Review: Institutionalization as a Creative Process: The Sociological Importance of Cornelius Castoriadis's Political Philosophy Author(s): Hans Joas and

Raymond Meyer Source: The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 94, No. 5 (Mar., 1989), pp. 1184-1199 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: Accessed: 01/11/2010 10:05
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Review Essay: Institutionalization as a Creative Process: The Sociological Importance of Cornelius Castoriadis's Political Philosophy
Crossroadsin the Labyrinth.By CorneliusCastoriadis.Translatedby Kate Soper and Martin H. Ryle. Cambridge:MIT Press, 1984. Pp. xxxi+ 345. $12.50 (paper). The Imaginary Institution Society. By CorneliusCastoriadis.Transof lated by Kathleen Blamey. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987. Pp. 418. $35.00. I. Domaines de l'homme:Les carrefours labyrinthe By Cornelius du Castoriadis.Paris: Editionsdu Seuil, 1986. Pp. 455. Fr 150. Hans Joas Universitit Erlangen-Niirnberg If it is not to lapse intoacademic sterility, sociologicaltheory mustconpublicissues and approachesto social thetinually debate theimportant theory sociological orythatarise outsideits own boundaries.Otherwise, without withmerely self-posed problems is in dangerof occupying itself and riskinga creepingloss of hope of capturingthe public's interest disciplines. influence withinthe familyof social- and human-scientific of The extraordinarily evinced in the writings Jiirgen stronginterest of Habermas and Anthony Giddens in recentAmericandiscussions soof testifies a recognition sociologists thisneed to to by ciologicaltheory expand theirenquiries,but it is also clear thatthisneed cannotbe fully satisfied its own intellectual means and resources. by of The publication theEnglishtranslation a decade-oldFrenchbook of to providesan occasionforcallingattention theworkof a social theorist to whosestature a thinker without as qualification, comparable thatof is, theaforementioned but gonealmost theorists, whoseworkhas heretofore unnoticed sociologists. Certainof CorneliusCastoriadis'sideas have by of exerciseda surreptitious influence the through writings Alain Toura aine, which, however,offer wealth of empiricaldata at the expense is and oftheoretical exactness.CorneliusCastoriadis nota sociologist, he as is, moreover, quite skepticalabout the sociologicalprojectinsofar it seeks to replace the old politicalphilosophy with technicalknowledge to modeledon the positivesciencesand oriented immediate application.
? 1989 by The Universityof Chicago. All rightsreserved. .50. 0002-9602/89/9405-0007$01


AJS Volume 94 Number5 (March 1989): 1184-99

Review Essay predisposeshim forthe role of a Castoriadis'sentirepersonal history betweenphilosophy and sciboundarycrosserbetweenthe disciplines, and in systematization engagement ence, and also betweentheoretical social movements. partyas a Born in Greece in 1922, he joined the Greek Communist German againstthe occupying youngman and took partin the struggle of he character thatparty, switched, army.Disappointedby theStalinist FourthInternational, even beforethe end of the war, to the Trotskyist intellectuwhichfora timeembodiedformanyEuropean and American socialism.However,soon and revolutionary als thehope of a democratic he in to after arriving Paris, wherehe intended studyphilosophy, broke of now-famous witha number other, withthisorganization Together too. journal, French intellectuals,he founded a political and theoretical active as an economist, he Socialisme ou barbarie.While professionally publishedmany analyses of capitalism,of the Soviet system,and of quality Whilethehighintellectual pseudonyms. Marxism, usingdifferent of these articlesis undeniable,it is also true that theywere politically ineffectual a long timeand burdenedby the radical Left'ssectarian for for inspirations theunexwas one oftheintellectual polemics.Castoriadis thisuprising, had he pectederuption May 1968 in Paris. Even before of of assessment Marxismthatwas, forhim,tantamount published critical a to a rupture Duringthisperiod,he changedprofessions withthattheory. But and became a practicing psychoanalyst. ifthiswereall, I would not the intelbe discussing himhere. Castoriadiswithdrew from fashionable in of lectualmovements thetimeand workedforyearson a new start his own thinking, buildwithlaboriousreflection basis ofan alternative the to Marxism. theory the ruinsof a discredited on in fromcrucial clearlydiffers two respects Castoriadis'sundertaking structuralist (or features the Frenchzeitgeist after1968. It is neither of workon a theory of extensive poststructuralist) liberal. Castoriadis's nor at primarily engagestructuralism theverypoint to languageis intended on whichthistheory bases its scientific claims.He seeksa nonstructuralcritique ist theory the sign and of the symbolical.But his trenchant of of Marxism does not make him an uncritical championof liberalism, is as if the failureof Marxism"proved"thatliberalism the ideal or the (Domaines de l'homme[DH], only acceptable form of government and of p. 106). The criticalexamination psychoanalysis the alternative first offered Castoriadiscan be characterized negatively, ofall: theory by and of he polemicizes againstbothJacquesLacan's theory theform therin apy Lacan advocated and practiced.Speakingpositively, thewritings of thistransitional to of period,Castoriadissubscribes the tenets a postof empiricist theory science:"The illusionsabout successiveapproximaof about the gradualand systemtions,about the accumulation results, atic conquestof a simplerationalorderpre-existing within worldare the [CL], p. xiv). For Casbeing dissipated"(Crossroadsin the Labyrinth does notgivecarteblancheforrelativthisrecognition toriadis, however, 1185

