The Battle of Marignano 1515, Francis I Orders His Troops to Stop Pursuing the Swiss, by Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard. Galerie des Batailles, Versailles
But trashing doesn't necessarily entail discarding everything that Bataille ever wrote. We still value the essays contained in especially "The Notion of Expenditure," which speaks of "revolution" and "class struggle" against bourgeois society as a whole in precisely those places that speaks of the "evolution" of "socialism" in the Soviet Union and a "dynamic peace" between the USSR and America.
Georges Bataille was the son of Joseph-Aristide Bataille (b
The Bataille de Fleurus 1784 by Jean Baptiste Mauzaisse depicts the victory of Jean-Baptiste Jourdan in the Austrian Netherlands (current day Belgium) in the war of The First Coalition. The French use of the reconnaissance balloon l’Entreprenant (in the upper right) marked the first military use of an aircraft that had decisive influence on the outcome of the battle. The Allied defeat led to the permanent loss of the Austrian Netherlands and to the destruction of the Dutch Republic. The battle marked a turning point for the French army in the north.
Originally written in French and privately published in 1949, the first part of Bataille's massive trilogy was re-printed by Les Editions de Minuit in 1967. It was re-printed again in the 1970s, when Gallimard began publishing Bataille's (nine volumes so far). In 1989, Zone Books in New York City published a hardcover translation under the title (the trilogy as a whole is subtitled "An Essay on General Economy"). In 1998, Zone published a paperback edition of the book, as well as both hardcover and paperback editions of translations of Volumes II and III.What's most striking about this chilling passage -- aside from its monstrous cynicism -- is the fact that, despite the passing reference to costliness in the last sentence, it has to do with the discussions that introduced them. Forced social displacement on a massive scale, systematic theft of land by the State and mass murder ("terror") "understood" here in scientific or empirical terms, that is, in terms of the structural unavoidability of waste and the stark contrast between "primitive" practices such as potlatch and the puritanical maintenance of accounts in modern capitalist society. Ironically, these terms only come (back) into play when Bataille turns to the Marshal Plan, which he asserts was a potlatch-like response -- not to the poverty created by the defeat of the Nazi regime -- but to the success of the Russian Army at Stalingrad.No, Bataille justifies Stalinist terror in the calculating, moralizing, ideological terms of political expediency. Despite the radicality of some of Bataille's ideas, here he doesn't question of real importance: neither the historical inevitability of Bolshevism, the political legitimacy of the so-called Soviet Union itself (the Soviets themselves were forcibly suppressed in the early 1920s), the necessity of industrialization (both in general and in the specific case of the Russian economy), nor the desirability of Russia's survival. As Bataille himself showed in a preceding chapter, the Aztecs were conquered; Islam declined; Tibet was undermined. The United States, Bataille says, is also doomed. Why shouldn't Russia meet the same (unavoidable) fate?It's also striking that Bataille's argument includes the following remark: "But if one judges this development of Russian resources in one risks forgetting the conditions in which it was begun and the necessity that compelled it" (italics added). In other words, one must concentrate on specific circumstances, not the general situation. This plainly contradicts two other remarks made by Bataille -- "Situations arise in which, wrongly or rightly, acts of cruelty, harming individuals, seem negligible in view of the misfortunes they are meant to avoid," and "[B]ut a single man can die, and an immense population is faced with no other possibility than life" -- as well as "Are there not causes and effects that will appear only provided that are studied?" Bataille had asked, in his introductory remarks concerning "the meaning" of general economy. "Will we be able to make ourselves the masters of such dangerous activity (and one that we could not abandon in any case) without having grasped its consequences? Should we not, given the constant development of economic forces, pose the problems that are linked to the movement of energy on the globe?" Yes, Georges, we should, even when looking at a "special case" such as Stalinist Russia.