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The Wind from the East:
French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution, and the Legacy of the 1960s
Richard Wolin

One of Financial Times's Best Books in History for 2012
A National Public Radio ( John Wilson Favorite Book of the Year in Books & Culture for 2010

Paperback | 2012 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691154343
408 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 6 halftones.
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Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Julia Kristeva, Phillipe Sollers, and Jean-Luc Godard. During the 1960s, a who's who of French thinkers, writers, and artists, spurred by China's Cultural Revolution, were seized with a fascination for Maoism. Combining a merciless exposé of left-wing political folly and cross-cultural misunderstanding with a spirited defense of the 1960s, The Wind from the East tells the colorful story of this legendary period in France. Richard Wolin shows how French students and intellectuals, inspired by their perceptions of the Cultural Revolution, and motivated by utopian hopes, incited grassroots social movements and reinvigorated French civic and cultural life.

Wolin's riveting narrative reveals that Maoism's allure among France's best and brightest actually had little to do with a real understanding of Chinese politics. Instead, it paradoxically served as a vehicle for an emancipatory transformation of French society. French student leftists took up the trope of "cultural revolution," applying it to their criticisms of everyday life. Wolin examines how Maoism captured the imaginations of France's leading cultural figures, influencing Sartre's "perfect Maoist moment"; Foucault's conception of power; Sollers's chic, leftist intellectual journal Tel Quel; as well as Kristeva's book on Chinese women--which included a vigorous defense of foot-binding.

Recounting the cultural and political odyssey of French students and intellectuals in the 1960s, The Wind from the East illustrates how the Maoist phenomenon unexpectedly sparked a democratic political sea change in France.


"The Wind From the East must be regarded as a monument of committed scholarship. It is also a fascinating chronicle of people who, however ludicrous they may seem at times, did on occasion think and act with profound seriousness. For that reason the book is a valuable addition to the literature of the era."--David Gress, Wall Street Journal

"Wolin surveys a wide range of French intellectuals' responses to Mao's China. The best of these responses creatively appropriate the concept of cultural revolution, leading to a new libertarianism and to the embrace of causes such as gay rights, women's liberation, and prison reform; the worst of them became fatally compromised by a blind endorsement of the crimes of Chinese communism. . . . Wolin skewers irresponsible intellectual posturing in a manner reminiscent of the late Tony Judt, but reveals an underlying sympathy with the goals and ideals, if not always with the choices, of the Gauchistes. A masterful performance."--Choice

"Even as he is documenting the delusions of the sixty-eighters--often with considerable wit, and with a seemingly encyclopedic familiarity--Wolin grants credence to their skewed perception of the status quo in France and in the West more generally. Disagreements and exasperations aside, I found this book compulsively readable. The history of Sixties is a long way from being exhausted."--John Wilson, Books & Culture

"[A] fascinating and dispassionate account of one of the more curious follies of recent times."--Jeremy Jennings, Standpoint

"Wolin argues that fascination with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution reflected, not simply a taste for exoticism, but a delayed response to postwar capitalist modernisation."--Scott McLemee, The National

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Table of Contents:

Prologue ix
Introduction: The Maoist Temptation 1

Part I: The Hour of Rebellion
Chapter 1: Showdown at Bruay-en-Artois 25
Chapter 2: France during the 1960s 39
Chapter 3: May 1968: The Triumph of Libidinal Politics 70
Chapter 4: Who Were the Maoists? 109
Excursus: On the Sectarian Maoism of Alain Badiou 155

Part II: The Hour of the Intellectuals
Chapter 5: Jean-Paul Sartre's Perfect Maoist Moment 179
Chapter 6: Tel Quel in Cultural-Political Hell 233
Chapter 7: Foucault and the Maoists: Biopolitics and
Engagement 288
Chapter 8: The Impossible Heritage: From Cultural Revolution to Associational Democracy 350

Bibliography 371
Index 385

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