In this vibrant debate with intellectuals influenced by Marcel Mauss, including Alain Caillé and Chantal Mouffe, the incisive Greek-French activist and philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis addresses the challenge of critical thinking in an international context.
The first half explores the tradition of radical self-critique and the prospect of affirming its value in a non-ethnocentric way. While defending ancient Greek contributions to the Western tradition of radical self-critique — including the practice of “relativizing” one's own culture, of engaging in philosophical interrogation, and of establishing democratic institutions — Castoriadis is challenged to explore the trans-contextual features of any self-critical, or “autonomous,” social institution. In the second half Castoriadis offers a penetrating critique of representative democracy, and the discussion makes important strides toward a new conception of direct democracy, of political education, and of the institutional prerequisites for the continuation of radical self-critique in politics and philosophy.
Translator’s Introduction / Introduction to the French Edition, Jean-Louis Prat / Democracy and Relativism: A Debate / The Relativity of Relativism / The Political and Politics / Indetermination and Creation / The Condition for the Universalization of Western Values / Democracy / Glossary of Key Terms / Bibliography / Index
Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) was a political activist and author of a large corpus on topics of political philosophy, ontology, psychoanalysis, and economics. He co-founded the French political group Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949-1965), later worked as an economist and psychoanalyst, and served from 1980-1995 as director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris.
John V. Garner is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of West Georgia. He is the primary translator of Postscript on Insignificance: Dialogues with Cornelius Castoriadis (2011) and the author of The Emerging Good in Plato’s Philebus (forthcoming).
One can always learn more about a philosophical position from a spontaneous dialogue, unfinished debate or a piecemeal interview than from a finalized treatise. The publication of Castoriadis’ discussion with the MAUSS group in 1994 is very timely, since it touches on topics keenly relevant to our current political situation, such as direct democracy, self-critique, and autonomy.