American Journalof Sociology it the of ism or forintellectual arbitrariness; rather, poses afresh problem of self-reflection and thehistory sciencewithin framework scientific of the hencethe problemof history general. in Castoriadis'sprincipalwork,now available in English,containsboth thecritical assessment Marxismthathe developedin the 1960sand the of of that mostcomprehensive systematic and presentation his own theory however, he has written date. Since thatwork'soriginalpublication, to a new collectionof his essays has appeared in France, Domaines de writings are l'homme.Here forthe first timeCastoriadis'sphilosophical printed together witharticlesabout thepoliticaleventsoftheday. Comwith on plex and profound essaysare intermingled statements moretranEven so, Castoriadis's sientissues, wearying readerwithrepetition. the writings make a favorable impression thereader,who sensesthatthey on were written a tenaciousthinker projectsare long by whose intellectual term,who argueswithexactitude, and who pays no heed to disciplinary du boundaries.In the midstof the industrie vide, as he calls it, thatis an rampant Paris and elsewhere, in Castoriadischampions old-fashioned of publicdiscussion, not moralresponsibility theprotection authentic for it, onlyagainstthe state'sattempts influence but also againstthe deto le la et forming effects commercialization, of "contre bluff, demagogie la prostitution l'esprit" de (DH, p. 25). the Castoriadis'sown motivating Now, in orderto understand forces and of theory, is necessary examinehis assessment critique Marxism. it to of First, fromthe standpointof the theory action, he findsfaultwith Marx forignoring real activity humanbeingsand thereby of becomthe are ing deterministic. Accordingto Castoriadis,Marx's assertions characterizedby technological doctrinaleconomics,or quasi determinism, the utilitarianism. positing autonomous logic underlying developBy an mentoftheforces production, of Marx failsto addressthequestionofthe social conditionsrequiredfor the originand choice of particulartechof, nologiesand of the culturalresponseto, and processing thesetechhe nologies.When Marx conceivesof the economyas a closed system, in which are immanent that conception; quicklyencounters difficulties, the dominanceof the law of value in the capitalisteconomyrestson a influenced definition value thatis an object of controversy of culturally of and struggleand that enters into the determination the value of in commodified labor power. By conceiving, a quasi-utilitarian manner, of human action as arisingsolelyfromeconomicmotives,he endangers the the applicabilityof his theorybeyond capitalismand contradicts of findings economicanthropology. Castoriadishas givenlong and careful thoughtto the labor theoryof value and, in a marvelousessay, and from "Value, Equality, Justice,Politics: From Marx to Aristotle Aristotle Ourselves" (CL, pp. 260-339), he demonstrates to that Marx of within vacillatedamongthreeinterpretations capitalism continuously the framework the labor theory value. of of It is not clear in Marx's analysiswhether capitalist the actueconomy 1186

Review Essay ally transforms humanbeingsand their diversekindsoflabor intosomething thatis homogeneous measurable, whether thateconomy and or only makesvisiblesomething has alwaysbeenso buthas remained that hidden from humanbeingsby their system ideas, or,last, whether qualitaof the tivesamenessof"abstract labor"is onlyan appearanceresulting from the reification effected capitalism,an appearance that stems fromthe by transformation laborpowerintoa commodity. of This lack ofclarity an is indication a morefundamental of ambiguity aboutwhya particular value is a value. Had Marx clearlyaddressedthisquestion,he would have had to abandon the hope of elaborating scienceof capitalism'sbasic proa cesses,independent cultural of preconditions. of Withthiscritique Marx's labortheory value, Castoriadisrejects veryheartofMarx's critique of the ofpoliticaleconomy, coreofhis scientific life'swork.Castoriadis does the not,however, rejectit in favorofthemarginalist revolution's subjectivist theory value. For Castoriadis, of thisconception theeconomy a logic of as of the choiceof means is vitiatedby a fundamentally untenableview of therelationship meansand ends in social life.His critique of differs from thatof Habermas, who maintainsthatthe conditions the validity of for thistheory obtainonlyduring certain Habera stageofliberalcapitalism. mas concludesthat,with the increasing ecoprevalenceof monopolies, nomicintervention thestate,and thescientific by of organization production,the possibilities applying of Marx's theory also eliminated, are and the whole "production paradigm"becomesobsolete.Since Castoriadis's is thanthatofHabermas,thesignificance the of critique moreimmanent concernsinforming labor theoryof value and the "philosophy the of praxis"are not lost if Marx's theory not valid. These concerns, is howin ever,cannotbe adequatelyexpressed the"production paradigm."The unresolved contradiction betweenMarx's deterministic of reduction human actionand a practicalphilosophy revolution of crucialimporof is tance. For Castoriadis,a false scientistic is to ideal of theory intrinsic Marx's inconsistencies. As an alternative the positivesciences' conceptionof theory, to not Marx but Aristotle thedecisiveauthority Castoriadis's is for understanding of a practicalphilosophy. Using politicalthought (but also pedagogical and medicalthinking), Castoriadisexplainsthenatureof a nontechnical relation between knowledge and action. In all these domains, comprehensive of knowledgedoes not assume the form lawlikepropositionsemployed realizeexternal to and predetermined goals. Instead,nontechnical actionbears its end withinitself; knowledge the corresponding to it is always fragmentary must relyon continuousexpansionof and itself withinconcrete action,without, however,ever becoming theory a aboutan object-"To think: elucidate,notto 'theorise.' to Theoryis only one moment elucidation, of and always lacunaryand fragmentary" (CL, p. 84). In thisrecourse theorigin practical in to of philosophy thepraxisof the Greekpolis, Castoriadisdiffers from othercritics a latentpositivof ism in Marx's thought, such as Lukacs, Korsch, and Gramsci.In this 1187

