The moral history of 1968
On 29 April 2007, just before the end of the French presidential race, the then candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, gave a speech before thirty thousand supporters in Paris in which he lambasted the legacy of 1968. "May 68 has inflicted intellectual and moral relativism on us", he declaimed. "The heirs of May 68 have imposed the idea that everything has the same value, that there is no difference between good and bad, truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness. … They have proclaimed that all is permitted, that authority, civility, and respect are finished, that nothing is any longer great, sacred, or admirable."1 He went on to itemize the ways France had been on the wrong track ever since the events of 1968. They had set in motion dynamics that had "demolished" the Republican school system, introduced "cynicism" in society and politics, established the "rule of money, weak-ened the authority of the state, disparaged national identity, and assisted the rise of individualism." A society soft on crime, dismissive of family structures, greedy and materialistic, mesmerized by rights without duties, and disbelieving in the grandeur of France — this was a heavy burden for 1968 to bear. Unintentionally or not aping an old Stalinist rhetoric, Sarkozy proposed that "the inheritance of May 68 … be liquidated once and for all. … I propose that the French people truly break with the spirit, behaviours, and ideas of May 68."1
Bourg, J. (2011)., The moral history of 1968, in J. Jackson, A. Milne & J. Williams (eds.), May 68, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 17-33.
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