Axelos was born in Athens in to a doctor and a woman from an old Athenian bourgeois family, and attended high school at the French Institute  and the Varvakeio High School. Then during the German and Italian occupation he participated in the Greek Resistance , and later on in the prelude of the Greek Civil War , as an organiser and journalist affiliated with the Communist Party — He was later expelled from the Communist Party and condemned to death by the right-wing government. He was arrested but managed to escape. At the end of Axelos moved to Paris , France on the Mataroa voyage, with around other persecuted intellectuals, where he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and lived most of his life. His primary doctoral thesis Marx, penseur de la technique translated as Marx, the Man Who Thinks Through Technique tried to provide an understanding of modern technology based on the thought of Heidegger and Marx and was very influential in the s, alongside the philosophy of Herbert Marcuse.
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Having a trilingual education — Greek, French, German — when I had to leave Greece, dominated by the Right, at the end of , there was no choice. To undertake advanced studies in philosophy one must know the language in which one is working.
Not speaking English, and with Germany in smoking ruins, this left only France. The impulse towards active politics had come from my interest in philosophical thought. In the Communist movement I had functioned not only as an organizer, but also as a journalist and theoretician.
The PCF seemed to me at once too Stalinist and too conservative. In the socalled cultural sphere its positions did not seem very advanced. At that time, France was dominated by Marxism — more or less dogmatic — and existentialism.
I therefore met and discussed with the marginalized, the isolated — that is to say, those who were that way at that time — in the search for another way, outside of trodden paths. Teaching at the Sorbonne did not do much for me: it was too academic. I learnt some things, certainly, here and there, but the decisive things were elsewhere.
As when teaching at the Sorbonne later, I had the freedom to speak on the issues on which I was working; these related to the books which succeeded my theses. Lacan I had dinner together twice with our partners — one the editorial secretary of Arguments ; the other an ex-actress and ex-wife of Bataille. There was the beginning of a discussion which did not continue. I met him again in his country house in Guitrancourt in August , where he had invited Heidegger and his wife, Elfriede, Jean Beaufret and me to spend a few days.
They did not speak the same language, their approaches were entirely different. I met Picasso in in Vallauris where I was spending a few days on holiday with a friend. He impressed me very much, quite apart from his work, which fascinated me.
The relationship was very good. Heidegger I met in the summer of , when he was spending a few days in Paris, just before the meeting with Lacan and the conference in Cerisy. We subsequently met several times, in his house in Freiburg or his hut in the Black Forest.
The discussion of the political question with Heidegger never advanced very far. One must say, the political realm in general eluded him. He was a great thinker and a narrowminded petty bourgeois at the same time; he did not really understand what had happened and was happening on this level.
In the discussions, he tried to exonerate himself, saying that he had committed a great error, that in the beginning National Socialism was not what it later became, that he had distanced himself from Nazism, and so on. But despite the National Socialist enticement of Heidegger, his thought can absolutely not be reduced or limited to Nazism.
It is an opening, but it remains covered by a shadow. This shadow cannot and must not be forgotten, but all reductive attempts to explain it fail entirely. Arguments was created in , effectively by Edgar Morin and Jean Duvignaud.
I was involved very quickly. It was a passionate adventure, a laboratory of ideas, very distant from orthodoxies and -isms of the time.
My separation from Marxist—Leninism dates from The events of only made clearer what had been visible before. They constituted a breach that announced in advance the collapse of an entire system, which only took place much later. The researches and ideas of the editorial team and their close collaborators were a long way from constituting a homogenous plan.
The differences never ceased. International situationniste fought against us violently. With Socialisme ou barbarie we exchanged articles from time to time. There was no contact with Les temps modernes. Each of these reviews had their direction and we had ours. We did not want to repeat ourselves, to become institutionalized. We thought that we had said what we had to say — in this review and in this time period. Additionally, each of us was turning more to our own work, writing our own books.
Heraclitus was at the beginning of a very great current of thought, and he remains an originator. Nietzsche and Heidegger productively confronted this, each in his own way. Globalization names a process which universalizes technology, economy, politics, and even civilization and culture. But it remains somewhat empty. The world as an opening is missing. The world is not the physical and historical totality, it is not the more or less empirical ensemble of theoretical and practical ensembles.
It deploys itself. The thing that is called globalization is a kind of mondialisation without the world. A French translation appeared in the Arguments series: Le Jeu comme symbole du monde , trans. Hans Hildenbrand and Alex Lindenberg,. Philosophy, as philosophy, is not alive any more. These technical sciences ignore what they cross. As such philosophy sees its end. Those that succeeded Hegel should not be called philosophers, but thinkers. The world deploys itself as a game.
That means that it refuses any sense, any rule that is exterior to itself. The play of the world itself is different from all the particular games that are played in the world.
Almost two-and-a-half thousand years after Heraclitus, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Fink and I have insisted on this approach to the world as game.
Technology is neither a god nor a devil. We can neither unconditionally say yes to it, nor deny it completely. It is at the same time alienating and an opening, it is everywhere in work: in techno-science, techno-politics, techno-culture — in all political regimes. Friendship towards technology — neither wanting to dominate it, nor submitting to it — is a present and future task.
Contemporary people and societies — apart from Islamic fundamentalism, which displays a backward-looking tendency — are marked by an omnipresent technology, as much in the real as in the imaginary. Technology irresistibly advances. Technology puts into movement all that happens on the earth and leads to the conquest of space, the conquest of the other stars in the heavens.
In Greek, planet means wandering star [ astre errant ]. All planetary movement is therefore errant, it takes place in the play of errancy. Errancy is not the converse of truth, it does not mean error or vagrancy. Everything that we name as truth — empirical or transcendental — is precipitated into errancy; the truth does not illuminate what it is, it is done, it demolishes itself.
Planetary technology governs planetary politics and no government can resist it. Skip to content Interview kostas axelos Mondialisation without the world stuart elden when you left greece in , why did you choose paris?
SE Youwere already political, but why did you become a philosopher? KA The impulse towards active politics had come from my interest in philosophical thought. SE Sowhat kind of intellectual environment did you encounter in france?
Kostas Axelos was born on 24 June in Athens. He enrolled in the Faculty of Law in Athens, but the war turned him towards politics. Under the German and Italian occupation he took an active role in the resistance and the ensuing civil war as an organizer, journalist andcommunist theoretician — During this time he attended courses by Heidegger andJaspers. From to he taught philosophy at the Sorbonne. He was a contributor, editor and then the chief editor of the Arguments journal —62 , whose contributors included Barthes, Lefebvre, Blanchot and Lefort.
His Sorbonne doctoral theses were published by Minuit as Marx penseur de la technique ; trans. KA Teaching at the Sorbonne did not do much for me: it was too academic. SE Howdid you come to meet lacan, picasso and heidegger? KA Lacan I had dinner together twice with our partners — one the editorial secretary of Arguments ; the other an ex-actress and ex-wife of Bataille. What did Heidegger say about this?
What do you think of this? KA The discussion of the political question with Heidegger never advanced very far. SE What was its heritage — non-orthodox Marxism, or not Marxism at all? Its opposition to 1. And why did the review close in ? Why return Toheraclitus?
KA Heraclitus was at the beginning of a very great current of thought, and he remains an originator. SE theworld, the game, errancy andtechnology are perhaps the four central themes of your work.
Would itbe true to say that mondialisation is notthe same thing as globalization? KA Globalization names a process which universalizes technology, economy, politics, and even civilization and culture. KA Philosophy, as philosophy, is not alive any more.
Kostas Axelos in English – a bibliography with links
He was a lifelong Marxist, but connected to a wide range of figures across Europe — from his native Greece, which he fled in under threat of execution, to France and Germany. These are the pieces of which I am aware, with references to the French originals. Additions or corrections welcome. Last updated 8 June