Keynote: The Ambiguous Consequences of Failed Revolutions
The multiple uprisings of 1968 challenged authorities, heralding new freedoms, equalities, and solidarities, even a reconciliation between human beings and nature. As a result, many institutions were reformed, many liberations celebrated, many lives saved and changed. The wars in Southeast Asia lost momentum (though it still took many bloody years to get the U.S. to leave Vietnam). For more than a decade, other wars were averted. But many leading insurgents, grabbing hand-me-down costumes from historical closets, mistook joyously angry revolts for revolutionary situations. A panicked capitalism stabilized and regrouped around consumerist individualism. There were many confusions about what would constitute legitimate grounds of authority. A new order was powerless to be born. We live with the residues and unintended consequences-the unnerving coexistence of freer lives and nativist backlash.
Todd Gitlin, a writer, sociologist, communications scholar, and novelist, is the author of sixteen books, including Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street. He is now a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the PhD Program in communications at Columbia University. Earlier, he held positions at the University of California, Berkeley, New York University, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the American Academy in Berlin, and Yale University, among many others worldwide. In the 1960s, he was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa