Post-Wwii Discontent

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In this essay I will be analyzing how and why postwar prosperity led to discontent in western European societies during the 1960s. The decade following WWII was surprisingly prosperous, with many nations in a state of political and economic recovery. Material wealth seemed to be growing for the middle classes of both continents. During the 1960s a new generation of baby boomers were approaching the forefront of revolution. These college students were inspired by a combination of Marxist radicalism and anti-Authoritarianism, which led them to resist the old social structure created by their parents. There was a sudden surge of student-led protests starting in 1968, composed of young people who were morally opposed to the rigid social hierarchy of postwar Europe. They sought immediate political liberalization, and were in total defiance of the bourgeois values that had sacrificed social equality in exchange for postwar prosperity. Student disaffection and radical idealism were major catalysts for the revolutions in 1968, most evident in the restless German, French, and Italian youth. Supporters of this activism argued that the working class was corrupted by materialism and prosperity. Therefore they couldn’t rely on the middle class to engage in a class struggle, which is why younger people took it upon themselves to begin a movement. The generation of 1968 “was fired up by a potent blend of Marxist radicalism, anti-Americanism, antiestablishment rhetoric, alienation from the values of their parents, and a yearning to challenge what they viewed as a static, consumer-centered postwar society” (Hitchcock 247). In France, the need for educational reform was what caused the first demonstrations. Students in the University of Nanterre (Paris) saw their university as simply a product of bourgeois authoritarian society. There was a general sense that people were emerging without any real culture, being trained to fit into the economic system of a highly industrialized...
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