Autonomy and alienated subjectivity: A re-reading of Castoriadis, through Zizek

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In a time of political passivism in Western democracies, this article argues for the value of Cornelius Castoriadis's radical theory of autonomy as a means of conceptualising (wo)man's ability to pro-actively create new social institutions ex nihlo. In making this argument, however, it also seeks to 'correct' a key flaw within the model of subjectivity underlying this theory of autonomy. Castoriadis's attempts to bypass the notion of alienation as a metaphysical given, led him to an internally contradictory conception of subjectivity based around an originary monadic psyche. Through a critical re-reading of Castoriadis's position through that of Slavoj Žižek's 'transcendental materialist theory of subjectivity', this article shows how (re)inserting alienation into the former's work as a constitutive element of the autonomous subject makes it possible to overcome the aforementioned contradiction whilst maintaining a concept of radical autonomous social change that goes beyond Žižek's own rather inactive conception of 'the Act'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-444
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • subjectivity
  • Cornelius Castoriadis
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • autonomy
  • psychoanalysis


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