of American Journal Sociology ideal reservations about the cognitive regard,and in his fundamental of the social sciences, he resemblesMartin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Hannah Arendt, and, today,AlasdairMacInGadamer,Joachim Ritter, modelof use tyre.But none of thesemake such intense in thetheoretical thatis present but practicalphilosophy Castoriadisdoes of a moment as the marginalized Marx's thought: creativenatureof "praxis." in analysesof the In both his conceptof labor and his historiographical in class struggles France, Marx ascribedto humanactiona creativecaCastoriadis pacity, ability producenew objectsor new socialforms. an to practidoes nottry tracetheintellectual path alongwhichAristotelian to cal philosophy by became so transformed Germanidealismand German pointofhis own romanticism Marx was able to use it as thestarting that straddlesAristotle reflections. But because Castoriadis'sown thinking transformed and Marx, he is sensitiveto the traces of a romantically Marx chargesthe conceptof praxis Aristotelianism Marx's thought. in with the meaning that classical philosophycounterposedto techne': "poiesis," which is not imitativebut creative. Castoriadis takes this to "To understanding praxisfurther: do something, do a book,to make of a child, a revolution, just doing as such, is projecting oneselfintoa or which, future situation whichis opened up on all sides to theunknown, in but therefore, cannotpossessbeforehand thought, whichone must one in decinecessarily assume to be defined its aspects relevantto present sions" (The ImaginaryInstitutionof Society [IIS], p. 87). He veheof new the of mently opposes,though, reduction thispossibility creating to of events.Admitthings social forms thecontingency unforeseeable or of characteristics historical tedly,contingency one of the fundamental is In the distinguishing feature. humanhistory, processes, it is nottheir but of because man "can provide contingency naturalprocessesis mitigated (IIS, new responsesto the 'same' situationsor create new situations" p. 44). is For sociological this of theory means,first all, thatCastoriadis workof ing withconceptsof the theory actionthatcannotbe made to fitthe normamodelsofrationalactionand their of rigiddichotomy theoretical tive critique(see my critiqueof Jeffrey Alexanderin Inquiry31, forthplanned mocoming).Castoriadisdoes not considerthe goal-oriented, mentas the primary of onlythe component actionbecause it constitutes of technicalmomentof an activity that requiresthe setting conditions, of goals, and means. The implications this position,however,extend status of socialfurther and lead to a questioningof the theoretical in of scientific theories general. Justas theplan is butone moment action, so too is theexplanatory of selftheory onlya singlemoment a historical in reflection expressesitself science. Historicaland social processes that of intentions of or becomeintelligible the onlywithin framework practical are schemesof action; all metatheoretical categorialframeworks themselves partof the history theyset out to explain. This idea was by no meansforeign Marx. He regarded scientific to his 1188

Review Essay laborsas partofa praxisthatwould bring about a worldwide revolution. But he undercut thisidea because, following Hegel's example,he considered it possibleto anticipatethe goal of humanhistory. holdingthis By position, Marx joined his leaningstowarda causallydeterministic science of the historical with a teleologicalconception history. of Inasmuchas Marxismdemands,writes Castoriadis, that"by asserting thateverything mustbe graspedin termsof causationand at the same timethateverything mustbe thought terms meaning, in of thatthere butone immense is causal chain whichis simultaneously immense chain of meaning,it one exacerbates two poles of the enigmato thepointof makingit imposthe sible to thinkrationally about it" (llS, p. 53). However, the historical character human action,and knowledgeof it, acquiresits existential of seriousness only when the opennessof history, always only partial its rationality, the irreversibility humanactionsare recognized. and of The driving force behindCastoriadis's penetrating critique Marxism of is his horror thestatesthathave elevatedMarxismto an official of ideolof ogy. In his eyes, his theoryis not a rejectionbut a radicalization Marxism:"Starting from revolutionary Marxism,we have arrivedat the Marxist and remaining pointwherewe have to choosebetween remaining revolutionaries" view, thedeterministic ver(11S, p. 14). In Castoriadis's sions of Marxismuphold bureaucratic and claims to authority domination. Whereas democratic to institutions serve as a counterweight this in embodiment formalrationality capitalism,the social model repreof sentedbytheSovietUnionis characterized thetotaldominance this by of one principle.The ideologyof legitimation "scientific of socialism"is in and ofitself undemocratic, sincetheclaimto providescientific answers to questionsabout politicalgoals invalidatesauthentic decisionmakingby the members a society.In oppositionto that ideologyand its conseof such quences, Castoriadisadvocates forms politicalself-organization, of as councils and models of industrialself-management, have apthat instances.It is notmypurposeto pearedonlyin isolatedand short-lived of but pass judgmenton the politicalplausibility thisorientation to cast lighton thebackground Castoriadis's of For theoretical innovations. this orientation the model suppliedby revolutionary to actiongives him the to strength demonstrate creativity is properto all action,just as the that Herder and Germanromanticism of built on an examination aesthetic praxis,pragmatists investigated experimental scientific praxis,and Marx reflected materially on productivepraxis. This theory action is the of foundation Castoriadis's of whichis builtaroundthe political philosophy, conceptof the institution and also providesthe basis forhis efforts to elaboratean "ontology indeterminacy." of to Creativeaction refers the creationof institutions and to the world as a sphereof possibility for action. The conceptof the institution one of the mostimportant is categories for both sociologyand anthropology. was given its most ambitious It theoretical formulation Durkheim'stheory religion, in of whichParsons 1189

