John R. Searle, The Campus War, 1971.



So much has been written about the young, "the now generation," "the generation gap," "post-modern youth," "the second American revolution," "the counter-culture" (one should be suspicious of these question-begging phrases) that one hesitates to say anything for fear that the sheer volume of stuff on the topic must surely have exhausted whatever one has to say, if only by random distribution of sentences. One can hardly hope for originality, but one might increase understanding by focusing on the question of what features of today's university students account for the various phenomena of student revolts. Most of this chapter will be devoted not to discussing the great majority of students but those students -- and nonstudents -- who describe themselves as "radicals" or "revolutionaries." . [40]

At the very outset one must point out that the relationship of many students to their universities is vastly different today from what it was twenty or even ten years ago. I can recall a time when going to a university for even middle-class white high school graduates was something of a privilege. One groused about one's college and resented the petty rules and big homework assignments, but one was glad to be there all the same. One even felt -- though I hesitate now to use the word -- grateful. There are many, perhaps millions, of college students who feel this way still, but there has been a tidal wave of students who do not regard attending the university as a privilege. Indeed, it would be misleading to say they regard it as a right; rather it is not an option or a matter of choice at all. They are in the university because there is simply nowhere else to go. For literally millions, the university has ceased to be a voluntary institution. From being voluntary members of a limited-purpose community of scholars, they have become compulsory members of what they regard as a campus city-state.

There are several reasons for the increasingly compulsory character of higher education in the United States. Most dramatic is the draft; under the old draft law one could avoid military service by simply staying in the university until one was twenty-six years old. A more pervasive reason still has been the growing tacit assumption that a university degree is a sine qua non for any kind of decent job or even any form of dignified existence. In spite of the fact that universities are specialized institutions, specialized in the way that hospitals or industrial corporations are specialized, we have made the attainment of a university degree a general requirement for full middle-class membership in society. From a system of mass higher education, we are drifting into a situation approaching universal higher education. Related to this [41] is the spreading assumption that going to college is a normal part of growing up. For the prosperous middle classes, it is a way everyone has to spend part of his life, a period that one goes through. There needn't be any special reason one goes to college; it is just taken for granted that one goes through this phase in life.


All these reasons are common and obvious enough, but there is yet another that I think may be the most important of all. With the declining economic pressure to go out and have a money-making career, the world outside the university has come to seem ugly and unattractive, a wasteland without opportunities for a satisfying life. Whatever reasons one may have had for getting into the university in the first place, once in, one stays in because anywhere else is just too awful to contemplate. Thus, a subtle but revolutionary change takes place in the attitude of the student to the university: it is no longer a transition phase that one passes through on the way to and as a means of achieving some other goal; it is itself the terminus, the place where one lives, one's home. As one radical graduate student told me, he expects to be a graduate student for at least a dozen years -- not because he needs a dozen years to complete his work, but simply because he likes being a graduate student better than anything else he can think of. As befits a generation brought up to expect instant gratification, there need be no outside goal beyond the university at all, no plans about what one will be doing at age forty or fifty. For earlier generations, the university was a railroad train that took you from the city of your childhood to the city of your adult life. Now, for many, it is the city of one's indefinite [42] post-adolescence; and that at a time when post-adolescence, the period of one's twenties, is the most socially admired phase of life. The upshot is the kind of student quoted by Kingman Brewster, the president of Yale: "Like man don't give me that stuff about how I am here to learn. I am here because I have to be here. So if I have to be here against my will, why shouldn't I have a say in running the place?"1 Such students feel an ambivalent attitude toward the university, and their ambivalence helps to account for their unpredictability.

The university is a compulsory homeland not only for many undergraduates, but also for many members of two apparently quite different groups: the drop-outs and the graduate students. Around most of our large urban residential universities there has grown up a nonstudent community of young people who are not enrolled in the university but nonetheless treat the campus area as their home. They may be drop-outs, recent graduates, or drifters from all over the country. They will eagerly tell you how awful the university is, how much they hate it for its corruption and/or irrelevance, but they gravitate to it like bears to honey. Vaguely and not very adequately described as "hippies" or "the street people," they hang around the campus, eating in its cafeterias, chatting ("rapping") in its coffee shops, and attending its movies; mostly they lounge around the university doing nothing. In it, but not of it, they make ideal recruits against it.

At first sight, the graduate students would appear to be their very opposites. Solidly locked into academia, somewhere along a ladder of qualifying exams, teaching assistantships, and orals, they would appear to be the very picture of industrious scholarship. And for many this is indeed an accurate description. But since the Second [43] World War there has been, along with the tremendous increase in the number of graduate students, a corresponding increase in what we might call the unprofessionally oriented graduate student. Especially in the great graduate departments of the social sciences and the humanities -- political science, English, comparative literature, sociology, and philosophy -- there has been a large growth in the number of students who are not seriously interested in the professional careers for which they are ostensibly being trained. What the Marxists would call a contradiction has arisen between the faculty's conception of graduate instruction as a professionally qualifying training in some intellectual discipline, culminating in an original piece of scholarly research in the form of a dissertation, and the attitudes of a fairly sizable number of graduate students in these disciplines who do not have the professional competence, commitment, aspiration, or Sitzfleisch to fulfill the faculty's requirements.

If they are not committed to the theory of graduate instruction as professional training, what, then, are they doing in graduate school? It is no exaggeration to say they can't really think of anything else to do, there is nowhere else to go. For many of them to leave the university is to face the horror of the draft, for nearly all business is unthinkable, for most the war in Vietnam has utterly discredited government service. What is an intelligent young man of generally intellectual interests, but no fixed professional or career orientation, and no passion for any particular academic endeavor, to do after he gets his BA from a good state or Ivy League university? The chances are he will go on to do graduate work in the subject he chose, more or less by accident, to major in during his junior year as an undergraduate. Supported by generous parents or, more likely, able to scrape along on the variety of financial aids available to graduate students in the form of teaching [44] assistantships, graduate fellowships, grants, loans, and working wives, he will be a graduate student for several years of his life, at the end of which he may or may not get a PhD degree. Not only do many of these people not share the faculty's commitment to research in a professional discipline, they actually resent it. In the face of an unjust world it seems immoral that the faculty member should be dedicating his life to work on problems of analytic philosophy or literary criticism. Their "alienation" from their professional training has, in recent years, been increased by the knowledge that there probably will not be enough jobs for them even if they do complete their studies.

These people, then, the compulsory undergraduate, the social drop-out, and the unprofessional graduate student, are all in the university community without accepting its fundamental theory or goals; but they still regard it as their home, their turf. Even though they like and enjoy many features of the community, these feelings do not inspire loyalty to the official university, because the features they like they regard as standing in opposition to the official university. In fact, they would like to change the official university drastically to fit their image of the sort of home they would like to live in. One common trait afflicts all three groups -- an empty sense of their own aimlessness. And the radical subculture stands ready to fill that emptiness. Out of such materials do we create the student and nonstudent crowd. Like the Roman proletariat it can be sullen and suspicious, alienated and disaffected. It is ready to believe the worst of THEM, for they are out to get US. Also, like the Roman proletariat, or like the crowds of loungers one sees on the streets of Alexandria and Port Said, they find great strength in their numbers, and they are readily mobilized. [45]


As recently as the mid-1960's, one could fairly conveniently divide student life in Berkeley and other major American universities into the following five subcultures.2 These divisions are intended to be only rough categories and perhaps only a very few students even then would have constituted pure examples of these ideal types. Still it is useful to have these caricatures if only to see the extremes around which student life tended, and to a degree still tends, to cluster.

First, there is a fraternity-sorority culture. By this label, I do not mean to imply that all the members of this subculture are in fraternities and sororities, but rather that there is a traditional mode of undergraduate life in America of which the Greek letter organizations are the most prominent exemplars. Their style of student life, which had long been regarded as the characteristic or dominant mode of undergraduate existence in America, centers around athletic events, beer parties, conformity to very restrictive group norms of dress and behavior, and above all adolescent sexuality carried to a pitch of frenzy. Until quite recently, this culture was indeed dominant, at least in the sense that the others were responding to it and not it to them. One had either to like or dislike it; it could not be simply ignored, at least not by undergraduates. Even where small in numbers it could often set the tone and style of student life, in much the same way that very small numbers of students from aristocratic families set [46] the tone and social style of life at certain Oxford colleges. But now at the better universities it is very much on the defensive and possibly even dying. Bright clean-cut sorority girls are now often ashamed of being just bright clean-cut sorority girls; they feel guilty about it; and old abandoned fraternity and sorority houses are one of the few real estate bargains available in college towns today. I have hated this style of undergraduate life for so long that the thought that it might actually disappear forever is terribly depressing. As one of the many features in the present grim Europeanization of American life, our universities may be going through the same changes that saw the decline of the old duelling and drinking societies in the German universities and the destruction of the old carefree student associations of the French universities in the First World War.3

Second, there is a professional culture for whose members the university is a means to a professional end. This culture embraces most of the students in medicine, law, forestry, dentistry, engineering, and business or public administration, as well as many graduate students in other disciplines, especially in the applied sciences. The defining trait of this group is that its members regard the university as a qualifying agency that will train them to pursue an already chosen career. They tend to know where they are going in life, and until the late 60's they were not active in campus revolts. Studies of the composition of student activist groups show that very few activists are enrolled in professionally oriented subjects. The most striking recent exception is the law schools, where in the late 60's many activists enrolled, thus dramatically [47] changing the character of student life and values in several American law schools.

Third, there is an intellectual culture of students who see knowledge and understanding as ends in themselves and tend to regard their success in the university in terms of their own intellectual development. Many of these students aspire to academic careers. They make up a sizable portion of the graduate students in humanities and the social sciences, including many of those who are not professionally oriented, as described in the last section. In fact, they often find that the professionalism and specialization of the modern university conflict with the general and humanistic outlook that they have on intellectual life. These students are a joy to teach, but the pressure of events both on and off the campus has made their position extremely difficult. One even finds them apologizing for the socially irrelevant character of their intellectual interests, and unfortunately, many of them have been sucked into radical activity with consequences that sometimes range from the comical to the disastrous.

Fourth, there is a bohemian element which, for want of a better word, I shall call the hippie culture. This culture is based on experimentalism and conscientious nonconformity in matters of drugs, sex, art forms -- especially, electric music -- clothing, personal relationships, and states of consciousness of all kinds. Marijuana has come to play a central role in the "life style" of this culture, and a temporary drying up of the sources of supply is regarded as a major cultural calamity. Most of the members of this subculture are not actually enrolled as students. Being a full-time student simply involves more work and more psychic cost than a full-time hippie can afford to expend; or alternatively, one might say being a full-time hippie is too time-consuming to permit being a student. Another point that requires emphasis is that the hippie culture is [48] not identical with nor necessarily a part of the radical culture. Hippies share with radicals a profound sense of alienation and hostility to the life style of the bourgeois industrial democracies of the West, but hippies do not share the goals and life style of the radicals. For one thing, the radicals are too "uptight," a state than which for the hippies nothing could be worse.

Beginning about 1967 several radical leaders began a concerted long-range campaign to enroll the hippie culture into the Movement. The "Yippie" movement, led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin was part of this strategy, and Rubin even altered his personal style to project more of a hippie image and less of a conventional revolutionary image of the sort he had in 1965 and 1966. These efforts have had only short-run successes, as when the hippies participated in spectacular forms of demonstration and direct action, such as the People's Park battles in Berkeley. In general, if the radicals are willing to organize a demonstration, the hippies are happy to participate, they make ready recruits; but the hippies are hopeless at organizing politically significant manifestations of their own, and when the radical fireworks are over they tend to retreat back into their private Nirvanas. Radical leaders see in them a great untapped reservoir of alienated manpower, but though easily mobilized in the short run, they are hard to maintain in that state of perpetual outrage that characterizes the true militant. Because of the shared alienation and overlapping membership of hippies and radicals, I shall sometimes use the current jargon to refer to both cultures as "the youth culture."

The saddest feature of the hippie existence is its uncreative quality. If you believe, as I do, that it is impossible to be fully happy or even fully human without engaging in some meaningful creative work, then the sight of the hippies in San Francisco, Berkeley, and the East [49] Village -- kindly, sweet and rather sad, conscientiously doing nothing day after day -- becomes in the end pathetic and pitiful. Their importance for our present study is that they provide recruits, shock troops, infantry, for demonstrations organized by the radicals; and they provide another cultural option for students generally. A student can drop out of the university into the hippie culture, or he can slum into it at weekend pot parties and during his vacations. It provides a cultural option that stands in opposition to the official cultures of the larger society, and in that sense it is more than just one more choice available in the cafeteria of life styles presented by the large university; it is an oppositional culture, one which opposes rather than supplements.

Fifth, there is an activist political culture, which in view of the dominance of the radical point of view, we may as well call the radical culture. I shall have more to say about its characteristics in a moment, but for present purposes, the two most salient traits of the radical movement are its anti-intellectualism and its hostility to the university as an institution. It is not just another style of student life which university authorities can readily come to terms with; for it is opposed in theory to the traditional humanist ideal of knowledge and understanding as valuable in themselves, as improving the quality of human life by their very existence; and it is opposed in practice to the present organization, curriculum, governance, and functions of the modern university. But notice, although the members of the radical culture oppose the corruption of the traditional university ideal by the "service station for society" model of the university, they do not oppose it because they wish a return to the traditional humanist ideal, but because they want the university to be the service station for the radical movement.

Two remarkable changes have occurred in the relationships [50] of these various subcultures to each other in the past few years. First, various features of the hippie "life style" -- notably the wild clothes, long hair, beards, marijuana and other chemical preparations, and rock music -- spread throughout the other subcultures and are now so widespread that they no longer serve to mark off the hippies as a distinct group. Second, beginning with the successes of the Civil Rights movement and continuing through the 1960's in many if not most of our best universities, the growing radical movement became the dominant subculture. Its members took control of student newspapers and won student elections; they took over the student governments and became the acknowledged student leaders. Whereas once the other subcultures had ignored the tiny minority of radicals or regarded them with condescending contempt, as was the attitude of the fraternity-sorority group, in the late 60's the growing radical movement came to inspire respect and a sense of guilt that one was not as idealistic or as committed as the radicals.

The most striking manifestations of group feelings of guilt among middle-class white students in the late 60's were triggered by the presence of black militants on the campus. In these years colleges increased their "minority group" enrollments by an enormous factor -- that is, they increased the enrollment from almost nothing to at least something -- thus bringing on the campus enough black students to create a small but often cohesive black subculture. This subculture was dominated by its most militant and intransigent element, and the alliances formed between white radicals and black militants often proved very effective in those years. Because many middle-class white students felt so guilty about the racial injustice in the United States, they found it psychologically impossible to criticize, much less actively oppose, the views and strategies of the black militants, no matter how evil or irrational [51] those views and actions may sometimes have seemed.

