John Rundell Imaginary Turns in Critical Theory: Imagining Subjects in Tension1

ABSTRACT The aim of this paper is to examine two turns towards the idea of the creative imagination in contemporary critical theory in the works of Axel Honneth and Cornelius Castoriadis. Honneth’s work subsumes the idea of the creative imagination under the paradigm of mutual recognition. Castoriadis constructs the idea of the creative imagination from an ontological perspective. However, Castoriadis’ idea of the primary autism of the creative imagination can be thrown into relief by Hegel’s Jena Lectures. Hegel’s and Castoriadis’ work opens onto a subjectivity in tension, that is, a subjectivity that is forged out of a combination of subjective interiority, as well as the patterns of interaction that are multidimensional in their scope and create social spaces that force the subject beyond an initial closure. KEYWORDS: Imagination, subjects, intersubjectivity, Honneth, Hegel, Castoriadis

In recent critical theory, there are many directions from which the ‘linguistic turn’, especially the one identified with Habermas’ work, has been challenged. 2 Two are of particular
Critical Horizons 2:1 (2001) © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2001

note and will be the subject of our discussions. In his own work on intersubjectivity, Honneth argues that the phenomenal-affective or emotional forms through which the subject is formed intersubjectively are as significant as the linguistic ones. In this sense, it is not so much the linguistic mediation of emotions that is important here, but the emotional content itself.3 Whilst Honneth draws our attention to the Jena period of Hegel’s work as a basis for the interrogation of an intersubjectively constituted struggle for recognition, his interrogation of this struggle will be suspended in the following discussion in order to interrogate another issue that accompanies it - that of subject formation itself. For Honneth, following the works of G.H. Mead and Habermas, subject-formation can only be understood as a process that is intersubjectively constituted. Winnicott’s work is also important to Honneth not only because it provides a framework of primary sociation, but also because it addresses the interior world of the subject, which is, itself, intersubjectively constituted. Here the creative imagination plays a developmental role of significant importance, which points to an implicit imaginary turn in Honneth’s work.4 However, Honneth’s re-working entails that subject-formation is subsumed under the paradigmatic weight of intersubjectively co-ordinated theorising, which leaves to one side, the status of the subject sui generis. This entails that Honneth (and Habermas) reproduce an over-socialised conception of the human being. For Habermas, this oversocialisation is rendered as an ‘overlinguistified conception of the human being’, whilst for Honneth it is rendered as ‘the over-mutually-determined conception of the human being’.5 As is well known, the critique of the image of over-socialisation posits that there is a non-social dimension of the human being that exists alongside socialisation itself. In other words, this critique works with an image of the human being as “a social animal without being entirely a socialised animal.” 6 It is this problem of over-socialisation, and hence the status of the subject, that will be the entry point for our current discussion, rather than the one concerning the struggle for recognition. The ‘imaginary turn’ is a way of rethinking the over-socialised conception of the human animal, and not only the conceptualisations of its over-linguistification. It will be addressed primarily through Castoriadis’ idea of the monadic core of the subject. From the vantage point of the interior world of the subject, Castoriadis’ work
62 John Rundell

exposes the dilemma of oversocialisation in Honneth’s work, notwithstanding, as we shall see, his own ‘imaginary turn’ drawn from the work of Winnicott. In Castoriadis’ work, the subject is constituted by an irreducible relation and tension between the monadic core of the psyche and socially created constellations of culture and social institutions that he terms social imaginary significations. These dimensions, for him, are constituted as imaginative or imagining activities, rather than linguistic ones, that produce meaning both as a creative flux, and a flux of creative interactions between these two dimensions. The question of the internality of the subject is moved away from the metaphysics of the unconscious (Freud and Lacan), to a site that is posited in anthropo-ontological terms, the emphasise of which is on the indeterminate creativity of human subjects and the equally historically indeterminate creation of human societies.7 Castoriadis’ work continues and consolidates an imaginary turn in critical theorising that is part of the longer history of the dialectic of the Enlightenment and Romanticism.8 Yet, notwithstanding Castoriadis’ anti-functionalist insight concerning the irreducibility of each side of subject-formation, his formulation of the subject, nonetheless, confronts the problem of the complexity of subjectivity. It is in this context that Hegel’s Jena Lectures are once again instructive. To be sure, Honneth draws our attention to them in The Struggle for Recognition. However, here it is not their normative content that is instructive, but the weight that Hegel gives to the forms of sociality that move the subject beyond an initial self- enclosure. In this context, and in a critical dialogue with Castoriadis’ work, the Jena Lectures are drawn on to posit what will be termed here, subjects in tension. By ‘subjects in tension’, I mean subjects who are forged out of a combination of subjective interiority as well as the patterns of interaction that are multidimensional in their scope and create social spaces that force the subject beyond an initial closure.9 Moreover, this paper also traverses what has been termed an oscillation between “metaphysical discourse” and “critical discourse.”10 This distinction can also be read as a tension between three aspects that constitute a critical theorising. The first aspect refers to the, often, concealed anthropological principles or basic human self-images of both subjectivity and intersubjectivity,
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 63

and the relations and tensions between them. The second aspect refers to the impulses and horizons that give rise to a critical stance, whilst the third aspect refers to the paradigmatic nature of the critical theory as a system of thought itself. Theorising has its own ‘metaphysical’ predisposition to bring these dimensions into alignment, in other words to systematise them and close over basic dilemmas in, and tensions between, them. In the rush for a critical theory - to protect critical theorising itself - the basic dilemmas of the ‘who’, the mobiliser of critique, are often closed over. This essay will touch on the second aspect, and leave to one side the third in order to elucidate the dilemmas of the first - the anthropological in a way that does not assume the normative primacy of critique, and hence, the critical subject.

Honneth and the Intersubjective Development of the Critico-reflexive Self
In The Struggle for Recognition Honneth draws on Hegel’s Jena Lectures, the works of G.H. Mead, and the paediatric psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott in order to posit a theory of intersubjectivity, otherwise couched in terms of a dialectic of recognition. The aim of his theory is to investigate the way in which the reflexive, democratic personality might be formed. Mead’s work is important for Honneth, because following Habermas’ use of it, it provides the framework for a structure of interaction through which self-reflexivity develops. According to G.H. Mead self-reflexivity occurs as an outcome in a proto - or real - dialogic interaction between self and others. More accurately, a reflexive self occurs out of a process of learning to put oneself in an objectrelation to oneself.11 As Honneth points out, in the formulation of that part of the self, which Mead terms the ‘me’, “[Mead] inverts the relationship between the ego and the social world and asserts a primacy of the perception of the other to the development of self-consciousness.”12 In other words, the perceptions that are given to the self by others enable the self to become its own object of self-reflection. The corollary of this self-reflection is the recognition by society that the self is a social member. Moreover, this social recognition is the basis for self-respect. In other words, there is an internal relation, for Mead, between the inner ‘imposition’ of the ‘generalised other’ and the emergence of a reflexive self which is simultaneously one who receives respect as well as gives it to itself.
64 John Rundell

