Editorial. Revisiting 1968

Joaquina Pires-O’Brien

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the students revolution of 1968, which affords the opportunity to reflect on the event itself and the public perception of it since then. In 1969, just one year after the event, Raymond Aron (1905-1983) published the book La Revolution Introuvable: Réflexions sur les événements de mai, or The Elusive Revolution: Anatomy of a Student Revolt, in its English translation. Considered the most level headed witness of the events in Paris, Aron described 1968 as a ‘psycho-drama’, more like a revolutionary comedy than a real revolution. Aron was the kind of intellectual who always chose truth, whatever the cost. Being a fierce critic of Marxism at a time when almost everyone was engaged with the Left, meant not only giving away the chance of being popular but also exposing oneself to the contempt of other thinkers. But in spite of all the attempts to denigrate his image, Aron held his own ground. Aron finally got the deserved recognition at the end of his life, especially after the publication of his memoirs, one month before his death, on 17 October 1983.

This edition of PortVitoria reexamines the ideas surrounding the 1968 students’ revolts. The leading article is Peter Steinfels’ ‘Paris, May 1968: The revolution that never was’, firstly published in The International Herald Tribune on May 11, 2008, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of 1968, which is republished here in Spanish and Portuguese.  It is followed by Fernando Genovés’ essay ‘Raymond Aron y Jean-Paul Sartre: men of letters vs. intellectuals’, which highlights the parallels in the lives of Aron and Sartre, including the event in Paris, on 26 June 1979, when these two towering figures met again for the last time. An obituary of André Glucksmann, one of the leaders of the 1968 students revolts in Paris who later emerged as one of the New Philosophers of France, is our third article. It was published originally in The New Yorker on November 11, 2015, and is reproduced here in Portuguese. The fourth article is my own essay ‘1968 in a nutshell’, a brief account of the students’ revolts and their consequences.

A double review of Mark Lilla’s The Once and Future Liberal and The Shipwrecked Mind by James Meek, which was first published in 2017 in the London Review of Books, is offered here in Spanish and Portuguese. Previously, these books have been reviewed in several Spanish and Brazilian magazines and newspapers but Meek’s review captures with aplomb substance and intention, allowing a clear glimpse into the mind of this penetrating writer.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1968 and the account of the events surrounding it has also changed. Fifty years later, a growing number of critics seem to agree that it was a socialist utopianism that reached cult status. Even more relevant than the label that should be applied to 1968, is the fact that it inculcated many half-baked ideas in young minds and the hoi polloi. This had many unforeseen consequences, such the suffocation of debate in the public sphere, political populism, multiculturalism, tribalism and the debasement of academia. Latin America had all of that and the social fragmentation caused by the spread of Marxism and similar ideologies.

July 2018

 How to reference

Pires-O’Brien, J. Editorial. Revisiting 1968. PortVitoria, UK, v.17, Jul-Dec, 2018. ISSN 2044-8236.