Claude Lefort, 1924-2010

The French philosopher and political theorist Claude Lefort has passed away at the age of 86. Lefort was a co-thinker of Cornelius Castoriadis when the two worked together on the journal Socialisme or Barbarie (Lefort’s pseudonym was Montal). He last contributed to the journal in 1956 and split with Henri Simon to form a group even more oriented towards the spontaneity of the working class than SoB. After their break, the two contributed (along with Edgar Moin) to an analysis of the 1968 events in France titled, Mai 1968: la Brèche.

I can’t say that I’m familiar with his post SoB work but I know that he, like Castoriadis, moved away from Marxism, becoming a theorist of radical democracy and an editor of writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

There is a lot of Lefort’s work in English, including Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy.

Two of his English-language champions are David Ames Curtis, who translated Writing: the Political Test and Dick Howard (a professor of philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook), whose Specter of Democracy (which I recommend, but disagree with ) contains a chapter on Lefort. I intend to comment on this book later, but briefly,  the attraction of Lefort’s work for Howard is the complete rupture of the concept of democracy from any kind of basis in the material production of things to meet human needs.

Google Books has a scan of Specter of Democracy available which includes the chapter on Lefort (“Claude Lefort’s Passage from Revolutionary Theory to Political Theory”).

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