are women. The ranks of women entrepreneurs grow. The public support for the availability of contraception and abortion rights has grown.


In a similar way there is greater toleration for racial equality and diversity and acceptance of women into the upper echelons of economic and political power. Today the classical expressions of racism of the KKK are long gone, in fact, many decry the “color blind” racism that is more subtle (Bonilla Silva, 2003). The primary contest between HRC and Barak Obama reminds us that this could not have happened apart from the struggles of 60s. Similarly, the gay power movement that began in 69 with Stonewall has led to a much greater acceptance of gay rights and in some cases, gay marriage.


B.France May 6826

The events in France that almost did topple the government now seem to have faded into the mists of history. After the workers joined the students in a general strike expressing grievances


Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6 1968.

against the government, there ensued some of the largest demonstrations in French history. The students effectively battled the CRC (riot police) and defended the Latin Quarter, the location of the Sorbonne. As it happened, the Degaulle government acceded to many of the demands of the students and workers. After the concessions, May 68 soon faded in the memories of things past. But we should not overlook the radical transformation of French Society that did happen. One of the lasting legacies of the movements was the legalization of women’s rights and liberation of women’s sexuality and indeed liberalization of issues like abortion, divorce and custody were central aspects in the cultural victories that followed 1968. As sociologist François Dubet (ECHESS) put it “Aside from the workers’ strike, ’68 is a revolution about freedom of morals, culture, speech. France joined the world of sex and drugs and rock and roll.


c. Prague Spring27:

Russia was always quite anxious about the security of its “empire”, especially the countries of Eastern Europe in which communism was imposed by the Red Army rather thanchosen by the people. Given earlier attempts at liberation/independence in Poland, E. Germany or Hungary, there was little toleration for dissent, especially by an intolerant aging authoritarian like Brezhnev. The Soviet union had a major contradiction, its Leninist legacy of a




vanguard party that both spoke for and silenced the workers, was administerd by cadres of rigid appartchiks. But the Soviet economies had become were stagnant. Yes there was electricity, but shortages of everything else. Yet the Russians subsidized their sattelites to maintain acceptance. Had they allowed more democratic openess, the economies of countries of the USSR would have been more dynamic. Had they allowed more room for self determination and personal freedom, there might not have been the widespread alieantaion. But the appartchiks feared any loss of power and that meant priviledge. Thus dissent and steps that might erode their power could not be tolerated.


Czechoslovakia had been a relatively industrialized country, but its economy had become stagnant. Prewar Czechoslovakia had a strong, indendent union movment, as well as democratic governance. The discussions over what do were at first limited to the party debates where reformers, Dubcek and Sik challenged conservatives headed by Novotny.28 Dubcek attempted to foster the Action Program, a more democratic socialism with a “human face” that promised geater freedoms of speech, the press and assembly. Soon the reformers gathered support from students and radical intellectuals and eventually even workers. But as the movement for democratization gathered supported, the establishment feared that this movement might spread-and they might lose power. On Aug 21, the Warsaw Pact countries invaded, Soviet tanks rolled into Prague.29 Perhaps 500,000 soldiers came to “suppress the anti-communist revolt”. Much as the Parisian workers stood alone against the forces of reaction in 1846 and again in 1871, so too did the Czeckoslovaks face the Red Army alone. Almost 100 died. Throughout the world, there were massive demonstrations of sympathy, often directed agains Russian embassies. Yes, Prague Spring was crushed, its leaders replaced, though many were “rehablititated.” For the next 20 years the Husák regime was “characterised by resignation, cynicicism, emigration, escape into the private sphere, and outward colloboration with the regime that was itself Neo-Stalinist, repressive and primitive, and transfromed the country into a primiteve wasteland….[It] resembled a mueum of Communism” (Pauer, 2008. 174). Yet given its history, the spirit of democracy so evident in 1968 would triumph with the Velvet Revolution. hen the Berlin wall was torn down and the Soviet Union imploded.


Many similar stories could be told about the 68 activism in England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan or Mexico, but the central points are two fold. One, and we cannot attribute social mobilizations to a single factor, but by 1968, a revolutionary sprit seems to have been encouraged by the actual revolutions in places like Cuba, Algeria and Vietnam and inspired by heroes like Fidel, Che or Ho who successfully stood up against power. . While this inspiration may have come from without, the from within, various crises of legitimacy led to pressures toward. Secondly, while the short term “success” is often not evident at the time, today it is clearly evident how much impact 68 had in liberalizing social life and democratizing much of Europe, Japan and the USA.


In concluding, it might be noted that the various student led democracy movements waned. The counter cultural types are now fragmented into Goth, metalhead, punk or hip hop subcultures, each of which consists of a number of sub genres. Finally, many of the civil right movements, have not only secured greater rights, legitimacy and acceptance, but various minority, feminist and gay right movements now have full time advocacy organizations, and perhaps the ultimate sign that movement’s time has past, is an academic program concerned with ____________(fill in)




studies. But one legacy of the time should not be forgotten, the beginning of environmental awareness and birth of various green movements and agendas. In 1969, then Senator Gaylord

Nelson called for a massive celebration of Earth day. The following year, millions of people gathered to call for a green agenda. As people like Tarrow remind us, there are certain times when the “opportunity structure” facilitates mobilizations. The next year, Green Peace was formed, and for many green became the new red, one could criticize capital without invoking Lenin, Stalin or Mao. One could imagine clean air, water and healthy food As the various democratizing movements waned, especially after 1975, many activists drifted to other pursuits in business, the academy or even politics. People like Tom Hayden and Daniel Cohn Bendit were even elected to office—Bendit is a leader in the German Green Party. But for many, a new avenue opened and many activists chose to pursue green agendas. In 1984, there was Bhopal. In 1986 Chernobyl. Today, especially after the Kyoto accords, the environmental movement has become “normalized” as more and more people have become aware of pollution, global warming, etc et.




