The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s
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.
industry w ith m an agers an d experts. K n owledge h ad forfe ited its prio r innocence . A s Fou cau lt su ggested in several p athbreaking work s, knowled ge was h ardly n eutral or valuefree . It was involved in the m ainten an ce of social power, a sine q u a n on for the reproductio n of the " disciplinary society." A mon g Fren ch students, the field of sociology was a chief offender. Its relian ce o n quantitative m ethods and empirical research m eant that it h ad b ecom e 13 Michel
Epistemon , put it, ''I'm no t b ored anym ore!" 18 THE REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE One of the central m o tifs of 1960s cultural criticism was the "critique of ever yday life" (la critique de la v ie quo tidienne) . Under con dition s of classical capitalism , do mination was largely confined to the work place. One's private life -or w h at rem ained thereof following a six teen -hour workday- was one's own. But the dem ands of consumer capitalism h ad altered the pictu re entirely. There was
that fo llowed , they were h ardly n atural allies. N evertheless, the wave of w ild cat strikes that over the en suing week s brought Fren ch occupation al life to a standstill w as a striking and unpreced ente d develo pment. The Com munists h ad wagered that fo llowing the general strike their con stituen cy would dutifully return to the sho p floor. But their expectation s were d ash ed. Traditionally, the Fren ch labo r movem ent h ad displayed a m arked an archist strea k . Inspired by the
possessiveness, obedience, competitiveness, and hierarchy, when I timidly surrender my sons and daughters to the school system, to television, and thus to the ideology of the dominant classes, what then remains of my project as a revolutionary? And who benefits? The mechanism that perpetuates the bourgeoisie or the classless society? . . . We are told that by fighting the repression of the body, sexuality, and the mind, capitalist relations of production are allowed to persist; that such battles
within a normal framework of relations between men and women, or between men, or between women. . . . But no discrimination because of the nature of one’s morals; for me, that goes without saying.”67 Thereby, Mitterrand and his fellow Socialists demonstrated a level of tolerance far superior to that of their left-wing rivals, the Communists and the Trotskyists. Little wonder, then, that homosexuals flocked to support the Mitterrand campaign in droves. On April 4, 1981, ten thousand gays took