Learning from France ’68

Anticipating the 50th anniversary of what the French euphemistically call “the events” of ’68, Professor Daniel Mahoney provided a retrospective assessment based on the work of Raymond Aron, Roger Scruton, and Pierre Manent in the Law & Liberty essay “France’s psychodrama of 1968.” Steve revisited the subject with Professor Mahoney last week in the podcast posted here. Rereading Professor Mahoney’s 2018 essay, I was most struck by this paragraph toward the end:

Manent observes that in this post-’68 world, politics is on life support. Political argumentation has been replaced by moral condemnation. The soixante-huitards [the “sixty-eights” who supported the nascent revolution] had announced with adolescent insouciance that “it was forbidden to forbid.” That was their motto par excellence, a revelation of their contempt for moral judgment and moral authority. But their official relativism, nay nihilism, has given rise to limitless moralism, a systematic assault on tradition, the moral law, and as I suggested before, the very idea of a normative human nature. Today, the politically correct, the children of ’68, multiply their prohibitions to the point that freedom of expression is under genuine assault. They are perfectly content to forbid anything at odds with the ideology of liberation.

Professor Mahoney’s essay contributes to an understanding of the cultural revolution now staring us in the teeth. I recommend it along with his response to the comments on it also published by Law & Liberty.

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