American Journalof Sociology tendedto undermine conceiving institutionalization of by processes more as therealization preexisting of values thanas thecreation new values. of in Castoriadisis clearlyinterested the nonfunctionalist components of Durkheim'slater theories.His theory the institution intended a of is as critiqueof the functionalist interpretation institutions, of whichseeks to explainsocial phenomena meansofsystem by imperatives is unableto yet stateany stable human needs or system requirements. however,sysIf, in temimperatives themselves consist cultural then definitions, thepossibilityof struggling over and arguingabout thesedefinitions withinthe framework social systems of mustalso be considered. These imperatives do notrepresent nominalvalue but irreducible independent, conceptions of a possiblefuture. "The modernview of theinstitution," declaresCastoriadis, "whichreducesits signification thefunctional to aspect,is only To thatitpresents partially correct. theextent itself thetruth as aboutthe problemof the institution, is only a projection.It projectsonto the it the wholeof history idea takennoteven from actual reality theinan of stitutions to belonging the Westerncapitalistworld (which,despitethe vast movement rationalization, of have neverbeen and are stillno more thanpartially but whatthisworldwouldlikeitsinstitufunctional), from tionsto be" (llS, p. 131). of examination thisview of Although one mightwish thatthe critical the institution of were broaderand includedan assessment Talcott Partheoretical little can be added to Cassons'senormous accomplishments, toriadis's The critiqueof structuralism. readersensesthe greatinfluence of this French school of thoughton Castoriadis'swork. Inasmuch as of structuralism dimension theinstitution, apprehends onlythesymbolic it is a one-sided view of social phenomenathat complements funcone-sidedunderstanding them.In his essays, Castoriadis of tionalism's and criticizes foreliminating it arguesagainstthe"structuralist ideology" of the meaning-producing accomplishments the subject and therewith In the subject'sresponsibility and powerover history. contrast, for The Institution Societypresents thoroughgoing systematic a and Imaginary of of alternative. Castoriadis Taking up reflections MauriceMerleau-Ponty, centralargument, thatlinguistic deniesstructuralism's has theory shown is of of thatmeaning theresult a combination signs,merely difference the among the bearersof meaning.It is truethat the relationbetweenthe is and the signifier not an empiricalor a logical one; what is signified of is decisive,however,is thattherelation a signto a meaning theresult of theinstitutionalization a signsystem of and thatsignsystems mustbe with theirextrasystemic understood references what is perto together ceivedand intended. The arbitrary character thesign,to whichstrucof is turalismattachessuch importance, retained,but it is accountedfor In by a processof institutionalization. thisway, Castoradisrevealsthe of meaning-originating accomplishments the subject,behindstructuralism's back, as it were. of For the determination linguistic meaningis never completedbut 1190

Review Essay can be continued indefinitely. Everylinguistic utterance becomesunderstandable only when placed in its proper context;this contextcomprehends boththesignsystem theentire of languageand thecomplexes of affairs makingup theuniverse. "The Sayableand theUnsayable"(CL, In pp. 119-44), Castoriadisexplains,in reference Merleau-Ponty, to that structuralism should be understoodas merelythe reverseside of the phenomenological in idea of a constitutive his consciousness; contrast, own theory languagemakesit possibleto preserve of subjectivity without making all-important. thelanguageit shareswithothers, subject it In the is not obligated to make specificutterancesbut ratheris aware-in Merleau-Ponty's "a words-of a "significative intention," void whichis in determined the sense thatthe one who is about to speak knowsthat is there something otherand moreto be said thanwhathas alreadybeen said, but knowsnothing positivebeyondthatfact,beyondthefactthatit is notsaid bywhathas alreadybeen said" (CL, p. 132). In languagethere is an interplay individualsignification institutions cannotbe of and that graspedwiththetypical theoretical modelsused by scienceto understand the social and the historical. In his critique thefalsetheoretical of ideals of thenon-Marxist human and social sciences,Castoriadisrepeatsthestagesofhis critique Marxof ism. The transfer thosesciencesofphysical logicalmodelscan lead into or to a failureto grasp what is unique about human societyand human history. These attempts define to society and history separately convince him of the fundamental falsity such models. Also of importance of for sociology, objects (IIS, pp. 177 ff.)to identifying distinguishing he the features human societywith the emergence supraindividual of of phenomenaor withtheprimacy thecollectivity. collectivity emerof Not and gencebut thespecific structure humancollectivity individuality of and is at issue. For history, positionentailsa refusalof deterministic, this predictivestatements: "L'histoireest cre'ation sens-et il ne peut pas du y avoir d"explication'd'une creation,il ne peut y avoir qu'une comprehensionex postfacto de son sens" (history the creationof meaningis therecan be no "explanation" a creation; of therecan be onlya comprehensionex postfactoof its meaning) (DH, p. 220). Thus thecentral idea of Castoriadis'stheory action,the creativedimension action,reapof of pears as the centraldeterminant the peculiarity the social and the of of historical.Social realityis describedas "the union and the tensionof instituting society and ofinstituted society, history of made and ofhistory in themaking"(llS, p. 108). What thefalsemodelsfailto accountforis precisely creationof things the thatare radicallynew, a creation arising out of the inherent potentials the imaginary. of For Castoriadis,the imis aginary an ultimate determination; cannotbe accountedforby anyit thing else, norshoulditbe confused witha copyoftheperceived world,a meresublimation animaldrives,or a strictly of of rational elaboration the given.Thus, the titleof Castoriadis'sprincipal work,whichmay at first seemstrange thereader,becomesunderstandable: to society theresult is 1191

