A conference in Athens in honor of the important political thinker
“Cornelius Castoriadis died on December 26, 1997 in Paris. Today, two decades after his death, his philosophical ideas are finding their way not only into the language and practices of social movements, but also in various fields of philosophical debate outside and within academic institutions: PhD theses, new books and articles in philosophical magazines are investigating the impact and influence of Castoriadi’s ideas.” With these sentences begins the call for a conference in Athens from 1-3. December 2017 on one of the most important Greek-French political philosophers and psychoanalysts of the 20th century.
The Masters program of the Institute of Political Science and History of Athens Pantio University has organized an international conference with subject matter covering all sides and facets of Castoriadian thinking. The purpose of the trilingual conference is to highlight the up-to-dateness of Castoriadis’s thinking and to bring together researchers and students from a variety, and not only, of academic backgrounds.
There are many who have answered this call: 65 speakers from 7 countries (including Norway, Argentina and Qatar) will exchange views on the importance of Castoriadis in our time at the University of Athens. Liliana Ponce, Professor of History and Politics, will travel from Buenos Aires to Athens to discuss “Political action and instituting temporality. A reflection on the “mode of action” specific to humans. From Aristotle to Castoriadis.” Yavor Tarinski, author, translator and researcher from Bulgaria, will talk about self-limitation and democracy. He currently participates in the editorial team of the political journal Babylonia, which is based in Athens. Several other speakers of the conference, like Alexandros Schismenos, who co-organizes the event, or Nikos Ioannou are also active in this editorial team. This year Babylonia proclaimed 2017 as the Castoriadis year, commemorating the 20 years since his death; they have organized events in many cities in Greece and abroad, and have published a short booklet with an account of the great philosopher in the project of the individual and social autonomy.
In addition to Greek and international speakers, the presence of former students and friends of Castoriadis, such as Kostas Spantidakis, translator of The imaginary Institution of Society, is eagerly awaited. Castoriadis’s former PhD student Giorgos N. Ikonomou will speak about the possibilities of reincarnating democratic politics today, and Giorgos Evagelopoulos, who has conducted the “Dialogue on Philosophy and Science” with Castoriadis, on the notion of genesis in modern physics and biology.
Parallel to the conference, the interview by Vincent Descombes directed by Lukas Paleokrasas will be presented for the first time. The Chairman of the Association Castoriadis in Paris talks in the video about his relationship with the honored philosopher, but also on current topics, such as the refugee and migration issue. Descombes has been awarded the Grand Prize of Philosophy of the French Academy, and was together with Castoriadis a member of the group “Socialisme ou Barbarie”, a revolutionary group in France with an anti-Stalinist-Marxist orientation from 1949 to 1967. The group’s writings, in addition to those of the Situationist International, have influenced many of the students of the May 68 uprising in France. Castoriadis himself had already broken with the Communist Party of Greece during the Greek Civil War, and switched to Trotskyist contexts. In 1945, fleeing from the communist army ELAS, he left along with other intellectuals, such as the famous Greek philosopher Kostas Axelos, on the ship Mataroa. Only many years later he returned to Greece to give lectures and to hold political-philosophical talks. After the years of “Socialisme ou Barbarie” he used the group’s rejection of dogmatic marxism and soviet bureaucracy as a starting point, and developed a deeper critique of the critique of the political economy of Marx and its philosophical fundaments.
In addition to the actuality of Castoriadis in academic circles and social contexts, important social issues will be discussed based on his ideas: What are the current tendencies within the capitalist imaginary? Do the ideas of Castoriadis help to overcome the current crisis of our societies, and what unexplored theoretical pathways does the Castoriadic work open? Society is in a state of upheaval, but not in a progressive direction. Individual and collective autonomy, as proposed by Castoriadis, as a draft of a project for society, seem to have little relevance in comparison to increasingly aggressive capitalism. Can there ever be a society without deadlocked bureaucracy?
It is certain that Castoriadis’s thinking can not be limited to university circles, as it constitutes a living force that addresses social life and change as a whole. Revolution is conceived by Castoriadis as an explicit and clear self-transformation of the institutions of society. Therefore, the conference will also be open and free to the public, according to the organizers, in order to make it accessible to society. Castoriadis’s ideas have had a major impact over the last 20 years on parts of social movements that sought and experimented with direct democratic processes, especially during the crisis protests. Groups of the anti-authoritarian movement and the new left, or the wide field of self-organization, not only for self-help, but also as a political goal, in collectives and cooperatives, continue to refer to the theoretical foundations of Castoriadis. At the center of these discussions is his idea of autonomy: “The autonomy of individuals, their freedom (…), is above all the equal participation of all in power, without which there is obviously no freedom, just as there is no equality without freedom. How could I be free if other people than myself decide on what concerns me and yet in this decision I cannot take part?” (Cornelius Castoriadis)
Program and further information at https://castoriadis2017.blogspot.gr/