1968 as event, milieu and ideology

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This article analyses the peculiar nature of the political thought of the leading activists of the German '68. It first discusses-and then partially dismisses-a number of common interpretations of the 'events', not least because previous accounts have paid insufficient attention to the actual political thought of the protagonists of '68 theorizing (and their limits) are then analysed: the legal road to socialism proposed by the 'Marburg school' of Wolfgang Abendroth, the anti-parliamentarianism of Johannes Agnoli and the anti-authoritarian guerilla strategy against 'integral étatism' put forward by Rudi Dutschke and Hans-Jürgen Krahl. Political thought in turn has to be understood as necessarily interacting with the 'events' of '68. When the main theories were unable to locate a new revolutionary subject and to solve the much-debated question of how to organize the movement, '68 intellectuals put their faith in events, occasions and direct action to reshape theory. In the end, this strategy yielded further (terrorist) 'events', a large left-wing counter-milieu largely free from theory and a persistent group ideology of personal convictions, also largely divorced from theorizing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-37
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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