On Tony Corn’s Critique of Georges Bataille

Evan Jack
2 min readOct 7, 2021



Tony Corn argues that Bataille makes a mistake in his reading of Hegel and that is the mistake of misunderstanding negativity.

Tony Corn holds that 1. “Bataille’s unemployed negativity is no longer unemployed negativity as soon as it thinks itself as such” and then he gives an example of this: “when the animal determines itself as such, it ceases by this very act to be what it is; it becomes man”;[1] 2. “[T]he error in Bataille’s reading ultimately stems from the very determination of the concept of ‘negativity.’ … double negativity: far from being … historical … is … logical … negativity in being and negativity of the performing, through whose dialectic the Work is engendered,”[2] Corn then furthers this arguing that Bataille only recognized negativity of the performing because of how he defined action as negativity, and this problematic because it blocks the causal relation of negativity of the performing becoming negativity in being”.[3]

So, I do not think it is Bataille who has misunderstood Hegel but rather Corn who has misunderstood Bataille. Firstly, one must recognize the fact that Bataille sees the individual as being unemployed negativity. The individual being is firstly the negativity that is work. So, this example of the animal becoming man is problematic because the being is never an animal because as negativity it is already man. So, if Corn correctly read Bataille, which he did not, he would have put this forward: when the man determines itself as such it continues to be man. Secondly, one must understand that being (not Being which is play) is action, is work, is performance. So, the causal relation is not blocked because it is when man acts (performes) in order to be, it is (being).


[1]: Tony Corn, “Unemployed Negativity (Derrida, Bataille, Hegel),” in On Bataille: Critical Essays, ed. Leslie Anne Boldt-Irons (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), pp. 79–92, 85.

[2]: Ibid., 87.

[3]: Ibid., 88.


Corn, Tony. “Unemployed Negativity (Derrida, Bataille, Hegel).” Essay. In On Bataille: Critical Essays, edited by Leslie Anne Boldt-Irons, 79–92. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.



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