The Awakening of Political Consciousness
In the liberal democracies of the West it is not yet possible to trace the transition from the so-called sceptical or silent generation to the period of radical political thought and action with any precision. One difficulty lies in the fact that the sociologists who speak of a ‘sceptical’ or ‘silent’ generation use primarily quantitative methods which are certainly applicable to a relatively inert and inarticulate group of people, while the political or cultural historians deal with a minority which claims, on the basis of a more highly developed awareness or consciousness, to be a historically significant elite — a term which defies any measurement or precise definition. It is possible, therefore, that the sociologist who trained his eye on the majority within a ‘generation’ overlooked an elite which, as far as overt actions were concerned, was not yet visible though already in the making. French existentialism — primarily the writings of Sartre and Camus — may, in its individualistic ways, have contributed to the earliest stirrings of the later upheavals.
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