For both Mead and Honneth, then, this dynamic of reflexivity through objectification is a basic anthropological principle. In this way, the person participates in social life on the basis of mutual recognition gained by such objectifying interactions. For Mead, as well as Honneth, though, the interactions that occur between the ‘me’ and the ‘generalised other’ of community norms should not necessarily result in a conventional attitude being taken. Rather, the reflexive self is simultaneously a critical one in the form of a ‘dialogue’ that proceeds along two fronts - externally and internally. According to Mead, it is the dialogue between the self and the internalised ‘generalised other’ that initiates the critique. For Honneth, though, the way that Mead structures this internal dialogue raises the issue of both the dynamics of critique and its origins. For Mead, and in a homologous formulation with psychoanalysis, there is part of the self “that is responsible to action problems . . . that can never as such be glimpsed” - the ‘I’.”13 However, as Honneth points out, whilst the ‘I’ stands for “the sudden experience of a surge of inner impulses,” it is unclear whether it stems from pre-social drives, the creative imagination, or the moral sensibility of one’s own self.14 It is here that a conceptual tension emerges in Honneth’s own work around Mead’s, and his, basic anthropological principle. Both Mead and Honneth adopt the latter formulation of “a moral sensibility of one’s own self” as the interpretation of the ‘I’. According to Mead (and Honneth), the ‘I’ is conceived as a “creative reaction potential” that establishes a friction that initiates critique.15 However, Honneth not only follows Mead’s footsteps, but also confronts the limits of his (Mead’s) formulation of the critically oriented impulse as a moralintegrative one. Critique, for Mead, is mobilised as a form of creative deviation from societal norms. This version of critique, however, exposes Mead’s own peculiar naturalistic functionalism, which simultaneously slips away from a theory of pragmatic psychological developmentalism to a theory of societal evolution.16 Whilst critique functions at the seam between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ it only does so on the basis of an integrative principle of re-integration.17 It is here, too, that we are confronted by the nodal point of Honneth’s argument. For Honneth, at least in The Struggle for Recognition, the impulse towards
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 65

critique not only occurs as part of the self’s objectification, but also emerges in the context of damaging intersubjective relations. Leaving to one side Honneth’s own reworking of Hegel’s Jena Lectures, we will investigate the way in which he confronts the constitutive dimensions of the ‘I’ as critical impulse, because for him it belongs to the capacity of human individuation and autonomisation. In The Struggle for Recognition, conflicts and struggles over recognition remain ultimately pseudo-dialogic in the manner laid down by Mead. However in “Imagination and Recognition” Honneth turns his attention to the ‘imaginative’ dimensions of reciprocal recognition, in a way that not only foregrounds this aspect, but transforms it into a necessary part of a developmental process.18 In order to pursue the themes of individuation and autonomisation, which are internal to the ‘I’ as critical impulse, Honneth, at this point, departs from Mead’s work and concentrates on the work of the paediatric psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott with some unexpected results. These results point towards an unacknowledged imaginary turn in Honneth’s work. For Honneth, at least in The Struggle for Recognition, the fight for recognition involves an increasing realisation of the differentiating inter-subjective dimensions of love, rights and solidarity that are built up in relations and encounters between self and other. In his view, the human faculty of the imagination is linked to each of three patterns of recognition - love, rights and solidarity. The result of this linkage is that, “if the subject participates in a social lifeworld in which the tripartite hierarchy of patterns of recognition are present . . . he [or she] may anchor his [or her] relationship to self in the positive modes of self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem.”19 Honneth links the faculty of the productive imagination to the struggle for recognition through a reading of Winnicott’s work. This is done by Honneth to make the productive imaginative faculty the result of an intersubjectively orientated set of experiences, and ones that are linked to the earliest years of life. According to Winnicott and Honneth, the creative or productive imagination can only develop within the context of the mother’s loving recognition of her infant.20 To cut a long and very complex story short, the first phase of absolute [mutual] dependence comes to an end when a new possibility on the part of the mother occurs. She returns to the independence that everyday life offers,
66 John Rundell

which also offers a possibility of relative independence to occur on the part of the infant. Winnicott argues that two psychic mechanisms must be available to the infant for this potential of relative independence to be successful destruction and transitional phenomena. Both are saturated with meaning for the infant. In this context, aggression is neither negatively nor injuriously interpreted; rather it is the constructive means through which the infant comes to recognise the mother as other and integrate both aggressive feelings and this knowledge beyond his or her fantasies of omnipotence.21 In “Imagination and Recognition,” however, Honneth places more emphasis on the phase where transitional objects are selected and played with by the infant, a phase in which another mediation between self and ‘world’ is forged. To put it slightly differently, during this phase the bridge between the primary experience of being merged and the experience of being separate, that is of being by one’s self, or being alone, is crossed.22 To put it more strongly, for Honneth, this relative independence should also include a capacity for mutual recognition by the infant. It is here that Honneth locates the role of the creative imagination as part and product of this developmental process in which the new mediated relation is forged. Following Winnicott, “the child’s creativity, indeed the human being’s imaginative faculty as such, is tied to the presupposition of ‘a capability of being alone’ in the context of a basic trust in the willingness of the loved person to devote him or herself to the other.”23 In other words, Honneth reiterates Winnicott’s thesis that “the human imagination emerges genetically at that moment when the child acquires a capacity to be alone by trusting the permanency of the mother’s devotion . . . that is that the imagination can only develop in the context of loving recognition.”24 Imagination, trust, affirmation, and mutuality go together for Honneth, and it is on this basis that not only other areas of human expression are integrated - feelings and emotions - but also solidaristic forms of association as well as the creation of cultural objectivations. Notwithstanding the psychoanalytic insights derived from Winnicott’s work, Honneth’s analysis of the imagination has rendered it into an intersubjectively conceived moment. However, Honneth’s subsumption of the creative imagination under the umbrella of the paradigm of mutual recognition begs the question of the status of the subject. At the deepest level this subsumption
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 67

must presuppose a primary acquaintance of the self with itself for interaction to occur at all.25 For Honneth, imaginative, playful creativity, and thus reflexivity, are outcomes of a developmental process rather than constitutive dimensions of the human being. In Honneth’s account, the creation of meaning and mutual recognition stand in homologous relation with one another. This also entails that Honneth’s reconstruction of the struggle for recognition has a quiet functionalism behind it in that a normal developmental path results from this homology. Deformations are traced to damaged and dysfunctional relations and patterns between forms of intersubjectivity and the creation of meaning, which itself is grounded in the autonomisation of the subject and his/her recognition of others. Honneth’s critique of Castoriadis, for example, is already based on a pre-theoretical disposition that overstates Castoriadis’ loyalty to the revolutionary paradigm at the expense of exploring the more fundamental issue of the constitution of the subject.26 However, in the context of the formation of a reflexive-critical self, it can be argued that Honneth, in positing ‘a moral sensibility of one’s own self’ propelled by a creative imaginary impulse, implicitly raises the question of the status of the subject and its primary self-acquaintance.

Hegel, Castoriadis and Ontologies of the Creative Imagination
Whilst Honneth draws our attention to the Jena period of Hegel’s work as a basis for an interrogation of an intersubjectively constituted struggle for recognition, another reading of Hegel’s work suggests the co-presence of the creatively imagining subject and intersubjectivity, rather than a developmental homology. Moreover, this co-presence is constituted in a tension-ridden manner. Tensions exist between this creatively imagining subject and the forms of intersubjectivity, and within forms of intersubjectivity themselves. It is, first, worth looking briefly at Hegel’s Introduction to his later Lectures on Aesthetics (1820) before turning to the earlier Jena Lectures (1805/1806) in order to further present our problem. In his discussion, or more properly his positioning, of the three successive art forms - Symbolism, Classicism, Romanticism - Hegel suggests that Romanticism establishes the authentic existence of the inner world of the human being as a world sui generis.27 Hegel
68 John Rundell

recognises the explosiveness of the Romantic movement’s prioritisation of the idea of the imagination, especially the way it depicts the tension between inner and outer realities. Romanticism, in his view, rightly fractures an assumed formal unity between that which art is to mean (that is, the Idea) and the form of the art object itself. It emphasises “free concrete spirituality” or the “spiritually inward” in which art no longer works “for sensuous intuition.”28 Rather, it must “work for the inwardness which coalesces with its object simply as if with itself, for subjective inner depth, for reflective emotion, for feeling, which as spiritual, strives for freedom in itself and seeks and finds its reconciliation only in the inner spirit. Inwardness celebrates its triumph over the external”29 to the extent that externality is viewed as a contingent factor. This means that the imagination, in a strong critique of empiricism and realism, is at liberty to distort, mirror, play or concoct any reality out of its own inner directed and inner-forming world. In the Jena Lectures, especially “Spirit According to its Concept,” though, Hegel conceptualises this inner chaotic world in a human self-image that gives priority to an ontology of the imagination and not only to its expressiveaesthetic capacity. For Hegel, an aesthetically determined expression is not the only form through which humans issue themselves upon the world. Both Kant and Hegel confront the power of the productive-creative imagination. Kant, whilst recognising this power attempts to minimise it; Hegel adopts another strategy: dread in the face of the productive imagination’s omnipotent, creative power.30 To quote:
This image belongs to Spirit. Spirit is in possession of the image, is master of it. It is stored in the Spirit’s treasury, in its Night. The image is unconscious; that is, it is not displayed as an object for representation. The human being is this Night, this empty nothing which contains everything in its simplicity - a wealth of infinitely many representations, images, none of which occur to it directly, and none of which are not present. This is the Night, the interior of human nature, existing here - pure Self - and in the phantasmagoric representations it is everywhere . . . we see this Night when we Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 69

look a human being in the eye, looking into a Night that turns terrifying . . . Into the Night the being has returned. 31

