In The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968, Katsiaficas suggests the first genuine revolution against “boredom”—a rejection of social conformity, stultifying work, and facile consumerism—occurred in Paris during May ’68. Yet, this event was only the most spectacular manifestation of a global conflagration. One salient example is the “May ’68 in slow motion” occurring in Italy over the period 1968–78. Both the French and Italian events spawned their own politico-theoretical legacies that reverberate to this day, especially with regard to the “politics of boredom”—the former represented here by Debord’s situationism, and the latter by Negri’s autonomism. Situationism is rooted in Hegelian Marxism and the concept of alienation, and sees boredom as a mode of subjective disaffection stemming from the capitalistic repression of “authentic” human qualities. By contrast, Negri eschews such tropes of alienation and dialectics, focuses more on “post-Fordist” conditions of production/consumption, and, taking his cue from the “ontological materialism” of nineteenth-century Italian poet and essayist Leopardi, views boredom in more complex and multifaceted terms. Accordingly, the present article concentrates on the different conditions that spawned the respective legacies of ’68 in France versus Italy as it relates to the politics of boredom.
A Tale of Two ’68s: The “Politics of Boredom” in France and Italy
Michael E. Gardiner is professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario. His most recent books are Weak Messianism: Essays in Everyday Utopianism (2013) and Boredom Studies Reader: Frameworks and Perspectives, coedited with Julian Jason Haladyn (2017).
Michael E. Gardiner; A Tale of Two ’68s: The “Politics of Boredom” in France and Italy. Cultural Politics 1 November 2019; 15 (3): 289–302. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7725437
Download citation file: