Sometime between 1932 and 1935, Maximiani Portas (later known as "Savitri Devi") was the French tutor of Castoriadis. During the same period, he attended the 8th Gymnasium of Athens in Kato Patisia, from which he graduated in 1937.
In 1944 he wrote his first essays on social science and Max Weber, which he published in a magazine named Archive of Sociology and Ethics (Αρχείον Κοινωνιολογίας και Ηθικής, Archeion Koinoniologias kai Ithikis). During the December 1944 violent clashes between the communist-led ELAS and the Papandreou government, guided by British troops, Castoriadis heavily criticized the actions of the KKE.
At the same time (starting in November 1948), he worked as an economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) until 1970, which was also the year when he obtained French citizenship. Consequently, his writings prior to that date were published pseudonymously, as "Pierre Chaulieu," "Paul Cardan," "Jean-Marc Coudray" etc.
In his 1949 essay "The Relations of Production in Russia", Castoriadis developed a critique of the supposed socialist character of the government of the Soviet Union. According to Castoriadis, the central claim of the Stalinist regime at the time was that the mode of production in Russia was socialist, but the mode of distribution was not yet a socialist one since the socialist edification in the country had not yet been completed. However, according to Castoriadis' analysis, since the mode of distribution of the social product is inseparable from the mode of production, the claim that one can have control over distribution while not having control over production is meaningless.
Castoriadis was particularly influential in the turn of the intellectual left during the 1950s against the Soviet Union, because he argued that the Soviet Union was not a communist but rather a bureaucratic capitalist state, which contrasted with Western powers mostly by virtue of its centralized power apparatus. His work in the OECD substantially helped his analyses.
In the latter years of Socialisme ou Barbarie, Castoriadis came to reject the Marxist theories of economics and of history, especially in an essay on "Modern Capitalism and Revolution", first published in Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1960–61 (first English translation in 1963 by Solidarity). Castoriadis' final Socialisme ou Barbarie essay was "Marxism and Revolutionary Theory", published in April 1964 – June 1965. There he concluded that a revolutionary Marxist must choose either to remain Marxist or to remain revolutionary.
In his 1975 work, L'Institution imaginaire de la société (Imaginary Institution of Society), and in Les carrefours du labyrinthe (Crossroads in the Labyrinth), published in 1978, Castoriadis began to develop his distinctive understanding of historical change as the emergence of irrecoverable otherness that must always be socially instituted and named in order to be recognized. Otherness emerges in part from the activity of the psyche itself. Creating external social institutions that give stable form to what Castoriadis terms the (ontological) "magma of social significations" allows the psyche to create stable figures for the self, and to ignore the constant emergence of mental indeterminacy and alterity.
For Castoriadis, self-examination, as in the ancient Greek tradition, could draw upon the resources of modern psychoanalysis. Autonomous individuals—the essence of an autonomous society—must continuously examine themselves and engage in critical reflection. He writes:
... psychoanalysis can and should make a basic contribution to a politics of autonomy. For, each person's self-understanding is a necessary condition for autonomy. One cannot have an autonomous society that would fail to turn back upon itself, that would not interrogate itself about its motives, its reasons for acting, its deep-seated [profondes] tendencies. Considered in concrete terms, however, society doesn't exist outside the individuals making it up. The self-reflective activity of an autonomous society depends essentially upon the self-reflective activity of the humans who form that society.
Castoriadis was not calling for every individual to undergo psychoanalysis, per se. Rather, by reforming education and political systems, individuals would be increasingly capable of critical self- and social reflexion. He offers: "if psychoanalytic practice has a political meaning, it is solely to the extent that it tries, as far as it possibly can, to render the individual autonomous, that is to say, lucid concerning her desire and concerning reality, and responsible for her acts: holding herself accountable for what she does."
In his 1980 Facing the War text, he took the view that Russia had become the primary world military power. To sustain this, in the context of the visible economic inferiority of the Soviet Union in the civilian sector, he proposed that the society may no longer be dominated by the one-party state bureaucracy but by a "stratocracy"—a separate and dominant military sector with expansionist designs on the world. He further argued that this meant there was no internal class dynamic which could lead to social revolution within Russian society and that change could only occur through foreign intervention.
In 1980, he was also awarded his State doctorate from the University of Nanterre; the final title of his thesis under Ricœur (see above) was L'Élément imaginaire de l'histoire (The Imaginary Element in History).
