Castoriadis on the Crisis of Western Societies

With the publication of “The Crisis of Western Societies” (1982), Cornelius Castoriadis returns to an early theme in his work by proposing that over the previous twenty years Western societies had begun to enter a new phase, one that could be considered to be a situation of crisis. In his earlier political thought—associated with Socialisme ou Barbarie—Castoriadis identified signs of a transition into this new phase, marked by a widespread bureaucratization of political decision-making that emerged alongside a general turn toward the privatization of social life. At the time of his revisitation of this theme, Castoriadis’s work had undergone what would be the first of two ontological turns: a turn that involved a radical rethinking of historicity, which understood the historical dimension of society as a socially contingent mode of creation that is central to the constitution of the world of a given society. This article reflects an articulation of his previous theme of crisis with regard to this broader rethinking of historicity throughout the 1970s, which extended political analysis into more foundational issues of social institution and cultural expression.

Continue reading →

There Is No Anthropocene: Climate Change, Species-Talk, and Political Economy

Anthropocene scholars push a new universal history and subject: we (the “anthropos”) are digging our grave as a species. Though this rhetoric is effective for drawing attention to the ecological crisis, the Anthropocene concept is dangerous for social theory. By generalizing responsibility and guilt for our contemporary ecological crisis to the point that it encompasses the human species, the concept and discourse elide the particular people and structures responsible for creating it. Rather than clarify the origins of the contemporary crisis—the history of capitalism, colonialism, and simplistic ideas about nature—it occludes them through forays into “deep history” and tales of technology disembedded from their social context. Lacking this history, the Anthropocene operates as an empty cosmopolitanism. Rather than provide a ground for a new political ecology, the Anthropocene removes it. Worse, the concept may prove useful for global actors who wish to hide their climate debts, using the rhetoric of collective responsibility that the Anthropocene makes possible.

Continue reading →

The European Union Reconsidered

It seems that a young internet highflier who calls himself “the Argonaut,” whose idée fixe is the future of the European Union, has become the champion of a possible Federalist European Union and is bombarding the network with a number of miracles that, according to him, are being achieved in Brussels and Strasbourg. He claims that Europe’s political unification is fully realized, that the ECB has extended quantitative easing to all European banks, that the Greek problem, he happily announces, is solved thanks to a giant issue of fifty-year Greek government real estate bonds, which are sending the international financial market agog. The EU Commission, the Argonaut dreams, has decided to support the British suggestion that the EU MPs should work inside various 28 national parliaments, thus integrating the European institutions, and not in Strasbourg; he moreover says that the Frontex Immigrant Agency in Warsaw, duly instructed by Germany, has accepted enthusiastically to coordinate the Mediterranean immigrants distribution among the EU member states who heartedly agree. His most fantastic declaration is that five EU defense ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain, based on articles 28, 42, and 43 of the Lisbon Treaty, have created the EEF, an European Expeditionary Force, which will be based in Sardinia and near Cracow. Special arrangements, he candidly assures the social network, have already been signed with NATO.

Continue reading →

Rethinking the Left’s Political Project

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Johanna Schenner looks at Federico Stame’s “The Crisis of the Left and New Social Identities,” from Telos 60 (Summer 1984).

In “The Crisis of the Left and New Social Identities” (1984), Federico Stame addresses the problems encountered by left-wing ideologies and political parties, such as the banality of their demands, as well as deeper underlying issues, such as the falling away of the friend-foe nexus in politics. He also provides hope for improvement by invoking the leading role of new social identities in renewing the tradition of the political Left.

Continue reading →