As Hegel has just declared, this Night is not an empty nothing, it is the “treasure” of the human imagination that is filled with the flux of representations. For Hegel, the imagination and its flux is ontologically posited, as the condition and ground of human existence in its simplicity. Moreover, Hegel, in his Jena Lectures not only lays open the existence of the imagination sui generis, but also reflects on its content. In so doing, the existence of the creative imagination is not limited to its deployment as a faculty in the service of either cognition, as it is for Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason, or aesthetic creation in the Critique of Judgement, or playful, solidaristic forms of life, as it is for Schiller in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man.32 It also originates and deploys images of violence and cruelty, caprice, grief and despair. In other words, as Hegel constructs it, this imaginative inner world is the place where evil, as much as good imaginings may reign. However, as an ontological moment or insight, this is as much as Hegel has to say about the imagination before his move to a position of intersubjectivity, a move which we will have cause to return to later.33 It is in Castoriadis’ work that this imaginary turn takes full flight. Beginning from his own reworking of the Freudian idea of the unconscious, Castoriadis implicitly reiterates Hegel’s idea or image of it as the Night of dread and self-enclosure, and adds that it is also the site of the ontological and very human moment of creativity. This is also a response to Heidegger ’s simultaneous re-opening and re-closing of the topic of the imagination in a renewed theological metaphysics in which the trace of meaning is located near to language, and it is only the privileged few who enter this ‘house’ on the way to Being. 34 For Castoriadis, the imagination is neither a gift of Being, nor its (Being’s) concealed or partially recovered ‘other’ side, its difference. Rather, it is indicative of humanity’s capacity to create its own world, and to create it always as a condition of altereity, as difference, sui generis. In this sense, Castoriadis’ view of the imagination is simultaneously ontological and anthropological. As he says, “the living being is an emergence. In this emergence we read this formative potentiality of overall Being/being, a potentiality that in itself has, of course, no personality, and no finality either; it is not teleological.”35
70 John Rundell

For Castoriadis, the subject is not one of and by either language or intersubjectivity - he/she is an ontological creation, the ontology of which is coconstituted by the creative imagination. In Castoriadis’ view, the creativeproductive, rather than associative, dimension of the imagination is the constitutive and defining characteristic of the human animal. More specifically, the subject is constituted through two imaginaries which, in terms of their deployment, co-exist and compete within any social subject, and yet are irreducible to one another. These imaginaries are the radical imaginary of the psyche, and the social instituting and instituted imaginary of society that attempts to make/fabricate a social individual who inhabits a particular place, time, and social formation.36 As such, the human animal is simultaneously a social animal, and an animal in which the imagination is infused throughout his/her entire existence both inside and alongside its sociability. It is only in the condition of its sociability, of his/her ‘thrownness’ into the world that begins from birth, that the tension between the asociability and closure of the radical imagination which resists socialisation, and the sociability that is constituted through imaginary significations required for human life and established and experienced intersubjectively - in the older Durkheimian language, collective representations is thrown into relief. In an especially significant essay entitled “The State of the Subject Today,” Castoriadis formulates the constitutive dimensions of the totality of the human world. He lays out a groundwork for different ‘orders’ of the imagination in a more complex way than is usually posited by him as his distinction between the radical imaginary (on the side of the psyche) and the social imaginary (on the side of the social).37 In this essay the living human being is posited as a coalescence of four dimensions, each with its own internal complexity. Whilst each does not presume or precede the other, human life, in any meaningful way, cannot exist without them as a totality.38 These four dimensions are the living being, with, what Castoriadis terms, its corporeal imagination; the psychical being with his/her radical imagination; the social being or social individual with his/her societal imagination and reflexive or second-order creative imagination; the social world, or socially instituted and instituting imaginary significations and their collective representations, that is, the
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 71

self-understanding of the social world, together with its imaginary horizon, its “ideality.”39 There are three principles that Castoriadis posits in his idea of the human corporeal imagination - finality, the creation of a world for it, and, thirdly, that this world is one of representations, affects and intentions. Castoriadis’ point here is that, against empiricist biology, which views things in quantitative terms, there is a qualitative mediation with nature, even at the most seemingly organic level. Moreover, this mediation is one that is neither solely environmental nor relational (that is, selective, in Darwinian terms, for example). It is creative-interpretative in the sense that the mediated qualitative relation with nature is experienced as a series of shocks, rather than ‘natural’ processes that are blind sensations which are only later incorporated as cognition. In this sense of the shock, for Castoriadis, there are no passive sensations.40 The activity of the body goes hand in hand with the radical imagination and together they form the defunctionalised ‘non-natural’, that is, nonimmediate world, of, and for, the living human being. The human being qua animal is one in which natural processes can no longer be taken for granted; in his view what is taken for granted are their distortions. These distortions indicate, for Castoriadis, that at the level of the development of the long history of the species a shift occurred from organ pleasure to representational pleasure, or more specifically when representational pleasure came to dominate over organ pleasure.41 In Castoriadis’ view, the interior world of the human being exists, ontologically speaking, in a state of ongoing representational activity that does not know time or space, logic or symbolic order. It is “an unlimited and unstable flux, a representational spontaneity,” that creates meaning out of itself for itself, and in this sense is a closed world.42 Moreover, because of its spontaneous, fluxing and orderless state, it is fragmented. At this primary level, it creates meaning rather than imposes or controls it. This development entails that, for Castoriadis, the human animal is the one who mediates all dimensions of his/her existence by means of this imaginary, representational pleasure, or its objectifying products. In this context, there is no world of ‘first nature’ as a substrate separate from this imaginary flux. Instead of referring to this aspect of the human being as ‘first order nature’ (Hegel), we could, following Castoriadis, refer to this aspect as ‘first order autonomy’.43
72 John Rundell

The power of an imaginary world to create that which was otherwise not present indicates the imagination’s irreducibility to a category of either functional schematisation (in Kant’s cognitive scheme), or functional psychological organisation.44 As Castoriadis wittily states, “animals are certainly more ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ than humans; they never do something wrongly or in vain.”45 In The Imaginary Institution of Society, Castoriadis refers to humankind as “the mad animal,” rather than the rational (Hegel) or sick one (Nietzsche).46 Notwithstanding the way in which this characterisation can mislead the reader away from its basic insight, Castoriadis is at pains to emphasise and draw out the dysfunctionality of the human animal, which is grounded, for him, in the creative flux of its imagination. For Castoriadis, there is a constitutive gap between the dysfunctionality of the imagination and the forms through which it is represented, as well as the ways through which it takes institutional shape. It is in this space between the imaginings and their (unstable and re-interpretable) symbolic and institutional forms that new forms emerge and take shape. According to Castoriadis,
something is new when it is in a position of a form neither producible or deducible from other forms . . . [It] is created ex nihilo as such. . . . That does not mean that it is created in nihilo or cum nihilo . . . [Humans] create the world of meaning and signification, or institution upon certain conditions . . . But there is no way we can derive either this level of being - the social historical - or its particular contents in each case from these conditions . . . Creation entails only that the determinations over what there is are never closed in a manner forbidding the emergence of other determinations. 47

Thus, these creations are other than what was there before, separate and undetermined by them, yet leaning on but not reducible to a pre-existing context. Thus, irrespective of what appears to be an ontology of the subject, Castoriadis’ reworking of the imaginary dimension entails that it is simultaneously one that concerns the multiplicity and hence the relation of these imaginary creations. Thus, according to Castoriadis, there is “a heterogeneous multiplicity of co-existing alterities” which emerge from or in poietic imaginary space, “space unfolding with and through the emergence of forms.”48 His emphasise on the ontological primacy of the creative imagination entails that at this level of his theorising, the theory is indifferent to what these
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 73

creations are and what form they take. In other words, at this level, his theory is importantly indifferent to the content of the imaginary creations and how they are represented emotionally, or in socially objectified ways. As already mentioned, in Castoriadis’ formulation there are two sets of meaning or imaginary significations that are constitutive of human existence. One is psychic meaning that is projected outward upon the world which a present psyche creates, and the social meaning which is introjected, learnt and re-interpreted by way of this originary projective dimension, outward again. The primary tension here, then, is between two meaning constituted and saturated sites - a defunctionalised psyche and a functionalising social frame, which itself is constituted as an imaginary horizon. Castoriadis constructs a trenchantly anti-functionalist image of the human subject, and his or her relation with the social-historical world into which he or she is thrown. To return to the opening topic of the relation between self and other, each side undergoes both a radicalisation and relativisation. In Castoriadis’ view, the emergence of new forms and constellations which may or may not be benign, is an activity of the permanent ‘othering’ of any self of its self, as well as of others. This implies there are always contexts of interaction or sociability from the vantagepoint of particular imaginary horizons.

Subjects in Tension: Between Closure and Openness
In Castoriadis’ formulation, whilst imaginary chaos belongs to the world of the radical imagination, time space and relational forms belong to the world of the social-historical. There is, then, the dissociable existence of two worlds that are permanently in conflict. In other words, what is posited here is a tension between the asocial (rather than the pre-social) radical imaginary, and the social imaginary. The asociality of the radical imagination works against a completed socialisation that would normalise the living human being. It, thus, works against the world of the social and the creation of the subject as a social individual. It is at this point, though, that a major difficulty arises in Castoriadis’ work. In his stronger formulation of the autistic, radical and creative imagination, the psyche is a closed entity unto itself. There is, however, a formulation in Castoriadis’ work that lessens the emphasis on primary autism. Whilst he
74 John Rundell

wants to argue that the psyche’s entry into society cannot occur taken-forgrantedly, but rather takes place in a highly contingent and uncertain way, there is a moment in his thought that posits a different image of the radical imaginary - one that is not inherently closed. As he says, “[socialisation] is the history of the psyche in the course of which the psyche alters itself and opens itself to the social-historical world, depending, too on its own work and its own creativity.”49 As Whitebook has pointed out, “this statement presupposes the existence of a potentiality immanent in the psyche - dare we say an Anlage - which not only ‘lends itself to’ socialisation, but which can ‘support and induce it’ as well.”50 It is not so much that Castoriadis cannot incorporate or theorise this other dimension in his work, as Whitebook further points out, but that the less extreme version provides an interpretative opening to interrogate this dimension in terms that are both with and against Castoriadis. 51 We can, in the light of the above quote posit a radical imaginary that is simultaneously closed and open, against the thrust of Castoriadis’ own formulations. The radical imaginary is an ‘unthought’ field in which the subject can both somatically and creatively turn against itself and be closed. Simultaneously, it can also become a creative and interpreting opening towards the world outside, inhabited by others, transforming desire into drive, to use Hegel’s terminology of the Jena Lectures. In Castoriadis’ own reworking of psychoanalysis, this transformation ‘stratifies’ the psyche. The so-called stratification of the psyche is its social positing, a positing that begins from birth through which the monadic core of the subject is cracked open, social identity formed and consolidated, and social relations established. The intrapsychic conflicts that exist in the human animal are formed instances of the co-existence of these phases, and thus the historicity of the subject. In this sense, these phases are neither developmental, nor dialectical in the sense that one phase precedes another and is brought up into the following stage in a sublated manner. Rather, each is unfinished, and stands in tension with the others. In this sense, as far as the radical imaginary is concerned a double creation occurs - one from the side of closure, another from the side of an opening. The ability to inhabit time and move in social space, as well as create an array of outwardly directed meanings all indicate the radical imaginary’s work as an opening. As Castoriadis acknowledges, the passage from the closed
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 75

creative world of the radical imaginary to thought, as well as to others beyond the subject’s asocial autism, is one that posits another mode of being, one that occurs alongside the other, and which also invites an alteration, that is, the simultaneous formation of the social individual. From this interpretation, the opening that the psyche emits takes place as the creation of outwardly directed meaning. Moreover, it is meaning that recognises other human beings as subjects. This recognition of other subjects, and to which Hegel’s Jena Lectures was one response, alerts us to the further issue of the creative opening of the subject qua inter-subjectivity. In some ways, Castoriadis recognises this in his discussion of the social-historical dimension of the human being as infant. As Castoriadis notes, the human being as infant has an outside, so to speak, and this outside is the mother. However, his point, in an understated re-functionalisation of his otherwise anti-functionalist theory, is to take the mother, as “the first and massive representative of society for the new born baby . . . if she speaks she is a social individual, and she speaks the tongue of such and such a particular society; she is the bearer of social imaginary significations specific to that society.”52 In other words, the infant is bathed, so to speak, in social imaginary significations of which the mother is the first representative. Whilst all of this is correct, Castoriadis’ reference to the mother figure as representative occludes an investigation into the dynamics of openness, as well as the forms of relation that are established between self and others. It is at this juncture that we can return to Hegel’s Jena Lectures.53 The Jena Lectures are instructive, because, for Hegel, the constitutive ontology of the creative imagination is supplemented by a paradigm of outwardly orientated subjectivity that recognises non-identity or negation of the other as one of the subject’s relational forms. The difference between Honneth’s, Hegel’s, and Castoriadis’ positions is that whilst Honneth views the creative imagination as the product of a relational process, Hegel and Castoriadis view it as ontologically primary. Hegel, though, recognises nonetheless, that self-formation is one that also requires an outward movement in order to escape the terror of the Night or self-enclosure here. Hence, this reading moves Hegel’s and Honneth’s analyses away from an intersubjectively based quest for recognition, to a notion of subjects based in
76 John Rundell

forms of tension. In terms that posit the explicit reference point of this paper, this dialectic of recognition may be better stated as a tension between closure and openness.54 Behind the fight for recognition is a fight for an openness from the position of enclosure in which the creative imagination is posited as its source. The position of openness itself is also one of interdependence - or at least the potential of its recognition - through which this closure is fractured and worldrelations established. In the Jena Lectures, at least, the position of possible openness precedes the normative horizon of what now can be viewed as second-order autonomy, or more accurately, for Hegel, freedom. For him, freedom is the specific form of second-order, reflexive interdependence, the result of which is relations of symmetrical reciprocity. In the Jena Lectures, Hegel’s more usual immanent connection between philosophical anthropology and the normative horizon of second order autonomy (freedom) is, for the briefest of moments, suspended. Whilst the struggle for openness is experienced, according to Hegel, as an activity of self-objectivation or externalisation through the developmental process of learning a language, the weight of his analysis of the process of it is posited in relational terms, that is, in the context of the self’s relations with others. Hegel argues that the self’s fracturing towards openness occurs through multi-dimensional modes of intersubjectivity. Hegel privileges three - love, work and politics. According to Hegel, each in their own way provides both the constitutive intersubjective groundwork and institutional settings for this struggle. In the context of this paper, love work and politics are of interest less for their formal content, and more for what they indicate as moments of complex opening of the subject to others. Each opening will have its own internal moment of tension where the stress or emphasis of subjects undergoing opening is experienced not solely as something positive, but also as something antinomic. In the Jena Lectures specifically, Hegel attempts to conceptualise the move from the Night of self-enclosure to the day of openness and otherness, by making a distinction between desire and drive. Although it belongs to first nature and is animalic, desire, for Hegel, is already constituted through the work of the imagination alone. Desire is the expression of a will that exists
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 77

only for itself, and “has extinguished all foreign content within itself [and] is left without an other.”55 Although it feels a need for otherness, nonetheless, the human being who is commanded by desire makes its own beingfor-itself its own end, and thus encloses itself within itself. In other words, according to Hegel, not so much that particularity reigns here, but that it is a particularity in which difference, or as he says, contrast, disappears.56 In contrast, being with another, experiencing contrast or difference, for Hegel, is experienced through the drives. In the work of the drives, the self moves beyond its own interiority (in Castoriadis’ terms, its own autism) and works upon the world in the context of, and with others. The consummation of this work is the self’s self-objectification. This self-objectification contains two moments, for Hegel. In the first moment, the self develops a capacity for reflexivity and thus mediated world relations. In this context, Hegel posits a model of self-consciousness as a form that is three-dimensional. The three dimensions of self-consciousness that Hegel posits in the Jena Lectures are that it is externalising, it acquires increasing capacities for self-detachment and reflexivity, and it is increasingly mediated by world-relations.57 Hegel draws on the image of the tool and human labour here; and yet the point is more general, for in this externalising reflexively self-detaching mediation with the world, the self confronts others. And this is the second moment, and can be captured, in one of its dimensions, through the experience of love. Hegel uses the experience of love as an ideal-type in order to establish the dialectic of openness. Yet, in a similar way to Honneth, this indicates an insight, as well as a double limit to Hegel’s own reflections. One limit is at the level of his anthropology; the other is at the level of his critico-normative theory with systemic intent. Each limit pushes his work towards both the metaphysical-ontological and historical-hermeneutical paradigms, with their own internal features, dynamics and problems. Love requires the recognition of otherness. Hegel’s image of love is one in which the Night of the self-generating and creating imagination is located in a specific social space, that of intimacy in a way that not so much transposes the imaginary force, but transforms it because in Hegel’s terms it is a form of cognition. This understates the case that Hegel makes for the importance of love, though. Whilst the image of the drives is internal to it, the impor78 John Rundell

tant point about love, for Hegel, is that it is an externalising, reflexively selfdetaching mediation of a specific world relation that forces the self to give up its dream of autistic independence. 58 For this reason, the condition of love is a dissatisfied condition, as the self is no longer satisfied in itself, but seeks satisfaction in another. Moreover, it is not only the recognition of otherness that is crucial here, but recognition of the difference that the other brings to it, a difference that is external and remains so. By concentrating on the dialectic of reflexive othering, otherwise known as the dialectic of recognition, Hegel resists the great temptation posed by the Romantic version of love, as typified by Goethe’s Werther - the mergence of the one with the other. As Hegel states, love
is the condition of not being satisfied in oneself, but rather having one’s essence in another- because one knows oneself in the other, negating oneself as being-for-oneself, as different. This self-negation is one’s being for another, into which one’s immediate being is transformed. Each one’s selfnegation becomes, for each, the others being for the other. Thus, the other is for me, that is, it knows itself in me. There is only being for another, i.e., the other is outside itself.59

Love is given concrete existence and finds expression as mutual love or mutual recognition according to Hegel, in the totality of the many sidedness of intimate ties that are expressed in relational form - a shared life together, care, child bearing, child raising and commonly acquired and held goods and property. As Hegel again states, it “is a total movement in itself - being recognised, . . . regard in care, activity, work, recapitulation in the child, procreation . . . therein a dissolution of [individuality].”60 In this sense, for Hegel, love and its concretisation in the socially objectified form of marriage, is the admixture of personality (as the practice of reflexive detachment) with the impersonality of first nature.61 Yet, Hegel alerts us to love’s own internal point of tension that moves it beyond the dialectic of mutual or symmetrical recognition. There are points of tension that Hegel alerts us to, and makes us suspicious that love cannot be the basis for a version of practical rationality in the way that is internal to the structure of the Jena Lectures, and that Honneth, too, proposes. In the first instance, the relation of love between two people presupposes a
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 79

dimension of exclusivity or particularity, in the sense that it (the love relation) becomes the point of reference. By being exclusive, an initial equality that is established between two different selves in the mutuality of recognition, generates an inequality on the part of those who are excluded from this relation, and its objectified form, the family. Hence, the other of this new form of interdependence is not the emotional economy of mutual recognition, but the emotional economy of envy and resentment. As Hegel states:
The excluded party spoils the other’s possession, by introducing his excluded being-for-himself into it, his [sense of] “mine”. He ruins something in it, annihilating [i.e., negating] it as desire, in order to give himself his self-feeling - yet not his empty self-feeling, but rather positing his own self in another, in the knowing of another. The activity does not concern the negative aspect, the thing, but rather the self-knowledge of the other. A distinction in the knowledge of the other is thereby posited, which only puts one in the existence of the other. He [the excluded] is also angered thereby; he is divided in himself, and his exclusion from being is turned into an exclusion of knowledge. He becomes aware that he has done something altogether from what he intended. His intention was the pure relating of his being to itself, his impartial being-for-itself. 62

The important point here is that this point of tension is itself a relational form. In Hegel’s Jena Lectures, as in the more developed, yet less nuanced masterslave dialectic of The Phenomenology of Spirit, the recognition of the other always contains its oppositional moment. The importance of crime, for example, for Hegel, is not that it points to the functional limit of the sacred or the moral law, but that it also internally constitutes relations between self and other. Crime is a recognition of the other in its antinomic state, for Hegel, and these antinomic states, for example, envy and resentment, belong as much to self-consciousness as rational self-detachment does. In other words, in the confrontation with the realisation of otherness, the self experiences a tension between, as Hegel says, “driving and being driven.”63 The experience of domination, for Hegel, and hence the master/slave dialectic belongs here and as one that can only be constituted as a relationship between self and other. In this context, and as Hegel shows in a delimited form in The Phenomenology of Spirit, violence, power and domination only occur in the context of this relationship, and generate their own emotional economies.64
80 John Rundell

In this context a distinction can be made between domination or power, and cruelty. What Hegel terms evil, or what also might be termed cruelty, is nothing but a singularity. In Hegel’s terms, it is the movement towards self-consciousness which is still, as he says, “enclosed in itself, subterranean, knowing what is there in the light of day, and watching something accomplish its own destruction by its own efforts, or else turning actively against the thing, thereby introducing a negative element into its being, indeed into its self-preservation.”65 In this sense, cruelty is the second-order reflexive autism of the creative imagination.66 Cruelty is beyond desire and constitutively different from the asocial autism that is indifferent to social-moral ordering. Rather, cruelty is self-conscious and deploys reason in the service of itself. This deployment is not only calculative, in the manner portrayed in de Sade’s work, but also occurs only from the vantage point of the self’s own reflexive, yet self-enclosed and self-referential imaginings with the purpose of annihilating another’s. There can be no self-reflexivity of the type portrayed by G.H. Mead or Honneth that results in mutuality here. In order to separate the normative horizon from the anthropological one, the dialectic of recognition may now be viewed as the fight for interdependence in the context of the tension between imaginary openness and closure. Provisionally put, patterns and tensions of intersubjectivity indicate the space and the relational forms in which social individuals, each with their own radical and social imaginings interact with others and together create and re-create these relational forms. In other words, intersubjectivity, here, refers to a relational space. The space indicates both this meeting place between social individuals, each with their own radical and social imaginings, and the interactive dynamics that presuppose, at an equally constitutive level as the radical and social imaginaries, the simultaneity of co-presence, recognition and reciprocity, but not symmetricality. In this sense, interactions between human beings take form in ways that have meaning for the subjects involved, meaning that can be imposed or agreed, understood or misapprehended, acquiesced or contested. In this formulation, intersubjectivity is both a space, an interstice constituted by imagining subjects, and a relation grounded in the recognition and reciprocity, or otherwise, between ego and alter. Because intersubjectivity is a space between ego and alter, it is a space that can remain either closed or
Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 81

open. It may also contract or expand. It can also be ignored. In this sense, the space has a meaning for the subjects involved, grounded in the patterns of recognition and non-recognition, reciprocity and non-reciprocity, symmetricality and asymmetricality that are expressed at any one time, that is, historically. In other words, intersubjectivity is the space in which co-presence is given form as both empirical-phenomenological patterns, as well as figurations of meaning, that is, as social creations in their own right. Furthermore, because intersubjectivity is theorised in terms of the relative, spatial forms of closure or openness, it cannot be reduced to one form alone. Closure or openness - and in the case of the latter, recognition and non-recognition, reciprocity and non-reciprocity, symmetricality and asymmetricality give range to imaginarily constituted intersubjectivities in both unsociable and social forms. In the light of the formulations outlined above, the closed or open nature of these forms is structured as horizons of meaning by both the radical and social imaginaries. In this sense, love, friendship or power are doubly constituted as meaning figurations in both psychogenetic and sociogenetic terms. From the side of psychogenesis, they are creations of the radical imaginary; from the side of sociogenesis they are socially and historically instituted and instituting collective imaginings. As relational figurations, they are structured in terms of modes of recognition or non-recognition, reciprocity or non-reciprocity, symmetry or asymmetry between ego and alter. In this way, these imagining subjects in tension co-exist in either closed or open ways with one another through spatially conceived relational forms. In this sense, the notion of the social individual is a field of tensions in which the corporeal imagination, the closed and open radical imaginary, the social historical, and the relational forms between subjects coalesce and meet. It is within this spatial and imaginary complexity that critique enters, neither as a transcendentally conceived first principle, nor as a privileged relation to the world, but as one possible moment among many others. To be sure, the move to ontological openness by the subject, and the forms through which it occurs through relations between self and others lay the ground for the possibility of critique. In Castoriadis’ view, though, critique is positioned as an ontologically and historically privileged dimension of the creative imagination - the capacity to put itself and its creations into question. However, from the perspective of subjects in tension, the capacity to ‘put into question’
82 John Rundell

is mobilised from a variety of vantagepoints, of which the stronger claim to second order autonomy (Castoriadis) is one such claim among others. In the context that posits the horizon beyond this paper, the critical subject is one who discloses him/herself in the midst of this tension, and by invoking at least one value with which to step outside the existing social field, even momentarily.67
* John Rundell is Director of the Ashworth Centre for Social Theory, University of Melbourne, Australia


This paper grows out of a series of seminars that were given in The Department of Sociology, University College Dublin in 1999. The author would like to thank members of the department for their hospitality, and for criticisms of aspects of this work. I would like to thank the reviewers, especially Maeve Cooke, for their own criticisms. Thanks also go to Danielle Petherbridge and John Cash for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Axel Honneth, Thomas McCarthy, Claus Offe and Albrecht Wellmer, Cultural-Political Interventions in the Unfinished Project of the Enlightenment, trans., Barbara Fultner, Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, 1992; Axel Honneth and Hans Joas, Communicative Action, trans., Jeremy Gaines and Doris L. Jones, Cambridge, U.K., Polity Press, 1991; Maeve Cooke, Language and Reason: A Study of Habermas’ Pragmatics, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1994; Maeve Cooke, ed., On the Pragmatics of Communication, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1998; Peter Dews, ed., Habermas A Critical Reader, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999.

3 4

Axel Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition, Cambridge, UK., Polity Press, 1995. In this context, it can be suggested that Honneth’s position with regard to his critique of Habermas’ work is similar in many ways to Schiller’s own critical position to Kant. Both draw on notions of the creative imagination drawn from an idea of play to give substance to notions of subjectivity that have been emptied out at the hands of formalistic philosophy.


As far as Habermas is concerned this aspect of over-socialisation is a theoretical disposition that is structured even into his earliest work. See, for example, “Toward a Theory of Communicative Competence,” Recent Sociology, no. 2, ed., Hans Peter Dreitzel, London, Macmillan, 1970, pp. 115-148, and his reading of Freud in Knowledge and Human Interests, London, Heinemann, 1974. See also Joel Whitebook’s critique in Perversion and Utopia, Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, 1995. Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 83


D. Wrong, “The Oversocialised Conception of Man in Modern Sociology” American Sociological Review, vol. 26, no. 1, April 1961, pp. 183-193. See Cornelius Castoriadis, “Anthroplogy, Philosophy, Politics,” Thesis Eleven, 49, May, 1997, pp. 99-116. See Cornelius Castoriadis, World in Fragments, ed. & trans., David Ames Curtis, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1997; Philosophy Politics, Autonomy, ed., David Ames Curtis, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991; The Imaginary Institution of Society, trans., Kathleen Blamey, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987; “Anthropology, Philosophy, Politics,” Thesis Eleven, no. 47, May, 1997, pp. 99-116. Castoriadis’ imaginary turn shifts an interpretation of the imagination from one interpreted in predominantly aesthetic, fictive terms. Whilst it is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a genealogy of modern notions of the imagination, in brief, this particular interpretation was cemented in the context of the conceptual division of labour that emerged in the dispute between the Enlighteners and the Romanticists. If one views Kant’s work as paradigmatic in the case of the Enlighteners, the faculty of the imagination plays a central yet suppressed role. In Romanticism, the imagination predominates, especially if it is interpreted from an aesthetic perspective, as is the case, for example, in the works of Schiller’s The Aesthetic Letters on the Education of Man, and August and Friedrich Schlegel, especially their Atheneum Fragments. However, an “imaginary turn,” which emphasised indeterminate creativity sui generis, can be viewed as a parallel current that accompanied Kant’s uneasy reflections concerning the faculty of the imagination, and in the wake of these reflections attempted to rework these reflections beyond the Romantic paradigm. This parallel current includes Hegel’s early work, especially his Jena period, Freud’s ‘discovery’ of the unconscious, and Castoriadis’ own critical engagement with Aristotle, psychoanalysis and Marxism. For the first current see I. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans., Norman Kemp Smith, London, Macmillan, 1978; Critique of Judgement, trans., & Introduction by Werner S. Pluhar, Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company, 1987. The Romantic current includes Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde and the Fragments, trans., & Introduction by Peter Firchow, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1971; Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, ed. and trans., Elizabeth M. Wilkinson and L.A. Willoughby, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1967. For the third current see G.W.F. Hegel, System of Ethical Life and First Philosophy of Spirit, eds. and trans., H.S. Harris and T.M. Knox, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1979; Hegel and the Human Spirit, a translation of the Jena Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit (18056), with a commentary by Leo Rauch, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1983;




John Rundell

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, New York, Basic Books, 1965; Cornelius Castoriadis, see footnote 3 above, especially “The Discovery of the Imagination” in World in Fragments. See also James Engell, The Creative Imagination, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1981; Richard Kearney, The Wake of Imagination, London, Hutchinson, 1988; M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition, London, Oxford, 1953; Rethinking Imagination Culture and Creativity, eds., Gillian Robinson and John Rundell, London, Routledge, 1994.

The notion of tension is taken from J.P. Arnason “Modernity as Project and a Field of Tension,” Communicative Action, pp. 181-213. The idea of “intersubjectivity in tension” has also been explored by me in “The Hermeneutic Imagination and Imaginary Creation: Ourselves, Others and Autonomy,” Divinatio, Volume 8, Autumn-Winter, 1998, pp. 87-110.


