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Revolt or Consensus? Julia Kristeva in the 1990s Joan Brandt IN AN ISSUE OF MAGAZINE LITTÉRAIRE commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of May '68 in which a number of French intellectuals commented on the possibility of a re-emergence in the 1990s of that period's political radicalism, the journalist/historian Alain-Gerard Slama offered a particularly pessimistic view: ...aujourd'hui la révolution est devenue impossible. Non seulement en raison de cette atomisation de la société, mais aussi parce que ... [l]a révolte est confisquée par un pouvoir politique qui a nom: "Mr. Nobody".... En mai 68, comme sous l'Ancien Régime, l'autorité était clairement désignée: De Gaulle, les seigneurs. Les révoltes contemporaines ne sont plus que des manifestations , autorégulées à la manière des grèves de 1995 ou de 1997: l'esprit de révolte ne souffle plus sur nos sociétés.' For another contributor, however, the anthropologist Marc Auge, these very protests show that that spirit of revolt is not dead but presents, in a less violent more ritualistic fashion, opportunities for social solidarity and resistance.2 Indeed, the optimism behind Augé's suggestion that we have not yet reached what Fukuyama called the "end of history," that the recreation of social ties through "les manifs" can be a force for social change, finds its confirmation much later in an article in Le Monde diplomatique on the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Claiming that the resistance of the Seattle protestors to the phenomenon of globalization is a major "turning point," the author, Ignacio Ramonet, sees a new world emerging, in which "la demande de justice et d'égalité ... resurgit." "Il est temps d'admettre qu'un autre monde est possible. Et refonder une nouvelle économie, plus solidaire, basée sur le principe du développement durable et plaçant l'être humain au cœur des préoccupations."3 Thus, not everyone sees these recent protests as inconsequential eruptions on the periphery of society. In an age increasingly dominated by the expansion of the global market and mass communication, there seems to be a movement of resistance among some French intellectuals leading to the reaffirmation of May '68's contestatory spirit. This is particularly the case in the contribution to the Magazine littéraire by Julia Kristeva, who goes so far as to say that revolt is "la condition indispensable à la vie psychique, individuelle, et à la vie sociale..."(68). Casting a nostalgie eye toward the events of May '68, Kristeva writes: Vol. XLI, No. 1 85 L'Esprit Créateur Il y a une tendance actuelle à déconsidérer mai 68: utopie, révolte d'enfants gâtés, vite enlisée dans le safe-sex, le cocooning, le conformisme.... [Mais][s]i l'enfant, l'adolescent ne se révolte pas, il ne devient pas autonome et créatif. Une société qui s'achemine vers la globalisation, vers un libéralisme de gestionnaires technocrates qui censurent cette révolte, prépare sa propre mort."4 If a certain resistance to the forces of globalization has renewed Kristeva's interest in politics, and more specifically in the political implications of her investigations in psychoanalysis which reemerged in her writing in the early 1990s, it has also moved her discourse to the point where it has begun to take on some of the political colorations of her work in the late 1960s and 70s. In a series of works beginning with Sens et non-sens de la révolte (1996) and continuing through La Révolte intime (1997), Contre la dépression nationale (1998) and L'Avenir d'une révolte (1998), one finds traces in her writing of the old revolutionary rhetoric, for psychoanalysis comes to function as a "discours -révolte"5 whose permanent questioning and restructuring of the individual psyche provides an alternative to the "reifying" operations of a society governed by consumerism and the media image. Drawing upon Guy Debord's influential work, La Société du Spectacle, Kristeva's analysis of contemporary culture incorporates many of the arguments formulated much earlier in La Révolution du langage po...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 85-96
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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