Castoriadis on Althusser and the crisis of Marxism

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    The issue concerning the crisis of Marxism has had a wide range of interpretations and has promoted debate and controversy. During the Cold War anti-communist hysteria and coming from a radical perspective, Castoriadis re-opened and participated in the above debate. Directing his critique against the theory and practice of Marxism, Castoriadis considered the crisis of Marxism as a crisis of Marx's original thought as well. The degeneration of Marxism and the loss of its radical character were attributed to its transformation into a semi-religious dogma and a closed theoretical system. Castoriadis returned, again, to this issue after Althusser's public announcement of the crisis of Marxism in 1977. This paper discusses Castoriadis's important, but still neglected fierce critique of the Althusser's views and argues that it prompts a re-appreciation of considerable issues for contemporary emancipatory politics. First, Castoriadis’s critical alternative approach to the crisis of Marxism is located within the Marxist theoretical discussions on the issue. Following an outline of Althusser's attempt to formulate the fundamental causes for what he meant to be an overt eruption of the crisis of Marxism, the essay goes on to present Castoriadis’s critique and investigates the grounds on which it was put forward. The paper concludes with an assessment of the implications of Castoriadis's arguments for the renewal of radical politics today.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)100-116
    Number of pages17
    JournalCosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • Castoriadis
    • Althusser
    • Crisis of Marxism
    • Marx
    • Emancipatory politics


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