Cornelius Castoriadis: 1922 - 2022. One hundred years since the birth of the philosopher of autonomy

March 11, 2022 - March 13, 2022
Department of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Thessaloníki
Greece

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International conference: "Cornelius Castoriadis: 1922 - 2022. One hundred years since the birth of the philosopher of autonomy", March 11 - 13, 2022, Department of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Cornelius Castoriadis was born in Istanbul on March 11th 1922. Almost one hundred years after his birth, his work still invites us to reflect on a world under deep transformation.

During his life, Castoriadis was actively involved in global political struggles, while maintaining his critical attitude towards the different forms of social dominance, both in the West and in the East. His involvement in the Trotskyist movement, his struggle against Stalinism, his founding role beside Claude Lefort in the political group Socialisme ou Barbarie and its influential review, his commentary on the rebellions in East Germany (1953) and Hungary (1956), his participation in the events of May 1968 in France, demarcate the early phase of his work, which would be concluded with his break with Marxism. His critique of Marxism also constitutes a broader rupture with what he called the “inherited philosophy”, along with the beginning of a posthumous critical dialogue “in this intertemporal Agora, this social-historical public space, where reflection and self-reflection are practiced.”

Castoriadis’ central concepts transcend the traditional philosophical perception of being, humans and society that is based on the hyper-category of determinacy (Bestimmtheit). They highlight the central role of radical imaginary which is manifested both as the instituting social imaginary and as the radical imagination of the individual psyche.

Castoriadis’ critique of traditional philosophy as well as of the theory and political philosophy of his era was combined with a turn towards psychoanalysis which he also practiced professionally since 1973. He engaged with the works of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, Pierra Aulagnier, and he identified individual imagination as the source of unconscious representations. He transcended the traditional binary between human individual and society by considering the deeper interaction between the psyche and the social imaginary as self-standing poles which are not derivative of the other.

His thought also expanded on the fields of natural sciences, biology, history and art and moved towards an ontology of creativity based on the idea of magma. He highlighted the emergence of alterity as creation, and he delved into the deeper identification of being and time.

Castoriadis also inquired into the problematic of technoscience and criticizes capitalist pseudo-rationality while stressing the central importance of ecology. He studied the social-historical conditions of direct democracy, and he situated the revolutionary project into the horizon of a concept of autonomy which is broader, since it is not restricted to the management of the means of production, and also more open, since it is not enclosed into a strict theory.

Today, we share the sense that we live in an era of historically significant changes, as social inequality, information diffusion and social tensions intensify. The political problem, the problem of political decision-making and collective identity formation, is posed in new terms; it arises in the multiple fields where a crisis of significations and values manifests itself.

In this context, new social movements claiming public space are emerging locally, regionally and internationally. They explicitly challenge the claims of neoliberalism and representation, while contemporary political and philosophical currents are inspired by Castoriadis’ ideas. His philosophy offers innovative paths for social and political thought, contributing to our effort to clarify the phenomena of our time, from the shock of traditional institutions to the emergence of the digital world as a new field of intersubjective correlation. Since the beginning of the 21st century, public interest in Castoriadis' work seems to increase; new publications, critical analyses, as well as academic works and doctoral dissertations on his thinking appear more and more often in different countries of the world.

At this juncture, the Department of Political Science of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki organizes an international conference entitled: "Cornelius Castoriadis, 1922 - 2022. One hundred years since the birth of the philosopher of autonomy". The conference will be held in March 2022, with the intention of discussing the various aspects of his multifaceted work.

The first question that arises is whether Castoriadis' critique of traditional thought was based on solid arguments which remain fruitful for contemporary thought; whether it is relevant for the analysis of contemporary social reality and can help us outline new answers to the questions that arise in our times.

The conference welcomes papers that touch on the various fields Castoriadis dealt with as well as on the historical context of his thought formation, such as:

- Political philosophy

- Philosophy of science

- Metaphysics and ontology

- Reception of ancient Greek philosophy

- Psychoanalysis

- Ethics

- Sociology

- Critique of technoscience

- Strategies of the labor and social movements

- History of socialist ideas, with an emphasis on the 1960s.

The second question that arises concerns the relationship and the confrontation of Castoriadis with the most important intellectual currents of his time. In this context, works that highlight the discussions which the philosopher joined, enriching them, are welcome. E.g.:

- Castoriadis and psychoanalytic currents

- Castoriadis and philosophy of existentialism / phenomenology (Sartre,

Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty)

- Castoriadis and Hannah Arendt

- Castoriadis and Jacques Rancière

- Castoriadis and democracy

- Castoriadis and social ecology

- Castoriadis and post-structuralism (Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida)

- Castoriadis and the Marxist currents of the 60's

It is most certain that these general and open guidelines could never fully capture the depth of the Castoriadis’ work. Neither can they predetermine the course of an open philosophical discussion to which the forthcoming conference seeks to contribute.

The best way of grasping our time is by reflecting on our past and present. The best way of honoring Castoriadis’ memory is by continuing the lively public debate with his thought.

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Scholars interested in presenting a paper at the Conference are invited to submit an abstract (250 words) in English, French or Greek, accompanied by a brief biographical note, by January 5, 2022 to: [email protected]. Applicants will be informed by January 31, 2022 about their acceptance. The presentations should not exceed 3.500 words (footnotes and bibliography not included)

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Organizing Committee: Dionysis Drossos (Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), George L. Evangelopoulos (Associate Professor, Panteion University), Vicky Iakovou (Assistant Professor, University of the Aegean), Alexandros Kioupkiolis (Associate Professor, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Assistant Professor, Panteion University), Yannis Ktenas (PhD, Panteion University), Kanakis Leledakis (Assistant Professor, Panteion University), Vana Nikolaidou-Kyrianidou (Associate Professor, National Kapodistrian University of Athens), George N. Oikonomou (PhD, University of Crete), Yannis Perperidis (PhD candidate, University of Ioannina) Sotiris Siamandouras (postdoctoral researcher, Panteion University), Alexandros Schismenos (postdoctoral researcher, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).

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