On Baudrillard’s Misinterpretation of the General Economy

Evan Jack
2 min readSep 23, 2021

03/30/2021

Jean Baudrillard seems to think of Georges Bataille’s general economy as “too economic” (Baudrillard). Baudrillard sees symbolic exchange as going beyond the general economy because the general economy is still stuck with the “basic concepts” of “production or overproduction, of the necessity to spend, to find the accursed share” (Baudrillard). For Baudrillard, Bataille “still seems relatively caught in the trap of economics” (Baudrillard). But apparently Baudrillard doesn’t say this as “a criticism or a rejection. It’s not that” (Baudrillard). He is right not to reject or critique Bataille’s concept of the general economy, but he is also wrong in his interpretation of what it is. I would like to put forward a thesis which to my knowledge Paul Hegarty and Michele H. Richman (in their respective works Georges Bataille: Core Cultural Theorist (By: Paul Hegarty) and Reading Georges Bataille: Beyond the Gift (By: Michele H. Richman)) have also both put forward. This thesis is that Bataille’s entire system of thought is the general economy. Now the reason this shift in our conceptual understanding of Bataille’s theoretics is important is because it means that the general economy as a concept isn’t economic, exclusively (or at all in the restricted economic sense), rather it is general (who could have guessed?) in terms of categorization. There is therefore a general economy of art and aesthetics, sociology, anthropology, political economy, etc. etc. The entirety of the universe is itself a general economy. It is in this way that we can deny Baudrillard’s claim that the general economy is too economic, as it is nothing of the sort. The general economy resists categorization into a single field. Like Bataille’s other concepts, the general economy is another heterological concept which resists homogenous “understanding”.

Work Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Jean Baudrillard: From Hyperreality to Disappearance: Uncollected Interviews. Edited by Richard G. Smith and David B. Clarke, Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

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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