Fragment: What Does it Mean to be Enslaved to the Past?
Bataille talks a lot about being enslaved to the future. He shows us teleological action is the signification of this servitude. Transcendence into the future and away from the now is the primary life-denying function of this subordination. But what about the past?
So far, the only time I’ve seen Bataille talk about the past is when he talks about TIME or ecstatic time, but this is nothing more than the breakdown of the linearity of time (past-present-future) where all teleology breaks down in ecstasy.
Can one be enslaved to the past? I am held back by my projection into the past, preventing my erotic ascent into death. Sovereignty cannot be reached if the present is never reached, I am always presupposed rather than present when I project myself into the past, whereas, projected into the future, I am always infinitely deferred from the present. The opposite of sovereignty is serivility, which, when projected into the future, I am no doubt the slave of the teleological end. In other words, when I project myself into the future, I am a slave of my “future self”. When projected into the past, I am not the slave of a future self (a teleological end), rather abstractions and wishes rule me. Much like Stirner, Bataille calls for us not to be dominated by ideas (see Bataille’s essay “The ‘Lugubrious Game’” found in Visions of Excess). We are slaves to these abstractions. We are slaves to the recationary wish (or desire) to go to the past. The object of desire becomes to dominate the subject (which is desire as the object is of desire). There is another aspect to the servitude entailed by the projection of the present self into the past.
Much like the projection of ourselves into the future, the projection of ourselves into the past also inscribes us within and perpetuates the restricted economy. When we project ourselves into the future for example, we produce and accumulate for the end of warding off scarcity but we infinitely defer life as we infinitely defer consumption. This reinforces the restricted economy because our actions not only reinforce the primacy of teleological action but also the processes of production and accumulation are the laws/principles of restricted economics par excellence. When we project ourselves into the past, we locate a fundamental lack or necessity. Let’s go back to the breakup example for a moment. When we regret those mistakes we made when we were them and we project ourselves into the past, simulating what life would be like if we didn’t make that mistake, we are necessarily locating an absence, a lack. The premise of the restricted economy is scarcity/necessity/lack and it perpetuates this premise via bourgeois ideology and, as we have just seen and noted, even break ups. We reinscribe ourselves into the restricted economy when we project ourselves into the past. Thus, we are also servile in the projection of our present selves into the past.