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

What is the deeper significance of the strikes, the struggles of wage earners for increased wages and the reduction of labor time? The success of workers' claims augments the cost of pro­duction and reduces not only the share reserved for the luxury of the bosses, but that reserved for accumulation. One hour of labor less and an increase in the cost of hourly labor, which the growth of resources has made possible, show up in the distribu­tion of wealth: If the worker had worked more and earned less, a larger quantity of capitalist profit could have been used for the development of the productive forces. Social security greatly increases this effect in turn. In this way, the working-class move­ment and left-wing politics, which are at least liberal toward wage earners, mainly signify, in opposition to capitalism, a greater share of wealth devoted to nonproductive expenditure. True, this allocation does not have some shining value as its aim: It merely tends to give man a greater disposal of himself. The share allot­ted to present satisfaction is nonetheless increased at the expense of the share allotted to the concern for an improving future. This is  why the left that we are familiar with generally conveys a sense, if not of looseness, of relaxation; the right, a sense of tightness, of parsimonious calculation. In theory the progressive parties are animated by a generous movement and a fondness for living without delay.  (p.153)


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


The Accursed Share, Bataille Citations

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