of American Journal Sociology ofan institutionalization process,and thisprocess,because it arisesfrom the imaginary, fromthe human capacityto conceivemeaning,has an irreducibly creativedimension. This insight be pursuedin a number different can of directions. First,it can be applied empirically the collectiveaction of social movements to thatalteras well as produceinstitutions. This pathhas been followed by Alain Touraine, althoughnot by Castoriadishimself, raisingquestions aboutthecritical analysisofthepresent-the current significance such of social movements theimaginary and coreofmodern and Western culture of othercultures.In this connection, Castoriadisstrongly suggeststhe of centralimportance rationality an imaginary as schemaunderlying the culturaldominanceof technology, science,bureaucracy, and economic his efficiency. However, he does not clearlydifferentiate positionfrom similar modelssuch as thatofMax Weberor from theoretical competing of ways of thinking. Second, the culturaland intellectual history this theoryof creativity and of the social institution be traced in the can publishedfragments the major studythathe has announced.Perhaps of the most impressiveexample is the studyof the Greek polis and the "creation"of democracy (DH, pp. 261-306). In this essay, Castoriadis investigates intertwined the origins democracy philosophy, of and finding that theyshare a disavowal of mere social unrestand of myth.In the of of democracy thepolis,an institutionalization thecollective shapingof social institutions into appears forthe first time;in philosophy, inquiry the truth and the ethicalrightness receivedideas and beliefs. of In his principalwork to date, however,Castoriadisfollowsa third of as path:theelaboration an ontology indeterminacy a presupposition of forcreation.The starting pointforthisundertaking Castoriadis's is clear grasp of the problemsposed fora philosophy praxis or a theory of of actionwhen thesereston traditional metaphysical premises.How is intentional actionpossibleiftheworldis a cosmosofendless,deterministic or concatenations causes and effects, else a chaos that can acquire of of form the determinate onlythrough imposition humanschematizations? in of For Castoriadis,the problems contained theself-understandingthe in social and naturalscienceshave theiressentialfoundation thesesciIn ences' unexamined of dependenceon an ontology determinacy. order of to escape from thispredicament, broadenshis theory the interplay he between and thatwhichhas been instituted theinstituting agencyintoan of of ontology "magma," of a fluidsubstrate all determinate being. In statusof doingso, he is not seekingto establishtheexclusive,privileged thisindeterminacy, did Bergsonand Heidegger;rather, acknowlas he of for edges the pragmaticnecessity determinacy everydayaction and speech. Using the Greekterms"legein"and "teukhein," Castoriadisinin theseislandsof determinacy an ocean of indeterminacy. vestigates In thisinvestigation, persuasively he demonstrates inadequacyof the the traditional in mode of thinking, particular through examination an ofthephenomenon timeand oftheexperience time.To sociologists, of of 1192

Review Essay theseproblems might seemto affect not positive research. However,since the postempiricist turnof the theory science,no scientist of can permit him-or herself luxury indifference themetaphysical the of to implications ofhis or hermethods. Furthermore, is Castoriadis able to explainthesignificance his reflections an adequate theoretical of for of understanding His on and personality oftemporality. reflections thesetopics,are, I find, mostsimilarto the late workof GeorgeHerbertMead, whichhas also been littleunderstood, to thewritings JohnDewey from same of the and time.For theseAmericanthinkers, thephilosophy actionled to a of too, of of of theory time and of natureas conditions the possibility action. is Castoriadis's for for ontological enterprise important sociologists a second reason. At the presenttime, at least in the Federal Republic of Germany,Niklas Luhmann's attemptto develop functionalist systems on theory further, a theory "autopoiesis," thebasis ofrecent into of develin is opments thebiological of theory cognition, one ofthemostinfluential theoretical approaches.How else shouldthediscussion thisapproach, of which,like thatof Castoriadis,focuseson the self-origination system of thatare structures, proceedthanby reflection theontological on premises in implicit Luhmann'sprogram? For Castoriadis, leave of leave ofMarxismdoes notmeantaking taking a conceptof centralimportance least fortheyoungMarx: alienation. at On thecontrary. theory theinstitution to of His of leads directly a concept in alienation: "Alienation occurswhentheimaginary moment theinstitutionbecomesautonomous and predominates, whichleads to the institution'sbecomingautonomousand predominating withrespectto society . . . in other words (society)does not recognizein the imaginary of institutions something thatis its own product"(IIS, p. 132). Thus, it is notthenatureoftheinstitutions such,buttherelationship a society as of to itsinstitutions, is ofdecisiveimportance thequestion alienathat for of tion. Witha pathosof enlightenment equal to thatof Kant, Castoriadis counterposes alienation positiveconceptof autonomy. uses the to the He term in complete accordance with its etymological sense; autonomy meansa society's an individual's or making laws bywhichit is bound. the In a reformulation Freud's dictum,Castoriadisexpresses goal of of the thus:"WhereNo one was, there shall be" (CL, p. 40). The autonomy We projectofautonomy characterized thepractical is by dissolution goverof nance by othersand of subjectionto unrecognized mechanisms. If thisprojectis to be morethantheproclamation thevalues ofthe of youngMarx typicalof humanistic postwarMarxism,then Castoriadis mustanswerseveralquestions:In what kindof a relationship does individual autonomy standto social autonomy? Whatare theconsequences of the findings psychoanalysis of its program our conceptions of and for of individual autonomy?By what means can autonomybe gained and, speakingwithKant, theimmaturity whichwe are ourselves for responsible be leftbehind? Castoriadis's to responses thefirst last ofthesequestionsundoubtand 1193

