Worthiness replaces judgment: ‘The ’60s Without Apology’ (12/84)

The 60s Without Apology, eds. Sohnya Sayres, Anders Stephanson, Stanley Aronowitz, and Fredric Jameson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota/SocialText), 391 pp., 30 black and white illustrations.

This book means to counter the dismissal of the ’60s now implicit in almost all mainstream American political and cultural discourse. Neither that project nor a definition of “the ’60s” as “merely the name we give to a disruption of late-capitalist ideological and political hegemony… of the bourgeois dream of unproblematic production… of the end of history” need apology. But this segmented grab bag (here’s the feminist, here’s the rock writer, here’s the black writer) does. A project needs a point of view; an anthology needs an editor, not four. When worthiness replaces judgment (all too ’60s, I can’t help saying), the results are such atrocities as an endless ramble by Flo Kennedy (who is beyond apology), or a 30-page treatise on French Maoism—the ultimate ’60s pseudomovement. (Its principal issue, the “New Philosophers,” was an international joke that ranks with the Pet Rock.) In this context, Jameson’s essay, “Periodizing the ’60s,” comes off as a masterpiece—it may be the only bit of original thinking here. Arriving in tandem with the 20th anniversary of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, to which Without Apology contains only a few random references, the book is pathetic. Read Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1969), Emmett Grogan’s Ringolevio (1972), and Seymour Martin Lipset and Sheldon Wolin’s The Berkeley Student Revolt (1965) instead.

Artforum, December 1984

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