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Statement of David Ames Curtis
concerning the announcement of
Stanford University Press's publication
of a scab translation of
Cornelius Castoriadis's Figures of the Thinkable

Paris, November 2006

On October 27, 2006, an Amazon.com discussion board entry regarding the forthcoming Stanford University Press translation by Helen Arnold, Figures of the Thinkable, was posted under the title "Buy a Scab Translation of a Castoriadis volume?":


This link has already been suppressed by Amazon.com without explanation or notification. The discussion board entry has now been reposted at:


in the hopes that free speech will prevail. In case the censorship is repeated, I post this item below verbatim.

David A. Curtis

Initial post
I think Amazon.com readers should be aware of the sorry history of this Stanford University Press volume, which violates basic principles of labor solidarity. If you cross this symbolic picket line by buying this SUP book, you will be aiding and abetting scab labor.

An explanation follows.

I was hired as the translator by Stanford University Press for Figures of the Thinkable, but SUP claimed they made a mistake with my signed contract and therefore (!) were not obliged to honor it. I am still owed approximately US$5,000.00 by SUP. The Castoriadis heirs then went and hired a scab translator, Helen Arnold, to do this work while I was still trying to negotiate in good faith with these heirs (Zoe Castoriadis, his widow, and Sparta Castoriadis, his elder daughter) in order to continue the work for which I was contracted. Apparently, Zoe Castoriadis and Sparta Castoriadis's idea of good-faith negotiations is to completely remove from participation and involvement the very person who worked closely with the revolutionary thinker Cornelius Castoriadis the last thirteen years of Castoriadis's life in order to translate his work with care and thoughtfulness into English (see Castoriadis's own statement about me at: http://perso.orange.fr/www.kaloskaisophos.org/rt/rtdac/rtdac.html ). With his full consent and enthusiastic support, I translated more than a million words of Castoriadis's writings into English and had discussed with him translating many of the texts that, after his death, became the book Figures of the Thinkable. The Castoriadis family has always refused to provide any public explanation for why they have blocked me from being able to resume my work or why they agreed to engage a scab translator. The only person to speak up in public to defend this action is . . . the scab translator Helen Arnold herself! See:

Scott McLemee. "The Strange Afterlife of Cornelius Castoriadis: The Story of a Revered European Thinker, a Literary Legacy, Family Squabbles, and Internet Bootlegging." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 50:29 (March 26, 2004): A14-16.

Of note, the scab translator, Helen Arnold, was a member of Castoriadis's revolutionary organization, Socialisme ou Barbarie (1949-1967). But now she apparently thinks it is OK to get paid with the very money that is owed to me while I am in the middle of a labor dispute! At least, that's in essence what she told me, after presenting several lame excuses that could not withstand scrutiny. Helen Arnold, a professional translator, never bothered to translate a word of Castoriadis's writings during Castoriadis's lifetime from 1965, when the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie ceased publication, and she continued to avoid translating any of his writings until she had an opportunity to take away the work someone else, myself, had been contracted to translate but could not complete because of this labor dispute.

You can read a full statement about this controversy at:


Supporting materials are available at:

August 5, 2003 Letter to Sparta Castoriadis from David Ames Curtis


8-Point Agreement Drafted by Zoe Castoriadis and David Ames Curtis

Potential readers should also know that an electronic version of Figures du pensable, _plus an additional text_, has already been available online in translation for a year and a half: Figures of the Thinkable (Including Passion and Knowledge). Interested readers can visit the http://www.notbored.org website and go to the webpage http://www.notbored.org/foreword-FTPK.html . This electronic edition follows upon the 2003 electronic publication of another Castoriadis volume in English translation, The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep), whose introductory page you can find at: http://www.notbored.org/RTI.html (in the original contract, I was to publish translations of many of these texts, too, as part of an enlarged "Figures of the Thinkable" volume for Stanford University Press; those additional texts include some I first translated more than a decade and a half ago for Castoriadis in various reviews, with Castoriadis's understanding that I would eventually be paid when the translations were finally published in book form).

Please note: None of the abovementioned links are in any way illegal and therefore there is no cause to censor the present product forum statement.

Finally, while I have not yet seen the Stanford University Press translation (the delivery date is listed as October 25 and I just learned about this publication a few minutes ago), the SUP blurb available on the present Amazon.com webpage is perhaps a good indication of what happens when a formerly revolutionary person, who has now become a scab translator, and Castoriadis family members, who refuse to negotiate in good faith but instead engage scab labor, decide to make the revolutionary thinker Cornelius Castoriadis's work available in a scab translation he would never have countenanced himself. The SUP blurb talks about "a deconstruction of the so-called rationality of capitalism" whereas Castoriadis, a ferocious critic of intellectual fads like deconstructionism, postmodernism, "weak thought," and poststructuralism says _in this very same volume_ (translating from the French original):

[D]econstructionism is so steeped in incoherence-the "anything goes" mentality, which is particularly flagrant when one looks at the practical/political level-that any discussion with deconstructionism would in fact be impossible, were it even worthwhile.

Talk about blatant contradictions! What are they trying to sell you? A false image of Castoriadis as a respectable and fashionable intellectual--a Derridean, no less; Castoriadis must be turning in his grave (!)--whereas he was and remained until the very end (as he said in his very last published interview), "a revolutionary," one who challenged the status quo as well as various empty and pernicious fashions in philosophy and in politics.

Why pay $65 dollars for something already available online which thousands of people have already downloaded? Especially when you would be breaking the first principle of labor solidarity!

Solidarity forever,

David Ames Curtis