In May 1968 there was a student-led revolution, which began initially when university students felt sexually oppressed not being able to share dorm rooms. The revolution itself was not expected, France was in an economic boom and rebuilding itself steadily after WWII. The movement had a political purpose initially; the students and workers of the left bank standing against the conservative right bank, however this gave way to a wider ideology which has been sustained.
May 1968 has been described as the first ‘post modern’ revolution, because it was fuelled by creativity, the population were rebelling against the boredom of being passive citizens. Situationist Guy Debord explained this ideology as ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, where consumerism and capitalism requires docile acceptance. The arts had a big role in the 1968 revolution; the group of artists named the situationists supported the cause of the students and the two produced collective works of art based on the slogans of the revolutions. The inclusion of the arts widened the parameters and reach of the revolution; the boundaries of the arts are not the same as that of politics. There was a notion of accessibility in this revolution, which encouraged other groups of people to be involved; at its climax, university students, the situationists and workers from everyday jobs, were fighting for change.
The 1968 revolution didn’t appear to achieve anything in the short term, it did provoke a response to explain the failure, developing new ways of thinking about society and how its structures are maintained and reinforced, creating a lasting legacy. Philosophers like Louis Althusser developed Marx’s work to move away from a model of economic determinism, to develop a more complex model where ideology shapes society by controlling what people think and limiting their ability to question pre-existing structures. Other philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, such as Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucalt, were also prompted by May 68 to develop arguments to provide a rationale for the failure of the movement to change society and new ways of thinking about how society functions at many different levels. This liberation was also seen in the cinema, with the development of the French New Wave. This technique that has been picked up by Hollywood and widely used in the film making industry was born out of the riots of May 1968. These films idealized the freedom and liberty that they were fighting for. They expressed a Marxist view of politics but decadence in cinema; they put their voices out there in its plainest form.