Accursed Share

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* Book: The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy. By Georges Bataille.


Comprises Volume I: Consumption; Volume II: The History of Eroticism; and Volume III: Sovereignty.


1. From the publisher:

"In this important work, Georges Bataille uses his novel economic theory as the basis for an incisive inquiry into the very nature of civilization. He introduces here his concept of the accursed share, the surplus energy that any system, natural or cultural, must expend; it is this expenditure, according to Bataille, that most clearly defines a society. His examples include sacrifice among the Aztecs, potlatch among the Northwest Coast Indians, military conquest in Islam, and Buddhist monasticism in Tibet.

In this way, Bataille proposes a theory of a “general economy” based on excess and exuberance that radically revises conventional economic models of scarcity and utility. A brilliant blend of economics and aesthetics, ethics and anthropology, The Accursed Share provides an excellent introduction to Bataille’s philosophic work. It will be of particular interest not only to readers of his fiction and essays but also to cultural theorists, anthropologists, and economists of all schools."


2.From the Wikipedia:

"The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy (French: La Part maudite) is a 1949 book about political economy by the French intellectual Georges Bataille, in which the author presents a new economic theory which he calls "general economy". The work comprises Volume I: Consumption, Volume II: The History of Eroticism, and Volume III: Sovereignty. It was first published in France by Les Éditions de Minuit, and in the United States by Zone Books. It is considered one of the most important of Bataille's books.


Bataille presents a new economic theory which he calls "general economy," as distinct from the "restricted" economic perspective of most economic theory.

According to Bataille's theory of consumption, the accursed share is that excessive and non-recuperable part of any economy which must either be spent luxuriously and knowingly without gain in the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, in spectacles and sumptuous monuments, or it is obliviously destined to an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring, in the contemporary age most often in war, or in former ages as destructive and ruinous acts of giving or sacrifice, but always in a manner that threatens the prevailing system.

The notion of "excess" energy is central to Bataille's thinking. Bataille's inquiry takes the superabundance of energy, beginning from the outpouring of solar energy or the surpluses produced by life's basic chemical reactions, as the norm for organisms. In other words, an organism in Bataille's general economy, unlike the rational actors of classical economy who are motivated by scarcity, normally has an "excess" of energy available to it. This extra energy can be used productively for the organism's growth or it can be lavishly expended. Bataille insists that an organism's growth or expansion always runs up against limits and becomes impossible. The wasting of this energy is "luxury". The form and role luxury assumes in a society are characteristic of that society. "The accursed share" refers to this excess, destined for waste.

Crucial to the formulation of the theory was Bataille's reflection upon the phenomenon of potlatch. It is influenced by the sociologist Marcel Mauss's The Gift (1925), as well as by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality (1887).

In Volume I, Bataille introduces the theory and provides historical examples of the functioning of general economy: human sacrifice in Aztec society, the monastic institutions of Tibetan Lamaism, the Marshall Plan, and many others. In Volumes II and III Bataille extends the argument to eroticism and sovereignty, respectively."