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The Spirit of '68: Rebellion in Western Europe and North America, 1956-1976 [Paperback]

Gerd-Rainer Horn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

2 Oct 2008
In virtually all corners of the Western world, 1968 witnessed a highly unusual sequence of popular rebellions. In Italy, France, Spain, Vietnam, the United States, West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, and elsewhere, millions of individuals took matters into their own hands to counter imperialism, capitalism, autocracy, bureaucracy, and all forms of hierarchical thinking. Recent reinterpretations have sought to play down any real challenge to the socio-political status quo in these events, but Gerd-Rainer Horn's book offers a spirited counterblast. 1968, he argues, opened up the possibility that economic and political elites on both sides of the Iron Curtain could be toppled from their position of unnatural superiority to make way for a new society where everyday people could, for the first time, become masters of their own destiny. Furthermore, Horn contends, the moment of crisis and opportunity culminating in 1968 must be seen as part of a larger period of experimentation and revolt. The ten years between 1956 and 1966, characterised above all by the flourishing of iconoclastic cultural rebellions, can be regarded as a preparatory period which set the stage for the non-conformist cum political revolts of the subsequent 'red' decade (1966-1976).

Horn's geographic centres of attention are Western Europe, including the first full examination of Mediterranean revolts, and North America. He placed particular emphasis on cultural nonconformity, the student movement, working class rebellions, the changing contours of the Left, and the meaning of participatory democracy. His book will make fascinating reading for anyone interested in this turbulent period and the fundamental changes that were wrought upon societies either side of the Atlantic.

Frequently Bought Together

The Spirit of '68: Rebellion in Western Europe and North America, 1956-1976 + 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977 (Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series) + May '68 and Its Afterlives
Price For All Three: 63.66

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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (2 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199541590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199541591
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 495,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Written from the perspective of a participant observer, this is critical history in the Nietzschean sense. At no point naively optimistic about the chances for success, it nonetheless aims at reviving the volatile Spirit of '68 , and thus at making the potential of the past available for the present. (Kay Schiller, TLS)

...makes for an interesting and stimulating reading not least because of its accessible style, attention to detail, passionate argument and choice of fresh case studie. (Anna Menge, History)

A lively and detailed study...Horn brings an admirable breadth of learning and enthusiasm to his subject. (Steve Andrew, Morning Star)

I strongly recommend it...superb. (International Socialism)

Horn's cosmopolitanism and internationalism are admirable. (Michael Siedman, English Historical Review)

Altogether, the book covers an amazing range not only of countries and dates, but also of social subjects, from students to workers to women...I particularly appreciate the spirit of this book in our time of widespread pessimism. (Luisa Passerini, American Historical Review)

is marked by an impressive mastery of languages and national source-bases, and is particularly valuable for its treatment of previously overlooked cases... It should find a place in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms. (Timothy Scott Brown, European History Quarterly)

About the Author

Ger-Rainer Horn is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Warwick.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Like many young, politically engaged people, I've long been aware of the social upheaval during and around 1968 - especially in France - as a sort of cultural standard for protest. Our mental image of the radical is one largely formed by that era, and their slogans (e.g. 'beneath the cobblestones, the beach') are still elements of the popular imagination.

It was the last time that the Western world was genuinely shaken by a force emanating from below. Therefore, it seems important to ask:

Where did this quake come from, what was its organisational and political character - and what happened to its apostles and devotees in the years after the tremors?

Gerd Rainer-Horn's book is a scholarly survey of social activism in the period 1956-76, principally in the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and the US, though material from Britain is also included.

Readers will find no trace of the 'world systems', heavily structuralist approach: Rainer-Horn is almost entirely concerned to trace the cultural dynamics of protest; including their alleged basis in a culturally radical milieu which began to assert itself during the '50s, most obviously in the form of 'Beat' and Situationist culture.

He shows how cultural and student movements were often the spark which ignited the blasting powder of social change - the insurgent labour movement. Material on Italy and Portugal was particularly new and interesting to me, as it probably will be for many others.

When the author doesn't have conclusive evidence - which is frequently the case - he has the honesty to make this clear and suggest lines for future research.
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