Something I wrote when I was up late, bored, and tired
I will be going over send me your soul | john’s article which covers their opinions on humanity.
Their first claim: We are beings of excess.
My opinion: this is true per Bataillean ontology (and as Bataille and Land are obviously the driving motors of this essay, I will take Bataille’s positions to be presupposed truths but if they want to write a rejoinder that which I disagree with as he strays from Bataillean orthodoxy then I will gladly write a counter-critique).
Their second claim: Capitalism highlights our “gluttony” as well as accelerates it.
My opinion: the excessiveness of our being or the excess which we expend in unproductive consumption (which is what I’m going to assume they mean by gluttony) is not highlighted under capitalism, no. Rather this heterogeneous expenditure excretes a subversive and revolutionary heterogeneous (base) matter which resists the universal coding machine which encodes all objects into a system of equivalence and exchange which is of a homogeneous society. To further, unproductive consumption or just expenditure (as Bataille would have us call it; see Visions of Excess page 118 (I think. I’m on my phone and don’t have access to anything right now)), is not an action which the capitalist system can appropriate nor accelerate. Rather, expenditure is a complete and infinite contestation with the capitalist system as excess doesn’t follow “the tract of capital”. I will give an example of what I mean by “the tract capital”. Excess in the form of profit isn’t used immediately in non-deferred consumption, rather these profits are immediately reinvested into the means of production in order to garner more excess. It is in this way that excess has a utility (therefore this isn’t unproductive consumption/expenditure) and leads to the infinite deferral of consumption in favor of attempted unlimited accumulation. The bourgeois class expends in itself as well. The proletariat can only expend their labor-power which is obviously integral to the capitalist system (it is hardly heterogeneous).
Their third claim: Capitalism is an “accelerant” on our excessive desires.
My opinion: For Bataille, the object of desire makes the subject desire (see Bottling and Wilson’s explanation of this in the introduction to The Bataille Reader). Bataille’s view of desire is without object (again see Bottling and Wilson in The Bataille Reader).
What it means to accelerate desire in the Bataillean sense means is something I do not know. What Bataille really saw in the subject was the need for loss which capitalism denies. It denies expenditure, death, and ultimately excess. I don’t really know how it could accelerate something it denies.
Their fourth claim: Capitalism offers commodities which we can expend energy upon. We outpour ourselves on commodities, gifts, etc.
My opinion: If you mean expend in the sense of spending (as in buying) and energy in the sense of wealth (as in money) then sure we “expend” on commodities i.e. we buy them. But they say directly after this that we outpour ourselves on commodities, gifts, etc. I take issue with this as capitalism doesn't really allow for this to take place as it denies expenditure (even Land agrees with this), sovereignty, and sovereign consumption. Our dissolution in expenditure is the dissolution of the subject and object. So it is problematic to say we can expend ourselves (subject) on commodities (object). BUT EVEN IF we could expend ourselves on commodities, there is still a contradiction which I will address when looking at their fifth claim.
Their fifth claim: We expend ourselves more and more because our thirst (desire) becomes greater and greater.
My opinion: The issue here the fact that we are finite (Bataille affirms this when he says that we are not everything, and Land does when he says that we are just a pause on the energy path of solar flow) means we cannot infinitely expend (dissolve) ourselves. Expenditure is an affirmative and negative thing. It is affirmative in that we affirm ourselves through expenditure as we are sovereign in expenditure. But is is also negative in that when we expend ourselves completely, we will have completely dissolved. We can do periods of summit and decline of course, but the summit implies the decline.
The next issue is that I don’t know how you can claim that our desires get greater and greater, if we are constantly expending ourselves. It is implied that the subject is desire when we say there is an object of desire. How can something grow (accumulate) and expend (spend that which is accumulated) at the same time if we can only do one of these operations at a time?
Their sixth claim: Our thirst (desire) is quenched (stopped) in death.
My opinion: Land talks about death and the question of what it is in The Thirst for Annihilation. To assume it is just non-being, for Land, is wishful and comforting thinking. We can’t truly know what happens in death as it isn’t 1. an object of experience (to our knowledge) 2. the subject is not present, in this way death is noumenal 3. death is the place of non-knowledge. To say desire ends here is problematic as it implicitly assumes that one knows what death is.
The other problem here is that it goes contrary to Land’s idea of desire. Desire cannot be “quenched” for Land, as, for Land, desire is non-teleological. It doesn’t have an end.
Land does speak of our “thirst for annihilation” but this can be seen as annihilation in the sense of the dissolution which occurs during expenditure.
They also say that desire is unquenchable which is a contradiction.
I don’t think their sixth claim is completely wrong, I just think the diction can be seen as problematic.
Their seventh claim: We thirst (desire) for commodities our entire lives and then we die.
My opinion: I disagree with this on the basis that we can’t really say what the object of desire is. To say our object of desire is the commodity is reductive.
If desire is a thirst for annihilation then desire would not have commodities as its object, no?
Another issue is that, under capitalism, desire is deffered. Accumulation is what takes place, consumption deffered infinitely.
If this seventh claim is based on their fourth and sixth claim then this is based on already shakey and problematic presupositions.
Again, I wrote this when I was really tired, so I definitely messed up in this. I’ll try my best to get to all questions, comments, etc.