Right-wingers off the campus often mistakenly suppose that the radical subculture consists of a more or less stable and fixed population which "creates all the trouble." This then engenders a conviction that if we could locate these elements, we could "kick 'em out of school" and prevent their augmentation by new admission, and thus, we could "solve the problem." The reply to these proposals is not only that they are immoral and illegal, but, worse yet, that they are unintelligent and rest on wrong assumptions. A more accurate picture is this: the distribution of radical convictions and a willingness to engage in violent action on their behalf is like a series of concentric circles. At the center are the most dedicated, idealistic, cynical, and self-sacrificing militants. Surrounding them are larger circles decreasing in their commitment to the radical movement as they depart from the center. The number of people who will become actively involved in any particular demonstration is not fixed by some antecedent commitment the participants have, but depends on the issues involved, the way the conflict is structured, and most importantly as we saw in Chapter 1, the quality of the authorities' response to the crisis. In the Peoples' Park war in Berkeley, a referendum held by the student government, after the National Guard had tear-gassed the campus and a non-student had been shot to death by the police, resulted in an over 80 percent majority for the radical position in the largest voter turnout in campus history. This is not because 80 percent of the students are radicals, but because the actions of the police and the National Guard had so discredited all authority that opposition to the university administration seemed to be the only appropriate response.

It is simply not the case, as many people suppose, that students divide neatly into radicals on the one hand and [52] "the silent majority" on the other. Nor is it the case that students only demonstrate when they have actually become convinced of the radical point of view or been taken in by radical rhetoric. Many students who are in no sense radicals join, often halfheartedly in the first instance, in radical political activities. The participation is as much likely to generate subsequent commitment as commitment is likely to generate participation; that is, a student sometimes finds himself engaged in demonstrations almost by accident, and subsequently develops a theoretical commitment to the radical outlook. Many factors are at work in this conversion -- the joys of participating in something "meaningful," the investment of oneself that comes from personally risky behavior, the sense of community that one finds in the adversary role with the authorities -- but one of the most important is peer-group pressure both in inducing and sustaining conformity to the new morality. The young man who first picks up a rock and throws it at a policeman, for reasons he is not quite sure about himself, has performed an act that commits him in ways he was not committed before. That commitment will be reinforced and sustained by the pressures of the group.

The process by which a student moves from one of the other subcultures into one of the inner circles of commitment is known as radicalization. It is akin to a religious conversion, and like a religious conversion varies greatly in the permanence of the newly acquired state. A typical case of radicalization was described by one of the witnesses in the Chicago trial. She was, she said, a liberal before the Chicago Convention, but the experience of the events there, and especially her observations of the police had turned her into a "revolutionary"; she no longer believed that society could be regenerated through the traditional methods and she now believed radical change was necessary. [53]


One of the most striking contrasts between the present radical student movement and earlier radical student groups, such as the Communist group of the 30's, lies in the difference of organizational and leadership style. Rejecting the Leninist model of a disciplined, self-perpetuating, tightly organized, hierarchical party structure of professional revolutionaries, today's young radicals, with exceptions to be discussed in a moment, strive for an ideal of "participatory democracy," a system in which organizations have very little organization, party discipline is nonexistent, leaders don't lead, and organized groups have only a temporary existence. This was true even in the early days of student revolt. The Free Speech Movement, for example, was formed in the fall of 1964 and deliberately dissolved the following spring. During its brief existence, it grew to immense power, but it never had a president or a secretary or a membership list. Decisions were either taken at mass meetings, by a vote of whoever showed up, or more commonly by a twelve-man steering committee, some of whose members were elected by various campus groups, but some of whom were just self-selected, or co-opted by the others. Similarly, the Vietnam Day Committee, formed in the spring of 1965, lasted only about a year and a half, during which it is said to have made and spent over a quarter of a million dollars; at one time it had eleven full-time employees, occupied a large house as its headquarters, and held marches and demonstrations attracting many thousands of participants. But it too was quickly dissolved as soon as it ceased to be vital, useful, and interesting. Major decisions were supposedly made at mass meetings to which anyone could go. One consequence of this was that on close questions the [54] same decision sometimes had to be made four or five times at separate meetings before the issue was regarded as settled.

The most extreme case of organizational phobia occurred in Paris in May 1968, where the members of the committee in charge of administering the occupied Sorbonne were elected for terms lasting exactly twenty-four hours. I believe this must be both a Paris and French national record for revolutionary organizations. Even the members of the Committee of Public Safety in 1793 were elected by the Convention for terms lasting a month.

An apparent exception to this pattern is the SDS, which is a national organization and has persisted for several years. But even SDS is something of an organizational shambles, and the national organization has no control and sometimes very little influence over the campus groups. There are three more serious kinds of exceptions. First, Old Left styles of organization persist in groups supporting, for example, Trotskyite or Maoist ideologies. Secondly, several student activist groups such as the National Student Association, as well as newer political groups, maintain the old organizational style. I do not consider these to be radical groups, even though some of them attract many radicals. And third, the small terrorist groups, the "affinity groups" such as the Weathermen appear to maintain a tight cohesiveness. It is difficult to get reliable information about them, but they appear to be more like small slum gangs or motorcycle gangs. They are exclusive bands of zealots, not large social organizations.

Unquestionably, the loose organization style of the New Left is immensely appealing and is one of the reasons for the successes the student movement has had. For a generation that grew up hating all bureaucratic authoritarian structures, and feeling trapped in archaic organizational forms, it is a genuine expression of the desires for participation [55] and escape from authority. Nonetheless, the appearance of participation and equality is largely illusory. In every such organization that I have ever been involved with, either as member, ally, or adversary, effective control was exercised by a small group who had the ability, and more importantly the dedication and patience, to get and maintain control of the organization. In short, the usual Michelsian principle operates in participatory democracies as it does elsewhere, and it is hard to see how it could be otherwise, since in general without some group to run it, the organization would simply collapse.

The main condition necessary to becoming one of the leading members is the patience to work at it all the time. If one goes to all the meetings, and takes part hour after hour, meeting after meeting, one eventually rises toward the top. Usually the symbolic leader, as selected by TV, is only one -- and not always the most influential one -- of several who control the organization. The main differences in leadership style between the New Left organization and other more traditional organizations, such as those having elected officials, is that in the New Left the ruling elite tends to be self-selected and therefore less responsible to the membership (indeed, such words as "responsible" and "membership" are the wrong vocabulary altogether for discussing this organizational style), and the mode of operation has to be more manipulatory and less overt than in traditional authority structures. Since leaders are forbidden to lead, they have to manipulate to get anything done. Especially the "mass meetings" where the will of the people is supposedly spontaneously expressed are usually, and obviously, heavily influenced by whoever is in charge. Somebody or some group has to organize the meeting, reserve the room or the rally area, decide the agenda, select the speakers, take the chair, and [56] make many of the speeches. Not surprisingly, they can usually determine the outcome.

Another consequence of this leadership style is that the group as a whole tends to be more militant than, and to the left of, the center of gravity of its individual members and followers. This is both because the self-selection process which produces the leaders naturally selects the most militant rather than the most representative, as might be selected by popular elections; and because when decisions are made in large meetings, with lots of passionate speeches, applause, booing, and generally emotional goings-on, the most militant views tend to prevail. One might suppose that the membership would eventually get fed up with this sort of thing, but in general they don't, because they are united by their opposition to the adversary -- usually the university authorities -- and they are genuinely, if sometimes mistakenly, convinced that they are participating in something important and noble.

