Message on the general economy to Tony

The trial of Gilles de Rais

The Trial of Gilles de Rais

Radical Passivity

Radical Passivity

Message to Tony:

Hi Tony, sorry, I lost your email address. And while I am not interested in your offer, I was very much interested by your questions regarding the general economy of Georges Bataille and the link you provided to Complementarity: Anti-Epistemology after Bohr and Derrida.

While I am familiar with Bataille’s thought, I cannot claim to be an expert on him, my infatuation with him is purely instinctual. The current blogosphere expert is Valter from Surreal Documents. He’s helped me many times regarding Bataille, the last time when I had questions regarding Against Architecture[1].

I did decide to check up on Bataille’s general economy, and found that the theory is propounded most systematically in The Accursed Share.

While I was checking, I came across Radical Passivity, both a book by Thomas Carl Wall and a colloquium by Benda Hofmeyr, as well as some interesting looking work by Dutch academic Joost de Bloois, author of the doctoral thesis L’economie generale: Derrida sur les traces de Bataille (Utrecht, 2003).

Also, while researching, I found some appealing visuals.

  • Exhibit A: a rather nice and understated but at the same time menacing cover[2] of The Trial of Gilles de Rais, the blotches of blood stains are very Rorschach.
  • Exhibit B is the poster to the colloquium[3], which depicts a pixelated version of Death by a Thousand Cuts, the image Bataille is most readily associated with. The only image I can think of outside of the gruesome three of the blogosphere, of which I am also glad I see it censored [4] for obvious reasons.
  • Exhibit C: A nice cover of a work by Joost de Bloois[5].

Valter, if you are reading this, and if you find the time to comment, what is the most current interpretation of Bataille general economy?

3 thoughts on “Message on the general economy to Tony

  1. Valter

    Bataille contrasts the ‘general economy’ with the ‘limited economy’.

    The limited economy encapsulates what is generally known as economic behaviour, i.e. behaviour that is directed towards realizing self-interest: limited operations aimed at limited ends, the ends of economic man who conceives himself as distinct from other men. Furthermore, the limited economy is an economy of scarcity.

    The general economy on the other hand takesthe play of living matter in general – of nature – as its focus. Bataille conceives of nature as an excess, of nature as an extravagant squandering – expenditure – of energy. The sun for example is interpreted as a luxurious outpouring of energy. Furthermore, from the point of view of living matter in general, beings cannot be seen as distinct entities and self-interest is meaningless.

    In ‘The Accursed Share’ Bataille examines the relationship of several cultures to the general economy: how do cultures deal with excess energy. For Bataille, it is necessity but, on the contrary, luxury, that presents mankind with its most fundamental problems. The hecatombs of the Aztecs and the potlatches of the Native Americans of British Columbia are interpreted by Bataille as examples of practices in which squandering, waste and expenditure – in a word: the genereal economy – is given its proper place in culture. Capitalism and the bourgeois world on the other hand are presented as practices in which the general economy has lost its rightful place.

    Bataille’s book was inspired to an important degree by Marcel Mauss’s ethnological work on the gift, which aims to interpret gift-giving as non-egotistic.

  2. Pingback: It must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically « Jahsonic

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