Promises of 1968

Crisis, Illusion and Utopia
$111.00 / €95.00 / £90.00
Publication date: 
460 pages

This book is a state of the art reassessment of the significance and consequences of the events associated with the year 1968 in Europe and in North America. Since 1998, there hasn’t been any collective, comparative and interdisciplinary effort to discuss 1968 in the light of both contemporary headways of scholarship and new evidence on this historical period. A significant departure from earlier approaches lies in the fact that the manuscript is constructed in unitary fashion, as it goes beyond the East–West divide, trying to identify the common features of the sixties. The latter are analyzed as simultaneously global and local developments. The main problems addressed by the contributors of this volume are: the sixties as a generational clash; the redefinition of the political as a consequence of the ideological challenges posed to the status-quo by the sixty-eighters; the role of Utopia and the de-radicalization of intellectuals; the challenges to imperialism (Soviet/American); the cultural revolution of the sixties; the crisis of ‘really existing socialism’ and the failure of “socialism with a human face”; the gradual departure from the Yalta-system; the development of a culture of human rights and the project of a global civil society; the situation of 1968 within the general evolution of European history (esp. the relationship of 1968 with 1989). In contrast to existing books, the book provides a fundamental and unique synthesis of approaches on 1968: first, it contains critical (vs. nostalgic) re-evaluations of the events from the part of significant sixty-eighters; second, it includes historical analyses based on new archival research; third, it gathers important theoretical re-assessments of the intellectual history of the 1968; and fourth, it bridges 1968 with its aftermath and its pre-history, thus avoiding an over-contextualization of the topics in question.

Vladimir Tismaneanu: Introduction;

PART ONE: Picking Up the Pieces: 1968 between Memory and Theory Martin Palous: Revolutions and Revolutionaries, Lessons of the Years of Crises (Three Czech Encounters with Freedom); Irena Gross: 1968 in Poland: Spoiled Children, Marxists, and Jews; Dick Howard: In Search of a New Left; Jeffrey C. Isaac: Rethinking the Political Scientifically: Brief Reflections on 1968 by a Child of the Seventies; Jan-Werner Müller: What Did They Think They Were Doing? The Political Thought of (the West European) 1968 Revisited; Aurelian Craiuţu: Thinking Politically: Raymond Aron and the 1968 Moment in France; Karol Edward Sołtan: The Divided Spirit of the Sixties;

PART TWO: Lessons and Legacies of 1968 Agnes Heller: The Year 1968 and Its Results: An East European Perspective; Jiri Pehe: The Prague Spring 1968: Post-Communist Reflections; Bradley Abrams: From Revisionism to Dissent: The Creation of Post-Marxism in Central Europe in the Wake of 1968; Tereza-Brînduşa Palade: Post-Marxist Mentality and the Intellectual Challenge to Ideology after 1968; Nick Miller: Yugoslavia’s 1968: The Great Surrender; Cristian Vasile: 1968 Romania: Intellectuals and the Failure of Reform

PART THREE: 1968 in Pieces: Case Studies of Transformation Vladimir Tismaneanu and Bogdan Iacob: Betrayed Promises: Nicolae Ceauşescu, the Romanian Communist Party, and the Crisis of 1968; Mark Kramer: The Kremlin, the Prague Spring, and the Brezhnev Doctrine; Jeffrey Herf: 1968 and the Terrorist Aftermath in West Germany; Victor Zaslavsky: The Prague Spring: Resistance and Surrender of the PCI; Cătălin Avramescu: “Don’t Push Us, Comrade!” De Gaulle in Bucharest; Charles S. Maier: Conclusion: 1968—Did It Matter?

"Vladimir Tismaneanu wrote the volume’s introduction. In it he not only summarized all the contributions, but also reminded us that 1968 was a “transnational movement of revolt against the status quo beyond the East-West divide” (p. 1) which, ironically, led to liberalism reasserting itself in a revival of democracy in the West and to the eventual disintegration of communism in the East. In the book’s conclusion, Charles S. Maier, an historian at Harvard University, opined that the 1960s were a reaction to the previous decades by young people who rejected the discipline of their elders. 1968 was also a repudiation of the Yalta Agreement of 1944 by which the USA and the Soviet Union tried to control the world. The rebels of 1968 felt alienated by their societies and sought self-fulfilment in various ways. These papers are a good introduction to 1968 in Europe."
"Vladimir Tismaneanu has assembled a highly qualified group of authors and a diversity of perspectives from the retrospective and self-critical to the somewhat nostalgic for fadedyouth, along with some country-specific essays about experiences further East. Poland’s educated young were in general a 'special population'—not all were Jewish, but a large number were. Irena Grudziñska-Gross offers an excellent summary of this drama of “spoiled children,Marxists and Jews,” placing herself among the dramatis personae. Ceauqescu was, after all, 'a latent neo-Stalinist, a sly Antonín Novotný, not an Alexander Dubcek', and was steering his country toward the peculiar blend of domestic repression and foreign policy nonalignment that persisted in Romania until 1989. On some level, are 'Paris' and 'Prague' to be taken equally seriously? Charles Maier’s essay is the only attempt to 'make sense of it all.'As he puts it, the expectations (... more
"Was there a 'spirit of the sixties'? What did Dionysian students making love, not war, in Berkeley and Paris and Berlin have in common with the hopeful of the Prague Spring? Despite the caricatures favored by critics, there was a good deal that was serious about the upheavals in the West and much ebullience in the East until it was crushed. The year 1968 can, it seems, be examined across the curtain of the Cold War. This volume emphasizes commonalities within different experiences. Throughout Europe, 1968 challenged the two main accepted versions of late industrial modernity: liberal democratic capitalism in the West and Leninist party-directed planning in the East. What made the mobilizations on both sides new was 'their attitude towards utopia with crucial consequences [for] the re-conceptualization of the political'in both East and West. If part of the emancipatory impulse of 1968 for Western youth was bringing new areas—the university, the family,... more
"This book offers a vision of 1968 as a time when exciting ideologies pulsated throughout Europe and then suggests an eastwest difference: that the ideologies going through the capitalist west were dangerous ones, guided by irrational utopianism, while those in the state socialist east were emancipatory ones, marked by a rejection of utopianism and an embrace of a liberal universalism that would finally make themselves clear during the next turning point of 1989. As the book’s subtitle indicates, the book offers essentially a conservative reading of 1968... the commentators on the west are highly critical. The essays devoted to 1968 in eastern Europe have a quite different hue. They are all sympathetic refl ections, either by participants or contemporary observers. The longest chapter by far is Mark Kramer’s superb dissection of the genealogy of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, based on a close examination of Kremlin archives and written with the care and attention to... more
"The case studies will serve as valuable additions to any advanced-level undergraduate or postgraduate course on '1968', especially the latter's intellectual dimension. The volume also presents a thought-provoking contribution to transnational history: whereas 'transnational moments of change' synchronize events and processes in different national contexts, this volume, by revealing fundamentally different frames of reference imposed by the different political realities in Cold War Eastern and Western Europe, demonstrates that synchronicity does not mean similarity."