Workers’ Councils and the Economics of Self-Managed Society
By Cornelius Castoriadis
Thought Crime Ink
Cornelius Castoriadis was born in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in 1922. He spent his youth in Athens pursuing his interest in philosophy, politics, and later studied law, economics, and political science before moving to Paris in 1945. Castoriadis joined the Trotskyist party in Paris but his distaste for their position on Stalin, their focus on centralized, party-run society, and the ideas supporting nationalization caused him to quit.
Castoriadis co-founded the group and journal Socialisme ou Barbarie with Calaude Lefort in 1948. The group criticized both the Soviet bureaucracy and capitalism, adopted classic Marxist questions with enough skepticism to keep the group from becoming dogmatic. Despite internal strife, the group was operational from 1948–1966; the success secured Castoriadis’s reputation as an important political theorist. After a brief stint as an economist then psychoanalyst, Castoriadis taught at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences des Sociales in Paris from 1979 until his death in 1997.
In this book, Castoriadis defines the fundamental conflict in society as that between “order givers” and the “order takers,” whom they ignorantly manage, rather than relying on the classic dichotomy between owners and workers. Castoriadis outlines a socialist society based on the formation of workers’ councils: which he believes will allow workers to grant themselves autonomy, and the means to maintain it. In the final chapter, he examines the potential barriers that stand between our current society and the one we must build to rid ourselves of exploitation.
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