Volume 3, Issue 2, Autumn 2017
Approaches to Religion
Robert Legros, Steve Rothnie
Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort
The Question of Autonomy
The author compares the different interpretations by Castoriadis and Lefort of democratic autonomy. For both, autonomy involves questioning all pregiven meaning. Castoriadis, while rejecting any law of historical progress, regards the history of autonomy as the development of a movement which commenced in a limited political domain in ancient Greece and expanded in other domains in Western Europe from the 11th century on. In theory, it has eliminated pregiven meaning, but has remained stuck in a liberal oligarchy, bogged down by a tide of insignificance. It remains to further the project of autonomy to the point where a truly autonomous society will be able to accept as such the “Abyss” (the “Chaos”) it experiences without hiding behind replicas such as those provided by religion. Lefort, on the other hand, while similarly accepting democracy’s desire for autonomy, believes the source of its principles are enigmatic and it will continue to remain open to the authentic human experience of radical transcendence even without God. He believes that the threat of relativism can be avoided as democracy is more just since it allows its members to be more open to this radical transcendence than other forms of society.