See Dews suggestive discussion of Herbert Schnadelbach’s account of the history of philosophy as an oscillation between metaphysical discourse and critical discourse in “Modernity, Self-consciousness and the Scope of Philosophy” in The Limits of Disenchantment, London, Verso, 1996, p. 190.


See G.H. Mead, Mind, Self and Society, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1972, especially pp. 199-246. Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition. Ibid., p. 74. Ibid., p. 81. See also “Moral Development and Social Struggle,” in Cultural-Political Interventions in the Unfinished Project of Enlightenment. Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition, p. 82. See G.H. Mead, On Social Psychology, especially pp. 4-18. At a fundamental level for Honneth’s reading of Mead, “this inner friction between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ represents the outline of the conflict that is supposed to be able to explain moral development of both individuals and society. As the representative of the community, the ‘me’ embodies the conventional norms that one must constantly try to expand, in order to give social expression to the impulsiveness and creativity of one’s ‘I’. Mead thus introduces into the practical-relation-to-self a tension between the internalised collective will and the claims of individuation, a tension that has lead to a moral conflict between the subject and the subject’s social environment.” 18 In this context, social critique, and the dynamics of the reflexive personality, occurs not only merely at the seam between system and life-world (Habermas), but also and more significantly, at the seam between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’.

12 13 14

15 16 17


A. Honneth, “Imagination and Recognition,” 1991, unpublished paper. Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 85

19 20

Ibid., p. 7 For Honneth, Winnicott’s work is a supplement to the insights put forward by Hegel and G.H. Mead in their own versions of the dialectic of recognition. According to Honneth, what distinguishes Winnicott from the tradition of orthodox psychoanalysis is that the symbiotic and interdependent relation between infant and mother cannot be captured by the term primary narcissism. Rather, the first phase of the human life cycle indicates, for Winnicott, that there are two parties in interaction who “are completely dependent on each other for the satisfaction of their needs, without at all being able to demarcate themselves individually from the other.” ibid., p. 8.


D.W. Winnicott, “From Dependence towards Independence in the Development of the Individual,” The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, London, Karmas Books, 1990, pp. 83-92.


D.W. Winnicott, “The Capacity to be Alone,” The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, pp. 29-37. Honneth, “Imagination and Recognition,” p. 14. Ibid., p. 15. Dews, “Modernity, Self-Consciousness and the Scope of Philosophy: Jürgen Habermas and Dieter Henrich in Debate,” The Limits of Disenchantment, pp. 169193, especially p. 173.

23 24 25


See Honneth’s “Rescuing the Revolution with an Ontology: on Cornelius Castoriadis’ Theory of Society”, Thesis Eleven, no. 14, 1986, 62-78. Hegel, Introduction to Aesthetics, trans., T.M. Knox with an Interpretive Essay by Charles Karelis, Oxford University Press, 1979, pp. 79-81. Ibid., pp. 80-81. Ibid. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 487; R. Makkreel, Imagination and Interpretation in Kant, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1990; J. Rundell, “Creativity and Judgement: Kant on Reason and Imagination,” Rethinking Imagination, especially pp. 88-96.


28 29 30

31 32

Hegel, Hegel and the Human Spirit, p. 87. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, second edition, especially the B Deduction; Critique of Judgement, especially p. 98; Schiller, The Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, especially letter 15.


In the Jena Lectures Hegel either ‘absorbs’ the work of the imagination into a systemics of Being, which requires language and the dialectics of negation in order to achieve an openness to the world, or lays the groundwork for the activities of love, work and politics, through which humans become historically ruminating animals (to use a phrase taken from Nietszche’s work), and thus move away from first nature. Following Taylor’s interpretation in his Hegel two directions emerge


John Rundell

in Hegel’s work on the dialectic - the ontological and the historical interpretivist. In the former, reason functions as the central motif in which it creates itself in order to bring together the practice of knowledge and its conceptualisation. The dialectical play of the categories, which is laid out in the Logic, for example, denudes the significance of humankind as a plurality of actors who form the world through their actions. In this strong metaphysical version, humankind becomes only a subordinate moment of Geist, which mediates its own teleological impetus through a spiral of self-consciousness. As has been stated elsewhere, “the teleological logos of reason is actually metasocial - society and the human life which encapsulates it are but intermediary stages or stations on the way to reason’s selfknowledge” (J. Rundell, Origins of Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987, p. 37). Not only is it systemic, its truth content is also immanent, and dependent on the idea of the articulation of reason as whole. In this way, the metaphysical-ontological dialectic can never posit the possibility of a positive decomposition, a detotalisation, a domination or a cruelty. The latter, if they exist for Hegel, are ultimately in the service of reason. There is neither apocalypse nor power on horseback, here, only reason’s cunning. Unlike the ontological dialectic, Charles Taylor, for one, argues that another version - the historical-interpretivist - begins with no realised purpose, but finishes with one. This version places the emphasis on history as an interpretative project, which must convince its audience that reason has proceeded in the most rational and necessary course. It does this through the study of world history, and the truth content belongs to the plausibility of the historical interpretation that is developed by the interlocutor (in this instance Hegel, through the eyes of Charles Taylor). The point though, is that “although history is looked at with the eye of reason, it is substantiated reason made visible, because it is being made conscious through an interpretation of it.” (Rundell, The Origins of Modernity, p. 38). This also entails that humankind becomes a substantial actor, and that Hegel’s philosophy of reason becomes an action theory, or more specifically a historically centred reflexive action theory in which the anthropology and the normative horizon are internally related. Reason’s self-consciousness is internally related to humankind’s struggles towards reflexive action, and away from the worlds of self-incurred tutelage. The result, for Hegel, is a combination of politics, historicity and reason. For Hegel, this is the story of how humankind creates its own possibilities for freedom, which are brought forward as real historical moments, for example Athenian democracy, and the modern constitutional corporate state. The latter is ideal-typically reconstructed in the Philosophy of Right.

Martin Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism,” in R.M. Zaner and D. Ihde, Phenomenology Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 87

and Existentialism, New York, Capricorn Books, 1973; Richard Kearney, Poetics of Imagining, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Castoriadis, World in Fragments, p. 184; see also “Anthropology, Philosophy, Politics,” Thesis Eleven, pp. 99-116. See The Imaginary Institution of Society and “Radical Imagination and Social Instituting Imaginary” in Rethinking Imagination. This current essay leaves to one side the dimension of social imaginary significations in Castoriadis’ work, which mould/fabricate the psyche into the social-historical. I have explored this aspect in “From the Shores of Reason to the Horizon of Meaning: Some Reflections on Habermas’ and Castoriadis’ Theories of Culture,” Thesis Eleven, no. 22, 1989.



The essays in World in Fragments, published in English in 1997, represent, more so than the Imaginary Institution of Society, Castoriadis’ systematic working through of his reformulation of the anthropo-ontology of the creative imagination. Although interpretative weight is given to “The State of the Subject Today” in this current essay, “From Monad to Autonomy,” The Construction of the World in Psychosis,” “The Discovery of the Imagination,” “Logic, Imagination, Reflection,” and “MerleauPonty and the Weight of the Ontological Imagination” are also of particular significance.


‘Meaningful way’ is the key term here as it assumes dimensions and capacities for sociation. Sociation is not simply an interaction but one saturated with meaning. This emphasis on meaning takes into account the autism of the radical imagination and ‘purely’ physiological damage, both of which impair sociation. What one does about this impairment is an issue about values and their imaginary horizons. As a further aside, the dead human being is a repository of corporeality that decays, as well as specific imaginary significations from the side of the living, even in the specific ‘archaeological’ re-‘discovery’ of a specific ‘body’.

