Saturday, January 24, 2009


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The picture show an Athenian bookstore during the riots in December. All windows have been damaged except for the one with the Castoriadis photo advertising the Greek edition of «Ce qui fait la grèce». What did the rioters know about CC's political philosophy? -- UMa

P.S. Image source:

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Pierre said...

Interpréter une image est toujours périlleux, mais si cette librairie a mis en exergue la photo de CC, on peut penser que ses gérants visaient à le promouvoir, alors pourquoi précisément saccager leur vitrine ? D'autre part, cette solitude de Castoriadis au milieu d'un monde sans autre livre annoncé que le sien n'aurait certainement pu que fortement lui déplaire. Des vitrines de ce style on en a déjà vu, les photos et les livres étaient alors ceux de Lénine, de Staline, de Mao, d'Enver Hoxha,...

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some groups in Greece that for over 20 years have used different friendly political manifestation in order to pursue violence in different forms… In my opinion, they have played an essentially negative role, as they “occupy”, with an authoritarian arrogance, every movement and its purposes, leaving behind it only a violent dimension… It prohibits thousands of people to participate, as they know that the manifestation will end up with the same dead-end - violence... So even in these later great manifestations of Greek young people ... Factually, it is the most effective way to prohibit the emergence of any meaningful and purposeful social movement… Many from the left believe that it is the police itself behind those groups… The picture is from a very known and respectable bookstore IANOS. All shop windows are crushed (covered by black plastics) except for the glass door with a poster of Castoriadis last book – “The Greek Distinctiveness”, which is the Greek title of CC seminars on the ancient Greek imaginary… The symbolic is double-edged: What is the Greek distinctiveness? The crushed shop windows of a bookstore? No, I don’t like this picture. This is an occupation, with the same authoritarian arrogance, of Castoriadis thought… I should not like my interest on Castoriadis work and its political implications to be associated with such practices...

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Harald Wolf said...

Or may be someone from "Ianos", the bookstore, has chosen to hang the poster up to the glass door which happened to be intact after the riots...
Be that as it may, the meaning of the photo doesn't end with the empirical sequence of events, - which has of course political relevance to be discussed in its own right. (Here Pierre and Fotis have an important point. One wishes to have some comments from people actually involved!)
But for me the photo becomes also a symbol (which no actor must have intended as such!). There was an explosion of student and youth protest in Greece against an established heteronomous order (the broken windows). There were town hall meetings and slogans like "Stop watching TV, rather come down to the streets" or "After you have deactivated your mobile phones it's time now to activate your consciousness" and so on. In other words, the question was practically posed once more: Ce qui fait la Grèce? Answer: It created autonomy, in a sense, which Castoriadis tried to elucidate (the poster to the book with the meaningfull title). And now it should be created anew.
As mentioned: No need to have an empirical subject and a conscious act behind this to get a valid symbol. (Si non è vero, è molto ben trovato...)
Thanks to Ulf for initiating this stimulating discussion!

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Zoé Castoriadis said...

"No need to have an empirical subject and a conscious act behind this to get a valid symbol"
That is true Harald but "valid" in this case means "valid for my own projections". Don't forget that the 60s and 70s there were people considering "cultural revolution" as a "valid " process proving that the real communism was arising in Mao's China.
When there are a lot missing pieces of the social puzzle, it is very risky to draw conclusions based on some images and some (very good indeed) slogans.
You wrote : "One wishes to have some comments from people actually involved!" The question is : which ones? It seems that this explosion gathered a very large social spectrum from junkies to students, from young people to less young "respectable bourgeois".
Do you believe that the bookstore windows are the more representative sample of the "established heteronomous order" ? And tearing them down could be a "valid" probable beginning of the "nomos" a group could give to itself?

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the name of the bookstore: Ianus was a god keeping the roads (and crossroads!) with a double faced head, looking both sides: to the front and behind.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger NSU study circle 8 said...

In this affair, there is something important that nobody picked out. Zoé touched upon it when she spoke of “projections”. What is striking me is the ambiguousness of the poster in this context. What does it actually meant for the young people who took part in the upheaval? There are only two words that are easily readable: “I élliniki idiètérotita” (“the greek particularity”). This expression is translated from the French “Ce qui fait la Grèce” which means something a little bit different (we can also say in French: “La particularité (ou: la singularité) de la Grèce”). But the translation is not at stake.

I mean that the young rioters aren’t likely attentive readers of Castoriadis’ work. Thus, what can we imagine that they understood when seeing this poster and reading these words? I make the hypothesis that they thought it was about contemporary Greece and ignored that the book was devoted to Ancient Greece.

Nowadays, Castoriadis is likely a renowned radical critic thinker in Greece. It is enough for young people to imagine that the searching eyes of Castoriadis and the expression stressing the idea of a particular situation were aimed at us. And this is the way, as says Harald, we make a symbol – on the basis of a misunderstanding! Because what are sharing ancient Greece and contemporary Greece? Some linguistics elements - and it is very little.

I think there are specific difficulties of the modern Greece which distinguishes it from the most part of the others european countries. This is due to its particular history, its belonging to the orthodox world and its links with the Orient. And we should add: the vague nostalgia of a very ancient and prestigious past. This is what made Seferis write (in 1937): “Opou kai na taxidepsô i Ellada me pligonei” (which I translate awkwardly: “Wherever I am travelling, Greece hurts me.”


At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Ingerid S. said...

For those who can read Swedish, there is another clue in this article:
The Swedish journalist comments on the riots in Athens, claiming that "some of the activists have been inspired by the situationists, and sit down to discuss the leftist philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis before tonight's action: the storming of "Rigoletto" which is played at the National Opera house, where the establishement is expected to appear."

At 2:43 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

On the breaking of windows by crowds I would recommend looking at Elias Canetti's 'Crowds And Power'. It would be a stretch to link Canetti's work and Castoriadis's, but it might be possible. Perhaps the reason this window was not broken was because it presents itself not as a window but as a sign. One defaces a sign, rather than breaks it, but to deface a sign is a more conscious act than breaking a window, and introduces the possibility of reflection and questioning. What sign is this? What is it saying? Do I agree with it or disagree?
Anyone who knew Castoriadis' ideas might have been moved to leave the window intact, but even those who did not know him might have done so because of the text of the sign itself, or, as I say, because it was a sign and not a window.


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