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Bureaucracy and creativity: preliminary thoughts on Cornelius Castoriadis’ theory of imaginary significations

posted on 07.12.2020, 10:17 by Christophe Premat
The presentation was given during a virtual conference on
"Bureaucratic Poetics: Brian O’Nolan and the Irish Civil Service" (26-27 November 2020) given at Stockholm University.

Cornelius Castoriadis is a Greek philosopher who arrived in France in 1945 to flee the chaotic political and social situation in Greece after the Second World War. Castoriadis’s work is characterized by a multiplicity of fields including philosophy, social critics, economy and psychoanalysis. Castoriadis was a revolutionary activist of the radical Left before being a well-known philosopher. In fact, by presenting his main work in 1975 with the publication The imaginary institution of society, Castoriadis also proposed a theory on bureaucracy. The bureaucratization of societies is characterized by an ongoing disconnection between two social groups that rarely meet each other, order-givers and order-takers. The theory is described and based upon sociological arguments on the development of the USSR that presents a case of total bureaucracy whereas western societies are confronted with fragmented bureaucracies. How can the imaginary signification of bureaucracies be defined? Is it a deep control or surveillance of human activities? What is the impact on aesthetics? In his late period, Castoriadis focused on a comparison between political debate and aesthetic production. The more democratic a society is, the more it generates an aesthetic creativity. The presentation will briefly introduce Castoriadis’ theory of bureaucracy with an analysis of the relation between politics and aesthetics.


Original language


Associated Publication

Christophe Premat (2006) Castoriadis and the Modern Political Imaginary—Oligarchy, Representation, Democracy, Critical Horizons, 7:1, 251-275, DOI: 10.1163/156851606779308170

Affiliation (institution of first SU-affiliated author)

165 Romanska och klassiska institutionen | Department of Romance Studies and Classics