For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Accursed Share

by Bataille, Georges (1988)


For some years, being obliged on occasion to answer the question" What are you working on?" I was embarrassed to have to say," A book of political economy." Coming from me, this venture was disconcerting, at least to those who did not know me well.(The interest that is …

Key Passage

[…] a society can also be led to consume all its products. Hence it must somehow destroy the surplus resources it has at its dis­posal. Idleness is the simplest means for this purpose. The man of leisure destroys the products necessary for his subsistence no less fully than does fire. But the worker who labors at the con­struction of a  pyramid destroys those products just as uselessly: From the standpoint of profit the pyramid is a monumental mis­take; one might just as well dig an enormous hole, then refill it and pack the ground. We obtain the same result if we ingest a substance, such as alcohol, whose consumption does not enable us to work more -or even deprives us, for a time, of our strength to produce. Idleness, the pyramid or alcohol have the advantage of consuming without a return -without a profit -the resources that they use: They simply satisfy us; they correspond to the unnec­essary choice that we make of them. In a  society whose produc­tive forces do not increase -or increase little' -   this satisfaction, in its collective form, determines the value of wealth, and thus the nature of the economy. The moral principles and rules by which production is closely bound (but at times in completely superficial ways) mean less than this satisfaction that decides the use of products (at least the use of what remains available beyond subsistence).  (p.119)


Bataille, Nietzsche, French, Political Economy, Economic Theory, Moral Philosophy


The Accursed Share, Bataille Citations

Links to Reference



How to contribute.