The Elusive Legacy of 1968

“Dany, you have been so successful. But don’t let yourself be manipulated by those far-left forces that would lead you to destroy everything that could arise from what you are creating.” Forty years later, those words on March 22, 1968, by Jean Baudrillard – then an assistant professor at Nanterre University – still sound right.

I may disappoint my supporters and those enticed by “The Revolution,” but I’m not the leader of a revolution that allegedly occurred in 1968. Forget it: “’68” is over – buried under cobblestones, even if those cobblestones made history and triggered radical change in our societies!

At first it seems baffling. But, as I made clear at the time in my interview with Jean-Paul Sartre in Le Nouvel Observateur , I was only the loudspeaker for a rebellion. Thus, “’68” symbolized the end of revolutionary myths – to the benefit of liberation movements extending from the 1970’s until now. After all, the world of the 1960’s – the first global movement broadcast live on radio and TV – was defined by a variety of inter-connected revolts.

The change wrought by “’68” affected, above all, traditional culture, hidebound moralism, and the principle of hierarchical authority. It altered social life, ways of being, ways of talking, ways of loving, and so on. But, despite its scope, the movement steered clear of violence in order to create a new mode of rebellion. Students, workers, and families – all had their legitimate demands, and all nonetheless converged on the same desire for emancipation.