Twenty Years Later: 1968 and the West German Republic

Twenty Years Later: 1968 and the West German Republic

Jürgen Habermas, one of Germany’s most important political and philosophical thinkers, gave an interview—conducted by Rainer Erd—to the Frankfurter Rundschau last March. Though it deals with specific events in West Germany, this interview should be of much interest to American readers, who will notice both parallels and divergences from our own situation. It will be included in Jurgen Habermas, The New Conservatism: Cultural Criticism and the Historians’ Debate, edited and translated by Shierry Weber Nicholson (MIT Press, 1989). We thank Professor Habermas for permission to use this text, as well as the MIT Press.
Bracketed explanatory remarks are by the trans- lator. In a few instances we have added explanatory
footnotes. —Eds.

Eds: Professor Habermas, this spring members of my generation, now reaching forty, are looking back on a date that seemed to make relevant social change possible. In spring 1968 a movement that demanded more than social movements traditionally demand made its worldwide debut. The student movement not only advocated institutional changes, like university reform; it also advocated individual emancipation in a comprehensive sense. It declared war on classical institutions of bourgeois society such as marriage and the nuclear family as much as on the structural division between manual and mental labor.

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