Journalof Sociology American edlymake his tasktoo easy. Social autonomy brought is about byrevolution:"The socialistrevolution aims at transforming society through the autonomousaction of people and at establishing societyorganizedto a promote autonomy all its members" the of (IIS, p. 95). However, as a result his rejection Marxismand, since 1968,his loss ofbelief the of of in historical mission theworking of class, theidentity theactorswho will of carryout the revolution has become uncertain.Clingingto the act of of revolution thusseems,at least primafacie,to be a remnant his Marxism, and his overemphasis it may be a responseto accusationsof on and I accommodation resignation. will return thispointlater.The way to is unsatisfacCastoriadisjoins individualand social autonomy similarly tory.Accordingto his theoretical model, individualautonomyis only of possiblewithinthe framework social autonomy.Habermas has corthe rectly pointedout thatCastoriadisoversteps boundsof theAristotelian conceptof praxiswhenhe givesit far-reaching thatare implications of Castoriadis consonant withtheenterprise theEnlightenment. supplies no arguments modelsof autonomy thatare valid onlyfora againstelitist of thesemodels particular individualor forthe few,regardless whether are of the Nietzscheanor colonial sort. That is not to say that moral philosophy cannot demonstrate necessity linkingindividualand the of demsocial autonomy. Rather,Castoriadisdoes notprovidea convincing onstration. This criticism cannotbe made of Castoriadis's of discussion individual in autonomy lightof the recognition the drive-based of and corporeally conditioned natureof our egos, a recognition has been asserted that most consistently psychoanalysis. by Justas social autonomy was understood as a different of relationship societyto its institutions, Castoriadishas developeda conceptof individualautonomy as completely not conscious intentionality as a changed relationbetweenconsciousand unconbut in sciousintentions. forFreud, thegoal ofpsychoanalysis expressed is If, the precept:"Wherethe id was, therethe ego shouldcome to be," then Castoriadisadds to the Freudiandictumthe injunction: "Wheretheego is, therethe id shouldshow itself." was When Germanromanticism turned away from Kant, theproblem raised of how to adhere to a conceptof moral autonomy thatmightbe whichitself achievedonlyat the cost of the imagination, requiredfreedomfrom control reason.Does moralautonomy of a the necessarily imply repressive relationship oneself?Does self-control to requireself-represof sion,and does creativity demandrenunciation self-control? Within the psychoanalytic systemof concepts,Castoriadisseeks to apprehendthe conflict between drivesand reality, whichappearsnotto be susceptible to in from arbitration, a manner different thatofKant. He makestheimaginary reactionto, and processingof, both drives and realitya central of theoretical concern.The imaginary accomplishments the subjectrendermoralautonomy to and in relation to possible,bothin relation reality the drives.I can learn to accept statements as about reality trueeven if

Review Essay I they contradict own wishes.Similarly, can learnto acknowledge my my drivesas theyare even ifI do notwant to followthem."An autonomous subjectis one," declaresCastoriadis,"thatknowsitself be justified to in concluding:this is indeed true, and: this is indeed my desire" (IIS, p. 104). This theoretical transposition, whichhas analoguesin ego psychologyand in the theories the selfproposedby psychoanalysis of and symbolic interactionism, notput forward goal ofan ideal person does the who has once and forall achievedcontrol over himself and has silenced the voice of his unconscious,but ratherof a personwho has as open relationto and dealings with himself with others,and who allows as himself be surprised to over and over again by the unforeseeable wealth of his own fantasies and ideas. This conceptof moral autonomy, groundedin a way different from thatin Kant's philosophy, immanently to a theory the human is tied of If being'scorporeality. intentionality cannotbe limitedto the sphereof of consciousintentions, insteadrequiresa new understanding a perbut son's relationto his unconsciousand unexaminedintentions, then the in body as the locus of an unexamined involvement the worldmustbe does notpursuethis considered partofour conceptofaction.Castoriadis insight elaboratea theory actionfrom standpoint philosophto of the of ical anthropology develops,withexclusivereference psychoanalybut to sis, the basic outlinesof a theory socialization of (IIS, pp. 273-339) that followsfromhis model of the imaginary.Since, for Castoriadis,the imaginary mustnotbe understood of causally,it cannotbe a causal result theactivity thedrives.He thusinverts relationship of the between drives and imagination or because he does notregard fantasies theexpression as the compensatory satisfaction drives but insteadposits an originary of imagination is prior theorganization thedrivesand thataids the that to of drivesto attainpsychical representation. how shouldwe conceiveof But thisoriginary In imagination? a radicalmanner, Castoriadis putshimself in thesituation thechildbefore differentiationsubjectand object of the of has takenplace. In thissituation, even theimagination unableto make is a mentalrepresentation objectsthatsatisfy of needsand drives.Thus the imagination can originally apprehendonlyan undifferentiated unityof thechildand theworld,ofsubjectand object,whichis satisfying itself. in However,thisstateis one thatis incapableofeverappearing a mental as representation: "What is missing and will alwaysbe missing theunrepis resentable of element an initial'state,'thatwhichis before separation and differentiation, a proto-representation whichthe psycheis no longercapable of producing, which has always servedas a magnetforthe psychical field as the presentification an indissociableunityof figure, of meaningand pleasure"(IIS, p. 296). Castoriadis goes so faras to refer thisforever-lost ofunity the to as state primordial monadicstateofthesubjectand identifies suchphenomena as thewishfortotalunionwithanother theaspiration totalintellectual or to apprehension the worldwiththe longingto return thisprimordial of to

