vol.7, no.3, (November 2001)




The discussion on irrationalism and postmodernism that was initiated by vol 4 no 2/3 and vol 7 no 1, is further developed in this issue so that the influence of what are arguably the two main ideological currents today can be discussed in relation to the present radical movements. This is a particularly crucial issue in the present era of neoliberal modernity and globalisation when the old values of socialist statism have collapsed along with it and, at the same time, the main tenets of irrationalism and particularly postmodernism seem to be insidiously invading the radical movements, leading to their effective neutralisation—if not destruction, as  in the case of antisystemic movements.

Chamsy Ojeili’s insightful paper discusses the crucial issue of the role and future of Left intellectuals, political organisation, and theory in the aftermath of the collapse of socialist statism and the inevitable discrediting of its vanguardism, elitism, scientism, and substitutionism. He persuasively shows that postmodernism is not a coherent emancipatory alternative, as a result of its extreme relativism and—even more important—its rejection of universalism. Instead, the author argues, it is within what he calls the broad libertarian socialist tradition, (i.e. the clearly anti-systemic tradition which rejects the system of the market economy and statism  itself rather than simply its malfunctioning) --as it is expressed today by the autonomy/inclusive democracy projects-- that a real emancipatory alternative can be found. Such an alternative also offers a way of answering questions about intellectuals and political organisation that is more fruitful than the one offered by postmodernism.

The aim of my contribution (Takis Fotopoulos) is to examine the systemic parameters which gave rise to the flourishing of antisystemic movements in the 19th and 20th centuries and their subsequent decline in the era of neoliberal modernity. It is shown that their recent decline is not irrelevant to the nature of the traditional antisystemic movement which challenged a particular form of power rather than power itself, as a result of the one-dimensional conception about the ‘system’ adopted by these movements which typically saw one form of power as the basis of all other forms of power. It is argued that today the issue is not anymore to challenge one form of power or another  but to challenge power itself, which constitutes the basis of heteronomy. The conclusion derived from this analysis is that a new type of antisystemic movement is needed today which should challenge heteronomy itself, rather than simply various forms of heteronomy. The antiglobalisation ‘movement’, which is seen as a continuation of the democratic movement that began in the 1960s, has the potential to develop into such a movement provided that it starts building bases at the local level with the aim to create a new democratic globalisation based on local inclusive democracies that would reintegrate society with the economy, polity and Nature, in an institutional framework of equal distribution of power in all its forms.

Manos Marangudakis’ article examines the influence of the presently resurgent irrationalism on the environmental movements with particular reference to the case of the Green activist movement Earth First! In the course of his interesting analysis he attempts to show  that in this case irrationalism becomes unbounded as it does not simply secure instrumental action but guides it altogether. As the author puts it ‘the motivation behind the Earth First! social movement could be arguably described as a kind of religious revelation, which, in the eyes of  the members of the movement, is supposed to lead to a meaningful and in all respects, true life’. However, one may disagree with the author’s conclusion that what is wrong with environmental movements like Earth First! is not irrationalism in general (which, in the form of religious irrationalism, is seen sympathetically by the author) but the particular form of ‘unbounded’ ideological irrationalism characterising ecocentric movements that leads them to an uncompromising attitude which is an obstacle to wider alliances. One may argue instead that the only guarantee that environmental movements would not end up as a kind of ecofascist movements is that their praxis should be completely separated from any kind of irrationalism and be embedded exclusively on a democratic rationalism.  

Finally, Alexandros Gezerlis bright analysis of the Castoriadian work, with particular reference to his chef-d’oeuvre The Imaginary Institution of Society, persuasively shows the kind of distortion attempted today by the academic Left, which, in various conferences, articles and so on, attempts to classify him among the postmodernist intellectuals (that Castoriadis himself so much despised!). The author, far from idolising the work of this great thinker who together with Murray Bookchin played a crucial role in the new synthesis expressed by the inclusive democracy project, critically assesses Castoriadis’ important contribution to liberatory thought, as well as the weak elements in his thinking  which obviously constitute a challenge to those who are influenced by his work.


Takis Fotopoulos, Editor