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Georges Bataille Seminar Notes

Georges Bataille – The Accursed Share (3 Volumes) 1946-1949: Consumption

-          The paradox of utility

-          This volume focuses on consumption, consumerism, “stuff”

-          Alternative theory of how to address consumption

-          Looking back to Mexican/Incan society – historical/cultural anthropology

‘Prodigalities’ (p.63) – squandering wealth, idea of luxury, abundance, lavishness – economic waste

 SACRIFICES – wasteful? Wasting resources: unproductive use

General economy instead of a Restrictedeconomy­­­

-          More Holistic approach? Includes economic values that may not superficially appear to be valuable, but have a greater significance in society eg happiness, charity, even waste

-          This ‘wasted bit’ ie The Accursed Share

Kings ‘giving’ monetary wealth – but not entirely altruistic, there appears a sense of obligation from the other party. Introduces intangible sense of rank.

Ritual prodigality – Ritual giving has economic value in a general economy

Interest = self-interest? Standard western European sense of economy.

Merchants of Mexico do not follow rule of “profit” trade conducted without bargaining. Negotiation is seen as demeaning.

“Their trade was conducted without bargaining and it maintained the glorious character of the trader” (p.65)

Gift giving activity becomes so ritualised it transforms the profane (gifts) into the sacred.

Objects are imbued with an aura

[Art in the age of mechanical reproduction – Walter Benjamin]

General economy introduces an implicit, taci­t contract, an obligation

Potlatch//Potluck – no bargaining involved

Sense of implicit, obliged exchange

“More often than not it is this solemn giving of considerable riches, offered by a chief to his rival for the purpose of humiliating, challenging and obligating him

Important: this culture of gift-giving and potlach holds central the idea of the afterlife. This may also be an implication of a general economy. There is a sense of an ultimate goal, insofar as society does not self-destruct following the sacrifice of wealth and riches.

Destructive Art – Michael Landy (credit card destroying etc), Gustav Metzger (Auto-destructive art), Jean Tinguely (Auto-destructive robot thing), John Baldessari (Cremation Project), Susan Hiller

Marcel Mauss (The Gift) – p.68

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