Who is Cornelius Castoriadis?June 25, 2021
Cornelius Casto, Greek-French philosopher and psychoanalyst, lawyer, activist and libertarian socialist.
Having met Marxism and socialist thought from the age of 13, Castoriadis studied law, philosophy and economics. II. During World War II, he took part in the Trotskyist international faction in the Greek resistance movement against fascism. After 1945 he went to France. There he founded the magazine and group “Socialism or Barbarism” with Claude Lefort and Jean-François Lyotard.
This group left its mark on the differentiation of the Trotskyism interpretation of socialism. The Trotskyist French Party came into being under the influence of this group. Later, either Socialism or Barbarism circles began to move away from Trotskyism, turned to anarchism and shaped one of the harshest criticisms of Marxist thought and its successors. The workers’ uprisings in East Berlin in 1953 and the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 were not supported by corresponding revolutionary actions; all this supported Costariadis’s intellectual change.
Castoriadis witnessed the failure of the Marxism he had met at the age of 13. From this point on, he tended towards an independent intellectual project.
Castoriadis always insisted on remaining revolutionary and put forward his criticisms in this context. He found the practice of socialism to be unacceptable in this sense. He gradually formed ideas that developed towards anarchism with its own specific dimensions. In his book titled On Nature, Man and Life, he says that when he had to choose between being a Marxist and being a revolutionary, he preferred revolution.
During this period, Castoriadis turned to psychoanalysis and was active as an analyst for many years. He gave lectures as a research assistant in France from the 1980s. He died on December 26, 1997.
He says in an interview that his main thrust has always been “immanent criticism”. In this respect, the problems of Marxism that seemed to him led him to a critical confrontation. This attempt at reckoning is seen in the majority of his works.
One of the most radical and theoretically dimensional critiques of Marxism and socialism was put forward by Castoriadis. His main criticism is that Marxism has moved away from its original creative principle, that it is human beings who make history. Castoriadis philosophically evaluates and uses terms such as imagination, imaginary meaning, imaginary establishment, heteronomy, and institution.
First of all, Castoriadis evaluates the relationship between thought and reality with the concept of “image”. Being is the being considered in thought; In this respect, it is known that Castoriadis is included in the tradition of an ontological approach within epistemology. Apart from this, Castoriadis reverses the thought-being relationship; He proposes that being should be dealt with in imaginary existence, not physical existence. For example:
“Why don’t we begin by introducing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigm instances of the fullness of Being, and treating the physical world as an incomplete mode of Being?” (About the world, man and nature, page: 10) he asks.
The theory of reflection and the claims of accuracy based on it are also inappropriate according to Castoriadis. It asks: “How can one know which category corresponds to a material?” (From Marxism and Revolutionary Theory, p.27)
Since this cannot be known for certain, Castoriadis says we are always obliged to an absolute indecision.
Castoriadis also follows a different path in theory. According to him, the claim of a single correct theory is unfounded. Throughout history, the history of thought continues this common mistake from Plato to Marx. However, according to Castoriadis;
“The idea of a single correct theory is the father of orthodoxy, which is a politically terrible idea. Orthodoxy needs orthodox guardians, that is, a Church or a Party Machine. (The Crisis of Marxism and the Crisis of Politics, p. 88)
It acts with an epistemology based on the ontological distinction of social and natural beings. The existence of nature and the existence of society show two different ontologies. Here, the double ontology view emerges. On the other hand, Castoriadis divides society into “sociality in society” and “naturalness in society”. The social sphere exists as an imaginary construction process. Nature has an external existence, but the reality of society is the product of an imaginary construction or institutionalization practice. It is not self-explanatory in understanding Being.Society is a society that institutionalizes and institutionalizes itself.Society is an institution and institutionalizer, that is, it establishes people as an institutionalized institution and thus ensures its own continuity.
History, on the other hand, is a creation history, that is, a result of people’s practices, doings, praxis, but more than that, it is also a result of their discourse about this praxis. The subject is the creator of history and at the same time the signifier in that history. In this respect, knowledge of history and its object cannot be separated categorically.