Kristin Ross’ Rancièrean Anti-Sociology in May ‘68 and its Afterlives: A Critical Reading


March 9, Wednesday, 18:00

Amongst the studies on the memory of May ‘68, Kristin Ross’ work, May ‘68 and its Afterlives stands out as a unique approach as it strives to recapture the political significance of the events of May against their subsequent de-politicized interpretations. She addresses sociological accounts, along with the testimonies of ex-gauchistes, as major narrative forms through which such discursive de-politicization occurs. This talk specifically addresses her critique of sociology and critically deals with the Rancièrean theoretical framework that grounds her opposition between sociology (of May ‘68) and politics (of May ‘68). It argues that her opposition maps Jacque Rancière’s distinction between ‘politics’ and the ‘police’ onto the opposition between the inherently political nature of May ‘68 and sociology’s subsequent interpretive ‘policing’. On the one side, this paper argues, there is the presumption of a ‘sublime’ form of politics that resists any kind of social-scientific enquiry. On the other side, there are the de-politicized (‘policing’) sociological narratives that allegedly rise either upon 1) ‘structural-functionalism’ that strictly associates the movement with the demands of university youth or 2) ‘teleology’ of capitalist modernization that posits the events as part of France’s cultural moment of (re)adjustment in the service of Capital. Critically addressing the short-comings of such a purified opposition, this talk introduces the sociological accounts on ‘recuperation’, i.e., co-optation of May ‘68 to capitalism, as a rejoinder to her strict anti-sociology in order to deal with one prominent question that interests her throughout the book: How did May ‘68 come to signify a ‘cultural’ moment in the service of capitalism in the first place?