American Journalof Sociology in of state.He developsa theory socialization whichwell-known of theses of Freud are reformulated-for example,thestagesoftheadaptation the such as propsycheto social institutions the psychicalmechanisms and jectionand identification. Socialization, however,is nevera social shaping of the inherent possibilities the drives that may vary over an of and unrestricted range;it is, rather, processofconfrontation conflictual a interaction betweenthe imaginative of the individualand social inlife This stitutions the embodiment collectivementalrepresentations. as of the confrontation, whichconstitutes socialization process,is like thelife in results. ofinstitutions general,a processhavingunforeseeable Psychoof analysisis an elucidation only"of the way in whichthe creations not societyand history findanalytic'support'withinthe individualpsyche, but of thepsychic whichthelatter sap constantly suppliesto theformer" of (CL, p. 95). The recognition thesocialityoftheactormustnotbe paid of the of forwiththeloss ofthepossibility grasping creativity theindividual imaginative life. Castoriadis'sreference the "primordial to monadic state" mightgive the impression that his conceptionof socializationlacks an adequate "mediationof individualand society,"a criticism advanced by HaberI mas, adducingMead as a counterexample. consider thiscriticism misplaced, sinceCastoriadisdoes regard individuation theresult socialias of zation.He refuses onlyto derivetheunconscious motivations mental and imagesoftheindividualfrom social conditions thissocialization. the of If we considerthat in his category the "I" Mead, too, counterposed of a biologicalroot of spontaneity the sociallyproducedagencies of the to "me" and the "generalized other,"thenthereis no perceptible difference betweenMead and Castoriadison this point. It would be a Parsonian of of of misunderstanding Mead to stripthe"I" entirely thecharacter an extrasocial dimension thatMead, admittedly, conceivesof as biological. WhereasMead first of accepts the premisesof the psychology instincts and thenadoptsFreudianideas ofthefundamental impulses solidarity to and aggression, of Castoriadisdevelopshistheory thechild'searlyexperience of unityas the basis of the evolutionof the drives.Unfortunately, Castoriadishimself almostforceshis readerintothismisunderstanding. of Withhis talk of the monad, as well as his explicit refusal a biological in basis ofhumansocial behaviorand his belief thepresocialcharacter of in Inprehumanhistory (IIS, p. 205 ff.),his argument The Imaginary stitution Societyprecludesthe possibility embedding theory of his of of socializationin a philosophicalanthropology that recognizesthe conof and discontinuity animalsand humanbeings. tinuity This weakness is directly relatedto a further difficulty. Castoriadis's " of to theory thepsycheled necessarily theidea ofa "protorepresentation. On theotherhand, his descriptions thechild'spsycherecognize of thatin the early stages of our development, just as in the unconsciousof the as adult, we cannoteven thinkof mentalrepresentations separatefrom affects and intentions. Then, however,thereis no "protorepresentation" 1196

Review Essay butrather "protoexperience" whichthecategories thelater,more a for of differentiated stages of psyche'sdevelopment not suited. However, are of in Castoriadis does notdevelopa positivetheory themanner whichthe childpractically withhis world.He does notlink confronts interacts and the body of psychoanalytic knowledgewith that gained by a developmentalpsychology that,like Piaget's,does not startfrom mentalrepresentationsbut frommodes of behavior, sensory-motor circuits.Castoriadis's inability relateprehuman to and humansociality each other to has a parallelin his inability treatthe unity mentalrepresentation, to of affect, and quasi intentionality is characteristic theyoungchild's of that behavioras practicalschematarather thanas somesortof"mental representation,"a concept that belongsto the terminology a mentalistic of of psychology consciousness. This is, certainly, a superficial In not to shortcoming. contrast Piaget and the pragmatists, relation Castoriadisdoes not develop a functional betweenmentalrepresentations action. Unlike them,he does not and interpret mental representations the mediatinglink in problematic as of action situations.Undoubtedly, Castoriadiseveryinterpretation for the imaginary fromthe standpoint function a reduction.Yet the is of did whenthey pragmatists notbelievethattheywerebeingreductionists rootedcreative intelligence thenecessity thehumanspeciesto adapt in of to its environment. The problemsof such adaptationare not given by naturebut are mediatedby culturaldefinitions; indeed, the solutionof theseproblemsis at the heartof the verycreationthatCastoriadisanalyzes. The relationbetweenan actionproblemand its solution does not have to be causal. Nor is it necessary denythatthereis any relation to betweena problem and its solution orderto oppose a falsely in deterministicrelation between them.Pragmatism mayhave falsely generalized the of applicabilityof the experimental scientific method (its prototype to creativity) encompasspoliticaland artistic Marxcreativity. Certainly, ism tied the creativity actionso closelyto humanbeings'material of life thatonlyfeebletracesoftheliberating possibilities powerofproducand tion could still be detected.AfterHerder,the Germantradition the of of anthropology expressivity was faced repeatedly with the problemof of conceptualizing self-expression a being that is not teleologically the defined. is Castoriadis right whenhe seeksto riseabove narrow modelsof experimentation, production,and expressionwithoutabandoningthe framework a philosophy praxis. But it cannotend well if the Gorof of dian knotof theseproblems severedwitha singleblow, forthere is then remainsonlythe abstractidea of creationex nihilo,an unaccounted-for an conception, ungroundable project. the Politically, act of revolution seen as the autonomousself-institutionalization a better of societyassumes ever stronger voluntaristic featuresin Castoriadis'swritings. bitter In analysesof present-day Western societies,which are admittedly essayistic and lack empiricalgrounding fortheir conclusions, sees an absenceofcreativity ofvisionsofthe he and 1197

