Appendix 1. Cornelius Castoriadis

Some interesting biographical points: Cornelius Castoriadis was born in 1922 in Constantinople (Istanbul) and died in Paris in 1997. When he was only a few months old, his family fled to Athens to escape the tragic consequences for the Greek population in Turkey following the collapse of the Greek front in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). He was awarded his first degree in Economics, Political Science, and Law by the University of Athens in 1942. While still in high school, he joined the Athenian Communist Youth, and in 1941 the Communist Party of Greece, only to leave one year later to become an active Trotskyite. In the turbulent and repressive years of the German occupation of Greece and the internecine Civil War that followed shortly after, Castoriadis was persecuted by both the Germans and the Communist Party because of his radical left beliefs. In 1945, together with a substantial number of other Greek intellectuals and artists of the time, he boarded the New Zealand ocean liner “Mataroa” to escape persecution; he then settled in Paris. His escape was made possible by a generous scholarship from the French Institute of Athens with the personal intervention of its Director, Octave Merlier.
From his long career as a philosopher and political activist, I will single out two major involvements. First, the famous political group and its eponymous journal, Socialisme ou Barbarie (Socialism or Barbarism), which he co-founded with Claude Lefort and lasted from 1948–1966. In the years prior to the radical movement of May 1968, the journal, under the direction of Castoriadis, is believed to have played a pivotal role in influencing intellectuals and activists of the time. Second is the publication in 1975 of his seminal book L’ Institution Imaginaire de la Société (The Imaginary Institution of Society), where the author presents his theory of the self-instituting society, social imaginary significations, and social change as a radical creation developed over years. The philosopher’s interest in ancient Athenian democracy had always been vigorous, but gained further momentum when he became Director of Studies at the celebrated École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), from 1979 to 1997. Three volumes of his seminars on ancient Greece from that period have been published posthumously, with topics ranging from Homer and Heraclitus, to Attic tragedy and Thucydides. As ancient Athens was an essentially autonomous society, it became Castoriadis’s cardinal theoretical paradigm for alternative and viable political organizations appropriate to his contemporary world.