Elusive May: The Paradox of a Moment in History
In a country which boasts a history as turbulent as that of France, the fate of May was always, in the language of Althusser, the mentor of one particularly active group, ‘overdetermined’. May could only be bracketed with the Commune, the Popular Front, the June days and the various journées of that revolutionary tradition which periodically shakes the established order. Indeed if one particularly influential interpretation is to be believed, such shocks are the only means by which French society has managed to accomplish even those moderate degrees of change which it has needed for its own development. On the face of it, such a view seems unexceptional; May was after all highly concrete and visible. Did not a student protest mushroom into a general strike involving nine million people? Was there not for a fortnight or more, to the delight and incredulity of those who lived through it, the almost total collapse of one of the strongest state apparatuses in the world? And did not there emerge during this period a myriad of initiatives and aspirations, new forms of organisation and participation, and most of all a new ease of communication, which still colour pleasantly the memories of activists who experienced these slightly unreal days? May even has something which classic historical moments share, namely a clearly defined ending; the Gaullist electoral wins of June pricked the bubble as decisively as the army dealt with the insurgents of 1848 or 1871.
KeywordsFrench Society Late Eighty Entrepreneurial Career Popular Front Possessive Individualism
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