The Accursed Share: Economics of Excess

Once again I return to Bataille. In the preface to Accursed Share Vol 1 he describes the disconcerting experience of being confronted with the question of his work – the why of it:

“…the book I was writing (which I am now publishing) did not consider the facts the way qualified economists do, that I had a point of view from which a human sacrifice, the construction of a church or the gift of a jewel were no less interesting than the sale of wheat. In short, I had to try in vain to make clear the notion of a “general economy” in which the “expenditure” (the “consumption”) of wealth, rather than production, was the primary object.”

This sense of coming at economics not as some narrow system of capital expenditure and profit, but rather as the ‘general economy’ of the system of the world itself – the Solar Economy – is this bewilderment we feel in realizing his conceptual reversal of modern economic theory based on the object of production rather than that of expenditure and waste (“consumption”). As he’ll tell it “This first essay addresses, from outside the separate disciplines, a problem that still has not been framed as it should be, one that may hold the key to all the problems posed by every discipline concerned with the movement of energy on the earth – from geophysics to political economy, by way of sociology, history and biology.” For underpinning it all was a materialist conception of force, drives, and energetics:

“Writing this book in which I was saying that energy finally can only be wasted, I myself was using my energy, my time, working; my research answered in a fundamental way the desire to add to the amount of wealth acquired for mankind.”

In his iconic affirmation that “the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space” he reminds us such comparisons follow from considerations of an energy economy that leave no room for poetic fantasy, but requires instead a thinking on a level with a play of forces that runs counter to ordinary calculations, a play of forces based on the laws that govern us. In short, the perspectives where such truths appear are those in which more general propositions reveal their meaning, propositions according to which it is not necessity but its contrary, “luxury,” that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems.”

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From Marx to Mao: 34 volumes of Valdimir Il’ich Lenin’s works…

After the publication of his “April Theses” (1917) Zizek tells us, “Lenin discerned the Augenblick, the unique chance for a revolution,” and yet many of his fellow comrades of the time thought he’d gone mad. Bolgdanov considered the theses as “the delirium of a madman”, and Nadezhda Krupskaya commented: “I’m afraid it looks as if Lenin has gone crazy.” Yet, as Zizek relates,

This is the Lenin from whom we still have something to learn. The greatness of Lenin was that in this catastrophic situation, he wasn’t afraid to succeed – in contrast to the negative pathos discernible in Rosa Luxemburg and Adorno, for whom the ultimate authentic act is the admission of failure which brings the truth of the situation to light” (6). 1

Further on in his essay Zizek tells us “Lenin” is not the nostalgic name for old dogmatic certainties; that instead, “the Lenin who is to be retrieved is the Lenin whose fundamental experience was that of being thrown into a catastrophic new constellation in which the co-ordinates proved useless, and who was thus compelled to reinvent Marxism…” (11). Is this not the same for our time, a moment of transition before so called global capitalism and its minions consolidate it’s new found powers even within the old camps of Russian and China? As Zizek says, “Lenin” stands for the compelling freedom to suspend the stale existing post-ideological co-ordinates… we are allowed to think again (11). Instead of a return to Lenin, as if we could, we should repeat his swerve, his fall – to, as Zizek tells it, “retrieve the same impulse in today’s constellation” (11).  No, we cannot return to a failed history, to a nostalgia of the “good old revolutionary times”; no stage shows, no re-enactments; yet, we can instigate a repetition of the gesture of “Lenin” within our worldwide context of “reinventing the revolutionary project  in the condtions of imperialism and colonialism” (11) in which we find ourselves both prisoners and tenants of a failure to act, to connect, to relate, to commune.

If your interested in the source works of Lenin the From Marx to Mao site has 34 of his volumes for download in pdf format: click here. There are also five volumes of Mao’s works, along with a cursory mix of volumes from Marx and Engles, etc.

1. Slavoj Zizek. Revolution at the Gates: A Selection of Writings from February to October 1917. (Verso 2011).