39 40 41 42 43

Castoriadis, World in Fragments, pp. 143, 178. Ibid. pp. 178, 148. Ibid. p. 151. Ibid. p. 151. This domination of representational pleasure over organ pleasure occurred, according to Castoriadis, when the imagination became autonomous. Autonomy here does not refer to Castoriadis’ other political rendition of this term. Rather, in this anthropo-ontological context, autonomy refers to both the separation of the imagination from the functionality of the organism. It also refers to the imagination’ s radicalisation, in that it was no longer enslaved to the requirements of this functionality. In other words, the homologous and correspondent relation between the imagination and the organism, which occurred associatively, was broken. This radicalisation that the human imagination undergoes also radicalises the affects and


John Rundell

desires, making each quasi-autonomous in that they are mediated by the creative, representational flux of this radicalised imagination.
44 45

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, especially pp. 18-187. Castoriadis, “Radical Imagination and Social Instituting Imaginary,” Rethinking Imagination, p. 137. Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society, p. 199. Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, p. 56. Ibid. p. 59. Castoriadis The Imaginary Institution of Society, p. 300. Whitebook, Perversion and Utopia, p. 178. Whitebook, Perversion and Utopia. Castoriadis’ emphasis on the distinction, but copresence, between the psyche and the social-historical within each individual has entailed that the forms of the social-historical, which take place as intersubjectivities or relational imaginaries, has been under-theorised.

46 47 48 49 50 51

52 53

Castoriadis, World in Fragments p. 155. This reading of Hegel will concentrate on the intersubjective dimensions, whilst remaining within the orbit of Castoriadis’ formulation of the mediating creative imagination. In this sense it will suspend Hegel’s own philosophical anthropological distinction between first and second nature. Notwithstanding this distinction and from the vantagepoint of his image of ‘the night’ of enclosure, Hegel’s insight is to ask how the subject “breaks the barrier of his implicit and immediate character.” So the dilemma becomes whether this combination of ‘animalic first nature’ and imaginary creation entraps humans in their animality, and a permanent internality with its combination of chaos, creation and dis-articulation like Werther in Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther, or whether they can establish a relation with an outer reality.


It is here that we can depart from some other readings of Hegel’s work, especially Taylor’s in Hegel in which he posits the metaphysical-ontological and the historical-interpretivist dialectics (see footnote 31 above). Notwithstanding each of these currents, though, another reading of the Jena Lectures indicates that it is the double positioning of the imagination qua imagination and outwardly posited intersubjectivity that is central to Hegel’s theoretical concerns, and not necessarily the structure of Being, nor the hermeneutically formed historical consciousness, as such. Rather, he is interested in the way in which forms of intersubjectivity fracture enclosure. These modes of intersubjectivity, and the ways that the subject is opened onto the world through their relational forms, is conventionally thought of as the dialectic of, or struggle for, recognition.

55 56

Hegel, Hegel and the Human Spirit, p. 100. Ibid., p. 101. Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 89

57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64

Ibid., p. 101. Ibid., p. 107. Ibid. Ibid., p. 134. Ibid., p. 135. Ibid., p. 115. Ibid., p. 105. In the context of the dialectic of domination, though, Hegel and Honneth, glide over the issue of love’s permanent potentiality for tension, and, thus, for its own potential for domination. Although Hegel does not say this explicitly, love is a dialectic of asymmetrical recognition. To put it another way, in this register it is an intersubjective form of both exclusivity and bestowal and has as its counterfactual interiority the always ever-present potential of denial, withdrawal and absence. For this reason, and against Honneth and Winnicott, love cannot be the basis for a dialectic of practical rationality, although it is one basis, and an important one, for identity formation. As an intersubjective form, it is the basis for the dialectic of human enrichment, creativity or fertility - in other words, the internal dialectic of Eros, as well as agape. Nonetheless, Hegel and Honneth combine love’s particular form of intersubjectivity with the institutional form of the family. It is here that the ‘glide’ or occlusion occurs because the family form is absorbed into Hegel’s normative systemics with its structure of Subjective Spirit, Objective Spirit, and Absolute Spirit. Given this systemic emphasis, he concentrates on the formal recognition of legal entities that inhabit the world of Objective Spirit in a real or potential position of symmetrical reciprocity or mutual recognition. The world of Objective Spirit, and the position that subjects hold to one another intersubjectively, is the world of politics and the practices of practical reasoning. In other words, both Hegel and Honneth attempt to resolve a point of tension that sits at the intersection of love and practical reason by subsuming the particular intersubjectivity of love under its institutional form. Its institutional form - that is, marriage as the public face of the intersubjectivity of love - is used by Hegel to build a bridge into the world of the political sui generis, that is to open onto the structure of civil society and the forms of sociation or intersubjectivity and their antinomies that are present there. To be sure, marriage opens onto love’s ethical form of life, or its Sittlichkeit, both internally and externally. When once acknowledged, marriage enables the partnership to move from exclusivity to inclusivity on the basis of the co-existence, yet difference between love and friendship. Love constitutes the relationship’s internal horizon, friendship its external one.


John Rundell

However, it is friendship, or symmetrical reciprocity, and not love that constitutes the particular intersubjective horizon of practical reasoning. It is this image that finds its way into The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Philosophy of Right, but itself is generated in a way that alerts us to the internal tensions of political modernity along the fault lines of democracy, juridification, administration and nation-state formation. Moreover, each will have its moment of non-symmetricality, voiced through neither register of love nor friendship, but that of power. In the spirit of the above remarks power can be conceptualised as a form of sociability that presupposes an opening onto the world, albeit in asymmetrical terms. Cruelty, alternatively, and as indicated above, is indicative of enclosure.
65 66

Hegel, Hegel and the Human Spirit, p. 105. See also the Phenomenology of Spirit where Hegel interprets evil as a singularity, which cannot negate itself, that is consider something that might exist outside of itself. Kant indicates something similar in his notion of radical evil in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone where it (radical evil) is viewed as a perversion of practical reason that makes itself its own transcendentally construed absolute. See also S. Zizek, “Kant with (or Against) Sade?” New Formations, no. 35, Autumn 1998.


For Castoriadis’ work on the idea of the questioning of radical and social imaginary creations see, for example, “Logic, Imagination, Reflection,” World in Fragments, ed. & trans., David Ames Curtis, California, Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 246-272; and “The Greek Polis and the Creation of Democracy,” Philosophy Politics Autonomy, ed., David Ames Curtis, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 81-123. However, the activity of ‘putting into question’, which, for Castoriadis denotes what has been reconstructed here as ‘second order autonomy’, intersects or leans on value horizons or hermeneutic contexts, which may be constituted and articulated from many vantage points. This means that there is an intersection of creative interpretation with second order autonomy and the value horizons, which themselves may be constituted in either closed or open ways. This intersection makes interpretation an active principle, which itself is established and articulated in terms of the relational space between ego and alter. In this context, ideal-typical distinctions can be made between modes of interpretation along the following lines: the interpreter as genius creator who overlays the world with his/her creations as a god, and thus treats the other as a thing of indifference. Creativity here is the myth of auto-creation in an enclosed way that resists relational forms. The interpreter can also exist as controller/legislator who Imaginar y Turns in Critical Theory 91

brings in other interpretations and assembles them only from his/her perspective, or legislates paternalistically on behalf of others. In both cases, the space between self and other is relatively open but from the position of power, and as such, can always, potentially at least, be disassembled. Another mode of interpretation is the wry and ironic creator who reads the space between ego and alter as simply an ontological condition of disjuncture and difference. In this sense, there is a detached sensibility on the part of the wry creator on the basis of the recognition of this disjuncture. The creative-interpreter as interlocuter has a sensibility that is similar to the former, but assumes that the space between ego and alter is potentially at least always open as a relation in which something new can occur. This form can be termed ‘dynamic autonomous creation’ in which disagreement, as much as agreement, is mutually present. See Agnes Heller, “Everyday Life, Rationality of Reason, Rationality of Intellect,” The Power of Shame, London, Routledge, 1985, pp. 71-250; J.P. Arnason, “World Interpretation and Mutual Understanding,” in Honneth et al. Cultural-Political Interventions in the Unfinished Project of the Enlightenment, pp. 247-267; H.-G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, second revised edition, trans. & revised by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, London, Sheed and Ward, 1989.


John Rundell

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful