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Paris, May 1968 revolt

Related: Situationist International - 1968 - revolution - Paris

Paris May 1968 revolt, photo credit unidentified


In May 1968, student strikes broke out at a number of universities and high schools in Paris, France, following confrontations with university administrators and the police. The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quash those strikes by further police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, followed by a general strike by students and strikes throughout France by ten million French workers, roughly two-thirds of the French workforce. The protests reached the point that De Gaulle convened a military operations headquarters to deal with the unrest, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new parliamentary elections for June 23, 1968.

The government was close to collapse at that point, but the revolutionary situation evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs, urged on by the Confédération Générale du Travail, the leftist union federation, and the Parti Communiste Français, the French Communist Party. When the elections were finally held in June, the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before.

Most of the protesters espoused left-wing causes, be they Communism, Anarchism or the rejection of the Vietnam War. Many saw the events as an opportunity to shake the "old society" on many social aspects, including methods of education and sexual freedom. A small minority of protesters, such as the Occident group, espoused far-right causes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1968 [Aug 2004]

Timeline of Events

This informal chronology of the 'Events of May 1968' in France begins in November 1966 with students who were demanding the 'internationale situationniste,' taking control of the leadership of the association of students in Strasbourg.

In April of the following year the government asked parliament for the authorization to govern by 'ordinances' - concerning economic and social matters. This was followed by two major strikes and in June the Senate refused to sanction the special powers. The Senate refused a second time, but the measure was passed by the National Assembly before the Senate could reject it a third and final time. The laws were adopted in December, but the necessary enabling decrees were never passed.

--http://www.metropoleparis.com/1998/318/chron318.html [Aug 2004]


  • May '68 and Its Afterlives () - Kristin Ross [Amazon.com]
    This is a smart and lively book about how French politicians, media, and other groups have coopted the Paris strikes and uprising of May '68 to their own ends. The ways in which that event--the largest strike in French history--transformed French and European culture are explored by Ross, a formidable presence in the area of French cultural studies. Smart, succint writing--richly anecdotal yet theoretically sophisticated--this book should soon prove a classic in modern French studies and in Sixties culture.

    The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in '68 (1999) - Marc Dessauce

    The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in '68 (1999) - Marc Dessauce, Architectural League of New York [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    To a group of architecture students at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the turbulent year 1968, the idea of the inflatable held a promise of mobility, movement, energy, and escape. Seeking to overturn the inertia and oppression that they believed characterized mainstream architecture, the Utopie group (as they called themselves) designed a series of pneumatic buildings, furniture, and environments, all heavily influenced by American military structures and comic books as well as by the work of Buckminster Fuller, Henri Lefebvre, Jean Baudrillard, and London's Archigram. Though Utopie architects Jean Aubert, Jean-Paul Jungmann, and Antoine Stinco were unable to realize their dream of a society literally built on air, their fanciful, exuberant, witty, and highly detailed drawings remain some of the most extraordinary in modern architecture. The Inflatable Moment documents this fascinating intersection of architectural, social, and political history, as it presents a complete, annotated catalog of the designs of the Utopie architects alongside similar structures from the period. Essays on the pneumatic phenomenon and the intellectual history of the Utopie group are supplemented by reflections by the three architects, each written especially for this book. --Book Description via Amazon.com

    About the Author
    Marc Dessauce, a New York-based architectural historian, is the author of Machinations and a former contributor to Casabella.

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