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Adventures of the SymbolicPost-marxism and Radical Democracy$
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Warren Breckman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231143943

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231143943.001.0001

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From the Symbolic Turn to the Social Imaginary

From the Symbolic Turn to the Social Imaginary

Castoriadis’s Project of Autonomy

(p.96) Chapter Three From the Symbolic Turn to the Social Imaginary
Adventures of the Symbolic

Warren Breckman

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Cornelius Castoriadis's rejection of both the retreat from Marxism into structuralism and the attempt to recast Marxism in structuralist terms, as well as his sustained effort to reconceive radical politics as the project of autonomy. It considers the development of Castoriadis's thought during the crucial period from 1960 to 1975. In that process of refinement and alteration, Castoriadis's long critical engagement with structuralism was an important vehicle; at the center of that engagement was the question of the relationship between the imaginary and the symbolic. His critique of totalitarianism led him to challenge the Marxist reduction of the political to the social. For Castoriadis, the political depends on the interplay between social imaginary and the “radical imaginary,” which creates the conditions for human and social autonomy. Castoriadis's argument with structuralism evolved from a critique of Claude Lévi-Strauss's exclusion of the imaginary from the symbolic to a critique of Jacques Lacan's attempt to reduce the imaginary to a structure of capture and fixation.

Keywords:   structuralism, Cornelius Castoriadis, Marxism, radical politics, autonomy, symbolic, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Lacan, radical imaginary, social imaginary

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