Just as there has been a shift away from the organizational rigidity of previous revolutionary movements, so there has been a similar reaction against ideological rigidity; and we have, in a sense, come full circle back to the utopian socialists. For about a century Marx convinced people that radical movements require a scientific theory of society and of historical change, that building a revolutionary movement on moral indignation alone without an underlying metaphysical view was naive, unscientific, utopian, and rather childish. But in the middle and even into the late 60's it was classical Marxist dogma that was regarded as square, and an attempt was made to build a revolutionary movement on successive waves of moral indignation, without any coherent theory of society or of revolution. Several writers, notably Marcuse, tried to provide such a theory of contemporary society, but their importance to the movement, especially in the United [57] States, is overestimated in the usual journalistic accounts. Marcuse is read and discussed more in Paris than in Berkeley or San Diego. Nevertheless, in the late 60's one began to see more interest in developing coherent theoretical accounts of society on which to base revolutionary action. Especially was there an increased interest in the writings of Marx. I think this trend will continue in the 70's. There is an inherent instability in the enormous lag between the size, energy, and vitality of the radical movement on the one hand and the flimsiness and amateurishness of its intellectual underpinnings and expressions on the other. Underground rags like the Berkeley Barb or Berkeley Tribe are amusing but not sustaining, and the political tracts, though more pretentious, are still rather weak. This gap can hardly last, if only because so many intellectuals are being radicalized and will find the low level of existing literature unsatisfactory.

A related and perhaps also temporary feature of the movement is its anti-intellectual style. Intellectuals by definition are people who take ideas seriously for their own sake. Whether or not a theory is true or false is important to them independently of any practical applications it may have. They have, as Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, an attitude to ideas that is at once playful and pious. But in the radical movement, the intellectual ideal of knowledge for its own sake is rejected. Knowledge is seen as valuable only as a basis for action, and it is not even very valuable there. Far more important than what one knows is how one feels. We have had in this movement a politics of feeling and not a politics of reason. Books which emphasize feeling, such as R. D. Laing's The Politics of Experience, and N. O. Brown's Love's Body appear to be more influential than conventional revolutionary tracts.

Much of the criticism of the traditional curriculum of [58] the university as not "relevant" is based on the conviction that the traditional goal of research as expanding man's understanding must be rejected in favor of the view that the goal of the university should be social reform, and knowledge should be geared to that end. Thus, for example, the crime of Jensen, the psychologist who did research on possible empirical correlations between native intellectual ability and racial type, was that he regarded the question as a factual and empirical issue, something that it was interesting to study, whereas the radical answer to the question is already determined a priori by an overriding social aim.


It is now time to explain and justify my claim that contemporary student radicalism can only be fully understood if one invokes categories that go beyond the normal political categories of American history. I have suggested that student radicalism is more akin to those "political" phenomena which have had a quasi-religious character, which have embodied styles and goals and holistic approaches to political problems that transcend the rather limited political (economic, organizational, pragmatic) aims of, say, the Republican or Democratic parties, or for that matter American trade unions and business organizations. I intend the claim as more than a metaphor, and it is now time to cash the metaphor.

The religious character of the student movement was first brought home to me after the FSM, when many of its veterans wanted to continue the style of the movement after the issues had been resolved and even after the organization had been disbanded. They did not see the FSM as a limited political organization seeking free [59] speech, as was stated in its platform; they saw in it the possibility of a whole new attitude to life. This religious quality was further brought home to me in the liturgical style and ritualistic character of many of the great demonstrations, especially in the great night march of October 1965 when we launched 14,000 of the faithful into the dark streets of south Berkeley in a solemn procession that recalled the great night marches of La Semana Santa in Spain. The liturgical style was perhaps most visible in the Vietnam moratoria of 1969, with their candlelight processions and solemn gripping roll call of the dead, an alphabetical litany, a ritual exorcism of the devil of the establishment. Most of all it was brought home to me in the arguments and debates, both public and private, that I had with radical student leaders -- friends, enemies, and complete strangers -- in the months and years after the FSM. They did not use, nor did they respond to, the rhetoric of political effectiveness. On the contrary, effectiveness be damned, what they offered their audiences and what they wanted for themselves was a whole new set of values and a new way of life. Their rhetorical style was not one of saying, "Here is our platform and here is how we intend to achieve our objectives," but rather in effect of saying, "Here is our style and it is itself the objective, for it offers you meaning, fulfillment, and community, a chance, in short, to find yourself and a meaning in your life, a chance to avoid the hideous and bankrupt materialism of the world around you." Their style revealed what is perhaps the most important of that family of traits that go to make up our concept of the religious: a sense of the sacred and of the difference between what is sacred and what is not sacred.4 [60]

There are several other traits of the radical movement, which -- though none of them singly would justify characterizing it as "religious" -- taken together incline me to assimilate student radicalism to more of a religious than simply a political paradigm. First, like most religious truth, radical truth is revealed to the elect; it is not available to superficial inspection, but requires overcoming the deception of appearance. The forces of evil conspire to conceal the real truth, and radicalization is the process whereby the veil of illusion that has been woven by the establishment is torn from one's eyes, and one sees how the world really is. For example, around you is the university; it appears to contain professors and students engaged in teaching and learning and research, but this is all a sham and an illusion. In reality the students are being conditioned by the evil men who run the university to take their places as passive cogs in corrupt and conformist society; and the research is not pursued to improve life or discover new knowledge, its purpose is to propagate evil and profit the rich and wicked businessmen who really control the university. In a document published by the Radical Student Union, exposing the nefarious activities of the University of California, we hear of the difficulties of discovering the "truth." "The university and its cynical patrons are sophisticated at covering their tracks and thereby maintaining what remains of the university's cherished mask of autonomy and disinterested inquiry."5 But in spite of this deception the revelations finally emerge:

The conclusion of [this] report is that the university has been subverted from within and from without to inhuman [61] ends and that either society must be fundamentally rearranged with an upheaval, at least, in values, or the university must be closed and research withheld.
It is a hard choice: either we must fundamentally rearrange society and have an upheaval in values or we must shut the place down. Overwhelmed by the depth of their own insight, the authors of the report conclude: "We are Jonahs inside the great white whale of American iniquity." Well, it is obviously a hard life inside that great white whale, but it does have some compensations: among them are the pleasures of writing this sort of hellfire and damnation prose, and, more importantly, the satisfaction of seeing beyond the sham of appearance to discern the reality hidden behind it. There is no way to refute or rebut such revelations, because no argument was offered in the first place. Evidence and comparative study are really quite irrelevant. In the present case, there is indeed a serious question as to the intellectual and moral justifiability of the proliferation of federally financed university research projects. Any assessment would require close empirical study, but the truth-by-revelation approach of many radical publicists has no bearing on any such critical evaluation.

Another quasi-religious feature of the movement that is related to the revelatory theory of the truth is the unhistorical quality of its rhetoric; both the evils it condemns and the revolution it promises are regarded as outside ordinary historical processes. I frequently ask radicals, after they have delivered the usual diatribe against the United States (or France or England), what countries they think are exempt from the criticisms they make of their own country; where should we look to see how to run a country so that we can cure the injustices they so much condemn? And as a variation of this question, which [62] periods in history do they regard as superior to their own civilization? Where should we look for historical models of the ideal? The Renaissance? Ancient Greece? What? They are almost invariably stumped by these questions. The idea that the total moral assessment of a nation or a form of civilization might be a historical assessment, based on comparing it with other nations or civilizations, is simply foreign to their whole approach. Their approach, rather, is almost entirely absolutist. Surprisingly, few say the Communist countries are superior. Two quite common answers are, "Nowhere, all existing countries are unjust," and "Everywhere else and any time in the past is better than here and right now." Other than these, the most popular answer is "Cuba." The absence of basic freedoms in Cuba does not seem to bother them; instead they emphasize the supposed communal bliss.

