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Bataille’s Peak

Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability

Allan Stoekl
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Bataille’s Peak
    Book Description:

    In Bataille’s Peak, Allan Stoekl demonstrates how a close reading of Georges Bataille can help us rethink not only energy and consumption but also such related topics as the city, eroticism, and religion. The challenge of living in the twenty-first century, Stoekl argues, will be to comprehend the inevitable shift from a civilization founded on waste to one based on Bataillean expenditure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5386-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: On Shortage, Excess, and Expenditure
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    At the end of the twentieth century, we were regaled with arguments concerning history: it had ended, we were told. The Franco-Russian philosopher Alexandre Kojève had been right when he argued in the 1930s and 1940s that at a certain pointnothing new could happen.Human liberation, inseparable from human labor and the progress of philosophy, had ended; a state in which freedom was attained through the recognition of the freedom of the other was definitive. From now on a State that implemented that freedom was all that could be postulated; all else would constitute a fall backward into a...

  5. I. Rereading Bataille

    • 1 Bruno, Sade, Bataille Matter and Energy, Death and Generosity
      (pp. 3-31)

      Our story starts with matter. Is matter simply a neutral entity, fit only to be stockpiled, used, or discarded? Is it merely an inert object in relation to our active subjectivity, something we can appropriate to make our lives better? To guarantee us a period of comfort and satisfaction, our well -protected, nonnegotiable lifestyle? Is itsusealways to be conceived as leading to some higher good, something desirable beyond the present moment of satisfaction? Is matter to be conceived exclusively as an element of an object, a production that serves a human purpose?

      Bataille’s take on matter is crucial,...

    • 2 Bataille’s Ethics Mechanized Waste and Intimate Expenditure
      (pp. 32-59)

      Given Bataille’s antecedents—among them gnosticism, alchemy, Bruno, Sade—it should come as little surprise that one of his major works—The Accursed Share(1988a), first published in 1949, focuses on the importance of energy use and expenditure in society and nature. What may come as a surprise is that, considering the excesses of works like “The Use Value of D. A. F. de Sade,” he should publish a sober historical and scientific analysis of energy and excess in traditional and modern societies. But twenty years—and World War II—separate these two works—years in which senseless destruction passed...

    • 3 Bataille’s Religion The Counter-Book and the Death of God
      (pp. 60-92)

      The right hand does not always know what the left is doing: generosity in Bataille’s universe never can be pure; the gift—of energy, of time, of life itself—is squandered within a grid of opposition, within a social matrix. Truman, presented at the end of theAccursed Share,gives, most generously, to a Europe devastated by war: the Marshall Plan. The American president thinks he is giving to further the interests of the United States: a prosperous Europe will buy American goods, and capitalism will be saved. But in his very ignorance, he furthers the development of another economy,...

    • 4 Bataille’s City Elevation, Divine Eroticism, and the Mortal Fall
      (pp. 93-112)

      In the preceding chapters we have seen the extent to which Bataille is able to face and resolve certain problems: how generosity is derived from a model of transmuting energy-charged matter that would seem to dictate radical selfishness; how an ethics of generosity and postsustainability is derived from a model of apparently limitless destructive expenditure; how a religion of the death of God is inseparable from the writing of a “mystical experience” (a counter -Book) that would seem to defy all recording, all writing (the establishment of a religion of the Book). I now turn to another central question in...

  6. II. Expenditure and Depletion

    • 5 Orgiastic Recycling Expenditure and Postsustainability
      (pp. 115-149)

      At this point in the book I would like to shift gears and start to consider not so much Bataille’s text, its genesis, implications, and difficulties, but instead the implications of his text for thinking about the future in an era of fast-approaching depletion of the fossil fuel resources on which the “prosperity” of our society depends.

      I return to a question posed initially in chapter 2: how are we to think about the “intimate world” of the future as opposed to the cult of Man and the object? Bataille, as we have seen, often posed these oppositions in the...

    • 6 The Atheological Text Ecology, Law, and the Collapse of Literalism
      (pp. 150-179)

      In this chapter I continue with the set of problems I examined in chapter 3: Bataille’s “religion” of the death of Man, and God, in and through his counter-Book, theSumma Atheologica.Any thinking of sacrifice in the era of depletion must pass through a theory, and hence a “religion,” of ecology. Ecology alone allows us to think the future as a play of forces and resources, modes of conservation and expenditure. Ecology inevitably entails thinking about sustainability or, in the case of Bataille, postsustainability. A number of writers in recent years have attempted to pose the problems of ecology...

    • 7 An Unknowable Future? Expenditure in a Time of Depletion
      (pp. 180-206)

      Bataille, as we have seen, tends to think of intellectual or theological constructs in the framework of spatial organization and structure; hierarchy implies not just a ladder of concepts, but a physical ascension: the elevation of a building, the erection of a statue at the center of a plaza or city. A coherent concept is never a simple abstraction; for Bataille, the height associated with a god or leader is quite literally the rising above of a representation or a human body. The eagle, symbol of eternal empire, is carried above the advancing troops; the fascist dictator stands above the...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 207-234)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-242)
  9. Index
    (pp. 243-248)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)