DAVID AMES CURTIS: INTRODUCTION BY DAVID AMES CURTIS AND SPARTA CASTORIADIS
DAVID AMES CURTIS
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Introduction to Castoriadis's
"From the Monad to Autonomy"
by David Ames Curtis and Sparta Castoriadis
Cofounder of the revolutionary group and journal Socialisme
ou Barbarie (1948-1967), philosopher, social critic, professional economist,
practicing psychoanalyst (since 1974), and Director of Studies (since 1980)
at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris,
Cornelius Castoriadis (b. 1922) is known to the readers of Free Associations
as the author of "The First Institution of Society and Second-Order Institutions"
(12, 1988) and as the subject of editor Paul Gordon's 1990 interview (24, 1991).
He describes himself as close to the "Fourth Group," the French-Language
Psychoanalytic Organization, that is separate from the two French psychoanalytic
associations recognized by the International Psychoanalytic Association, as
well as from the now-defunct Lacanian "École Freudienne" (from
which it split in 1968) and from the École's various successors. Castoriadis's
writings on psychoanalysis include: "Epilegomena to a Theory of the Soul
which has been presented as Science" (1968) and "Psychoanalysis: Project
and Elucidation" (1977), both now in Crossroads in the Labyrinth
(Brighton: Harvester, 1984), "The Social-Historical Institution: Individuals
and Things" (1975, the sixth chapter of The Imaginary Institution of
Society [Cambridge: Polity, 1987]), "The State of the Subject Today"
(1986; Thesis Eleven, 24 ), "Reflections on Racism"
(1987; Thesis Eleven, 32 ), and "Logic, Imagination, Reflection"
(1988; American Imago, 49:1 [Spring 1992]). In these texts and others,
he has developed a unique critical reassessment of the Freudian psychoanalytic
tradition and scrutinized in particular the tattered legacy of the Lacanian
Key to Castoriadis's reassessment is his novel idea of an initial "psychical
monad" located at the core of the human psyche. Contrasting this monad
with a "social-historical" sphere irreducible to it, Castoriadis offers
a distinctive conception of psychical development. The articles "State"
and "Logic" place this conception explicitly within an ontologically-based
outlook on the various self-created forms the "for-itself" takes on:
the simple living being, the psychical sphere, the social individual, and society.
The relationship of what Castoriadis once called socialism, and now terms "the
project of autonomy," to psychoanalysis and to psychoanalytic theory continues
to stand at the center of his concerns.
In the present interview with the French review Chimères, Castoriadis
presents some of his most recent thinking on a variety of topics in these fields
of inquiry. "From the Monad to Autonomy" both offers a general overview
of his work and explores further the differentiations, as well as the mutual
implications, that are to be found among the ontological regions he has discovered,
described, and elucidated. Here we catch several glimpses of a work not only
still "in progress" but already achieving results with new insights
and ideas, particularly as concerns the incredibly complex interconnections
between psyche and soma, and among the Conscious, the Unconscious, and the Nonconscious.
Chimères was founded in 1987 by Félix Guattari and Gilles
Deleuze. At the time of the Castoriadis interview, the Editors-in-Chief were
Jean-Claude Polack and Danielle Sivadon. Chimères, which is
subtitled a "review of schizoanalyses," grew out of the "Tuesday
Seminars" begun in the early Eighties by a group of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts,
historians, ethnologists, anthropologists, mathematicians, artists, etc. Rejecting
the "supremacy" of a Freudian perspective and of Lacanian views on
the "signifier/signified" and "structure," this group has
developed, through its practical work, the idea that "the Unconscious is
not a universal symbolic topology that would underlie a precarious biological
infrastructure, but an always dated production, directly connected to History."
Jean-Claude Polack and his colleague Sparta Castoriadis conducted this interview
in June 1991 at Cornelius Castoriadis's residence in Paris. Its main purpose
was to allow for a confrontation between the lines of research conducted in
Chimères and the paths hewn by Castoriadis. Author of numerous
articles in Chimères and of several books, including La
Médecine du Capital (Paris: Maspero, 1971) and, with Danielle (Sabourin)
Sivadon, La Borde et le droit à la folie (Paris: Calmann-Lévy,
1975) and L'Intime utopie. Travail analytique et processus psychotiques (Paris:
PUF, 1991), Polack is a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, and a cofounder of the
Traverse Collective, an "experimental alternative to psychiatry in urban
areas." Sparta Castoriadis, Cornelius Castoriadis's elder daughter, works
in a collective in Paris with a group of her fellow psychiatrists and psychoanalysts.
—David Ames Curtis and Sparta Castoriadis, Paris-Saint Cloud, July 23,
Reprinted from Free Associations, 34 (1995): 123-24 [final
paragraph restored as originally drafted by Curtis and S. Castoriadis].