The rhetoric of the revolution is millennarian. If you ask revolutionaries to state their theory of revolution, e.g., where is its potential mass base? or how will they cope with the military force of the enemy? you will find the answers as vague and as millennarian as the belief in the Second Coming. Somehow, someday, we shall have a revolution.

A third feature of radical rhetoric which expresses the religious urge is the emotionalism and irrationality that permeates much of its logical structure. It is very enlightening to see which arguments at mass meetings elicit the most favorable emotional response from the audience. While I am not completely convinced that favorable response varies inversely with logical rigor, it is certainly the case that in these sessions normal canons of rigor and rationality are suspended. Consider the following argument by Georgia legislator Julian Bond, which brought a student audience cheering to its feet. Bond is responding to criticisms of the use of violence by black militants. [63]

Is not the status quo as violent as any Watts or Newark or Detroit? Is it not violent to condemn to death twice the proportion of black babies as white babies in the first years? Is it not violent to send twice the proportion of black men as white men to Vietnam every year?6

The answer to each of these questions is quite obviously, no. The malnutrition and poor health care of black babies, the inequitable recruitment system that sends more than their share of black people to Vietnam are by and large nonviolent (they would, incidentally, be much easier to deal with if they were simply matters of violence), and any given hour of the status quo in Watts or Newark, unjust as it may be, is much less violent than an hour of the riots at Watts, Newark, etc. (that is part of the reason they are called riots). Since these rhetorical questions, if they are given even a moment's calm reflection, obviously fail, how is it that arguments of this type are so wonderfully successful? What is their logical form?

Actually, the above argument commits two fallacies common to radical inference patterns, which I shall call the fallacy of outrageous classification and the fallacy of two wrongs make a right. The fallacy of outrageous classification is the fallacy of assimilating one kind of phenomenon to a category so breathtakingly inappropriate that the normal canons of criticism of classification are automatically suspended. A generation ago, in an earlier incarnation, this was known as the technique of the big lie. Thus, e.g., the university will not abandon all admission requirements? Then it is obviously racist. The president will not deny free speech to the military recruiters and supporters of the war? Then he is obviously an imperialist, militarist, and enemy of the right to dissent. [64] Black babies are dying of hunger and disease? That is obviously violence. The fallacy of two wrongs make a right is simply that since X is worse than Y it follows that Y is acceptable. Notice that this argument is sometimes bolstered by the argument that we are doing Y in order to stop X, e.g., we are meeting violence with violence. That argument would have some validity if doing Y were actually a way of stopping X, if, say, throwing a brick through a university window were a way of stopping the war in Vietnam, but since in practice the available evidence almost always indicates that Y has no effect whatsoever on X, the argument is either left in its original fallacious form or supported by an even weaker argument.

The form, then, of Bond's argument is as follows: we are accused of violence. Our reply is (1) the injustices we are fighting against are themselves violence (fallacy of outrageous classification), (2) since they are violence, our violence in response to them is justified (fallacy of two wrongs make a right).

Since the points I am making here are so obvious, and since the students in question are intelligent enough to perceive them for themselves, why are arguments of this type so effective? Part of the answer is that the frustrations surrounding the issues send one into such a state of anger that one's judgment is affected. It is very hard to think or write a speech about the race crisis or the war in Vietnam with cool analytic intelligence. But that is not the whole answer. Another part of it is that the objectives -- racial justice, peace in Vietnam -- are so sacred, they are so charged with sanctity, that normal canons of rationality are suspended in their quest. Further evidence for this is that any attempts to analyze and dissect these arguments are treated as a form of sacrilege, a betrayal of the sacred cause. In short, I find that the most plausible explanation for the systematic irrationality of intelligent people is the [65] quasi-religious aim of the endeavor, an aim which is treated as transcending ordinary canons of rationality and logic. As yet further evidence of this, there has been, in recent years, a growing contempt for rationality itself, a feeling that the present social catastrophes have discredited reason as such. I once debated a radical leader who accused me of "linear thinking." Under examination, it turned out that linear thinking consisted of the use of logical argument. The current vogue of astrology and mysticism is a further symptom of a loss of confidence in rationality.

A fourth feature which the radical movement shares with religions is that it provides a firm identity for people who may be otherwise unable to find one. To illustrate this let me describe the case history of an imaginary student whom I shall call Jack. Jack is a composite of several students I have known. When Jack first enrolled as a graduate student in Berkeley he was so totally unremarkable that it was possible for most faculty members in his department to be unaware of his existence. I find it hard now to describe what he was like then, for there is almost nothing to describe. His most distinguishing trait was, perhaps, his lack of distinguishing traits. He was neither especially articulate, nor exceptionally dumb; not especially offensive, neither was he especially pleasant. He was, as Gore Vidal describes some of his characters, capable of becoming anything because he was so obviously nothing. Near the end of his first year of graduate work, he became a radical, and it changed his life. Now he has strong opinions on almost every conceivable subject, and is eager and virulent in expressing them. His life has become a frenzy of radical activity. One sees him now dashing up the stairs to tack radical posters on the bulletin boards or to buttonhole a couple of students to help him distribute leaflets. He is active in the teaching assistants' [66] union and attends most of the rallies. He has published an anonymous smear attack on the chairman of his department that was widely distributed among the students, and he helped organize a petition on behalf of a junior faculty member of left-wing persuasion who was about to be dropped from the faculty for incompetence. He has prepared a speech proving the concealed reactionary ideological character of the university. He dresses as radicals are supposed to dress, and he holds all the opinions they are supposed to hold. He once told me, his eyes blazing with the sincerity of total humorlessness, that he does not believe that free speech should be extended to Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson. He also told me that any protest against a speech by a supporter of the war in Vietnam which did not seek to prevent the speaker from even speaking was "not a valid form of protest." In short, from being a nobody he has become a somebody. Like Cousin Jules, the character in Sartre's "Reflexions sur la Question Juive" who acquired an identity from hating the English: Voild Cousin Jules, "il ne peut pas souffrir les Anglais,"7 Jack has acquired an identity from being a radical: Voila Jack, he is a radical.

Any viable religion ought to be able to exert moral authority over its adherents and present a moral challenge to outsiders. Certainly, the radical movement satisfies these conditions. One clear case in point is the phenomenon of "lefter than thou." Student activists and student groups, even traditionally nonmilitant groups, are constantly trying to avoid being outflanked on the left. Fraternity candidates in student elections frequently mouth a left-wing rhetoric that obviously comes unnaturally, but they use it, not only because they think it is politically expedient, but also because they would feel guilty if they did not express [67] it and really try to believe it. When a portion of the former People's Park in Berkeley was converted into an outdoor basketball court, the first group to declare that it would not play on this hallowed ground in the war against the Establishment was the Interfraternity Council.

Yet another interestingly religious element is the intertwining of ritual and myth, and the elevation of events to an enormous symbolic stature. The actual events of the Free Speech Movement, for example, are rather small beans. A group of several hundred students trapped a police car on the plaza and sat around it all night; eight hundred students walked into a building and sat down in the hallways; a few thousand students marched to the regents' meeting and held a vigil. Yet at the time, and in subsequent months, they acquired a symbolic stature big enough to fill the entire mental horizon: October second, November twentieth, December eighth -- those were not dates, but symbols, symbols of a sacred struggle to overcome oppression. To say that we -- indeed everyone -- "exaggerated their importance" is to miss the point. One might as well say that the French revolutionaries exaggerated the importance of the storming of a rickety and nearly uninhabited prison. When enough people think such events are important they become important, they are important because they symbolize things that are deeply important; and the act of attaching so much importance to them is the expression of a primal urge: the sanctification of one's own collective actions.

