The Mood of the Moment

  • Thomas de Zengotita
Part of the Political Philosophy and Public Purpose book series (POPHPUPU)


This chapter evokes the atmosphere that attended the birth of French theory in Paris in the 1960s. The intensities of political action and the ambitions of political theory fed upon each other and both thought and action resorted to extremes. Thanks to the legacy of structuralism, theory was focused on “culture,” on the symbolic and the ideological—and the effect was to dramatize the undoing of the modern bourgeois subject. A collaboration between Lacan and Althusser offered a newly linguified Freud and Marx to the creators of French theory and the object of their thought became an “unconscious” that was at once psychological and social. A story of Tel Quel is told and we are introduced to the names we have been waiting for—Barthes, Foucault, Derrida—and also get a sense of the furiously competitive race for recogntion as a radical innovator that Philippe Sollers presided over as editor of that decisively influential publication. The early career of Julia Kristeva at Tel Quel sheds light on why textuality (“writing”) became the leading “power idea” of that movement. If cultural politics was to be a politics, thinkers still committed to some form of Marxism realized that language had somehow to be materialized.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas de Zengotita
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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