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

Destruction is the best means of negating a utilitarian rela­tion between man and the animal or plant. But it rarely goes to the point of holocaust. It is enough that the consumption of the offerings, or the communion, has a meaning that is not reducible to the shared ingestion of food. The victim of the sacrifice can­not be consumed in the same way as a motor uses fuel. What the ritual has the virtue of rediscovering is the intimate participation of the sacrificer and the victim, to which a  servile use had Pitt an end. The slave bound to labor and having become the property of another is a thing just as a work animal is a thing. The indi­vidual who employs the labor of his prisoner severs the tie that links him to his fellow man. He is not far from the moment when he will sell him. But the owner has not simply made a thing, a commodity, of this property. No one can make a thing of the sec­ond self that the slave is without at the same time estranging him­self from his own intimate being, without giving himself the limits of a thing. This should not be considered narrowly: there is no perfect operation, and neither the slave nor the master is entirely reduced to the order of things. The slave is  a thing for the owner; he accepts this situation which he prefers to dying; he effectively loses part of his intimate value for himself, for it is not enough to be this or that: One also has to be for others. Similarly, for the slave the owner has ceased to be his fellow man; he is profoundly separated from him; even if his equals continue to see him as a  man, even if he is still a man for others, he is now in a  world where a  man can be merely a thing. The same poverty then extends over human life as extends over the countryside if the weather is overcast. (p.56)


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


The Accursed Share, Bataille Citations

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