One reason many behavioral scientists were caught flat-footed by the FSM is that they had an impoverished theory, or family of theories, of human behavior. They could neither predict the FSM nor understand it when it occurred. In their terms, what happened at Berkeley was unmotivated; to account for it they had to postulate some Oedipal hatred of father symbols, or some Luddite fear of [68] the computer. The explanatory categories they were used to -- functionalism, behaviorism, neo-Freudianism, techni-logical determinism -- were not quite adequate to account for the phenomena.

Perhaps their accounts could be supplemented with the following. People in general, but young people in particular, have a need to work for and believe in goals that they can regard as somehow sacred or important or noble. There is no a priori limit on the number of different kinds of things that under the right circumstances may be sanctified in this way: one can make a sacred activity out of making money, collecting stamps, skiing, working for General Motors, jumping around chanting "Hare Krishna," or being in the army. In its most extreme forms, the sacred activity is in service of the supernatural, as in supernatural religions. Nevertheless, at any given period in history, the climate of rhetoric -- what seems natural to people to approve and disapprove of -- will close off large numbers of options. In the United States in the middle 1960's and to a lesser extent in other advanced Western democracies such as France and England, for a surprisingly large number of young middle-class educated white people, the official institutions of the societies, the corporations, the governments, and the universities ceased to provide avenues for these sanctifying urges. The official career options in business, government service, and the professions (including the academic profession) and the official beliefs about the nobility of these agencies and the sacredness of their purpose had been, in varying degrees, discredited. For many young people these urges found an outlet in radical political activity, and the urges were so intense as to give it many of the characteristics of a religious movement.

This account is not inconsistent with the obvious explanation that the young people in question were [69] motivated genuinely by hatred of the war, and horror at racial injustice. The characterization of student radicalism as a quasi-religious movement is not intended to imply that the radical views are either false or insincerely held; on the contrary, it is intended to explain much of the peculiar intensity and fanaticism of radical attitudes.

In Berkeley at the beginning of the FSM, a routine sociological survey showed that over 80 percent of the students surveyed were satisfied with the university and with the education they had been receiving. In the FSM they did not so much become dissatisfied, as they discovered or became convinced of a dissatisfaction of which they had previously been unaware. What happened in the FSM was a kind of shock of recognition as people became aware that they no longer believed in the official beliefs they had thought they believed in; and most surprisingly they found that thousands of others shared their new beliefs. People suddenly discovered that they no longer had to go on repeating the same old social lie: they found a new social lie. In the year 1848 this same phenomenon occurred all over Europe.

Once the religious character of the movement has been perceived and with it the importance of the style itself as an expression of the sacred urges, many of the standard criticisms of the movement will appear, from the radicals' point of view, to be quite beside the point. For example, a standard objection to the movement is that it lacks a coherent program. There is no political platform, no set of specific objectives which the revolution is supposed to achieve. What the critics here fail to note is that the style is the platform, and the means are the end. The liberation and commitment involved in being fully in the movement is a more important objective than this or that political victory. Where personal salvation is concerned, such things as electing a candidate to public office, passing a [70] piece of legislation, or amending the Constitution, seem relatively unimportant. In his book, Democracy and the Student Left,8 George Kennan criticizes the movement for lacking any style. He is mistaken -- the movement has almost nothing except its style. Another criticism is that the movement is "nihilistic," that it wants only to destroy. But crusading religions always look nihilistic to the defenders of the status quo, since what they want to destroy seems very valuable to the defenders, and what they want to replace it with is totally unintelligible to anyone outside the religion. Many college administrators find themselves in the position of civilized Roman administrators confronted with a bunch of nutty Christian fanatics. The difficulty is not so much that one finds them obstreperous but that their behavior seems so senseless, so frightening in its irrationality. "How could human beings do such a thing?" asked Grayson Kirk, surveying the wreckage of his office, but to the wreckers it seemed the highest point of their lives. And those who want to understand what is going on had better be able to understand both sides of that gulf.


La Rochefoucauld says somewhere that few people would fall in love if they never read about it. Part of what he means by that is that the possession of the dramatic category, falling-in-love, makes possible certain sorts of experiences which would not be possible or would be different without that category. In a conflict as intense as a student revolt, almost everything that happens is perceived through the filter of the dramatic categories of the [71] participants. Furthermore, almost all of their actions and intentions exist for them only within their own dramatic categories. Part of the anguish of college administrators who were demoralized or run out of office by the revolts stems from the fact that their personal and professional categories were inadequate to the phenomena, they were simply swamped by the experiences. In the case of the radicals, the categories have a religious element, they are part of a religious outlook; and thus they acquire an exceptionally powerful grip on their experiences. When religious feelings are involved in a campus conflict, the categories shape the perception of the struggle as much as in any previous religious struggle, such as the Crusades or the wars of religion.

If we can fully understand the role of the dramatic categories, some of the religious behavior which seems so puzzling will become more comprehensible. Consider the following: "President Smith [of San Francisco State College] said that when the ten demands were presented to him in his office on November 5, the black students announced they intended to strike whether or not he granted their demands."9 What a remarkable state of affairs: the strike demands are presented on the assumption that the strike will take place even if the demands are granted. A somewhat similar phenomenon occurred in Berkeley. In the spring of 1968 the administration began discussions with the local black students' organization about setting up a black studies program. At the time, the administration suggested that this be expanded into an "ethnic studies department" to include not only blacks but Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and American Indians as well. But, no, the black students objected they did not want to dilute their program. As one of them said, [72] "Those Mexicans can go to the Spanish department." In the usual ponderous academic way, the wheels began moving to set up a black studies program to begin in the fall of 1969. But in January of 1969 the black students suddenly announced a strike followed some days later by a strike demand that there must be a whole college, not just a department, and it must be an ethnic studies ("Third World") college, not just a college of black studies. Well, leaving aside the fact that the campus administration does not have the legal authority to set up an entire college (only the Regents in consultation with the State Coordinating Council for Higher Education have the authority to do that), the expansion to include an ethnic studies program was precisely what the administration had proposed and the students had rejected the previous April. A long and bitter strike ensued, complete with arson, disruption of classes, and the dismissal from the university of several of the leaders of the newly formed "Third World Liberation Front." (I did not invent this comical name. It is actually used in all solemnity by the participants.)

At the end of the strike, it was agreed to set up a department of ethnic studies, precisely the administration's original plan and what they had been urging all along. Now, the interesting feature of this is that it is almost universally believed that the ethnic studies department is something the TWLF won from a recalcitrant and reluctant administration as part of the settlement of a bitter strike. The actual fact is that the strike was utterly pointless, since the outcome was something the administration was not only prepared but eager to grant. The net effect of the strike, aside from the disruption, destruction, and expulsions, was to delay the progress of the black studies program by several months and make the recruitment of qualified faculty more difficult. [73]

Such events as these pose interesting questions for our study. First, why do people strike and demonstrate for objectives they can have and know they can have without striking and demonstrating? And, more generally, why is it so difficult for people to believe the facts instead of the mythology? If we can answer these two questions we shall have gone a long way toward our objective of understanding student revolts. One answer to the first question is that the ritual of confrontation has become an end in itself. Another answer is that objectives attained without the dramatic category of righteousness confronting evil are not worth having; they are quite meaningless. I think it is quite obvious that the ritual of confrontation has become an end in itself; for many, it is a desirable state of affairs, regardless of its outcome. Confrontation is dramatic, exciting, and meaningful. The modern university offers no officially approved activities, curricular or extracurricular, that can compete with it for mass appeal. For many students, it is the most dramatic and significant experience they have ever had in their lives, and more than a few students come to the university eager to get in on the action.

An interesting fact about the Berkeley experience has been that a high percentage of new students, students who in many cases have been in the university only a matter of weeks or months, are active in the more extreme forms of demonstration. It seems reasonable to assume that they came to Berkeley at least partly with the intention of joining in the action. For example, in the Moses Hall sit-in of 1968, over thirty percent of those arrested were students who had enrolled in the university only that term, a matter of less than ten weeks earlier.

This is closely connected with the second answer. Reforms which are instituted by the administration have nothing like the emotional content or sacred value of [74] concessions wrung from the authorities in the victorious struggle. The means of achieving the result are more important than the result, and this is why it is absolutely essential to have a struggle before the reforms are announced. As one of the students in Paris said: "It was as if they [the students] understood that without living through this sort of emotional folly which gave an emotional reality to what we were doing the reforms would be worthless. We had passed the point of no return."10

The answer to the more general question -- why is it easier to believe mythology rather than fact -- is that where the sacred is concerned, people's perceptions are rigidly shaped by their dramatic categories. In the sacred cause I am describing, the category "oppressed-minority-wins-struggle-for-justice-against-reactionary-authorities" is a standard dramatic category, it is a device for perceiving events. But "oppressed-minority-engages-in-pointless-battle -with-authorities-for-something-they-are-prepared-to-give-anyhow" is not a permissible category, and consequently it is virtually impossible to perceive events in these terms. I venture to say that if one asked the question on the Berkeley campus today, "How was the ethnic studies department created?" most people would say, "It was created as a result of the TWLF strike." And this is even the account available in the national press.11

I cannot overestimate the importance of these dramatic categories for understanding the phenomena we are describing. Many commentators have pointed out the element of role-playing in student revolts. What they mean by that is that activists often imitate -- consciously or unconsciously -- some revolutionary figure such as Castro, Che Guevara, or Lenin. This is true as far as it goes, but [75] incomplete. The point to be stressed is that not only does the agent act out a part but also that his perception of reality is dependent on certain dramatic categories for him. Certain unverbalized assumptions about what must be the case can often defeat what actually is the case. One of the most exasperating things about being a college administrator in these years is that one simply cannot crack through these categories. No matter what one says or does, and no matter what is actually the case, one's actions are always perceived within the dramatic category: "college administrator, agent of the military-industrial complex, tool of reaction, etc." Insofar as these categories are hypotheses, they become self-verifying, for evidence which does not support them is not even admissible. The more the issue is emotionally charged and the more the sacred is involved, the firmer is the grip of the categories on the perceptions. I could give literally a dozen examples from my experiences, but perhaps the following two or three will suffice.

In the course of the fighting over the People's Park, a young man, not a student, was shot with buckshot by the police, and he later died in the hospital. In a tragic event of this sort, one naturally wants to know as many of the facts as possible, and subsequent investigation revealed interesting things about the victim. He was carrying in his car a rifle, together with electronic eavesdropping equipment. He had a long arrest record, for burglary and other crimes. In a city council hearing concerning his death, an eyewitness -- a young girl undergraduate -- testified she had seen him, on the roof where he was shot, throwing pieces of concrete at the policemen below, who are believed to have shot him. I find that people sympathetic to the movement are not eager to hear these facts; indeed, in the city council meeting the girl's testimony was greeted with shouts, jeers, and screams of "liar," etc., by the [76] audience. The reason is that the young man by dying had already been assimilated to the category of holy martyr, and holy martyrs do not have the kind of traits that the young man in question might have had. It was almost as if the radicals feared that the knowledge of the young man's behavior would somehow excuse the criminal actions of the police.

Again, at San Francisco State College, Professor Bunzel, a well-known liberal in the political science department, was harassed and tormented by the black militants: tires slashed, bomb outside his office, threatening phone calls, the usual bag of tricks. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, the members of the faculty most famous for their vigorous defense of academic freedom showed very little interest in his case. The attitude seemed to be, "He had it coming."12 But suppose he had been a black professor set upon by white racists, Ku Klux Klansmen. Then we would have a different situation altogether. The dramatic category, "whites oppress black," is a going and very popular category; the category, "blacks oppress white," does not exist. On the contrary, the only available category for assimilating this phenomenon is "blacks-struggle-for-liberation-against-white-oppressors."

A currently fashionable category is "police (or pigs) brutalize students." When a policeman knocks a student on the picket line to the ground, that is an event, something that becomes known about; but when a group of student radicals knock a professor down for trying to cross the picket line, that is not an event. It is not discussed; it is canceled out. It cannot become part of one's perceptions. Again, when a police officer was knocked to the ground and kicked and stomped on by demonstrators later to be hospitalized, it was a non-event, something that was [77] unperceived. Like a man clearing his throat in the middle of a speech, it went unnoticed; it was not a part of the speech. When I try to describe to faculty members sympathetic to the radical movement how my wife was threatened that I (and other members of the administration) would be assassinated or violently attacked, somehow the point never quite gets over the threshold of their perceptual apparatus; somehow it is always some other radicals and never our radicals who do such things. One faculty apologist for the movement told me: "But the people who do that are just creeps." An answer he might do well to ponder.

An understanding of the role of the dramatic categories will help strengthen our grasp of the phenomena described in Chapter 1. The shift from each stage to the next occurs by means of triggering the dramatic categories. The attempts to provoke the authorities, if successful, will lead the target group -- the uncommitted students -- to perceive the authorities and their adversaries in dramatic categories that are favorable to the radicals. This strategy works because the target group shares the attitude of the radicals on the Sacred Topics. Depending on how the issues have been structured, the authorities will be perceived as racists, warmongers, imperialists, faceless bureaucrats, tools of the military-industrial complex, and in certain preferred cases like the People's Park hassle, fascist pigs. The radicals, on the other hand, are perceived as fighting for freedom, struggling against oppression, seeking liberation, peace, justice, equality, and the creation of a counter-culture. To the formal analysis of Chapter 1, then, this section is designed to add the following features:

  1. Perception is a function of expectation.
  2. In extreme social situations, expectations of both [78] observers and participants are a function of their dramatic categories.
  3. Where the dramatic categories have a sacred status, they have an especially strong effect on both perceptions and action.
  4. In the three stages of student revolt, the movement from one stage to the next is brought about by triggering a sacred dramatic category.


Adult apologists for the student left have very little to say about the use of violence by student militants. Reading their works one would get the impression that violence rarely occurred at all; or if it did it was somehow not an essential part of the movement but was an understandable if inexcusable lapse from the normal idealism and sincerity of young radicals. I think, on the contrary, that the increasing violence we have seen in the past few years is, in several different ways, essential to the militants' activities. Much student violence is indeed irrational, but though irrational, it is not unmotivated. Sometimes its irrationality is an expression of the religious urges I mentioned earlier; the violent acts are themselves a form of bearing witness. Some other instances of violence seem more like outbursts of frustration and rage or tantrums; still others seem like simple vandalism and destructiveness. But all these forms of violence are intermingled with those that have a definite point, that play a role in a theory or family of theories of revolutionary behavior.

