Logics of Failed Revolt: French Theory After May '68 by Peter Starr

By Peter Starr

Utilizing the occasions of might '68 as a ancient touchstone, this booklet examines the political ramifications of the literary, philosophical, and psychoanalytic paintings referred to as French theory.

“It is necessary and well timed within the post-Cold warfare retreat of politics to have a ancient evaluate of ways these politics, in addition to yes stances inherited from the French Revolution ... have been the unique context round what we name ‘theory’ today.”
—Juliet Flower MacCannell, college of California, Irvine

Peter Starr is affiliate Professor of French and Comparative Literature, and Chair of this system in Comparative Literature, on the college of Southern California.

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Edgar Morin, Mai 68: La Breche T here is a curious historical irony in the fate of the leftist review Socialisme ou Barbahe. Founded in 1949 by a group of former Trotskyists centered around Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort and shrouded in obscurity for most of the 1950s, the review reached the height of its influence and prestige in 1968, three years after it ceased publication. This posthumous authority was clearly readable in the manifestoes of the March 22nd Movement—in their conception of revolution as the spon­ taneous explosion of creative energies, as well as in their demands for a democratic self-management of the workplace by councils of elected (and fully revokable) representatives.

Lacan took as his starting point Freud's discovery that the truth of the psyche could only be malentendu, heard in those gaps of discourse where meaning fails, where the struggle between the unconscious and censorship allows evil (and "illness": le mal) to be heard, but of necessity to be heard badly (mal entendu). If this were so, he reasoned, then the truth of desire, indeed truth itself, can never be wholly spoken,- "words fail" (Television y, 9). But it is precisely through * This passage plays to parodic effect on the late Lacan's nearly unbridled taste for outrageous puns.

Writing in an era when the diatribes of the Stalinists and the Trotskyists conspicuously repeated the Tu quoque (you too) structure of the Marxist/anarchist po­ lemics, Lacan would speak of illustrating his version of Hegel's schone Seele by evoking "the fate which leads the old revolutionary of 1917 to the defendant's table in the Moscow trials" [Ecrits, 175). The step from Lacan's explorations of the pathological effects said to follow from the modern cult of the whole and autonomous ego to a far-reaching denial of the con­ cept of revolution as total renewal has proven, we shall see, a short one indeed.

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