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The Accursed Share 1: Consumption

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  876 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The three volumes of The Accursed Share address what Georges Bataille sees as the paradox of utility: namely, if being useful means serving a further end, then the ultimate end of utility can only be uselessness. In the second and third volumes, The History of Eroticism and Sovereignty, Bataille explores the same paradox of utility from an anthropological and an ethical pe ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published March 26th 1991 by Zone Books (first published 1949)
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Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich NietzscheThe Republic by PlatoBeing and Time by Martin HeideggerCritique of Pure Reason by Immanuel KantMeditations by Marcus Aurelius
Best Philosophy Book
162nd out of 621 books — 783 voters
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy DebordRevolution of Everyday Life by Raoul VaneigemSimulacres et simulation by Jean BaudrillardBeing and Time by Martin HeideggerWriting and Difference by Jacques Derrida
r/CriticalTheory Recommended Reading
53rd out of 83 books — 5 voters

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I pulled this from my shelf as I was dusting, having read it some 15 years ago. 15 years ago! I liked it then, and I still like it. Bataille critiques traditional economy and examines what he calls the 'general economy', an economy not wholly based on production (as Marx would have it), but excess and expenditure, or non-productive surplus. On a philosophical level, it defines self-consciousness or a liberated subjectivity as 'prestige'--an economy of gift exchange that runs on endless consumpti ...more
A combination of the Erotic with the Economic. How does Georges Bataille combine the two. One of the most original thinkers in contemporary (20th Century) literature. Bataille not only sees economy as a means to exchange goods but also the the extras that are there and how one uses the 'extras'. The excess of power, exchange, and perhaps love itself. Difficult at times, but also incredibly rewarding.

A good introduction to Bataille's work is for sure his fiction (The Story of the Eye, etc.) but
This book is generally acknowledged as an attempt at articulating a major theory of political economy out of Nietzsche's ideas with a lethal dose of clarity. First, however, this is a very "Heideggerian" Nietzsche (though, no surprise as Heidegger's work was the only major systematic apprehension of Nietzsche's philosophy at the time). Heidegger's claim that for Nietzsche, nihilism defines some kind of a-historical key to understanding all of Western history seems to me to be reproduced in its e ...more
Dec 27, 2007 Nathan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in Anthropology, Economics, Religious Studies
Though Bataille continues to deal with religion and ritual in this book, his concerns are more classically Anthropological than in Theory of Religion (population growth, scarcity, social structure etc.). The project he sets out in the introductory chapters is the development of
a "general economy": a system that not only accounts for the
development and exchange of goods, but of all energy on the Earth. From the perspective of general economy, life is a terrific excess that cannot be fully utilize
Bataille's philosophy of History. Totally cogent and elegant. More legible than his theories of erotics.
Volume 1 is a marvelous tease. Volume 2 & 3 are ordered and cannot arrive soon enough. The compelling argument that a postlapsarian focus on growth, usefulness, labor, profit, can only end in a squandering of those gains points to damning proof from the world around us. Contrasted with the Aztec society, where the cosmology of life assigns humanity to being food for the gods and thus privileges consumption over growth, modernity may face its anxieties, its poverty mentality, and the overwhel ...more
Bataille examines the economic systems throughout history, along with diverging cultures, in order to critique society using his theory of General Economy based off of the notion of non-productive expenditure (pure loss), which is the dissipation of excess wealth or resources that go against the Capitalist ideology of accumulation. This is expressed in sacrifice, the sacred, Potlatch, and sexual reproduction. The accursed share is the dialectical relationship between accumulation and expenditure ...more
Jean d'Arp

"L'organisme vivant, dans la situation que déterminent les jeux de l'énergie à la surface du globe, reçoit en principe plus d'énergie qu'il n'est nécessaire au maintient de la vie; l'énergie (la richesse) excédante peut être utilisée à la croissance d'un système (p.ex. d'un organisme); si le système ne peut plus croître, ou si l'excédent ne peut en entier être absorbé dans sa croissance, il faut nécessairement le perdre sans profit, le dépenser, volontiers ou non, glorieusement ou sinon
Left Sr
A magnificent text on the destructive tendency of economy and Bataille's vision of a "headless society". The only bad part of it is when he defends Stalinist Russia, arguing against his own thesis to do so- he proposes that Russia needs to accumulate purposefully in order to achieve full capitalism so that it can reach communism, but this contradicts his own vision of societies of wasteful and extravagant use value, as well as accepting the excuses made for Bolshevik dictatorship, a bit shortsig ...more
Bataille-the-philosopher becomes Bataille-the-economist, and to do this becomes Bataille-the-historian. Economics is 50% a mystery to my humanities upbringing, but the fact that Bataille roots his theory of general economy in "historical examples" instead of, well, the impossible as he normally does brings this closer to lucid. I started this a while ago and couldn't "get into it," but managed to read the last 150 pages in 2 sittings today. I think the ideas here are important, and I'm excited t ...more
Simei Doblinski
"De todos os lados e de todas as formas um mundo em movimento quer ser mudado"
Asamatteroffact Glesmann
Somewhat reminiscent to Weber's 'Capitalism & the Protestant Ethic', this book outlines the parallel processes of economic & religious historical developments. Somewhat difficult to get into & the final chapter focuses entirely on the Soviet Union, which is kind of an odd finish to read now that the Cold War is long over. But otherwise a pretty interesting read. Not as good as Bataille's Part 2: Theory of Religion.
Chris Nagel
Intriguing opening salvo. I'm profoundly puzzled by the connection between the analyses of economies and self-consciousness. I gather that the limited economies discussed here, and the limited analyses of economies, are what make it unclear how self-consciousness depends on the general economic move of expenditure -- thus to have no object.
After reading this, I now subscribe to Bataille's theory of "general economy." On this view, economies aren't about production but the dissipation of surplus energy. By extension, next time I meet someone who drives a Hummer, I'll shake their hand and smile. Of course I'm joking.
Mar 30, 2015 Joe added it
Shelves: philosophy
Bataille is slipping in and out of my mind as I participate in making books. How to produce books that sumptuously consume themselves? / Retreat from the grasp of the reader--so the object cannot disappoint them, only their experience w/their own memory.
A revelation early on in my philosophical wanderings. Eroto-econo-socio-anthropology at its best.
Mar 19, 2008 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Daniel by: philosopher extraordinaire tzuchien
various bataille pieces - essays on sacrifice and "potlatch" are winners.
Katie Muffett
Jan 30, 2008 Katie Muffett marked it as to-read
I've glimpsed into this and am excited. Unnaturallye excited.
Count No Count
Origins of the potluck, you greenbean casserole eating turkeys.
Feb 22, 2010 Trevor added it
As recommended by Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen...
This book explained current politics to me
Max Maslansky
Pot-latching. Yum
Littleblackcart marked it as to-read
Oct 06, 2015
Jaz marked it as to-read
Oct 01, 2015
Lleuwyn marked it as to-read
Oct 01, 2015
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French essayist, philosophical theorist and novelist, often called the "metaphysician of evil." Bataille was interested in sex, death, degradation, and the power and potential of the obscene. He rejected traditional literature and considered that the ultimate aim of all intellectual, artistic, or religious activity should be the annihilation of the rational individual in a violent, transcendental ...more
More about Georges Bataille...
Story of the Eye Erotism: Death and Sensuality Blue of Noon Visions of Excess My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man

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“Under the present conditions, everything conspires to obscure the basic movement that tends to restore wealth to its function, to gift-giving, to squandering without reciprocation.” 3 likes
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