One of the interesting functions of violence is to activate the mechanisms described in Chapter 1. That model, the reader will recall, operates when authorities are provoked into taking repressive action of a sort and a style [79] that serves to discredit them. Over the years, often in a half-conscious way, university authorities have become aware of the operation of this mechanism and have grown much more cautious about calling the police in the face of massive student demonstrations. Confronted with a sit-in occupying a university building, some administrators have been inclined to let the demonstrators simply sit. Perhaps the best examples of this were the demonstrations at the University of Chicago, in 1966 and again in 1969, where the authorities did not call the police, but let demonstrators occupy a building for several days, and then, after the sit-inners left the building, quietly brought university discipline against them. With such tactics of passive resistance used by the authorities, the demonstrators have been forced to find other methods to ensure that the authorities will call the police, and the most effective one is to resort to violence. If you start smashing up university property, beating up your fellow students who try to cross the picket lines, throwing rocks at campus police, breaking windows and forcibly disrupting classes, you can effectively guarantee that off-campus police will be brought onto the campus. In general, without a police response, your movement is dead, and often the only way to elicit a police response is violence. In many cases, it is as simple as that.

Furthermore, the mere presence of the police no longer has the shock effect that it had in the mid-60's. People are getting used to it. On many campuses, in order to activate the mechanism from Stage Two to Stage Three it is now necessary to have a full-scale battle, complete with tear gas and police clubbings.

Georges Sorel, a brilliant but neglected social analyst (who wrote from a rather different point of view), understood this point about violence perfectly in relation to the class conflict of a few generations ago. "Proletarian [80] violence," he writes, "confines employers to their role of producers and tends to restore the separation of classes, just when they seemed on the point of intermingling in the democratic marsh."13 Paraphrasing Sorel slightly, one might say: Student violence confines campus authorities to their role as oppressors, and maintains the separation of the campus into hostile factions, a separation that is constantly threatening to degenerate into the marsh of humanitarianism and community that campus administrators are constantly preaching.

Without doubt the most brilliantly executed use of violence as a political device to provoke repressive acts occurred not on a university campus, but in the streets of Chicago at the Democratic National Convention of 1968. The inexcusable behavior of the Chicago police was ideally suited to the ends of the demonstrators.

Not all the uses of violence are either irrational or Sorelian. Some are Fanoniste,14 some a mixture of various elements. As a start at sorting out the various uses we need to distinguish between two kinds of violence, which I shall call crowd violence and guerrilla violence. A characteristic example of crowd violence looks like this: a group of students stand facing a line of uniformed policemen, the students throw rocks and shout insults and taunts at the police; the police periodically hurl tear gas into the crowd or come charging at them with their clubs swinging. At such moments, the students scatter in all directions screaming and shouting, only to return when the gas disperses or the police regroup. In the periodic ritual scuffles the police club people over the head and arrest a few, apparently at random. All of this is recorded [81] by the numerous television cameras present, and indeed would lose much of its point if there were no television cameras there. During the TWLF strike in Berkeley in the spring of 1969 we had such "war games" enacted on the Sproul Plaza every lunch hour. Berkeley radicals favor the lunch hour, as the crowd is then the biggest and the TV cameramen are able to get the footage to their San Francisco studios in time for the evening news.

A characteristic example of guerrilla violence would look like this: a solitary arsonist plants a bomb in the doorway of a university building, or ignites with gasoline a university auditorium, fleeing into the night even before an alarm can be sounded. He is not seeking TV coverage, police attack, or arrest. He wants to cause substantial damage and then get away.

In the simplest cases, the theory behind guerrilla violence is to raise the cost of refusing to grant the demands to the point where the adversary, the powers that be, find it cheaper to grant the demands than to refuse. It is less expensive to make concessions than to have the buildings burned down. The theory here is similar to that of trade union strikes, blackmail, and anticolonialist guerrilla warfare. All these approaches try to get the other side to give in by making it too expensive for them not to give in. But crowd violence is not designed to get the other side to give in; rather, where rational, it aims at precisely the opposite effect, for it is designed to provoke the authorities into acts of counterviolence and repression that will both "expose" their basic evil and arouse hostility to them. It is, in short, political rather than economic or military in its overall objective. That is, it does not seek to defeat the military force of the enemy, nor does it seek to destroy fife or property, except incidentally. It seeks, rather, to force the enemy to behave violently as an enemy; for if the political situation has been appropriately structured, [82] that very relationship will cost the authorities a great deal of support.

To complicate matters, some guerrilla violence -- such as the Weatherman bombings -- is Sorelian in intent and furthermore violence of both kinds serves at least two additional purposes. First, it destroys the sanctity of institutions by demonstrating their vulnerability, and second, it undermines authority by demonstrating the inability of the authorities to maintain order. Whenever a classroom or a courtroom is physically disrupted, or a policeman is assaulted or murdered, some of the aura of authority of these institutions is lost. The psychic distance necessary for any system of authority is drastically shortened when authority is humiliated and degraded. The courtroom and the classroom under terrorist disruption are just groups of frightened people, and the assaulted policeman is just a bleeding body -- all have lost their authority status. Furthermore, in continued situations of violent disorder the authorities are made to appear to everybody as helpless and ridiculous. Never mind whose "fault" it is, they are demonstrably unable to govern. In addition to the blackmail use of guerrilla violence and the provocative function of crowd violence, each also serves to degrade institutions and undermine confidence in the authorities.

Liberal sympathizers with the radicals sometimes point out that violence is counterproductive because it replaces moderate authorities with hardliners; it brings in more Reagans and Hayakawas. But what the liberals fail to see is that the radicals welcome more Reagans and Hayakawas, because of the polarizing effect of the hardliner, on the Sorelian model.

One often sees both crowd and guerrilla violence in student revolts. In earlier days, until say 1968, most guerrilla violence was used by black militants, most [83] crowd violence by white radicals. At the San Francisco State revolt, for example, one was struck by the fact that on an issue ostensibly about black militant demands, the crowd scenes were overwhelmingly white, and most of the arson and bombing, as well as the beating up of the newspaper staff, appears to have been done by blacks. In recent years, white revolutionaries have made extensive use of guerrilla violence as well.

Collective bad behavior by intelligent young people requires not only idealism, as I remarked earlier, but also euphemism. The argot of the youth culture includes several appropriate terms. Thus destruction and vandalism are known as "trashing," and stealing is called "ripping off." The most interesting is the word "off" meaning "kill," as in "off the pigs" or "off Spiro." This word appears to permit almost no syntactical permutations. One never sees tenses or participles, only the imperative.


1 Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 1970.

2 This categorization is a revision and expansion of a taxonomy originated by Martin Trow. My derived version of it first appeared in Samuel Gorovitz (ed.), Freedom and Order in the University (Cleveland: Press of Western Reserve University, 1967).

3 For a comparison, see Jean Pierre Worms, "The French Student Movement," in Student Politics, S. M. Lipset (ed.) (New York: Basic Books, 1967), pp. 267-279.

4 Cf. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. Joseph Ward Swain (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1915).

5 The Uses of UC Berkeley, Research, published by Radical Student Union, 1968, foreword by Richard Lichtman, p. 53.

6 William H. Orrick, Shut It Down! A College in Crisis (Washington, D.C.: National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, 1969), pp. 73-74.

7 J. P. Sartre, Reflexions sur la Question Juive (Paris: Morihien, 1946), p. 65.

8 George Kennan, Democracy and the Student Left (Boston: Little, Brown, 1968).

9 William H. Orrick, op. cit., p. 37.

10 Patrick Seale and Maureen McConville, Red Flag/Black Flag (New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1968), p. 114.

11 See, for example, Newsweek, October 20, 1969, p. 102.

12 A. J. Langguth, "San Francisco State," Harpers, September, 1969, pp. 99-120.

13  Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence, trans. T. E. Hulme and J. Roth (Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1950), p. 106.

14 Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1968).