Paris, 1968: “1968 and the Struggle Against Technocracy”

These are notes from a lecture by Andrew Feenberg. The lecture was found by searching “Technocracy” on YouTube.

  • A French student revolt provoked a general strike in May 1968.
  • We have a false image of the whole New Left, they were actually serious political movements challenging the notion that we have to live with a technocratic consumer society.
  • It was about an alternative social model, the inheritance from the New Left is anti-technocratic struggle.
  • Paris 1968 started out as a small student revolt, students were arrested and locked out of the university and gained a new target in the police as a result.
  • Students began to build barricades in part as a reference to history like the Paris commune. Barricades became more and more numerous.
  • At this point a huge police attack was organized but the violent attack mobilized many people against the government.
  • Students were let back into the university and had talks about revolution.
  • At the arts school the students seized the studios and made posters like the famous poster of a fascist policeman wielding a baton.
  • “We want to build a classless society.” (student statement)
  • Scenes: Workers and students seized a factory and were jubilant, saluting each other.
  • “We must destroy everything that isolates us from each other (habits, the newspapers, etc.)”
  • All this was as a trauma for business executives and civil servants who saw themselves as doing a social service.
  • A strike movement began to appear in the middle class.
  • Even civil servants from Finance were involved. Also the ministry of housing, white collar postal service workers etc.
  • The protests/movement contained the notion of self-management vs. the planned economy of the Soviet Union which was more so supported by the Communist Party. Workers “by and for themselves.”
  • De Gaulle consulted with generals and implied the possibility of civil war.
  • Sartre said “you have enlarged the field of the possible.”
  • “refuse profit, progress and luxury.”
  • “Do not confuse the TECHNICAL division of labor and the HIERARCHY of authority and power” (the first is necessary, the second is not)
  • “all power to the imagination”
  • “ni dieu, ni metre” (neither god, nor meters ie. measurement)

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