Over time, ideas, practices and identities that are deviant, perhaps ostracized if not punished, often move from deviant to acceptable, and from acceptable to typical. Consider cohabitation. It has moved from sinful, typical of the avant garde or “dangerous classes”, to acceptable, and today in some countries, for young people, it is more typical than marriage. Social movements, as spearheads for social change go through various phases and transitions. In many, most cases, as many of its goals are met, or seem impossible to ever realize the fervor abates. As activists age, as “political opportunity structures” change, movements often wane, die or at least become enduring social movement organization-typically bureaucratically organized and hierarchically structured. Tom Hayden (2008) suggested

social change…is a persistent struggle between social movements and Machiavellians. Before the beginning, there are hidden memories, legacies of social movements beneath the icy silence of conforming apathy. Then the shoots of present and future movements unexpectedly disturb the peace: the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, or the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Gaining momentum, the movements appear suddenly at the margins, among the structurally disenfranchised. The Machiavellians are surprised, react first with repression but also with probes promising cooptation and gradual and, at first, token reform. The movements touch chords of memory in the mainstream, continue to grow through transformative moments (for example, the shooting of an innocent person)…. .As their core ideas reach the mainstream and are accepted by majority opinion, the Machiavellians splinter over whether to grant reforms once thought beyond the possible. As the reforms are achieved, the mass base of the movement subsides, leaving the radical elements stranded and quarreling. The counter-revolution becomes intense as the moderate Machiavellians are perceived to betray the cause of whatever supremacy is at stake (white over black and brown, men over women, colonists over natives, and so on). The once-radical reforms become the new status quo, the counter-movement is contained, the pragmatists become a new elite, the Machiavellian order is renewed….reform is another term for the moment of synthesis in dialectics. (Hayden, 2008, p 330.)

What was the course of 68, what happened its spirit? What impact did it have on in our lives?


1. Counter Reactions

In a world of rapid social change, from “the coming of post industrial society” (Bell, 1976), to the now globalized, fluid, network society (Bauman, 2001; Castells, 1996-98) the social conditions are especially conducive to change, especially among for more privileged, college youth that are typically supportive of progressive causes from green to pink and toleration for inclusion. For both Hegel and Marx, the essential moment of social change was contradiction. Social change is a dialectical process; it is neither linear nor sequential. In the case of the 68 movements, quite often the institutions of the State, whether coercive or legislative, are brought to bear again demonstrators. Unless a major segment of the ruling class defects to the cause, or the agents of repression refuse to intervene, movements are often thwarted. Surely in some cases, violent repression may halt a movement-consider the authoritarian dictatorships of Greece, South America, or even the Soviet Union. To paraphrase Pareto, history is strewn with the graveyards of former hegemons.30


As mobilizations to create new, progressive identities emerge, they challenge the society. Many segments of society in general, and its conservative youth cohorts in particular take umbrage at progressive mobilizations. In the sixties US, many segments of the working classes soon mobilized to oppose the progressive agendas of the civil rights movements, they deplored feminism, detested opposition to the war in Viet Nam, and most of all, loathed the “unwashed” long haired hippies. There are a number of reasons why progressive movements foster reactionary responses among some groups. The emergence of newer, alternative identity formations, challenges the very core moments of the typical hegemonic identities-and such challenge often evoke intense rage-often to mask anxiety that one’s identity and meaning structure are eroding.


Firstly the emergence of an alternative identity/value constellation makes it evident that there are options, and in many cases, these are options that are not available to the more typical for two reasons. Firstly, as we have emphasized, identities are integral parts of communities. Communities held together by their shared values, and when these values are challenged, people respond with rage, anger and condemnation. This is especially the group’s core values such as patriarchy, white privilege, submission to authority, sexuality and patriotism are interrogated. Such people usually have few options for change since it might means renouncing one’s very core identity and/or group memberships.


Secondly, if we understand depth psychology, one of the most researched topics in social science has been authoritarianism. From the early studies of German workers (Fromm, 1941), to the large scale study of Americans (Adorno, 1950), and the most recent reviews of research (Altemeyer, 1996), there are certain qualities of authoritarianism that seem invariant, and the most typical are organizing the world in terms of 1) hierarchy, submitting to superiors while dominating inferiors, and 2), conformist conventionality. Authoritarians are quite intolerant toward those who challenge authority and/or the status quo. Non conformity justifies aggression to outgroups, especially non conformists who would challenge the status quo. Such people tend to be dogmatic, punitive and value toughness and obedience. By definition, the progressive activists challenge authority, value equality reject the status quo and prefer participatory rather than hierarchical leadership. Progressive mobilizations, especially those that blatantly reject conformity and submission to authority thus evoke widespread outrage toward the “rabble” who question their governments, their leaders, the hierarchical structuring of relationships and conventionality. Moreover, in many cases, especially in the US, there was a ressentement toward youth of privilege, e.g. college students, who should be studying, not demonstrating. Finally, it should be noted, that conventional values often rest upon repression, and those who reject those values upset the psychological equilibrium in which repressed desires might seek gratification. As Slater put, speaking of the hatred to the counterculture and political activists of the 60s’, America depended on the frustration of needs for community, engagement and dependency. Insofar as one of the main themes of the political activists and hippies of the sixties was creating new kinds of communities. Progressive activists whether challenging the authority of Church or State, whether rejecting hierarchy, convention or repression not only evoke ire, but mobilize large segments of the population to ally themselves with the State. Such include countermobilizations, and in some cases, these border on fascist mobilizations.


2. The Enduring Impact of 1968

While it is all to easy to forget the 60s, especially for anyone born after 1968, I would contend there were three enduring legacies, 1) a changed cohort, 2) institutional change, and 3) submerged activist networks endured as the bearers of cultural legacies that were quickly tapped as the consequences of neo-liberal globalization became clearly evident, and all the more so when American imperialism chose to invade Iraq.


a. The 1968 cohort 40 years later.

