The Limits of Bataille

When I chose to start my examination of eroticism with Bataille, I always knew I’d run out of road.  It is hard to to look back, from where we are now, at Bataille’s definition of the unlimited, of excess and not see it as something quaint, laughable. Whether in the ideas he proposed in his theory of a general economy, in The Accursed Share, or his understanding of the violent sexual ecstasies in Erotisme, or the erotic excess he reaches for in The Story of the Eye, or his fascination with the photograph of the Chinese man undergoing the death by a thousand cuts. Half a century later, I feel safe in saying that Georges Bataille could not imagine our excesses and how much a part of mainstream life they would become. How unsurprised we would become about our own ability to waste. How we have decided to deal with surplus, not as food for the altar, but as mountains of stored food we leave to rot. I wish I could reframe the grain we turn into ethanol to burn could be likened to the meat we burned on altars, or the ghost money we put to the flame on the eve of a new moon.

For all his disdain for the romanticism of meaning, I think he would be very disillusioned by the determined way we refuse everything but the most risible, superficial of meanings with which to veneer our quotidian practice of excess.

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