New individualist configurations and the social imaginary: Castoriadis and Kristeva

Anthony Elliott

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    The broad purpose of this article is to explore the theoretical conditions for understanding the new individualist configurations of imagination and identity in contemporary culture and critical discourse. The article begins with a sketch of recent debates in social theory on identity, individualization and new individualism, focusing on the work of Giddens, Beck, and Bauman, as well as Lemert and Elliott. The second part of the article turns to consider, in some detail, the path breaking contributions of Cornelius Castoriadis on the demise of the social imaginary in conditions of advanced capitalism or what he termed the spread of 'generalized conformism'. Whilst making the argument that the notion of 'generalized conformism' is of key importance in grasping the subjective and cultural dynamics promoted by the global electronic economy, the article also underscores the limitations of Castoriadis's psychoanalytic and political position. The third section of the article offers a pathway beyond such constraint by examining the recent social-theoretical contributions of Julia Kristeva on 'new maladies of the soul'. Like Castoriadis, Kristeva focuses on the atrophy of imagination in contemporary times, but does so from a more complex psychoanalytic prism. The article concludes that the work of both Castoriadis and Kristeva are essential to grasping contemporary shifts in the new individualism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)349-365
    Number of pages17
    JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


    • Castoriadis
    • identity
    • imagination
    • Kristeva
    • new individualism


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