- Between Prague Spring and French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960–1980
Between Prague Spring and French May: Opposition and Revolt in Europe, 1960–1980 is the seventh volume in the Protest, Culture, and Society Series by Berghahn Books that has contributed much to our understanding of the role of protest in twentieth and twenty-first century historical and cultural change. This newest collection of interdisciplinary essays focuses more specifically on European protests in the Long Sixties and their aftermath. After a brief introduction of the key themes of the book, the remaining sixteen essays are divided into five sections: East-West politics, transnational protest cultures, the role of [End Page 145] media in protest, liberation and violence discourse, and an epilogue that includes one essay on Régis Debray and a chronology of European protest events in 1968. Similar to many collections of essays, these contributions vary widely in topic, methodology, and quality. While they collectively achieve the goals of the book, to contribute new transnational and interdisciplinary perspectives to the history of protest in this period, the lack of any connection between them or overarching analysis or conclusions detracts from the overall usefulness of this collection.
The essays contribute new transnational perspectives by covering protests from a number of different nations across Europe and the connections between them. Several essays, for example, focus on Scandinavian countries that have been left out of many other studies of the sixties’s protests. For example, Thomas Ekman Jorgensen’s essay on Denmark and Sweden compares the political Left in these countries and places it within the context of the histories of the Left in other European countries in the Long Sixties. Another essay by Boris Kanzleiter studies the student revolt in Yugoslavia. These essays provide useful insights on the transnational elements of protest, as well as new understandings of the absence of protest in some areas.
Some of the essays also study countries covered in other publications, such as Germany, France, and Czechoslovakia, more explicitly exploring the transnational elements of their protests or applying new interdisciplinary methods. For example, Andreas Rothenhöfer’s essay, “Shifting Boundaries: Transnational Identification and Disassociation in Protest Language,” uses linguistic analysis to better understand the construction of transnationality within German protest discourse in 1968. Two of the best essays of the collection, in terms of depth of research, are Niek Pas’s “Mediatization of the Provos” and Rolf Werenskjold’s “The Revolution Will Be Televised.” These focus on the role of the media in the spread of protest ideas and cultures, but use very different methods and study very different subjects. Pas focuses on the Dutch Provo movement of 1966–1967 and the role of media in creating a transnational image of the Provos. Werenskjold, on the other hand, uses quantitative media analysis to study Norwegian television news coverage of the global 1968 protests. He finds that Norwegian television devoted more coverage to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia than to the American war in Vietnam, but it did not lead to any street revolts in Norway. [End Page 146]
While these essays provide us with much new information on the European protests in the Long Sixties, the collection as a whole reads more like an encyclopedia on the protest movements with no analysis to unite them. Oddly, the only essay in the epilogue is a study of Régis Debray’s experience of the sixties and seventies. He was an important theorist informing the protests of this era, but this fact is not discussed or explored. Instead, the essay is a sort of interesting snapshot biography of Debray, but with no attempt to discuss the larger meaning of his life and its relevance to the fifteen essays that precede this study. The reader is left wondering why this essay is in the epilogue, and why there is no conclusion essay to help us to make sense of all of the information...