Review: Short Introduction to the Political Legacy of Castoriadis

Short Introduction to the Political Legacy of Castoriadis (free e-book)

By Yavor Tarinski

Aftoleksi, 2020

Review by Theo Rouhette

In this free e-book, Yavor Tarinski delivers a comprehensive overview of the political thought of Cornelius Castoriadis, particularly relevant in ours times of pending societal and ecological breakdown.

The reader encounters a critic of both consumerist and subordinating narratives promoted by capital and the state. The analysis of these hierarchical systems is based on what Castoriadis calls heteronomy, where extra-social sources, be they gods, states or markets, decide vertically on how society function. Tarinski further attacks the deeply-entrenched economism that pervades not only the agents of capital and public bureaucracies, but also contemporary eco-socialist and environmentalist movements.

To counter both heteronomy and economism, this collection of essays advances a radical defense of direct democracy and public participation. Going back to the ancient Greek tradition, Castoriadis advocacy for direct democracy radically emphasizes the ability of all people to govern themselves and to be governed. What is truly at stake here is the self-institution of people’s own collective rules, laws and regulations. The project of autonomy, conceived by Castoriadis and clearly presented here, indeed boils down to this ambition: the (re)creation of an active political culture, where autonomous individuals could fulfill both the role of active citizens and critical philosophers.

Tarinski further argues that the germination of this emancipated anthropological type depends on cultivating what Castoriadis calls new ‘human imaginaries’. Sustained by continued popular education, new significations would encourage civic self-limitation and realize the revolutionary potential of ecology. For Castoriadis, ecology must be and is in essence a political matter which implies deep changes in social institutions. Only then could humans enter into a balanced relationship with nature, becoming its conscious stewards rather than its masters.

Throughout this accessible pamphlet, a practical concreteness pervades: theory is doomed if it drifts towards ideology; if it is not lived, contextualized, and experimented with. Much hope lies on recent social movements and autonomous zones, marked by the desire for systemic change towards democracy and ecology. Without concessions, Tarinski reminds us in the last instance that creating the next society starts here and now, in our communities, and that the work of Cornelius Castoriadis is more than relevant for this paradigm shift to occur in the future.

Download the ebook from here.