He died on 26 December 1997 from complications following heart surgery. He was survived by Zoe Christofidi (his wife at the time of his death), his daughter Sparta (by an earlier relationship with Jeanine "Rilka" Walter, "Comrade Victorine" in the Fourth International), and Kyveli, a younger daughter from his marriage with Zoe.
Edgar Morin proposed that Castoriadis' work will be remembered for its remarkable continuity and coherence as well as for its extraordinary breadth which was "encyclopaedic" in the original Greek sense, for it offered us a paideia, or education, that brought full circle our cycle of otherwise compartmentalized knowledge in the arts and sciences. Castoriadis wrote essays on mathematics, physics, biology, anthropology, psychoanalysis, linguistics, society, economics, politics, philosophy, and art.
One of Castoriadis' many important contributions to social theory was the idea that social change involves radical discontinuities that cannot be understood in terms of any determinate causes or presented as a sequence of events. Change emerges through the social imaginary without strict determinations, but in order to be socially recognized it must be instituted as revolution. Any knowledge of society and social change can exist only by referring to (or by positing) social imaginary significations. Thus, Castoriadis developed a conceptual framework where the sociological and philosophical category of the social imaginary has a central place and he offered an interpretation of modernity centered on the principal categories of social institutions and social imaginary significations; in his analysis, these categories are the product of the human faculties of the radical imagination and the social imaginary, the latter faculty being the collective dimension of the former. (According to Castoriadis, the sociological and philosophical category of the radical imaginary can be manifested only through the individual radical imagination and the social imaginary.) However, the social imaginary cannot be reduced or attributed to subjective imagination, since the individual is informed through an internalisation of social significations.
He used traditional terms as much as possible, though consistently redefining them. Further, some of his terminology changed throughout the later part of his career, with the terms gaining greater consistency but breaking from their traditional meaning (thus creating neologisms). When reading Castoriadis, it is helpful to understand what he means by the terms he uses, since he does not redefine the terms in every piece where he employs them.
The concept of autonomy was central to his early writings, and he continued to elaborate on its meaning, applications, and limits until his death, gaining him the title of "Philosopher of Autonomy." The word itself is Greek, where auto means "for/by itself" and nomos means "law." It refers to the condition of "self-institution" by which one creates their own laws, whether as an individual or as a whole society. And while every society creates their own institutions, only the members of autonomous societies are fully aware of the fact, and consider themselves to be the ultimate source of justice. In contrast, members of heteronomous societies (hetero- 'other') delegate this process to an authority outside of society, often attributing the source of their traditions to divine origins or, in modern times, to "historical necessity." Castoriadis then identified the need of societies not only to create but to legitimize their laws, to explain, in other words, why their laws are just. Most traditional societies did that through religion, claiming their laws were given by God or a mythical ancestor and therefore must be true.
An exception to this rule is to be found in Ancient Greece, where the constellation of city-states that spread throughout the eastern Merranean, although not all democratic, showed strong signs of autonomy, and during its peak, Athens became fully aware of the fact as seen in Pericles' Funeral Oration. Castoriadis considered Greece, a topic that increasingly drew his attention, not as a blueprint to copied but an experiment that could inspire a truly autonomous community, one that could legitimize its laws without assigning their source to a higher authority. The Greeks different to other societies because they not only started as autonomous but maintained this ideal by challenging their laws on a constant basis while obeying them to the same degree (even to the extent of enforcing capital punishment), proving that autonomous societies can indeed exist.
Regarding modern societies, Castoriadis notes that while religions have lost part of their normative function, their nature is still heteronomous, only that this time it has rational pretenses. Capitalism legitimizes itself through "reason," claiming that it makes "rational sense", but Castoriadis observed that all such efforts are ultimately tautological, in that they can only legitimize a system through the rules defined by the system itself. So just like the Old Testament claimed that "There is only one God, God," capitalism defines logic as the maximization of utility and minimization of costs, and then legitimizes itself based on its effectiveness to meet these criteria. Surprisingly, this definition of logic is also shared by Communism, which despite the fact it stands in seeming opposition, it is the product of the same imaginary, and uses the same concepts and categories to describe the world, principally in material terms and through the process of human labor.
The term "imaginary" originates in the writings of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (see the Imaginary) and is strongly associated with Castoriadis' work. Castoriadis believed that for a given society, as we penetrate the layers of its culture deeper and deeper, we arrive at meanings that don't mean something other than themselves. They are, so to speak, "final meanings", that the society in question has imposed on the world, on itself. And yet, for the very reason that these meanings, these "radical imaginaries" to use Castoriades' term, never point to anything concrete, that they are also impossible to analyse rationally, since the very categories that logic needs to operate are derived from them. They are arational (rather than irrational), and must therefore be acknowledged rather than comprehended in the common use of the term. Castoriadis' views on concept formation is in sharp contrast to that of post-modernists like Jacques Derrida, who explicitly denies the existence of concepts "in and off themselves".
