As a radical thinker, Castoriadis has some immense advantages over others, as he looks some cold realities in the face: that there is no revolutionaryAs a radical thinker, Castoriadis has some immense advantages over others, as he looks some cold realities in the face: that there is no revolutionary workers' movement, and no privileged class that could carry the weight of revolution on its shoulders; that as "material realities," communist societies and the Russian and Chinese regimes were a disaster that ruined the highest hopes for a classless society, making liberal capitalism look appealing. After 2008 it seems Marxism is making something of a comeback in intellectual circles, and the long decades of Marxism as totalitarian state ideology are conveniently forgotten.
Castoriadis' attempts to find a project of autonomy in "Greco-Western" culture look quixotic, even dangerous after all the theoretical decenterings that have taken place. His bold thesis that the period of creativity around 1800-1950 is over, and that we're living through an age of pure conformism and insignificance, seems a little exaggerated. Especially since in one interview, he's discussing politics with Octavio Paz in 1996 but neither one thinks to mention the Zapatistas. (Apparently Paz didn't like them. Castoriadis was an intellectual and spent a fair amount of time interacting with liberals.)
Perhaps anticipating a bit of mathematical wishful thinking, Castoriadis claims that only 3% of society really has an interest in keeping things going. He gives us the tautology that the only way out of our contemporary nightmare is a mass outpouring of activity and creativity. Of course, from a militant point of view, we can't be satisfied with this - the question is how to best prepare and provoke such outpourings, since we can't simply wait for them....more
How much of the motives and instincts of those who wave around the banners of democracy, socialism, equality, justice and revolution can be characteriHow much of the motives and instincts of those who wave around the banners of democracy, socialism, equality, justice and revolution can be characterized by vengefulness, petty resentment, flabbiness, mendacity, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, moralizing, sanctimoniousness and piousness, mediocrity, vanity, poison, and an overall urge to assign guilt, divide things into black and white, and thereby elevate oneself? Anyone who spends any time near these circles can say there's plenty of these things swirling around. Can we find any clean air, joy and friendship? Nietzsche's ideas about virtue, greatness and manliness can ring a little hollow and calcified themselves sometimes. He wasn't able to diagnose himself as well as he presumed. But his glance is piercing when it falls on all the half-baked moralities surrounding him....more
History begins with the riot, says Badiou. Fair enough. It's a phenomenon of intensification, contraction, and localization. A universal truth emergesHistory begins with the riot, says Badiou. Fair enough. It's a phenomenon of intensification, contraction, and localization. A universal truth emerges, dissolving identitarian labels and exclusions. There's something to all of this. But perhaps Badiou has too much fidelity to his concept of fidelity - some of his favorite Events didn't have much truth to them when you look more closely, and someone who maintains fidelity to Lenin, Mao and the idea of "dictatorship" will have a hard time squaring that with the idea of the state withering away. It's not enough to say the party-form is "obsolete," as Badiou does, since it was never the presentation of communism but always a hierarchy of representation....more