Bataille’s Critique of Socialism and Communism

05/07/2021

In Heterology and the Postmodern, Julian Pefinas says that Bataille sees no difference between socialism and capitalism because both deal with excess in the same way: the restricted way.[1] Both constitute a restricted economy. Baudrillard has made similar remarks saying that Marxists still seek a useful economy which just solves for the issues of the capitalist economy which start with the extraction of surplus value.[2] In this regard, I don’t think one could be too off in saying that the Marxists who are Marxists purely for the economics, and not for some humanistic impulse, doesn’t support a “Marxist economy” because it stops, what most humanist communists believe to be, “immoral” and “violent” exploitation but rather supports a “Marxist economy” because ending exploitation, which is ending the extraction of surplus value, means the rate of profit no longer falls. The purely economic Marxist only wants to fix the economy’s contradictions, and in this sense it is an economics of utility.

In his essay The Horror of Liberty, Stuart Kendall looks at Bataille’s critique of communism. I will say that Bataille viewing the state as a part of communism seems to be something of a straw-man but we must excuse it because he held this view only because of the USSR’s presence. There is an interesting side to Bataille’s critique of communism though: Bataille’s critique of communism as humanism. Bataille sees that communism is humanist because its goal is to guarantee the right to life for every human being. Communism is thus a humanist ideal. This is a humanism which requires a productivism, as Stuart says, “[t]he demand for the production of the [humanist] ideal must first however fulfill the ideal of production”.[3]

Bibliography

Baudrillard, Jean. “When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy.” Translated by Stuart Kendall. Jean BAUDRILLARD, When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of the Economy, translated by Stuart KENDALL. Scapegoat, September 3, 2013. http://www.scapegoatjournal.org/docs/05/SG_Excess_044-049_F_Baudrillard.pdf.

Kendall, Stuart, Andrew J. Mitchell, and Jason Kemp Winfree. “The Horror of Liberty.” Essay. In The Obsessions of Georges Bataille: Community and Communication, 47–62. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2009.

Pefanis, Julian. Heterology and the Postmodern: Bataille, Baudrillard, and Lyotard. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

References

[1]: Julian Pefanis, Heterology and the Postmodern: Bataille, Baudrillard, and Lyotard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), 18.

[2]: Jean Baudrillard, “When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy,” trans. Stuart Kendall, Jean BAUDRILLARD, When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of the Economy, translated by Stuart KENDALL (Scapegoat, September 3, 2013), http://www.scapegoatjournal.org/docs/05/SG_Excess_044-049_F_Baudrillard.pdf, 46.

[3]: Stuart Kendall, “The Horror of Liberty,” in The Obsessions of Georges Bataille: Community and Communication (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2009), pp. 47–62, 54.

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