On the Poverty of Student Life  

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"We might very well say, and no one would disagree with us, that the student is the most universally despised creature in France, apart from the priest and the policeman."[1]

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

On the Poverty of Student Life: A Consideration of Its Economic, Political, Sexual, Psychological and Notably Intellectual Aspects and of a Few Ways to Cure it (French: De la misère en milieu étudiant considérée sous ses aspects économique, politique, psychologique, sexuel et notamment intellectuel et de quelques moyens pour y remédier) is a pamphlet first published by students of the University of Strasbourg and the Situationist International (SI) in 1966. Attacking the subservience of university students and the strategies of student radicals, it caused significant uproar, led to the dissemination of Situationist ideas, and precipitated the events of May 1968 in France.

Content and reception

The text displayed an advanced understanding of Situationist concepts and tactics. It provoked the students of the university by confronting them with their subservience to the ideological conditions imposed upon them by the state, family and the university system. The pamphlet alleged that the students fled from this reality to take refuge in miserabilism and bohemianism. It also criticised radical student collectives including the Provos (Netherlands), Committee of One Hundred (United Kingdom) and those of Berkeley, California (United States) for fighting specific issues such as nuclear arms, racism and censorship rather than the system at large, praising only Spies for Peace.

The title of the pamphlet induced fury in the Parisian cafés in the Spring of 1967. The pamphlet was described by a local newspaper shortly after its release as "the first concrete manifestation of a revolt aiming quite openly at the destruction of society". Critic Greil Marcus characterised the pamphlet as a polemic in his history of 20th century avant-garde art movements Lipstick Traces (1990).

See also

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