Castoriadis and the modern political imaginary—oligarchy, representation, democracy

Critical Horizons 7 (1):251-275 (2006)
This article examines the link between oligarchy and the notion of representative democracy, which for Castoriadis also implies the bureaucratisation of society. However, in an argument with and against Castoriadis, one has to decipher modern oligarchies before launching into a radical critique of the principle of representation. There is a diversity of representative democracies, and the complexity of modernity comes from a mixture of oligarchy, representation and democracy. Even though the idea of democracy has evolved, we do not live under representative democracies but under liberal oligarchies. Direct democratic procedures and representative elements can sometimes be gathered in order to create new forms of political commitment. The main problem is avoiding a concentration of powers, which cannot create the conditions for the emergence of democratic institutions.
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