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A Contest of IdeasCapital, Politics, and Labor$
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Nelson Lichtenstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037856

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037856.001.0001

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Did 1968 Change History?

Did 1968 Change History?

(p.185) Chapter 13 Did 1968 Change History?
A Contest of Ideas

Nelson Lichtenstein

University of Illinois Press

This chapter considers a defining moment of the year 1968, when a generation of radicals entertained what even at the time seemed to be utopian hopes and postures in the streets of Paris, Berlin, New York, and Mexico City. It was a New Left, which saw itself as distinct from both the Communists or Socialists, as well as being a left that stood against the mere social democratic reformism of many of the parties that had been in or near power in North America and Europe. It is argued that when it came to the economy, New Leftists of that era thought capitalism was entirely too stable, a claustrophobic economic system that functioned with machine-like precision. If they wanted to overthrow that system, it was not because capitalism faced an imminent crisis, or even because it did not produce for the majority of the population, but because the existing economic order was such a sturdy, inhumane iron cage. And this was their greatest ideological failure, because it would be the right and not the left that would prove most successful in taking advantage of the radical shifts in the nature of world capitalism that were about to come.

Keywords:   New Leftists, capitalism, 1968, economy, radicals

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