Petrovsky’s article examines the famous events of May ’68 in France from a specific angle offered by Michel de Certeau, namely, the “taking of speech” (la prise de parole). For de Certeau the taking of speech is no less important than the taking of the Bastille—it asserts the individual’s right to resistance and is a necessary precondition of all the other human rights. However, where de Certeau speaks against the anonymizing forces at work in consumer societies, the author chooses to see (and hear) the tumult of the masses. The taking of speech, therefore, is possible only when the masses are collectively engaged in action; it is the expression of action itself. In a more general sense, May ’68, the first global protest movement in postwar history, teaches us that revolutions (especially so-called color revolutions) are no simple textbook events: they are propelled by a specific kind of sociability that points to the dynamic of noninstitutional democracy itself.
Revolution without Revolution (On the Events in France)
Helen Petrovsky is head of the Department of Aesthetics at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her most recent book is Disturbance of the Sign: Culture against Transcendence (Vozmushchenie znaka: Kul’tura protiv transtsendentsii; 2019). She is also editor in chief of the theoretical and philosophical journal Sinii divan.
Helen Petrovsky; Revolution without Revolution (On the Events in France). South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2020; 119 (3): 511–520. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8601374
Download citation file: