The Crisis of Modern Society

Cardan, Paul (Cornelius Castoriadis)
Publisher:  Solidarity (London), United Kingdom
Year Published:  1967   First Published:  1965
Pages:  14pp  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX5609

Based on a talk given by Paul Cardan at Kent in 1965, "Crisis" elucidates upon the several endemic problems of modern societies, touching on the sciences, education, and the organization of work.

Abstract:  In an age of unparalleled opulence, social dissatisfaction is greater than ever. Unlike every other historical epoch, cohesive answers as to the meaning of life - as well as the struggles inherent to attaining it - are completely absent from modern society. And while consumerism asserts itself as a natural successor to the all-cohesive myth of religion, in reality it is at best a "partial and unsatisfactory answer." In terms of work, the Industrial Revolution has witnessed the near-total destruction of the complex relationship between worker and work (e.g. artisan/craft, farmer/field, etc.) With little to offer by way of programme, politics has become "indistinguishable from any other form of advertising or sale of product," leading to profound alienation on the part of the population.


If there is a crisis, it is because people do not submit passively to the present organization of society but react and struggle against it, in a great many ways. And, equally important, this reaction, this struggle of the people contains the seeds of the new. It inevitably produces new forms of life and social relations....

So we see that the crisis of modern society is not without issue. It contains the seeds of something new, which is emerging even now. But the new will not come about automatically. Its emergence will be assisted by the actions of people in society, by their permanent resistance and struggle and by their often unconscious activity. But the new will not complete itself, will not be able to establish itself as a new social system, as a new pattern of social life, unless at some stage it becomes a conscious activity, a conscious action of the mass of the people. For us, to help initiate this conscious action and to help it develop, whenever it may manifest itself, is the real new meaning to be given to the words 'revolutionary politics'.

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