One of the cruelest of conservative mythologies suggests that it is “normal” for young people to become progressive activists, they “need “to differentiate themselves from parents, and/or resolve “oedipal ties”. This is absurd for 2 reasons. In the first place, it reduces social mobilizations and protests against capitalist or communist domination, injustice, war, pollution or human rights abuse to individual psycho-pathology and thus ignores the genuine suffering and adversities. But this view then goes on to suggest that with “maturity”, political activists (or hippies), will renounce their immature youthful indiscretions, enter the mainstreams of society, marry, move to the burbs and became the materialist consumers they once decried.31 Such shibboleths are pure ideology somewhere between fiction and lies. Most of the empirical research has borne out Mannheim’s notion of the persistence of values within a generation unit. One of the more consistent finding in a number of studies has argued that political identities typically endure for a lifetime (Braungart and Braungart 1984; Whalen and Flack, 1989: Whittier, 1997.For a number of young people, especially those involved in activism while in college or graduate school, that activism had a major impact on career choices and today, most universities have a sizable core of left, progressive faculty (Ollman and Vernoff, 1982, Flacks, 1988)


The mobilizations of the 60s, and indeed the participants in the 68 mobilizations often went through major changes in college majors, occupational choices and life endeavors. Hundreds, perhaps thousand of people were strongly impacted by the events. If we go back to the earlier distinction between the entrepreneurs, intellectual and foot soldiers, we can see how their activism impacted their lives. The vast majority continued to hold progressive values and some have made careers working for progressive organizations and movements. For many, progressive values might not mean much more than supporting progressive causes from feminisms to ecology in their voting patterns, as we know, social movements can only succeed when they impact governments and voting has some influence. The entrepreneurs eventually moved from activism to careers in various business and professions. But that said, have generally attempted to yet implement progressive values. Some doctors work for progressive medical causes, while many lawyers still work for civil rights and other progressive causes. People who have gone into businesses have tried make profits while doing good doing such things as building low cost housing, computer work (web design, systems analysis) for progressive groups.


And what happened to the “useless” intellectuals? It must be noted that for the college activists of the sixties, there were all too few intellectuals or professors like CW Mills, Herbert Marcuse or Herbert Apthaker could offer critical analyses of actual power and domination, suggest strategies of contestation, and visions of the possible. The dominant structural functionalist theories, already attacked by CW Mills in 1959, had ignored class, conflict, power and history. Today, one of the most important lasting legacies of 1968 in the US was to create significant spaces within the professoriate for many of activists turned academics that make various strands of political thought from Marxism to the Frankfurt School to psychoanalytic feminisms or queer studies etc, legitimate participants in academic debates, courses, journals and books. With the recent turn to “public sociology”, on most college campuses today, there are faculty who can and do act as “organic intellectuals. The young Turks of 1968, now a bit long of tooth, wrinkled of pate and gray of remaining hair, are now the Old guard, the greybacks who may still play active roles in the emancipatory struggle of the current age. But for various reasons, students today, facing more bleak economic prospects, unlikely to actually fight in imperialist wars, are less likely to embrace activist causes.32


2. Institutions

The second legacy of the movements has been structural-institutional. While a day to day or year to year frame may not reveal much change, the longer range perspective of 40 years can offer a clearer perspective. Thus for many people, especially those of the activists of the 60s generation, it may not seem as if much has changed. While much to the regret of many, global capital is now at its triumphal moment, the US imperialism seems inexorable and the powers of reaction remain in place in many countries, things may seem bleak.33 But upon closer inspection, while the 68 movements failed in the short run, they had a great deal of positive impact, and one of the ways that has occurred, is by including information campaigns as a central aspect of mobilization. Thus movements play to broader audiences, and have become very skilled at using television [and today the internet] to garner potential allies in confronting political elites. As Gitlin (1980) put it, “the whole world is watching”. If we consider that the goal of movement struggles is impacting governance and policies, then we can see how, in many cases, there have been real changes in governance. Moreover, there are now a large number of organizations and institutions that were created in the wake of the movements. Policies and procedures have changed often quite reluctantly. But the left often has trouble seeing its victories.


a. Democratization: If we were to look back at 68, the most notable transformation has been the implosion of the Soviet Union, and indeed, much as Weber said in the 20’s, its top heavy, authoritarian bureaucracy would collapse upon itself.34 We might also notice how many dictatorships have crumbled with in Asia, Latin America, or Africa. While certain globalization theories might suggest that the dictatorship of the generals has been supplanted by the dictatorship of neo-liberalism, it’s precisely the countries that have become more democratic that have lead in the opposition to “free trade”, privatization, and the hegemony of the USA.


Closely tied to the democratization movements have been the ecology movements in which the popular mobilizations would promote environmentally safe energy production, recycling, reduction of hazardous wastes etc. Let us consider as a result of the environmental movements, Earth Day that began in the 1970 the same year the US established the EPA. At that time might have anticipated the current climate changes, that global warming would become one of the most important issues of the day, and industries are going green. Today, the greens are the new reds.


b. Inclusion: In the US, while racial equality remains a goal, the fact that Barak Obama is quite likely to become the next president, suggest that at least for younger voters, racism and prejudice at the level of attitudes had declined. This is not to suggest that the US is no longer highly segregated, and while the KKK may have waned, a more invidious color blind racism endures (Bonilla-Silva, 2003). Yet that said, there have been growing numbers of racial minorities in business, academia, professions and politics. While affirmative action programs in the US have been very contentious, most universities attempt to have greater diversity in their faculties and student bodies. While women have not achieved equality in either the economy or the polity, and glass ceilings are still the rule, more and more women have swelled the ranks of middle management. In the professions, today almost half the law or medical students are women. Women applicants outnumber men in a number of academic discourses. Never before have so many women held political power. Finally, let us note that one of the most important forces for greater inclusion has been capitalists who seek to either have a more diverse market and thus hire a number of minorities to cater to those markets, and/or direct their ad campaigns to broad audiences. Still other companies, primarily those offering cultural products and/or fashions, attempt to market aspects of Afro-American culture to wider, and often more affluent audiences. Most of the buyers of rap music tend to be white, suburban youth.


c. Personal Life Style: While the hippie counter of the 60 came and went, they nevertheless were instrument in fostering the re-emergence of transgressive carnivals, eg public festivals that openly flout dominant norms. While the transgressive is now an “acceptable” option for many, and for some youth quite desirable, the proliferation of various forms of music such as metal, punk or hip hop, transgressive travel from Spring Break to Mardi Gras, and transgressive fashions ranging from Victoria’s Secret to edible underwear.


If we trace the changes in sexual mores/behavior, we find that since the sixties, there has been relatively little change in the markers of sexuality, eg age at first time, number of partners, etc. While the “sexual revolution” really began in the 20s, by the post war years, as the Kinsey reports noted, most adults had sexual relations before they were married (Kinsey, et al, 1948; Kinsey, et al, 1953). But that said, what has changed has been attitudes and the general acceptance of the reality that most people are sexual, and that in turn means that societies today need to provide sex education, the availability of contraception and abortion services. Thus while the excesses of the be-ins and public nudity are long past, whatever else, the counter culture of the sixties made the world safe for sexuality.


It is interesting that President Sarkozy, a center right conservative, attempted to blame the current economic problems and moral decadence in France on 1968. But as Daniel Cohn Bendit noted, that had it not been for 1968, a twice divorced man whose affairs, and those of his ex wife were highly public could never have been elected. While the French have always had a reputation for appreciating the sensual, it was not until after 1968 that French women gained a number of rights including reproduction freedom. Vive les Francaise.





From the vantage point of 40 years later, how might we now theorize the 1968 movements in order to understand the implications and impact of those years? We might begin by noting that while there has been a major outpouring of sophisticated social movement theory and research-most of this theorizing has taken place in response to the mobilizations of 1968.35 Back then, the still dominant views of social movements were based on theories of Le Bon or Freud who depicted “irrational mobs” reacting either to social crises, enthralled by charismatic leaders or both.36 Such theories were of course both ideological and elitist in that mobilizations such as revolutions, left or right were largely the actions of “irrational” common “rabble” in either frenzied states or whipped into such states by evil spellbinders such as Lenin, Trotsky or Hitler. Social movements were implicitly pathological. But such theories could little explain the three major movements of 1968.


There are many kinds of social mobilizations with different actors, kinds of organizations and goals. Some, especially various religious movements would actively seek converts, yet remain aloof from the outside world eg, Hari Krishnas. Most movements till the sixties such as suffrage, unionization and even revolutions were concerned with redistributions of some kind of scare resource like wealth or power. But in more recent times, many movements have been more concerned with more limited moral agendas from saving seals to preserving human rights, although anti consumer and green movements will claim that saving the human race is quite moral, but it may not be worth saving (Cf. Jaspers, 1997). Movements differ in targets and audiences. Anti fur campaigns seek to end the markets for furs by publicizing the clubbing and live skinning of baby seals to make buyer ashamed to buy sealskin-or fearful their mink coats might be spray painted. The movements of the sixties embraced various moral positions critical of exclusion, authoritarian governments and/or repressive morality. But these movements were not the same. The activists had two main agendas, the empowerment and inclusion of the marginalized on the one hand and the empowerment of the people to stop the US imperialism on the other. The lifestyle folks were concerned private hedonism/personal transformation.


The civil rights movements were closely tied to long standing social justice traditions and organizations, the democratic mobilizations were more concerned with identity, community and morality in shaping the society. While movements like feminism had traditions as old as abolition, and there were overlaps, the feminism of the 60s grew out of women’s experiences in civil rights and democratic mobilizations where they found that they were not only considered second class citizens compared to men, but they were excluded from the “democratic” decision making in the democratizing movements. Finally the counter cultural movements, like the democratic movements were anti-organizational and participatory. Similarly they were concerned with identity, community and morality. But they had little or no interest in working for social justice or social transformations, they wanted personal freedom to experiment with lifestyles within their own communities whether rural or urban free from intervention aka pot busts etc. As a lifestyle mobilization, they neither had a coherent political agenda/program nor a vision of what a society might be-and surely the visions produced by mushrooms or acid with guitar (Hendrix) or sitar (Shankar) in the background just didn’t cut it.



Explaining social movements is a vast industry producing articles, journals and volumes on movements past, present and future. They take place almost everywhere, they may embrace causes that seem “limited” such as the spoof cause inspired by a talk show host who took “umbrage” that pets like cats and dog went out in public and their vile owners left the private parts exposed. Surely civilization was in peril. On the other hand, many in the eco-activist community argue, probably rightly, that the future of human life is in jeopardy (Kovel, 2000).


I cannot adequately address the many issues and debates in the field, but merely wish to suggest that explanations of the 1968 events need to address the issues that were raised. The dominant trope for understanding the civil rights movement in the US became “resource mobilization,” a perspective in which the activists, often children of academics expressing their own values, were no longer seen as the “irrational rabble” of the déclassé, but as “rational actors” pursuing their self interests, wisely led by “social movement entrepreneurs” skilled at bringing people, money and organizational talents together. While grievances or strains are said to be ubiquitous, the movement leader has a special talent for motivating people to embrace his/her cause (McCarthy and Zald, 1977).


In Europe, especially France, the primary orientation in sociology had been structuralism (Durkheim). But the explosion of “disruptive” social mobilizations in the 60’s required rethinking structural explanations that often considered them deviant, if not “pathological”. While Marxists might “explain” how economic stresses led to proletarian mobilizations, the sixties movements were not predominantly over interests nor were the actors proletarians. As Touraine (1988) and Melucci (1989) argued, in a post industrial information society, social movements were more typically concerned with questions of culture (meaning/morality) and identity. From what has been said, I would like to suggest that among the most important questions raised by the 68 movement concerned identity, community and culture [meaning]. Moreover, many of the actors were from the middle classes rather than peasants or workers who had traditionally been at the forefront of interest based social movements. Such groups, then more economically secure, were more likely to press for transforming identities. Although certain earlier movements ranging from the Romantics and Transcendentalists to the Vandervogel may have also been concerned with such issues, these were limited to small circles of the elites whose family fortunes enabled the cultural capital to pursue aesthetic/literary pursuits and life styles.


Prior to 1968 most large scale social movements were based on economic and/or political interests such as national liberation movements/peasant wars, suffrage, unionization etc. Other mass movements dealt with issues of inclusion and/or democratic rights, often phrases in terms of morality eg abolition, prohibition, choice/right to life. But as numerous studies have shown, such movements were often the contested terrains in which “morality” was based on other factors, eg abolition attempted universalized wage labor, prohibition was an expression of WASP intolerance to immigrants, while issues of choice are debates over legal rights of a fetus and/or a women’s self determination. 37 One central aspect of the 68 mobilizations has been the crafting of a collective identity within a struggle. As Bartholomew and Mayer (1992) note in their review of Melucci:

In attempting to grasp how individuals get involved in collective action Melucci stresses the concept of collective identity as the crucial mediating variable missing in much exiting work on social movements. ‘Collective identity’ is not equivalent to ‘mobilizing interests’ (as in Resource Mobilization’s market conception of interests and benefits), but is precisely a constructivist concept, which can appear only outside the assumptions and framework of (pluralist or elite) liberal theory. It requires an intermediate level of analysis which brings into relief how individuals come to decide that they share certain orientations and decide to act collectively. Many approaches to social movements have been bedeviled by the problem of bridging the gap between the structural foundations for action and the collective action itself.


As Melucci (1995) pointed out: “Collective identity is an interactive, shared definition produced by several individuals (or groups at a more complex level)... that must be conceived as a process because it is constructed and negotiated by repeated activation of the relationships that link individuals (or groups) [to the movement].” 38 While activists may realize their identities and values in their political/cultural activities, they are at the same time, involved in the submerged networks of everyday life, networks of meanings they produce and reproduce (Melucci, 1989, 71). The everyday life network and communities are identities are fashioned and negotiated. It is important to note that identity is not so much given as the product of interaction and negotiation that are part of struggles. The movements of 1968 were thus marked by three important features that were quite different from earlier kinds of movements. They were bottom up, or perhaps marginal to center movements may be more apt. While there were wide scale uprisings that often did become violent, these were not “irrational mobs” seeking anarchy. Most violence came from the State.


Secondly, despite the differences, these movements were cultural; they represented a shift from “interests” to lifestyle, meaning and identity. Even when the concerns were often civil and voting rights, better jobs, wages and benefits for minorities, for many of the activists, the questions were more likely framed in terms of what kind of people supported or opposed justice or fairness. While surely civil rights movements were directed toward traditional interests such as overcoming heretofore legal systems of segregation, voting rights and/or economic interests such as equal access to jobs and promotions, I am suggesting that these movements easily morphed into concerns with identity, what kind of people were we, what kind of futures do we envision. Finally, an essential aspect of many of these movements is that they tended to have fluid organization and participatory leadership. I would like to suggest that the fundamental issues of the 60s movements was the nature of identity and meaning If we understand how identity serves to sustain social, political and economic power, we can better understand challenges to identity.


1. Identity as Hegemony

Domination is most effect when it is not only invisible, but kept that waywhen it unconsciously impacts individual thought and action that sustain the social structure. This has been clear for Freud, Reich, the Frankfurt School and even Althusser and Foucault. I would argue that these relations were most clearly understood by Gramsci for whom cultural hegemony depended on mediation though identity to naturalize the historical (Langman, 2000). Historic blocs in power defend and sustain their power and privilege by fostering identities among the masses in which subjugation is cloaked and most people accept their invisible domination (ruling bloc interests) as “normal”, “common sense” and “in their best interests”. In other words, the production of identities is a part of hegemonic processes that sustains structures of domination at the level of the person. The extent to which the typical identities of a society are embraced without question and reproduced in both consciousness and performance over time, insures the continuity of the class/power structure of society.


Collective identities can be thought of as locus where a number of material and ideological influences converge with underlying desires so as to control the culture in ways to sustain the power of a particular historic bloc despite various challenges and contestations.39 This has been the essential nature of the structuration process for Giddens (1992) and the nature of the habitus for Bourdieu (1977). Most notions of identity locate the person/group within certain structures of hierarchy and domination. This may be racial or ethnic. Colonizers impose subaltern identities upon on the colonized-the acceptance of which empowers the colonizer-even if the colonized directs violence to his/her self (Fanon, 1963).


Moreover the acceptance and performances of those identities is not without certain emotional gratifications for most people most of the time. Identity granting communities of meaning, from gangs to churches, from tribes to nations, provide people with social ties and attachments to others, with recognition and dignity, with realms of agency and empowerment, and finally, meaning systems explain reality, provide morals, values and visions that give meaning to life and assuage anxiety. More often than not, these identities and meaning systems reproduce the social order, eg the structures of domination.


For Gramsci, religion was one of the most basic expressions of hegemony. the Church, qua identity granting community of meaning, in the guise of mediating for God in dispensing salvation served the interests of the industrialists and the landowners Not only did it have the power of excommunication, but it could damn one’s soul to hell—for a long time, like an eternity or so. On the other hand, the Church gave people a sense of dignity, especially superiority to sinners, non-believing heretics, Jews, Muslims and Protestants. Finally, it offered explanations of reality that gave meaning to one’s life, which was now seen as an entrance exam get into heaven and learn the harp, even if it takes a few millennia (Gramsci, 1991)


2. The struggle for self.

Social crises, typically rooted in economic, political or cultural crises of legitimacy often migrate to selfhood, identity and motivation (Habermas, 1975). As has now been argued, identity, as collective narrative and performance, undergirded by individual desire is the site where hegemony, qua discursive practices, colonizes subjectivity to sustain hegemony, “willing assent” to a historic bloc. The emancipatory struggles of the 60’s that culminated in 1968 could be thus be considered as expressions of resistance at the level of collective identity. The “Great Refusal” was seen in the counter hegemonic struggles over identity and meaning. What kinds of people constituted the society? Is that the society that its people want? What kinds of people rule the society, what will the future hold? While surely the goal of democratization has a long history since Aristotle praised [Athenian] democracy, each historical epoch needs to confront its historically specific instances of the dialect of domination and freedom. As has been argued, in the sixties, while there were economic strains, the primary struggles were cultural and political as attempts to overcome alienation qua powerlessness and meaninglessness through democratization and empowerment that were intertwined with questions of identity..


While the different movements were unique, Prague Spring, May 68 or Chicago 68, each stood as an example of democratization vs. entrenched power. The anti-war movement in the US was widely supported throughout the world. So too were civil rights/feminist struggles. And let us not forget the Summer of Love and the various hippies pursuing hedonist lifestyles was global. As different as these movements were, there were three common themes and an all pervasive common goal of democratization. What is important about the 60s movements is that the move from grievance to action was mediated by cultural and ideological factors such that primary emphasis was on collective identities, values and life styles. Otherwise said, these mobilizations, counter hegemonic emancipatory movements. Identity granting networks and communities of meaning were the sites where actors attempted to refashion the identities and meanings, values and principles that might lead societies toward greater democracy, inclusion and personal freedom.

Habermas and Offe, rooted in German critical theory; Laclau and Mouffe, with their synthesis of post-structuralism and neo-Gramscian Marxism; and Touraine with his sociology of action — explain the emergence of SMs in reference to structural transformations and long-range political and cultural changes which created new sources of conflict and altered the process of constitution of collective identities. Habermas views new social movements as struggles in defense of the ‘life world.’ Offe explains SMs within the context of late capitalist societies and focuses on the contradictory role of the capitalist state, as it must ensure, simultaneously, the conditions for capital accumulation and bourgeois legitimacy. Some authors (Habermas, Offe, Lac1au and Mouffe) highlight the notion of crisis (of hegemony and legitimation) in contemporary capitalist societies and conceive collective actions as rational responses to such crisis. Lac1au and Mouffe explain SMs in terms of the availability of democratic discourse and the crisis of the hegemonic formation consolidated after the Second World War. Touraine focuses on the emergence of a new societal type, post-industrial society, characterized by increased levels of reflexivity.40

For understanding the identity based movements we might then begin with crises of with the political and cultural legitimacy. For Prague Spring, May 68 and Chicago 68, the governments did not accept democratization-though in Czechoslovakia, it was the Russian, not Czechoslovakian government that would not accept a democratic communist party. Secondly, there were cultural crises in the capitalist societies; between the domination of technological Reason, eg colonization of life world by rational interests, and the growth of spectacles and materialistic consumerism, many raised questions as to what made life meaningful. In Czechoslovakia (and other Soviet bloc countries), there were also glaring contradictions between the Marxist promise of socialism as overcoming alienation in the realm of freedom, and repressive state apparatus, typically enforced by the same lumpenproletariat goons that had supported Louis Napoleon. If the emancipatory movements sought political liberation, the life style movements, reacting to the alienating, and repressed culture, sought personal liberation, the joys of ecstatic passion and quite often, what Weber called religious abnegation of the world. .


Much like the critiques of governments by the movement, Touraine criticized the determinism in structuralists (Durkheim) and Marxist theory-perhaps especially in the structural Marxism of Althusser in which interpellated subjects were not only denied agency, but that very agency was an ideological fiction. He argued that we needed to rethink social movements. The process of bringing agenic actors into social movement theory was itself a reflection of changing cultural times. Touraine stated “the capacity of society to ‘act upon itself’ in order to reshape the set of cultural models that guide social practices. It is ‘the set of cultural, cognitive, economic, and ethical models by means of which a collectivity sets up relations with its environment; in other words, produces . . . a culture’ (Touraine, 1988: 40). Social movements struggled over culture in order to change identities, life styles and values and to turn the future directions of post industrial society. Touraine suggests there are three main components of social movements, they seek to 1) assert a collective identity “I” (self definition and self-understanding) in face of social fragmentation in general. These struggles take place in the public sphere. 2, they challenge opposition and adversaries “O”, (eg the legitimacy crises). Finally 3) the struggles seek control the future and outcome of the social totality “T. Otherwise said, the fundamental point is to create a kind of collective identity. While the 1968movements may have been linked to or precipitated by economic factors such as economic stagnation in Czechoslovakia, a contracting job markets for college students in France, or job discrimination on the basis of race in the US, the fundamental issues for social movements were tied to culture and identity. The mobilizations of 68 were the products of active agents attempting to create and negotiate collective identities as a mean of impacting historicity.


3. Identity Crisis and Change.

Crises of legitimacy are often very sudden. While there may have been a long period in which they slowly grow, such, there come times in a society, when mobilizations suddenly erupt. For various reasons, the typical identities become problematic. At various “moments of madness” all things seem possible (Zolberg, 1972). At these moments social movements seek to articulate new kinds of collective identities and cultural understandings to foster political economic and/or cultural transformations that would result in a different kind of society. Thus a crucial aspect for social movements is rejection or refashioning of identities/values. From what has been said, collective identity can be seen as a contested terrain in struggles for hegemony. For Melucci, a key element in the ideology of a movement is the “negation of the gap between expectations and reality. …Ideology thus overcomes the inadequacy of action (1992, p133).It is at this point where fundamental insights of the Frankfurt School compliment New Social Movement theory. Further, unless and until there are emotional consequences to legitimacy crises and/or official policies, most people do not interrogate their identities or values Crises of legitimacy can trigger the emotions that lead some folks to question their identity, while others more radically affirm they long standing identities.


Since identity is a central moment of hegemony and the terrain of struggles over historicity, how and why are identities interrogated and transformed? We might first note that one’s identity is determined by a multiple of subject positions and even if hegemonic, identity is never quite fixed; rather is provisionally open ((Laclau and Mouffe, 1985).41 Further, one maintains his/her collective identity insofar as it provides him/her with certain emotional gratifications, often compensations, namely attachments to a group, recognition of one’s self, realms of agency, and a connection to meaning. These gratifications of group membership that in turn sustain collective identities serve to enhance loyalty to the group, positive feelings toward the group, and positive feelings about one’s self because of membership.


To paraphrase Marx, at certain stages of development, the perpetuation of “typical” identities comes into conflict with new and changed social circumstances and act as a hindrance; people must then renounce certain identities and embrace new ones more suitable for the new circumstances. At this point, the newly emergent social conditions initially foster new configurations and constructions of identity among activist cadres who might be considered the harbingers of transformation. These movements aim at both changing the structures and ideologies that shape historicity, eg selfhood in the future, as well as persuading others, larger audiences to reconfigure themselves to if not embrace, at least support these transformations.


