Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"From Revolution to Ethics"

H-France hosts a forum on Julian Bourg's book From Revolution to Ethics, about May '68 and its aftermath, with contributions from Rosemary Wakeman, Michael Scott Christofferson, Xavier Vigna, and Jonathan Judaken.

Food for thought: “The twentieth century began with Vladimir Lenin’s observation that
making an omelet meant breaking eggs; it ended with the assertion of the rights of chickens” (Bourg, quoted by Judaken).


satchmo said...

Thanks for this link, Arthur. Interesting discussions. I tend to think they're all going too easy on the nouveaux philosophes (and I'm not just chiming in on the BHL merriment yesterday). I'll definitely have a look at Bourg's study.

I was struck by Judaken's quoted formulation as well. Perhaps, with tongue in cheek, it might be altered to read, "The twentieth century began with Vladimir Lenin’s observation that making an omelet meant breaking eggs; it ended with the assertion of the rights of foxes to eat eggs, chickens, and whatever else they please."

Anonymous said...

the review by Xavier Vigna was particuliarly interesting. To his credit, Bourg's endeavor seems quite ambitious so there'd invariably be shortcomings. I'm too ignorant to really know, having not read the book, but I suppose - pace Vigna - that the assuming there is such a category of thinkers called "French theory" results in a skewered view of things, which is too bad for a historian.

For indeed, "French theory" is an Anglo-Saxon concept
It's a useful memory aide, perhaps. But historians would be the ones to know to what extent it is correct or erroneous to throw such and such an author or group of philosophers into the same bag. Vigna says that Bourg failed in this respect.

Plus, if I'm not mistaken American New Left-ism had a strong libertarian strain to it. And I do believe that, even to this day, many American Liberals and Leftists assume that their French counter-parts are just as libertarian like themselves in the sense of promoting "leave me alone and do your own thang". Issues related to religious attire & public dress are very interesting in the way they reveal under-the-surface differences and, sometimes, yawning gaps. For once, the Neuilly Postman's recent move makes him more akin to leftwingers from across the Channel.

This may be a gross generalization coming from a gross generalizer such as myself, but American New Left-ism Libertarian is characterized by anti-control, so to speak. Of course, this would have to be qualified by the oft-times derided & exaggerate campus speech codes & the strictures of political correctness.
Note, however, that during the recent GOP primaries Ron Paul the congressman from Texas and a Hayekian Libertarian par excellence was highly approved and indeed supported by many a Left-ish voter due to his libertarian anti-Statism.

Rorty mentioned somewhere that the New Left endeavored to take control of academia in order to better influence the impressionable minds of their students. The emphasis is on soft-power, inculcation & (re-)education and not the hard-power of cracking eggs to make omelettes.

Contrary to American New Left-ism, were a galaxy of French intellectuals sympathetic to Left-wing politics. The revolutionary aims of such politics implied gaining political control, the hard-power & heavy-hand of the State. And when looking at leftovers like Alain Badiou, one can glimpse that such intellectuals were/are control-freaks and hardly in the mold of Leftists who preach: "whatever floats your boats". For such intellectuals & professors, their standing and status allowed them to entertain the notion that not only they had the answers, but the less-learned were to fall into line and follow this avante-garde. The conceit of power, or rather the illusion of wielding influence, skewered their right reason. Hobbes, yet again, was on the mark.

just my two cents, anyway.

Chris P.