For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939

by Bataille, Georges (1985)


Since the publication of Visions of Excess in 1985, there has been an explosion of interest in the work of Georges Bataille. The French surrealist continues to be important for his groundbreaking focus on the visceral, the erotic, and the relation of society to the primeval. This collection of prewar writings remains the volume in which Batailles’s positions are most clearly, forcefully, and obsessively put forward.This book challenges the notion of a “closed economy” predicated on utility, production, and rational consumption, and develops an alternative theory that takes into account the human tendency to lose, destroy, and waste. This collection is indispensible for an understanding of the future as well as the past of current critical theory.Georges Bataille (1897-1962), a librarian by profession, was founder of the French review Critique. He is the author of several books, including Story of the Eye, The Accused Share, Erotism, and The Absence of Myth.

Key Passage

It  is exactly in the middle segment of the so-called capitalist or bourgeois  class that the  tendential reduction of human character takes place, making it an abstract and interchangeable entity:  a  reflection of the homogeneous things the individual  owns. This reduction is then extended as much as possible to the so-called middle classes that variously benefit from realized profit.  But the industrial proletariat remains for the most part irreducible.  It maintains a double relation to  homo­geneous activity:  the  latter excludes it-not from work but  from profit.  As agents of production, the workers fall within the framework of the social organi­zation, but the homogeneous reduction as a rule only affects their wage-earning activity; they are integrated into the psychological homogeneity in terms of their behavior on the job, but not generally as men.  Outside of the factory, and even beyond its technical operations, a  laborer is, with regard to  a homogeneous person (boss, bureaucrat,  etc.),  a   stranger,  a  man of another nature,  of a  non­reduced,  nonsubjugated nature. (p.138)


Bataille, Surrealism, French, Critical Theory, Excess, Twentieth Century, Philosophy


Visions of Excess, Bataille Citations

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