Radical Imaginaries are at the basis of cultures, and account for their differences. In his seminal work "The Imaginary Institution of Society", Castoriadis argues that societies are founded not as products of historical necessity, but as the result of a new and radical idea of the world, an idea that appears to spring fully formed and is practically irreducible. All cultural forms: laws and institutions, aesthetics and ritual, follow from this radical imaginary, and are not to be explained merely as products of material conditions. Castoriadis then is offering an "ontogenetic",  or "emergentist" model of history, one that is apparently unpopular amongst modern historians,  but can stand as a valuable critique to the historical materialism of his early influences. As examples, Castoriadis believed that Ancient Greeks had an imaginary by which the world stems from Chaos, while in contrast, the Hebrews had an imaginary by which the world stems from the will of a rational entity, God or Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. The former developed therefore a system of immediate democracy where the laws were ever changing according to the people's will while the second a theocratic system according to which man is in an eternal quest to understand and enforce the will of God.
Traditional societies had elaborate imaginaries, expressed through various creation myths, by which they explained how the world came to be and how it is sustained. Capitalism did away with this mythic imaginary by replacing it with what it claims to be pure reason (as examined above). That same imaginary is the foundation of its opposing ideology, Communism. By that measure he observes (first in his main criticism of Marxism, titled the Imaginary Institution of Society, and subsequently in a speech he gave at the Université catholique de Louvain on February 27, 1980) that these two systems are more closely related than was previously thought, since they share the same industrial revolution type imaginary: that of a rational society where man's welfare is materially measurable and infinitely improvable through the expansion of industries and advancements in science. In this respect Marx failed to understand that technology is not, as he claimed, the main drive of social change, since we have historical examples where societies possessing near identical technologies formed very different relations to them. An example given in the book is France and England during the industrial revolution with the second being much more liberal than the first. Similarly, in the issue of ecology he observes that the problems facing our environment are only present within the capitalist imaginary that values the continuous expansion of industries. Trying to solve it by changing or managing these industries better might fail, since it essentially acknowledges this imaginary as real, thus perpetuating the problem.
Castoriadis also believed that the complex historical processes through which new imaginaries are born are not directly quantifiable by science. This is because it is through the imaginaries themselves that the categories upon which science is applied are created. In the second part of his Imaginary Institution of Society (titled "The Social Imaginary and the Institution"), he gives the example of set theory, which is at the basis of formal logic, which cannot function without having first defined the "elements" which are to be assigned to sets. This initial schema of separation (schéma de séparation, σχήμα του χωρισμού) of the world into distinct elements and categories therefore, precedes the application of (formal) logic and, consequently, science.
Castoriadis was a relativist insofar as the radical imaginary of each society was opaque to rational analysis. Since he believed that social norms and morals ultimately derive from a society's unique idea of the world, which emerges fully formed at a given moment in history and cannot be reduced further, it follows that any criteria by which one could evaluate these morals objectively are also derived from the said imaginary, rendering this evaluation subjective. This didn't mean that Castoriadis stopped believing in the value of social struggles for a better world, he simply through that rationally proving their value is impossible.
This however does not mean that Castoriadis believed there is no truth, but that truth is linked to the imaginary which is ultimately arational. In his book "World in Fragments", which includes essays on science, he explicitely writes that "We have to understand that there is truth - and that it is to be made/to be done, that to attain [atteindre] it we have to create it, which means, first and foremost, to imagine it". He then quotes Blake who said "What is now proved was once only imagin'd,".
The concept of "Chaos", as found in Ancient Greek cosmogony, is one that is frequently encountered in Castoriadis' work, and is intrinsically connected to the idea of the "imaginary". Castoriadis translates the word as nothingness, although its modern use, as a state of maximum entropy, is not entirely excluded. According to him, the core of the Greek imaginary was a world that came from Chaos rather than the pre-existing will of God as described in Genesis. Castoriadis concludes that this radical idea of a "world out of chaos" was ultimately what made the Greeks so different, and allowed them to create institutions such as democracy. Because what this imaginary conveys is that if the world is created out of nothing, then man can indeed model it as he sees fit, without trying to conform on some pre-existing order like a divine law. He contrasted that sharply to the Biblical imaginary, which sustains all Judaic societies to this day, according to which, in the beginning of the world there was a God, a willing entity and man's position therefore is to understand that Will and act accordingly.
Castoriadis views the political organization of the ancient Greek city states as a model of an autonomous society. He argues that their direct democracy was not based, as many assume, on the existence of slaves and/or the geography of Greece, which forced the creation of small city states, since many other societies had these preconditions but did not create democratic systems. The same goes for colonisation since the neighbouring Phoenicians, who had a similar expansion in the Merranean, were monarchical till their end. During this time of colonization, however, around the time of Homer's epic poems, we observe for the first time that the Greeks, instead of transferring their mother city's social system to the newly established colony, instead, for the first time in known history, legislate anew from the ground up. What also made the Greeks special was the fact that, following the above, they kept this system as a perpetual autonomy which led to direct democracy.
This phenomenon of autonomy is again present in the emergence of the states of northern Italy during the Renaissance, again as a product of small independent merchants.
He sees a tension in the modern West between, on the one hand, the potentials for autonomy and creativity and the proliferation of "open societies" and, on the other hand, the spirit-crushing force of capitalism. These are respectively characterized as the creative imaginary and the capitalist imaginary:
I think that we are at a crossing in the roads of history, history in the grand sense. One road already appears clearly laid out, at least in its general orientation. That's the road of the loss of meaning, of the repetition of empty forms, of conformism, apathy, irresponsibility, and cynicism at the same time as it is that of the tightening grip of the capitalist imaginary of unlimited expansion of "rational mastery," pseudorational pseudomastery, of an unlimited expansion of consumption for the sake of consumption, that is to say, for nothing, and of a technoscience that has become autonomized along its path and that is evidently involved in the domination of this capitalist imaginary.
The other road should be opened: it is not at all laid out. It can be opened only through a social and political awakening, a resurgence of the project of individual and collective autonomy, that is to say, of the will to freedom. This would require an awakening of the imagination and of the creative imaginary.
He argues that, in the last two centuries, ideas about autonomy again come to the fore: "This extraordinary profusion reaches a sort of pinnacle during the two centuries stretching between 1750 and 1950. This is a very specific period because of the very great density of cultural creation but also because of its very strong
Castoriadis has influenced European (especially continental) thought in important ways. His interventions in sociological and political theory have resulted in some of the most well-known writing to emerge from the continent (especially in the figure of Jürgen Habermas, who often can be seen to be writing against Castoriadis). Hans Joas published a number of articles in American journals in order to highlight the importance of Castoriadis' work to a North American sociological audience, and Johann Pál Arnason has been of enduring importance both for his critical engagement with Castoriadis' thought and for his sustained efforts to introduce it to the English speaking public (especially during his orship of the journal Thesis Eleven). In the last few years, there has been growing interest in Castoriadis's thought, including the publication of two monographs authored by Arnason's former students: Jeff Klooger's Castoriadis: Psyche, Society, Autonomy (Brill), and Suzi Adams's Castoriadis's Ontology: Being and Creation (Fordham University Press).
La Société bureaucratique [Bureaucratic Society] in two volumes: Les Rapports de production en Russie and La Révolution contre la bureaucratie, 1973
L'Expérience du mouvement ouvrier [The Experience of the Labor Movement] in two volumes: Comment lutter and Prolétariat et organisation, 1974
L'Institution imaginaire de la société [The Imaginary Institution of Society], Seuil, 1975
Les Carrefours du labyrinthe [Crossroads in the Labyrinth], Volume I, 1978
Le Contenu du socialisme [On the Content of Socialism], 1979—originally published in three parts in S. ou B. (July 1955; translated in PSW 1, pp. 290–307), S. ou B. (July 1957; translated in PSW 2, pp. 90–154), and S. ou B. (January 1958; translated in PSW 2, pp. 155–192)
Capitalisme moderne et révolution [Modern Capitalism and Revolution] in two volumes, 1979
