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Arguing revolution : the intellectual left in postwar France

Author: Sunil Khilnani
Publisher: New Haven : Yale University Press, 1993.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
For thirty years after the Second World War, the French intellectual Left dominated cultural and political life in France as well as achieving immense influence and prestige internationally. Yet during the 1970s, a remarkable change occurred: Marxist and Leftist arguments dramatically collapsed; France's intellectuals, after veering sharply to the Right, arrived at a new understanding of liberalism and, abandoning
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Material Type: Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Sunil Khilnani
ISBN: 0300057458 9780300057454
OCLC Number: 27973523
Description: viii, 264 pages ; 24 cm
Contents: 1. Intellectuals and the Left --
2. The Languages of Political Criticism after the Liberation --
3. Jean-Paul Sartre: Politics by Procuration --
4. Louis Althusser: The Mystique of Theory --
5. Revolution Exorcised: 1968-1981 --
6. The Revolution is Over: Francis Furet and the Historians' Challenge.
Responsibility: Sunil Khilnani.

Abstract:

For thirty years after the Second World War, the French intellectual Left dominated cultural and political life in France as well as achieving immense influence and prestige internationally. Yet during the 1970s, a remarkable change occurred: Marxist and Leftist arguments dramatically collapsed; France's intellectuals, after veering sharply to the Right, arrived at a new understanding of liberalism and, abandoning Marxism and the idea of revolution, sought ways to govern the Republic.

In this original and challenging book, Sunil Khilnani examines how and why this massive shift in intellectual preferences took place. Unlike other accounts - which have interpreted Leftist political arguments as timeless philosophical debates or as indices of socio-economic developments - Khilnani skillfully explores the political contexts in which these arguments were advanced and defended.

He argues that war and occupation had severely disrupted the nation's political identity, and that in these circumstances the language of revolution provided intellectuals with a ready terminology with which both to redefine the political community and to establish a special role for themselves. He discusses the forms of political criticism available to intellectuals after 1945, focusing on the arguments of the two most prominent revolutionary thinkers, Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser.

He then addresses the period between 1968 and 1981, when the idea of revolution came under attack, and the impact of Francois Furet's revisionist historiography of the French Revolution, which decisively undermined the very idea of revolution in France.

Khilnani concludes with remarks on the revival of intellectual interest in the idea of the Republic. This vigorous and highly accessible book will appeal to everyone curious about what has happened in French intellectual life since 1945, and to all concerned with the fate of the Left.

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