American Journalof Sociology to towardanomie. Counterposed these future and pervasivetendencies society. for pessimistic analysesthereare onlyvague prospects a better His critique technology (CL, pp. 229-59) arguesforitstransformation of of of into a means forthe freeunfolding the potentials individualsand of groups. But the real problemsbegin only afterproclamation such a praiseworthy goal. does notlinkhisdemandfora radicalequalizaCastoriadis consciously resulting efficiency tion of income with the questionof the productive to from in differences levels of income,sincehe is concerned breaksym" withtheideology "productionism.But one would reallylike of bolically to know how the masses of people mightreact to the possible loss of loss of inproductive efficiency theireconomyand to the consequent in come and Castoriadis's political assessmentof these reactions. The to affairs" program withregard these"internal vaguenessofCastoriadis's of standsin contrast the clarity and decisiveness his analysesof "forto focuseshis In he, Trotskyites, eignaffairs." thelatter, like manyformer attention the SovietUnion and on thearmament on policiesand relative and Easternblocs.In 1981,he published military strength theWestern of to a book in whichhe assertsthatthe SovietUnion is militarily superior the West (quantitatively stronger) and, furequivalentand strategically over the SovietUnion in ther,deniesthatthe West enjoysa superiority His withtheindistheseassertions military technology. analysesreconcile of putable economicinferiority the Soviet Union by arguingthat the is thatis, Soviet society domiSoviet Union is ruledby a "stratocracy"; and thestatebut of party natednotby thebureaucracies theCommunist in complex.The politicalwritings his mostreby its military-industrial to of centcollection essaysare fullofpassionateappeals forresistance the Soviet Union. The declarationof martiallaw in Poland especiallyoutof and cultural boycott ragedhimand led himto call fora totaleconomic thegovernment to of-as Castoriadisrefers him-"Gauleiter"Jaruzelski. This reviewis not the place to begin a politicaldiscussionwithCaswhichhe toriadis.However,thestrident tonesofhis politicalstatements, does not omitfromhis philosophical and scientific writings, providean call into questionCasLet occasion fora few briefcriticisms. me first of toriadis'sassessment Jaruzelski and also the thesis-which was pubof incapacity lishedafter Gorbachevhad assumedoffice-oftheessential is the Soviet Union to reform itself.The pathos of a call fora boycott oftena short-lived affair.Only the foreseeable consequencesof a total demarcation betweenEast and West in CentralEurope are politically has learnedin the postwarera is that real. One of the lessonsGermany hostile with and intransigent confrontation thestatesin theSovietsphere of of power has not advanced the internal democratization thesestates. rapprochement" the slogan coinedin the was "Transformation through of 1960s by Egon Bahr (WillyBrandt'sadviserin matters detenteand can this thisrecognition. Certainly, strategy also disarmament) express to as be wrong.If it is to be morerealistic, thenit mustnotbe criticized less 1198

Review Essay ethicalthana strategy "combatting of totalitarianism." Castoriadis's militaryanalyses are a rathersterilecontribution the discussionof the to relative military superiority therivalblocs and open no new prospects of forEurope in the nuclearage. In thisconnection, position shared of the safety else shareddestruction) certainly (or is morecreative. I Speakingpersonally, am deeplypained by the ostentatious indifferto ence-despite his deep attachment Germanthought-withwhichhe describes security the interests theFederal Republicof Germany of of as no importance NATO strategy to (DM, p. 124). Thus Castoriadis's political worldview composedofa utopianchampioning revolution the is of in sphereofinternal politicalaffairs ofan aggressive, and peace-threatening foreign policytowardtheSovietUnion. Especiallythosewho sympathize withhis theoretical endeavorswishthatCastoriadis had arguedbetter on thistopic. The linkingof a new program reform-motivated the of by new social movements and joined to the interests the traditional of constituency European labor parties-with policies of European and of worldwide of to and disarmament, a shift defensive armaments, ofjoint can security also be understood thepolitical as of concretization histheory of social autonomy. It is, after notjust the"revolution" articulates all, that autonomy politically. Many years ago, Mead describeddemocracy "institutionalized as revolution," expressing capacityforself-transformation is associthe that ated withthe idea of democracy.Etzioni'smodelof the activesociety is likewisean attempt analyze,withsociological to theory, structures the of a society thatis institutionally creativeand able to learn. In his political writings, Castoriadisbothavoids and displacesthecentral problem posed of by his theory society, which is, afterall, based on the philosophy of praxis:How can we continueto believein, and striveto carryout, the projectof autonomy when the myth the revolution dead? of is (Translatedby RaymondMeyer)


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