Lecture on the Myth of ’68 Thinkers

I was pleased to have the opportunity to present an abbreviated version of one of my forthcoming articles at the University of Shanghai on October 13, 2019. The title and abstract are below.

The Myth of ’68 Thought: Historical Commodity Fetishism and Ideological Rollback

This paper critically examines the widespread assumption that there is such a profound connection between French theory and the political events of 68 that the former merits the title of ‘68 thought.’ It begins by a materialist analysis of the historical relationship between the most prominent representatives of French theory—ranging from Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida to Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Lacan—and the actual political events unfolding at the time. After demonstrating their distance from the major political mobilizations, which often included an overt rejection of them, the paper turns to the larger cultural question of the ways in which the myth of 68 thought was produced, as well as to the issue of its social function in the global theory industry. It is in this light that it proposes an analysis of the historical commodity fetichism around 68, before concluding with a critical assessment of how the presumed radicality of “68 thinkers” serves to police the left border of critique.

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