Plastic People of the Universe (1970s)
Solzhenitsyn – Gulag Archipelago, published early 1974. Single most consequential political text of
20 century. Soviet communism seemed thoroughly discrecited
So, a new breed of French intellectual arose. (Old intellectuals included Simone de Beauvoir and
Sartre, Marxist and existentialist). But, revelations of Soviet crimes, dissolution of Hungarian
uprising and Prague Spring, by 1970s even the New Left looking rather old.
BHL – BernardHenri Levy. Barbarism with a Human Face. New philosopher.
These new philosophers took up a discourse very similar to conservative discourse of Cold War,
condemning Soviet Union. A rightward turn. Turn away from grand social theories and social
movements, particularly Marxist discourse of class, toward new discourse of rights.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN, 1948. Desire to transcend politics.
Helsinki Accords in 1975 – basic human rights principles in The Helsinki Decalogue.
Drift toward the center.
Part of economic downturn? After shock of oil crisis, Western capitalist nations saw period of
reconsolidation, end of liberal area, fragmentation of Keynesian consensus.
Rise of Thatcherism.
Ironically, time when very charismatic French socialist Francois Mitterand came to power in France,
bringing socialism to head of state in France.
Also ironically, in Eastern Europe, at same time that Western Europe was seemingly shrinking in
political possibilities, political possibilities were opening up, at least underground, in Eastern
Europe. Dissident movements grew. Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov (Nobel Peace Prize, 1975)
became new voice for dissidence.
British conservatives had not been charismatic or modern, but old Tories were evolving. First sign
of political alignment came with election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Really did represent a kind
of conservative revolution – conservative alliance across the pond between Thatcher and Ronald
Reagan. Movement to privatize British industry, the need to tame inflation. There has been a
softening of her figure in recent years with movies, but she was very controversial in Britain – her
movement to privatize industry and streamline govt also involved an assault on power of labor
unions. Some think that the state should be nothing more than a streamlined framework for private
interests to amass profit and enrich the market for the benefit of all; that ideology helps to explain
what was perhaps Thatcher’s most famous remark – “There is no such thing as society” – they are
individuals. Old leftist ideal that there is a social realm where classes clash is not something
Thatcher wished to support. She wanted to break ties holding working