From what has been said, crises of legitimacy typically evoke a variety of emotions from anxiety, fear and anger to shame and despair. But for the present purposes, we must understand these emotions within a group context which provides people with frames for understanding the basis of their emotions and feelings, and this is a part of an identity. A social movement will attempt to use such feelings to impel action beginning with enlisting others, often within “submerged networks to join in that action. As Melucci (1989) has pointed out, these networks allow people to interact and communicate with each other, and as they frame reality, debate interpretations, plan actions, so too do they create and negotiate identities within this context. Thus having places, spaces and proximity is essential for identity based movements dependent on interactions. 42


For many people, the very existence of others organizing or demonstrating leads to shifts their own notions of self and they may attend meetings, join demonstration, and themselves become activists. Finally, in the process of negotiating collective identities, actors articulate visions of what a democratic society might look like. In face of alienation people seek agency, community and meaning. In face of domination by authoritarian governments unresponsive to popular sentiments, people seek democratization, not just as a right or reform, but as a different kind of governance.




Looking back at the last 40 years, what lessons have we learned? What has 1968 meant? For many people, the movements of the sixties, and events of 1968 in particular were just topics covered in a history or social movement class, or endless tales of parents or relatives “who were there.” For some, that era that seem as removed from our present lives as the Punic Wars. But I would argue that au contraire, 68 was and will remain an important marker of struggles against entrenched and typically unjust authority. These movements, while surely rooted in earlier struggles, were indeed indications of the impact of the emergence of post industrial, information society upon a generation, how it formed its identity, and the extent to which that identity endured.43 As has been argued, there growing affluence yet and alienation and malaise rooted in the domination of rationality and/or consumerism. There was a relatively large youth cohort that became acutely aware of various injustices ranging from exclusionary practices/marginalization of Others, to inflexible, authoritarian governments indifferent to the popular will. At the same time, many radical third world leaders from Kenyatta to Ben Bella to Ho to Ché had become heroes that showed how popular movements could and did confront power—and triumph. In face of alienation, fragmentation and powerless, a variety of social movements attempted to renegotiate the nature of identity and culture in order to impact the future direction of the society.


For our purposes, the central movements of the sixties were: 1) civil rights/inclusionary movements, broadly understood to include Black Pride, feminism, and gay rights, 2) democratization moments such as the opposition to American policy over the war in Vietnam, Soviet domination of its neighbors, and/or Gaullist authoritarianism. Lastly but not least 3), the personal transformation/hedonist movements sought to free sexuality from internal repression as well as from marriage or reproduction. However different these movements, they nevertheless represented significant milestones in the paths to democratization, inclusion and freedom.




I would first argue that the direction of history is not inevitable and surely, progressive, democratic, humanist agendas and goals are often thwarted by economic and political forces of reaction. Capital does not wish to relinquish profits, its raison d’etre, nor do authoritarian governments relinquish power in the name of justice or morality. (Quiet often, their power brings great economic rewards.) But a consistent theme of this paper has been the evidence of progress toward a more sane society (Fromm) a rational society (Habermas), of perpetual peace (Kant). But this kind of society can never come about without the struggles, contestation and confrontation of social movements. In other words, social movements have now become an essential part of the course to a better world. But lest we become sanguine, not only do such moves confront vast power, but quite often, such movements mobilize reactionary counter-tendencies. The most basic lesson of 68 is the affirmation of the goals of struggle-and a reminder that such struggles are moments of a long and arduous history, yet with a promise for a better future.




I have argued that 1968 was not only a crucial moment in historical change, but it has impacted the ways social movement theory itself looks at social movements. Given the Frankfurt School tradition of ideologiekritik and its then more recent concerns with of legitimation crises, (Habermas/Offe), Gramsci’s views of hegemony, and then moving to NSM theories of Touraine, Melucci and Klandermans, we have seen how changes in social movement theory reflected the more fluid, participatory nature of social movements and shifts from interests to culture, meaning and identities in which the of actors, qua agents, formed communities with intersubjectively meaningful ties, relationships and realms of sociality. In these communities and networks, the central concerns were the impact of culture, reframing identity and impacting culture (morality/meaning).


The movements of the sixties were grounded in the resistance of largely middle class youth to the rationalizing and alienating forces of post industrial, capitalist modernity, its dehumanization, social fragmentation and imperialist qualities. Thus many of the struggles were not simply demonstrations against authoritarian power, but counterhegemonic resistance at the level of identity that were aimed changing the society in such ways that greater inclusion, democratic participation and personal freedom would overcome alienation.44 Many of the issues of the sixties were based on long traditions of opposition to domination, injustice and exclusion of marginalized populations in the advanced countries. The movements of the sixties, symbolized by 1968, from anti war to ecology to feminism to Black Power were concerned with articulating new kinds of identities and the importance of recognition in legitimating these identities (Cf, Fraser & Honneth, 1998).45


While in the US, RM emerged as a way to understand the civil rights movements, and indeed was important in moving away from irrational mobs, that perspective was largely focused on the institutional aspects of movements and movement entrepreneurs. And while this was and remains an important aspect, so too would I argue that the issues of exclusion- inclusion were not unique to the US, eg, feminist struggles in other areas such as the Middle East, Anti Apartheid struggles and gay rights. In such struggles, the questions of identity, community and meaning remain important, especially insofar as these mobilizations not only challenge essentialist notions of race, gender or gender orientation, but in the process of mobilization, the very identities of the actors are transformed as groups negotiate a collective identity. No matter how effective social movements may or may not be in impacting the policies of elites, it is only through generationally based changes in identities that societies actually change.



As many have suggested, Michel Lowy for example, the direct heirs of the sixties been the global justice movements wherein the “spirit of 68 endures”. While the GJM movements range from WWW and Amnesty International, the vast majority of movements consist of small, local groups, sometimes smos, sometimes ngos. Today, the context of these movement is global and many, in some cases many of the actors are local. Surely, for many of these movements, especially those confronting the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, and specific policies of worker exploitation, unionization, human rights abuse, access to land, deforestation, pollution, sexual exploitation/trafficking, the privatization of resources, animal rights etc there are clear cut material interests of income, human rights and empowerment of the multitudes. Nevertheless, while there are hundreds of thousands of progressive organizations and movements today, the Internet had enabled new ways of forming “virtual public spheres” that in turn encourage “Internetworked Social Movements” (Langman, 2005). But insofar as these movements clearly exchange information, cooperate on strategies, and periodically gather for example in various social forums, the current global context and reach of these movements is as much concerned with identities and meanings, fashioning and new forms of identity, community and moralities appropriate for the conditions of the 21st C.


