May 08, 2008

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Posted May 8, 2008

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Julian Bourg, assistant professor of history at Bucknell University, has received the 2008 Morris D. Forkosch book prize.

The prize, which recognizes the best first book published in intellectual history, is given by the Board of Editors of the Journal of the History of Ideas.

Bourg's book, From Revolution To Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought, was chosen from more than 30 submissions published in 2007.

"The members of the prize committee were most impressed by the depth, breadth and analytical nuance of Dr. Bourg's book," according to Martin Burke, executive editor of the Journal of the History of Ideas.

Shift in French thought
The French revolts of May 1968, the largest general strike in 20th-century Europe, were among the most famous and colorful episodes of the last century, according to Bourg.

"This book argues that during the subsequent decade, the liberational sensibility of the revolts led to a remarkable paradigm shift in French thought – the concern for revolution in the 1960s was transformed into a widespread ethical fascination among French intellectuals and activists.

"During the 1970s, the theme of ethics became increasingly and explicitly central for controversies about interpersonal relationships (especially in matters of sex and desire); institutions (universities, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals); politics (with respect to violence, the law, and the state); and an emergent humanitarian sensibility still palpable today," said Bourg.

An initial chapter surveys the events of May–June 1968 themselves and how they have been interpreted in France over the past 40 years. Four case studies are then examined in detail: student Maoists courting terrorism but giving birth to direct democratic militancy around prisons; the origins and problematics of a signature text of the anti-psychiatry movement, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's Anti-Oedipus; conflicts between men and women over the meanings of sexual liberation and the limits of desire; and the media phenomenon of the New Philosophers who popularized moral and ethical stances. A final chapter presents the explosion of interest in the theme of ethics after the ethical turn had transpired by the late 1970s and early 1980s, notably in the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault. The study concludes with a critique of prototypical "left" and "right" interpretations of the 1960s as well as with a meditation on the uniquely French versions of associations and institutions.

Editor, translator, author
Bourg, who joined the Bucknell faculty in 2005, previously taught at Bryn Mawr College and served as a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He holds his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

He is the editor of After the Deluge: New Perspectives on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Postwar France (2004), translator of Claude Lefort, Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy (2007), and author of articles which have appeared The Journal of the History of Ideas, The Modern Schoolman, Actuel Marx, and French Cultural Studies.
At Bucknell, Bourg teaches classes in modern intellectual and cultural history on topics ranging from terrorism to film to the history of liberalism and conservativism.

Contact: Division of Communications