• Todd Gitlin. Photo: Edwin Tse

The Other 1968s: Counterrevolution, Communism, and Desublimation with Todd Gitlin

Presented by the Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley

Sociologist and cultural critic Todd Gitlin is this year’s Avenali Chair in the Humanities at UC Berkeley. Author of sixteen books, including The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, he will deliver a lecture in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the watershed political year 1968. In that year, Gitlin notes, the American left felt poised on the brink of a revolution. The same year was also, in the United States, the beginning of a massive political rollback on behalf of white supremacy and plutocratic revival, culminating decades later in the election of a virulent racist. Internationally, it was the beginning of the end for the communist movement. And it saw the opening-up of a culture of apolitical “subversion."

In writing and talking about the 1960s, Gitlin draws upon his role as a key player in the political events he covers—particularly his experience as president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and organizer of the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War. Following his involvement in SDS, Gitlin earned his PhD in sociology at UC Berkeley, where he went on to serve as a faculty member and as founding director of Berkeley’s program in mass communications. He is currently on the faculty of Columbia University. Gitlin’s books, which include three novels, examine a wide range of topics in history, politics, sociology, and communications; they include The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (1980), Letters to a Young Activist (2003), and Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (2012). A prolific journalistic writer, Gitlin has published widely in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and the Nation, and he was a regular op-ed contributor to the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He is a media commentator at BillMoyers.com and a member of the editorial board of Dissent.