The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s

The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s

Richard Wolin

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 0691154341

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Julia Kristeva, Phillipe Sollers, and Jean-Luc Godard. During the 1960s, a who's who of French thinkers, writers, and artists, spurred by China's Cultural Revolution, were seized with a fascination for Maoism. Combining a merciless exposé of left-wing political folly and cross-cultural misunderstanding with a spirited defense of the 1960s, The Wind from the East tells the colorful story of this legendary period in France. Richard Wolin shows how French students and intellectuals, inspired by their perceptions of the Cultural Revolution, and motivated by utopian hopes, incited grassroots social movements and reinvigorated French civic and cultural life.

Wolin's riveting narrative reveals that Maoism's allure among France's best and brightest actually had little to do with a real understanding of Chinese politics. Instead, it paradoxically served as a vehicle for an emancipatory transformation of French society. French student leftists took up the trope of "cultural revolution," applying it to their criticisms of everyday life. Wolin examines how Maoism captured the imaginations of France's leading cultural figures, influencing Sartre's "perfect Maoist moment"; Foucault's conception of power; Sollers's chic, leftist intellectual journal Tel Quel; as well as Kristeva's book on Chinese women--which included a vigorous defense of foot-binding.

Recounting the cultural and political odyssey of French students and intellectuals in the 1960s, The Wind from the East illustrates how the Maoist phenomenon unexpectedly sparked a democratic political sea change in France.

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SHOWDOWN AT BRUAY - EN - ARTO I S 33 m arche d a nu m b er ofhigh - profile M aoist sympathizers: Sartre, Simo ne d e B eauvoir, future Socialist prime minister M ichel R oca rd , as well as the act resses Simo ne Signoret and J ane Fon da . (Fo n da was in Paris d uring the filmin g of J ean - Luc Godard 's o de to the recent spate of Fren ch fac to r y occupation s, Tout va bien.) There could b e no mistaking the fac t that M aoism, w hich b egan as the b rainchild of a few wayward n orm

o re th an p ale imitations of their bourgeois counterparts. In the p o st- M ay p eriod , Fren ch leftists realized that it was impossible to reconc ile the austere ten et s of dialectical m aterialism w ith the " joyful w isdom" (Nie tzsch e) sought by the counterculture. Such dilemmas w o uld impel a number of prominent GP stalwarts to becom e st aunch human rights advocates . They h ad experien ced the ex cesses of leftism firsthand and recoile d in h orro r at w h at they h ad seen . One

ironies of the cross- c ultural tran spositio n of ideas, the critique of everyday life wo uld ultimately m erge w ith the M aoist n o tio n of C ultural R evolution . Imp ortantly, this conceptual fusion helped to prom o te the idea that, in opposition to the pieties of o rtho dox M arxism, c ultural them es were a legitimate object of em an cipato r y struggle. The Socialism or B arbarism (S o r B) g roup b egan as a Tro tskyist o rgan , adhering to the Fo u rth Internatio n alist v iew that t

In their v iew, it was b etter to arrest too m an y than too few. The m assive arrests proved to b e the final straw. Hundred s of student bystanders, infuriated by the arbitrariness of the arrest s, began p elting the police van s w ith ston es in the hop e of liberating their im p eriled com rades. The p olice resp onde d by firing off rounds of tear gas. N ext , they b egan clubbing and appreh ending civilian by standers at random . Com m uters em erged from local m etro statio n s o nly to

cabinet, PS deputies proceeded to reverse a wide range of discriminatory laws and regulations. Interior Minister Gaston Defferre circulated a memo ordering the police to dispense with humiliating identity checks in the areas surrounding gay bars and clubs. The vice-squad unit overseeing homosexual activity was promptly disbanded. Those who had been arrested for “homosexual crimes” were amnestied. An antigay clause renters utilized, specifying that tenants must be “good family men,” was struck

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