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

By Peter Starr

Utilizing the occasions of may well '68 as a old touchstone, this publication examines the political ramifications of the literary, philosophical, and psychoanalytic paintings often called French theory.

“It is critical and well timed within the post-Cold battle retreat of politics to have a historic evaluation of ways these politics, in addition to sure stances inherited from the French Revolution ... have been the unique context round what we name ‘theory’ today.”
—Juliet Flower MacCannell, collage 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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Extra resources for Logics of Failed Revolt: French Theory After May '68

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At best, each of these projects involved a selective hearing of the Laca­ nian lesson. To be a Lacanian in the Maoist Gauche proletarienne, for in­ stance, meant hearing echoes of the Maoist dictum that "the One divides into Two" in Lacan's critique of that falsely unifying knowledge he calls the semblant. 2 Above all, it meant living the adventure of Mao's China, as an ostensibly democratic society under the shadow of a larger-than-life rebel leader, from within the confines of Lacan's School.

May thus comes to appear neither as a failed revolution nor as a ruse of capital­ ism, but as "a great reformist revolt, a democratic insurrection" (Joffrin, 321). "May '68," write Ferry and Renaut, "has not been a political move­ ment that failed, but rather, quite obviously, a social movement that suc­ ceeded even beyond all prediction" (Itineraires, 56). In short, the function of the May events was to assure the spread of technocracy, a continued ex­ tension of "consumer society," and the standardization of mass culture.

Rarely will its constituent log­ ics be so simply formulated or their conjunction appear so seamless as in Michael Ryan's summary of the New Philosophy: "The Master can never be altogether eliminated because to oppose him is merely to reaffirm his power. And whatever alternative is set up in opposition to the Master will be yet another Master" (Spivak and Ryan, 76). What this simplicity in fact suggests is that the bind itself is a construct, a constative pretext to real work that takes place elsewhere.

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