Bataille avec et contre Žižek: Aporetic Materialism and the Passion of the Real

  1. “This notion of the modern, Cartesian subject qua the radical negativity of the double (self-relating) sacrifice also enables us to demarcate the paradoxical place of the theories of Georges Bataille, that is, of Bataille’s fascination with the ‘real’, material sacrifice, with the different forms of holocaust and of the excessve destruction of (economic, social, etc.) reality”.[3]
  2. “On the one hand, of course, Bataille’s topic is modern subjectivity, the radical negativity implied in the position of the pure transcendental subject. On the other hand, Bataille’s universe remains the pre-Newtonian universe of balanced circular movement, or — to put it in a different way — his notion of subjectivity is definitively pre-Kantian: Bataille’s ‘subject’ is not yet the pure void (the transcendental point of self-negating negativity), but remains an inner-worldly, positive force. Within these co-ordinates, the negativity which characterizes the modern subject can express itself only in the guise of a violent destruction which throws the entire circuit of nature off the rails. It is as if, in a kind of unique short circuit, Bataille projects the negativity of the modern subject backwards, into the ‘closed’, pre-modern Aristotelian universe of balanced circular movement, within which this negativity can materialize itself only as an ‘irrational’, excessive, non-economical expenditure. In short, what Bataille fails to take note of is that the modern (Cartesian) subject no longer needs to sacrifice goat’s intestines, his children, and so on, since his very existence already entails the most radical (redoubled, self-relating) sacrifice, the sacrifice of the very kernel of his being”.[4]
  3. “Incidentally, this failure of Bataille also throws a new light on the sacrificial violence, the obsession with the ultimate twilight of the universe, at work in Nazism: in it, we also encounter the reinscription of the radical negativity characteristic of the modern subject into the closed ‘pagan’ universe in which the stability of the social order is guaranteed by some kind of repeated sacrificial gesture — what we encounter in the libidinal economy of Nazism is the modern subjectivity perceived from the standpoint of the pre-modern ‘pagan’ universe”.[5]
  1. Firstly, Kevin Kennedy notes that “this is a gross misreading of” Bataille’s theory of sacrifice because “sacrifice, for Bataille, is never a literal act, but rather always a simulated exposure to non-meaning, the giving of oneself to an encounter which always remains impossible”.[6] Secondly, Bataille does not see the modern Cartesian subject as the negativity of sacrifice because sacrifice is not negativity, it is affirmation.
  2. Firstly, Žižek has a horrible understanding of Bataille’s cosmology (which I will write an essay on later). For Bataille, the universe is not in balance, it is in disequilibrium, it is formless. Secondly, I can not say that I agree with Žižek’s interpretation of the Bataillean subject because it is not a positive force. The subject is a limit which is inscribed via negativity (of prohibition and work), though it is not inscribed by the negativity of sacrifice like Žižek says it is. Thirdly, the subject does not “express” itself in its violent destruction because it is in this dissolution that it stays silent. Fourthly, for Bataille, expenditure is not “materialized negativity” because expenditure is (im)purely affirmative. Fifthly, the subject does exist via negation but, again, sacrifice is not negation. The subject’s existence doesn’t entail the sacrifice of their being because the subject’s existence is a stabilization which is contrary to the destabilization that is sacrifice.
  3. Firstly, Bataille is not a nazi theoretically, logically, practically, effectively, etc.. Bataille doesn’t hold that there is sacrificial violence within Nazism because the violence of the Nazis was always teleological. In other words, the holocaust was not expenditure because the holocaust, for the Nazis, had the use-value of eliminating the Jews, Homosexuals, etc. which was useful for the end of reaching their supposed “utopia” which is nothing but the most servile and slavish “utopia” to ever be thought, as the thought of Hitler that is Nazism is the farthest thing from the thought of Nietzsche which is sovereign. Secondly, Žižek here presupposes that the subject and the social order which it exists in is stabilized by the double sacrifice which as we know is not true (see answers to point 1 and 2).
  1. The similarity of Žižek and Bataille’s critiques of idealists and materialists.
  2. The similarity of Žižekian and Bataillean theories of subject formation
  3. The similarity of Žižek and Bataille’s theories of desire and the object.
  4. The way both see the subject as a stain on matter, therefore meaning matter is base/impure and not ideal/pure.
  5. The similarity of how Žižek and Bataille believe the realm that exceeds the discursive is formed.
Image 4 — The Ambassadors (painted by Hans Holbein in 1533)[8]




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

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Evan Jack

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

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