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Measured Judgment? Center-left Governments and Political Protest in 1960s Europe (Wilfried Mausbach)

This article takes a fresh look at the relationship between the 1960s protest movements and the so-called «establishment», focusing on center-left governments in Europe. In light of recent research both on longer-term transformations within European societies and on the role of more conservative actors during the 1960s, it asks whether Arthur Marwick’s much-noticed appraisal of the «establishment’s» reaction to the decade’s upheavals as «measured judgment» is indeed well-founded. A closer look at two of the most contested issues of the time – education reform and the Vietnam War – finds some willingness to compromise on the part of center-left governments. The essay then substantially argues that the radicalization of the student movement was caused not so much by the «establishment’s» intransigence but by remnants of moribund mentalities that the 68ers mistook for continuously strong pillars of the system.

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