No better year than 2008 could be found to debate the work of Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997), Greek political activist and polymath, who dubbed fin-de-siècle capitalism the ‘a planetary casino.’ The year 2008 will be remembered in history books as the year in which neoliberal globalised finance collapsed under the weight of its own overconfidence and myopic wizardry.
However, Castoriadis was a staunch adversary not only of revived laissez-faire capitalism, but also of Soviet Stalinism. Throughout his life, Castoriadis did not clearly belong to either Cold War camp, nor did he fit with the dominant schools of political and economic thought of the 20th century. A libertarian socialist, Castoriadis believed in a world without bosses, whether they had the semblances of bankers, employers, Red Army generals, statesmen or party leaders. Unavoidably, his views were unwelcome by the ruling elites of both capitalist and communist countries.
Despite Castoriadis’ undeniable accomplishments as economist, philosopher, social and political scientist, his unorthodox stances condemned him to foreign exile and marginalisation. In point of fact, Castoriadis was threatened by a string of governments of his native country, which he had to abandon for France. There, he kept researching and publishing under several pseudonyms, until obtaining the French citizenship in 1970. Moreover, the multiplicity of his interests and of his qualifications—trained in philosophy, politics and law, he worked as an economist, a social scientist and, later in his life, a psychoanalyst—rendered him suspicious to ivory-tower academics, for whom polymaths have always represented a threat, as they can occupy many a turf at the same time.
The Study Group called “Creation, Rationality, Autonomy” (CRA), an offshoot of the Nordic Summer University (NSU) and a long-time friend of Nordicum-Mediterraneum, have been attempting to spread the knowledge and appreciation of Castoriadis’ work in the Nordic countries. With their attempt, CRA have displayed a splendid example of Nordic scholarship in the insightful intellectual creations by a most original Mediterranean thinker. Last March, CRA’s Winter Symposium was hosted by the University of Akureyri, and the papers and discussions occurred on that occasion (see this ) constitute the origin of the present special issue of Nordicum-Mediterraneum.
It would be inaccurate to describe this special issue as mere conference proceedings, for all the papers published hereby underwent substantial revision, based upon the results of the discussions that took place at the symposium. Besides, original contributions were added, as well as an appendix in which resources can be retrieved concerning Castoriadis’ work and the topics discussed in some of the papers. Given the free and electronic nature of Nordicum-Mediterraneum, it is hoped that this special issue may serve as an easily accessible way to get acquainted with Castoriadis’ thought, in addition to being an in-depth look at specific issues discussed by Castoriadis scholars.
I wish to thank all participants in CRA’s March 2008 Winter Symposium, the contributors to the present issue of Nordicum-Mediterraneum, NSU and the University of Akureyri for their indefatigable commitment to scholarship and to Nordic and Mediterranean cultural exchanges.