For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"From the quarantine to the general strike: On Bataille’s political economy"

by Timofeeva, Oxana (2020)


The essay explores Bataille’s general economy as the theory of nonproductive expenditure and its implications for a new politics of nature. It suggests that this theory, elaborated by Bataille in the 1940s, can be valid today and applicable in the analysis of the most urgent problems of contemporary humanity such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. The reading of general economy that is presented in this essay evokes the Bataillean notion of violence, which allows the political aspects of the human/nonhuman divide to be exposed. The essay begins with the metaphor of the sun as the source of both destructive and productive energy, continues with the reflections of the two kinds of violence, as well as two kinds of economies in Bataille, defines a passage between general economy and a possible general politics, and finally proposes to critically reconsider Bataille’s opposition between labor and nature in order to overcome it.

Key Passage

They think that they struggle for survival or work for prosperity, but altogether their economic activities only contribute to the planetary feast indistinguishable from a plague. It is this destructive aspect of the accursed share, outlined by Bataille, that relates to his later concept of full violence, or violence of the nonhuman, presented in “Pure Happiness.” (p.158)


Georges Bataille, General Economy, Nonproductive Expenditure, Covid-19, Climate Change, General Strike


On Bataille

Links to Reference



How to contribute.