These student movements tended, therefore, to be escapist. In the communes and cults of the 1960s and 1970s and the “occupations” and “autonomous zones” of more recent times, we see a familiar desire to create another world outside the grip of administration. These exaggerated rejections of the system ensured their failure by depriving themselves of the resources of rationality and argument necessary for reform. They also played into the hands of reaction, which took the childish, cultish chaos as an opportunity to reassert control.
As many theorists have recognized, these movements were frequently absorbed by popular and professional culture and provide, often by way of the media, a simulacrum of the transgression that remains comfortably within—and even actively encouraged by—the confines of the existing political, educational, and economic institutions. Any contradictions or harshness are eased by new intermediaries like self-help and self-actualization culture and human resources departments, which form an ideology that absorbs rebellious tendencies and bridges the gap between the personal and the managerial. In the end, the energy of 1968 was used to reproduce the system.
What we’ve witnessed of late is a tightening of this union between the bureaucratic logic of institutions and the pseudo-liberatory logic of affluent students and young people. This is the endpoint of the affinity between technocracy and the student movement that Adorno recognized in 1969. It helps explain why the current movement tends to accept, echo, and appeal to the general logic of the administrative power structure, rather than genuinely criticizing or resisting it. As Adorno put it, “The prominent personalities of protest are virtuosos in rule of order and formal procedures. The sworn enemies of the institutions particularly like to demand the institutionalization of one thing or another.”
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor