Society as a World of Meaning (‘Sinnwelt’). Max Weber and Cornelius Castoriadis
At first, it might seem difficult to imagine two thinkers more incompatible than Max Weber and Cornelius Castoriadis. What could the endorsement of parliamentarianism, the highlighting of bureaucracy’s cruciality and the concern for Germany’s place within the global power constellation have possibly to do with the support of direct democracy, autonomy and autogestion?
Nevertheless, not only did Castoriadis start his career as a young scholar by translating and annotating the first paragraphs of Weber’s Economy and Society, but he also kept referring to Weber’s writings as a source of inspiration throughout his life. In fact, in the last essay Castoriadis ever wrote, La “rationalité” du capitalisme, he explicitly mentions Weber at least three times.
How are we supposed to conceptualize this seemingly bizarre affinity? I propose that, instead of simply tracing and commenting on the various fields in which Castoriadis draws on Weber (e.g. the critique of bureaucracy or the problem of legitimization), we should examine their intellectual relationship under the light of a common fundamental idea they share: meaning (‘Sinn’) is a constitutive element of the social world.
This idea –implicitly omnipresent in Weber’s texts, explicitly elaborated in Castoriadis’ ontology– can serve as a guiding thread not only in our effort to thematize Castoriadis’ relationship with Weber, but also to provide a fresh interpretation of the works of both of them; finally, to think philosophically what meaning, as an always present and always elusive element, is.
Yannis Ktenas was born in Athens in 1991. He studied Law at National Kapodistrian University of Athens (LLB) and Political Philosophy and Social Theory at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (MA, PhD). He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Sociology Department at National Kapodistrian University of Athens and a junior visiting fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna.
Prof. Dr. Alice Pechriggl (alice [dot] pechriggl [at] aau [dot] at)