The Accursed Share, Volumes 2-3: The History of Eroticism and Sovereignty
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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. The first volume of The Accursed Share, the only one published before Bataille's death, treated this paradox in economic terms, showing that "it is not necessity but its contrary, luxury, that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems." This Zone edition includes in a single volume a reconstruction, based on the versions published in Bataille's posthumous collected works, of his intended continuation of The Accursed Share.In the second and third volumes, The History of Eroticism and Sovereignty, Bataille explores the same paradox of utility, respectively from an anthropological and an ethical perspective. He first analyzes the fears and fascination, the prohibitions and the transgressions attached to the realm of eroticism as so many expressions of the "uselessness" of erotic life. It is just this expenditure of excess energy that demarcates the realm of human autonomy, of independence relative to.useful" ends. The study of eroticism therefore leads naturally to the examination of human sovereignty, in which Bataille defines the sovereign individual as one who consumes and does not labor, creating a life beyond the realm of utility.Georges Bataille, a philosopher and novelist sui generis, died in 1962.
discourse from dissolving, but it dissolved into sleep.3 The vanishing thought of which I speak is the awakening and not the sleep of thought: it is reencountered in an equality - in the communication - with all the sovereign moments of all men, insofar as the latter do not want to take them for things.4 It is reencountered above all in the moments that preceded the awareness or thought of unknowing.5 I am talking about the discourse that enters into darkness and that the very light ends by
Lkvi-Strauss's theory in the least. The idea of an extreme negation (as extreme as possible) of carnal animality is placed at the meeting point of the two paths that LCviStrauss has taken, or more exactly, that marriage itself takes. In a sense, marriage combines self-interest and purity, sensuality and the prohibition of sensuality, generosity and avarice. In its initial movement it is the contrary of animality; it is the gift. There is no question that Lkvi-Strauss has fully illuminated this
duration is its principle) that love's privileged domain is fiction. Love does without literature (which may even be responsible for the prevailing mistrust toward it), but literature cannot avoid joining its own wealth of possibilities t o that which love has in universe, detached from the world of narrow actuality, which we become if it transfigures us. But at the same time that it shows consciousness the most distant meanings of love, literature does what it can t o insert love in history,
gratified expectations, cence that opens up at this moment. But often the incipient transgression develops into an unbounded transgression: the dis- because the object of these tears is itself unanticipated; like death, it is only, all of a sudden, the impossible coming true, becoming that which is. In this case the object of anticipation is not that of appointed anticipation heralds the reign of the moment, clearing the way for sexual disorder and violence, for revelry and frantic squander.
objectively given being, appears t o me to be subordinate to subjects, whose property it is. In a world where in our eyes all things would be limited to what they are within themselves, in a world where nothing at all could appear to us in the light of subjectivity, the relations of objects among themselves would no longer be anything but relations of forces. Nothing would ever have preeminence; preeminence is the attribute of the subject for whom another is the object. I cannot in fact regard