De l'écologie à l'autonomie [EA] [From Ecology to Autonomy] (avec Daniel Cohn-Bendit et le Public de Louvain-la-Neuve), 1981
Devant la guerre [Facing the War], Volume I, 1981 (a second volume was never published)
Domaines de l'homme [Domains of Man] (Les carrefours du labyrinthe II), 1986
La Brèche: vingt ans après (réédition du livre de 1968 complété par de nouveaux textes) [The Breach: Twenty Years After], 1988
Le Monde morcelé [World in Fragments] (Les carrefours du labyrinthe III), 1990
La Montée de l'insignifiance [The Rising Tide of Insignificancy] (Les carrefours du labyrinthe IV), 1996
Fait et à faire [Done and To Be Done] (Les carrefours du labyrinthe V), 1997
Η Αρχαία Ελληνική Δημοκρατία και η Σημασία της για μας Σήμερα [Ancient Greek Democracy and Its Importance for Us Today], Athens: Ypsilon, 1999 (based on a lecture delivered in Leonidio on 17 August 1984)
Figures du pensable [Figures of the Thinkable] (Les carrefours du labyrinthe VI), 1999
Sur Le Politique de Platon [Commentary on The Statesman of Plato], 1999
Sujet et vérité dans le monde social-historique. La création humaine 1 [Subject and Truth in the Social-Historical World. Human Creation 1], 2002
Ce qui fait la Grèce, 1. D'Homère à Héraclite. La création humaine 2 [What Makes Greece, 1. From Homer to Heraclitus. Human Creation 2], 2004
Φιλοσοφία και επιστήμη. Ένας διάλογος με τον Γεώργιο Λ. Ευαγγελόπουλο [Philosophy and Science. A Discussion with Yorgos L. Evangelopoulos], Athens: Eurasia books, 2004, ISBN960-8187-09-5
Une Société à la dérive, entretiens et débats 1974–1997 [A Society Adrift], 2005
Post-scriptum sur l'insignifiance : entretiens avec Daniel Mermet ; suivi de dialogue [Postscript on Insignificance], 2007
Fenêtre sur le chaos [Window on the Chaos] (compiled by Enrique Escobar, Myrto Gondicas, and Pascal Vernay), Seuil, 2007, ISBN978-2-02-090826-9 (Castoriadis' writings on modern art and aesthetics)
Ce qui fait la Grèce, 2. La cité et les lois. La création humaine 3 [What Makes Greece, 2. The City and Laws. Human Creation 3], 2008
L'Imaginaire comme tel [The Imaginary As Such], 2008
Histoire et création : Textes philosophiques inédits, 1945–1967 [History and Creation: Uned Philosophical Texts 1945–1967], 2009
Ce qui fait la Grèce, 3. Thucydide, la force et le droit. La création humaine 4 [What Makes Greece, 3. Thucydides, Force and Right. Human Creation 4], 2011
Écrits politiques 1945–1997 [Political Writings 1945–1997] (compiled by Myrto Gondicas, Enrique Escobar and Pascal Vernay), Éditions du Sandre:
La Question du mouvement ouvrier [The Question of Workers' Movement] (vols. 1 and 2), 2012
Quelle démocratie ? [What Democracy?] (vols. 3 and 4), 2013
La Société bureaucratique [The Bureaucratic Society] (vol. 5), 2015
Devant la guerre et autres écrits [Facing the War and Other Writings] (vol. 6), TBA
Sur la dynamique du capitalisme et autres textes, suivi de l'impérialisme et la guerre [On the Dynamics of Capitalism and Other Texts Followed by Imperialism and War] (vol. 7), TBA
Dialogue sur l'histoire et l'imaginaire social [Dialogue on History and the Social Imaginary], 2016 (transcription of an interview that Castoriadis gave to Paul Ricœur)
Selected translations of works by Castoriadis
The Imaginary Institution of Society [IIS] (trans. Kathleen Blamey). MIT Press, Cambridge 1997 . 432 pp. ISBN0-262-53155-0. (pb.)
The Castoriadis Reader [CR] (ed./trans. David Ames Curtis). Blackwell Publisher, Oxford 1997. 470 pp. ISBN1-55786-704-6. (pb.)
World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination [WIF] (ed./trans. David Ames Curtis). Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA 1997. 507 pp. ISBN0-8047-2763-5.
Political and Social Writings [PSW 1]. Volume 1: 1946–1955. From the Critique of Bureaucracy to the Positive Content of Socialism (ed./trans. David Ames Curtis). University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1988. 348 pp. ISBN0-8166-1617-5.
Political and Social Writings [PSW 2]. Volume 2: 1955–1960. From the Workers' Struggle Against Bureaucracy to Revolution in the Age of Modern Capitalism (ed./trans. David Ames Curtis). University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1988. 363 pp. ISBN0-8166-1619-1.
Political and Social Writings [PSW 3]. Volume 3: 1961–1979. Recommencing the Revolution: From Socialism to the Autonomous Society (ed./trans. David Ames Curtis). University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1992. 405 pp. ISBN0-8166-2168-3.
Figures of the Thinkable [FT B] (trans. Helen Arnold). Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA 2007. 304 pp. (Also trans. anon. February 2005: <http://www.notbored.org/FTPK.pdf> [FT A].)
A Society Adrift. Interviews and Debates, 1974–1997 [SA] (trans. Helen Arnold). Fordham University Press, New York 2010. 259 pp. (Also trans. anon. October 2010: A Society Adrift: More Interviews and Discussions on The Rising Tide of Insignificancy, Including Revolutionary Perspectives Today. Translated from the French and ed anonymously as a public service. <http://www.notbored.org/ASA.pdf>.)
"The Dilapidation of the West: An Interview with Cornelius Castoriadis" (trans. David Ames Curtis), Thesis Eleven, May 1995, 41(1): 94–114.
"Psychoanalysis and Politics", in: Sonu Shamdasani and Michael Münchow (eds.), Speculations After Freud: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, and Culture, Routledge, 1994, pp. 1–12 (also in: World in Fragments, 1997, pp. 125–136)
Postscript on Insignificance: Dialogues with Cornelius Castoriadis [PI B] (ed./trans. Gabriel Rockhill and John V. Garner). Continuum, London 2011. 160 pp. ISBN978-1-4411-3960-3. (hb.) (Also trans. anon. March 2011: Postscript on Insignificancy, including More Interviews and Discussions on the Rising Tide of Insignificancy, followed by Five Dialogues, Four Portraits and Two Book Reviews [PI A]. Translated from the French and ed anonymously as a public service. <http://www.notbored.org/PSRTI.pdf>.)
The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep) [RTI]. Translated from the French and ed anonymously as a public service. Electronic publication date: December 2003. <http://www.notbored.org/RTI.pdf>.
Democracy and Relativism: Discussion with the "MAUSS" Group [DR]. Translated from the French and ed anonymously as a public service. Electronic publication date: January 2013. <http://www.notbored.org/DR.pdf>.
Window on the Chaos, Including "How I Didn't Become a Musician" – Beta Version [WC]. Translated from the French and ed anonymously as a public service. Electronic publication date: July 2015. <http://www.notbored.org/WoC.pdf>.
^ abcBenoît Challand, "Socialisme ou Barbarie or the Partial Encounters Between Anarchism and Critical Marxism", in: Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Dave Berry, Saku Pinta (eds.), Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 210–231, esp. 210, "... Castoriadis's evident legacy to Left-libertarian thinking and his radical break with orthodox Marxist-Leninism ..."
^ abClaude Lefort, Writing: The Political Test, Duke University Press, 2000, Translator's Foreword by David Ames Curtis, p. xxiv, "Catoriadis, the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, now Lefort ... are themselves quite articulate in their own right and historically associated with a libertarian socialist outlook..."
^ abArthur Hirsh, The French Left, Black Rose Books, 1982, p. 126.
^Suzi Adams (ed.). Cornelius Castoriadis: Key Concepts. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, "Democracy" entry by Ingerid S. Straume: "[Castoriadis'] thought certainly reflects ideas of radical, participatory and direct democracy, communitarianism and republicanism ...". ISBN978-1-4411-7290-7.
^IIS, p. 282; confer Freud's term (Vorstellungs-) Repräsentanz des Triebes "ideational representative of the drive" (Sigmund Freud, "Die Verdrängung" contained in the volume Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse, Vol. III, Cahier 3, 1915, p. 130).
^ ab"A magma is that from which one can extract (or in which one can construct) an indefinite number of ensemblist organizations but which can never be reconstituted (ideally) by a (finite or infinite) ensemblist composition of these organizations." (IIS, p. 343.)
^From the Ancient Greek λέγειν "to say, speak" and τεύχειν "to make."
^This is Castoriadis' version (IIS, p. 104) of Freud's motto Wo Es war, soll Ich werden ("Where Id was, Ego shall come to be"; see Sigmund Freud, Neue Folge der Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse: 31. Vorlesung).
^Elucidation is a methodology pertaining to historical research (research on the social-historical conditions of possibility) which is "inseparable from a political aim and a political project" (IIS, pp. 2–3).
^"The institution presupposes the institution: it can exist only if individuals fabricated by the institution make the institution exist" (WIF, p. 315). Klooger has compared Castoriadis' idea of the 'circle of creation' with Heidegger's idea of the 'hermeneutic circle' (Klooger 2009, p. 254). S. Gourgouris (2003) pointed out that the circle of creation is "a circle whose Being is nowhere, since in itself it accounts for the meaning of Being, a meaning that is always inevitably a human ... affair," and that, contrary to what Heidegger advocates, the circle of creation "is never broken by revelation (by 'unconcealment'—aletheia)" (Stathis Gourgouris, Does Literature Think?, Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 153).
^The paradox arising from the assertion that historical consciousness universalizes historical knowledge; see IIS, pp. 34–5; Klooger 2009, p. 242; Konstantinos Kavoulakos, "Cornelius Castoriadis on Social Imaginary and Truth", Ariadne 12 (2006), pp. 201–213.
^Castoriadis posits that new forms are radically novel; this, however, does not imply neither that ontological creation has no prior foundation—it is not in nihilo—nor that it has no constraints—it is not cum nihilo. Confer: FT B, pp. 241, 258.
^"Being is creation, vis formandi: not the creation of 'matter-energy,' but the creation of forms" (Fait et à faire, p. 212).
^"For what is given in and through history is not the determined sequence of the determined but the emergence of radical otherness, immanent creation, non-trivial novelty." (IIS, p. 184.)
^"[T]ime is essentially linked to the emergence of alterity. Time is this emergence as such—whereas space is "only" its necessary concomitant. Time is creation and destruction—that means, time is being in its substantive determinations." (WIF, p. 399.)
^ abCornelius Castoriadis, "From Marx to Aristotle, from Aristotle to Us" (trans. Andrew Arato), Social Research45(4):667–738, 1978, esp. p. 738: "It is a question of the destruction of economic motivations, by destroying the "socially objective" conditions of its [sic] possibility: the differentiation of revenues."
^"Capitalism can function only by continually drawing upon the genuinely human activity of those subject to it, while at the same time trying to level and dehumanize them as much as possible." (IIS, p. 16.)
^FT A: "What Democracy? (including Passion and Knowledge)", p. 227.
^Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder, Routledge, 2009, pp. 148–9: "According to Cornelius Castoriadis ..., [e]quivalence in exchange ... came not from anything intrinsic to commodities, but from what the Greek called the nomos. It was rooted not in the material sphere of consumption and production, but in the broader social–legal–historical institutions of society. It was not an objective substance, but a human creation. ... In all pre-capitalist societies, prices – and distribution more generally – were determined through some mixture of social struggles and cooperation. Authoritarian regimes emphasized power and decree, while more egalitarian societies used negotiation, volition and even gifts..." and p. 306: "The power role of the market cannot be overemphasized... Cornelius Castoriadis ... proclaims that 'where there is capitalism, there is no market; and where there is a market, there cannot be capitalism'".
^CL, pp. 46–115: "Psychoanalysis: Project and Elucidation"; Elliott 2003, p. 92.
^Cornelius Castoriadis, "The State of the Subject Today", American Imago, Winter 1989, 46(4), pp. 371–412 (also in: WIF, pp. 137–171). Cf. V. Karalis (2005). "Castoriadis, Cornelius (1922–97)," in: John Protevi (ed.), The Edinburgh Dictionary of Continental Philosophy, Edinburgh University Press, 2005, pp. 86–7.
^Christos Memos. "Castoriadis and Social Theory: From Marginalization to Canonization to Re-radicalization". In: Alex Law and Eric Royal Lybeck (eds.). Sociological Amnesia: Cross-currents in Disciplinary History. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. p. 190.
^See: Dosse 2014, p. 104; Cornelius Castoriadis, "The Destinies of Totalitarianism," Salmagundi 60 (Spring/Summer 1983): 108; Peter Murphy, "Romantic Modernism and the Greek Polis", Thesis Eleven, February 1993, 34(1): 42–66. For a comparative analysis of Hannah Arendt and Cornelius Castoriadis, see Gillian Robinson's "The Greek Polis and the Democratic Imaginary", Thesis Eleven, February 1995, 40(1): 25–43. Castoriadis criticizes Arendt in his interview "The Idea of Revolution" (published as "L'Idée de révolution" in Le Débat 57, Nov.–Dec 1989 and Le monde morcelé (1990), pp. 155–71; first translated in English in Cornelius Castoriadis, "Does the Idea of Revolution Still Make Sense?", Thesis Eleven, May 1990, 26(1): 123–138) and in his talk "The Athenian Democracy: False and True Questions" (given in Paris in 1992 and published as "La démocratie athénienne: fausses et vraies questions" in La Montée de l'insignifiance, 1996; first published in English in Pierre Lévêque and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Cleisthenes the Athenian: An Essay on the Representation of Space and of Time in Greek Political Thought from the End of the Sixth Century to the Death of Plato, Humanities Press, 1996, p. 119ff.).
^Sean McMorrow, "Concealed Chora in the Thought of Cornelius Castoriadis: A Bastard Comment on Trans-Regional Creation", Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2012).
^"[L]e mode de répartition du produit social est inséparable du mode de production." (P. Chaulieu, "Les rapports de production en Russie", Socialisme ou Barbarie n° 2 (May 1949) reproduced in La Société bureaucratique - Volumes 1–2, Christian Bourgois Éditeur, 1990, p. 164.)
^"L'Idée que l'on puisse dominer la répartition sans dominer la production est de l'enfantillage." (La Société bureaucratique - Volumes 1–2, p. 166.)
^"Marxism and Revolutionary Theory" later became the first of the two parts of IIS (the second being "The Social Imaginary and the Institution", a previously unpublished follow-up to "Marxism and Revolutionary Theory"). The relevant quote from IIS, p. 14 is: "Starting from revolutionary Marxism, we have arrived at the point where we have to choose between remaining Marxist and remaining revolutionaries".
^From the contemporary geological term magma, "blend of molten or semi-molten rock", from the Ancient Greekμάγμα, "thick unguent" (Suzi Adams, ed., 2014, ch. 6).
^Klooger, Jeff. "The Guise of Nothing: Castoriadis on Indeterminacy, and its Misrecognition in Heidegger and Sartre," Critical Horizons14(1), 2013, p. 7: "'Magma' is the name Castoriadis gives to the mode of being which he sees as underlying all others, and which is characterized by an indeterminacy in which particular determinations come to be, but without congealing into inalterable forms, and without diminishing the potential for the emergence of new and different determinations."
^FT A: "Imaginary and Imagination at the Crossroads" (essay based on a speech given in Abrantes in November 1996), p. 151. The quote appears in a slightly different translation in FT B (Figures of the Thinkable, trans. by Helen Arnold, Stanford University Press, 2007), pp. 89–90.
^FT A: "First Institution of Society and Second-Order Institutions" (essay based on a lecture presented on December 15, 1985 in Paris), p. 163.
^Castoriadis, Cornelius (February 1980). "Facing the War". Telos (46): 48.
^Sophie Klimis and Laurent Van Eynde (eds.), L'imaginaire selon Castoriadis: thèmes et enjeux, Facultés Universitaires Saint Louis à Bruxelles, 2006, p. 47 n. 8.
^He had proposed in his application form the creation of a Chair in Recherches sur les régimes sociaux contemporains, "Research on contemporary social systems" (Dosse 2014, p. 308), which he eventually occupied.
^Castoriadis advocated that "[t]he surging forth [surgissement] of signification—of the institution, of society—is creation and self-creation. ... Signification emerges to cover over the Chaos, thus bringing into being a mode of being that posits itself as negation of the Chaos" (WIF, p. 315).
Alexandros Schismenos. Η Ανθρώπινη Τρικυμία. Ψυχή και Αυτονομία στη Φιλοσοφία του Κορνήλιου Καστοριάδη [The Human Tempest. Psyche and Αutonomy in the Philosophy of Cornelius Castoriadis]. Athens: Exarcheia, 2013. ISBN978-618-80336-5-8.
Nelly Andrikopoulou. Το ταξίδι του Ματαρόα, 1945 [Mataroa's Voyage, 1945]. Athens: "Hestia" Printing House, 2007. ISBN978-960-05-1348-6.
Giorgio Baruchello and Ingerid S. Straume (eds.). Creation, Rationality and Autonomy: Essays on Cornelius Castoriadis. Aarhus Universitetsforlag. 2013. ISBN978-878-75-6499-1.
Yannis Ktenas and Alexandros Schismenos.(eds.) Η Σκέψη του Κορνήλιου Καστοριάδη και η Σημασία της για μας Σήμερα [The Thought of Cornelius Castoriadis and its Significance for Us Today]. Athens: Eurasia books. 2018. ISBN978-618-5027-89-6.
Alexandros Schismenos and Nikos Ioannou. Μετά τον Καστοριάδη. Δρόμοι της Αυτονομίας στον 21ο Αιώνα. [After Castoriadis. Roads to Autonomy in the 21st Century]. Athens: Exarcheia, 2014. ISBN978-618-5128-03-6.
David Ames Curtis. "Cornelius Castoriadis: An Obituary." Salmagundi, Spring–Summer 1998: 52–61. Reprinted as "Cornelius Castoriadis: Philosopher of the Social Imagination." Free Associations, 7:3 (1999): 321–30. Available online: <http://www.agorainternational.org/about.html>.