Thus, the GJM social movements can be thought of as identity granting/recognizing, interacting/socializing communities of meaning devoted to fostering political and/or cultural changes. Such emergent movement based communities provide members with a number of personal gratifications as well as a sense of meaning through the attempt to articulate new forms of collective identity that shape the future. Thus for example, the anti-war movement is not just concerned with ending imperialism in Iraq, but establishing identities such that war no longer remains an option for conflict resolution. Similarly, feminism is not simply equal opportunities in business, professions or rights to abortion, but a set of radically different practices and identities regarding the very definitions of gender—that also demand changes in recognition by men, themselves compelled to reframe their identities. Likewise the environmentalist movements are not simply concerned with installing scrubbers on smokestacks, detoxifying industrial wastes, pollution free power or cars, or saving polar bears. They are seeking to promote identities, lifestyles, values and practices that reject consumerism in general, and more specifically dangerous forms such as fossil fuel based energy, transportation or ecologically damaging fast food which requires vast factory farms-read massive deforestation-not to speak of the vast amount of plastic and paper used.


The concerns of the GJMs today were clearly evident in the struggles of the 60’s. While many of the specific issues are now long gone, and there has been progress toward inclusion, democracy and freedom, there are many challenges to the progress made and even more challenges lie in the future. As long as people remain exploited, alienated and dehumanized, people will engage in struggle to realize inclusion, democracy and freedom. The spirit of 68 will remain alive and well. As the WSF proclaims, “A different world is possible”. La lucha continua.





Adorno, Theodor. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper.


Ali, Tariq. 2008. “Where has all the rage gone?” The Guardian, March 22. Retrieved April 15, 2008 (


Altemeyer, Robert. 1996. The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Althusser, Louis. 1971. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation” in Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review Press.


Aronowitz, Stanley. 1999. “The Unknown Herbert Marcuse.” Social Text, 58:133-154.


Bartholomew, Amy and Margit Mayer 1992. “Nomads of the Present: Melucci's Contribution to `New Social Movement' Theory” Theory Culture Society 9:141-159


Bauman, Zygmunt, 2001. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity.


Bell, Daniel. 1976 The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. New York: Basic Books.


Bonilla Silva, Eduardo. 2003 Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Braungart, Richard G. and Margaret M. Braungart. 1984. "Life Course and Generational Politics." Journal of Political and Military Sociology 12:1-8. p26


Brooks, David. 2000. Bobos in Paradise – The New Upper Class and How They Got There. New York: Simon and Schuster.


Castells, Manuel. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell


Castells, Manuel. 1998. End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. III. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.


Collins, Randall. 1986. Weberian Sociological Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Erikson, Erik. 1959. Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


Debord, Guy. [1967] 1992. Society of Spectacle. Translated by Ken Knabb. London: Rebel Press.


Fanon, Fritz. 1963 . The Wretched of the Earth. Translated by Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press.


Flacks, Richard 1988. Making History: The American Left and the American Mind. New York: Columbia University Press.


François Dubet (ECHESS)


Fraser, Nancy and Axel Honneth, 1998 Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange. London: Verso.


Freidan, Betty. 1965. The Feminine Mystique. New York: Penguin.


Freud, Sigmund. [1930] 1989. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.


Fromm, Erich. 1941. Escape from Freedom. New York: Rinehart.


Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity.


Gitlin, Todd. 1980. The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the Left. Berkely, CA: University of California Press.


Gramsci, Antonio. 1991. Prison Notebooks. Translated by Joseph A. Buttigieg. Irvington, NY: Columbia University Press.


Habermas, Jürgen. 1975. Legitimation Crisis. Boston, MA: Beacon Press


Hannigan, John A. 1985. “Alain Touraine, Manuel Castells and Social Movement Theory: A Critical Appraisal” The Sociological Quarterly 26:435–454



Hayden, Tom. 2008. “The Future of 1968’s “Restless Youth” in 1968 in Europe – A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-77. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Kenniston, K. 1968. Young Radicals. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World.


Kinsey, Alfred, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin. [1948] 1998. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.


Kinsey, Alfred, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin. [1953] 1998. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.


Jaspers, James 1997. The Moral Art of Protest. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Kovel, 2000


Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe. 1985. Hegemony an Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.


Langman, Lauren. 2000. . “Identity, Hegemony and the Reproduction of Domination” in, Marx, Weber and Durkheim. New York: Gordian Knot Press. pp. 238-290


Langman, L. 2005 “Virtual Public Spheres and Globalized Social Movements”. Social Theory


Michel Lowy


Lukacs, Georg. [1920] 1972. History and Class Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Luker, Kristin. 1985. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.


Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press.


Mills C.W. [1959] 2000. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Melucci, Alberto. 1989. Nomads of the Present. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.


_____________. 1992. "Liberation or meaning? Social movements, culture and democracy". Development and Change, 23: 43-77.


_____________. 1995. “The Process of Collective Identity.” in Social Movements and Culture. Edited by H. Johnston and B. Klandermans. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


McCarthy, John and Mayer Zald, 1977. “Resource mobilization and social movements: a partial theory.” American Journal of Sociology 82: 1212-1241.


Moynihan (1979)


Ollman, Bertell and Edward Vernoff, ed. 1982 Left Academy: Marxist Scholarship on American Campuses. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill.


Pauer, Jan. 2008. “Czechoslovakia” in 1968 in Europe – A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-77. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Piven, Frances Fox. 1977. Poor People's Movements: Why the Succeed, How they Fail. New York: Pantheon.


Touraine, Alaine. 1988. Return of the Actor: social theory in postindustrial society. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.


Turner, Ralph and Lewis Killian. 1972. Collective Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


Whalen, Jack and Richard Flacks, 1989. Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.


Whittier, Nancy. 1997. “Political Generations, Micro-Cohorts, and the Transformation of Social Movements” American Sociological Review, Vol. 62: 760-778.


Zolberg, Aristide. 1972. “Moments of Madness” Politics and Society, 2: 183-207.