A Small Note on Community and a Small Critique of Individualism and Collectivism


Community, in Bataille’s conception of it, isn’t to be viewed as a fusion, though he may explicitly say it is. Rather, the fusion that is community is really a “explosion, when the boundaries of exclusion (and also, therefore, the constraints of self-definition) are swept away”.[1] Shaviro’s interpretation makes sense because creating a unity just leads to new limits, but as we know, inner experience and communication are the destruction and surpassing of all limits.

The individual (subjectivity) is an ontological limit. One cannot speak of things such as affirmation and the subject at the same time (as Deleuze does with his conception of Nietzsche’s master). The individual’s existence is a negation of the formlessness of the universe. The individual’s existence is a quelling of violent expenditure, its existence is a repression. But the collective is not safe either. Shaviro shows that “‘[u]topian’ collectivity is only the image, writ large, of the very ‘reification’ it claims to overcome”.[2] In other words, this idea of the collective which many, for example, more “utopian” communists hold, in reality, reaffirms this bourgeois reduction — it follows “the logic of the commodity”.[3] What I mean by this is that within both collectivism and individualism “[w]e are all alike precisely to the extent that we are all individuals,” [emphasis mine] and it is in this that we are all “exchangeable” (especially in collectivism and more bourgeois forms of individualism) like commodities.[4]

“Communal fusion and individual isolation alike negate the radical, extreme possibilities of communication. They both refuse, in terror, a Nietzschean affirmation of the ungraspable, uncontrollable future”.[5] I get lost in the moment, and the ‘I’ is annihilated by the rupturing that is the tears rolling down the skin. In the dissolution of the ‘I,’ “a community at the limits of human possibility” is formed and it at once is the “rupturing” of “the closure and unity of the three Kantian Ideas of Reason: the self, the world (the social totality), and God”.[6]

Community is formed not out of unity but through complicity in the crime that is the murder of God. We are all guilty. We are all the murderers of God.

THUS, IT IS IN THE WAKE OF THE DEATH OF GOD THAT “[I ABANDON MYSELF TO PEACE, TO THE POINT OF ANNIHILATION]. The noises of struggle are lost in death, as rivers are lost in the sea as stars burst in the night. The strength of combat is fulfilled in the silence of all action. I enter into peace as I enter into a dark unknown. I fall in this dark unknown. I myself become this dark unknown. I AM joy before death. Joy before death carries me. Joy before death hurls me down. Joy before death annihilates me”.[7] JOY BEFORE DEATH SACRIFICES ME! AND IT IS THIS SACRIFICE THAT IS A “[COLLECTIVE VOMITING]”![8] It is in this sacrifice that “a complicitous communal relation” is created and with this “the integrity of separate individuals is lost, and yet difference as such is maintained”.[9] Thus, “[c]ommunity does not abolish, but is affirmed on the basis of — and in the midst of — distance and separation”.[10]


Bataille, Georges. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939. Translated by Allan Stoekl. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Shaviro, Steven. Passion & Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1990.


[1]: Steven Shaviro, Passion & Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1990), 98.

[2]: Ibid.

[3]: Ibid.

[4]: Ibid.

[5]: Ibid., 100.

[6]: Ibid.

[7]: Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, ed. Allan Stoekl, trans. Allan Stoekl, Carl R. Lovitt, and Donald M. Leslie Jr. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 237.

[8]: Steven Shaviro, Passion & Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory (Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press, 1990), 100.

[9]: Ibid.

[10]: Ibid.


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Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille