Your complimentary articles
You’ve read one of your four complimentary articles for this month.
You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please
What Would Georges Bataille Do?
Alexandra Tzirkoti reckons he might have made a great agony uncle.
Are you seeking advice about your love life? Personal choices? Career? Family? Georges Bataille is here for you, happy to answer all your questions.
Georges Bataille is NOT a surrealist, NOT a poet, NOT a philosopher, NOT a novelist, and NOT a theorist. He has, however, written important fictional works, as well as highly influential philosophical and theoretical works about pretty much everything, and has many friends and enemies at the highest possible intellectual ranks. For all these reasons, he is very much qualified to offer advice on, again, pretty much everything; and he’s especially keen on hearing from readers who are suffering from existential angst, excessive sexual frustration, or who just need someone to share their murderous thoughts with.
I met this guy and we went out a few times and had a great time. My only problem is that he never pays for dinner or drinks, or, frankly, anything. I think he is quite cheap, which is a shame because apart from that I really like him… What should I do?
You are right to be concerned about this. The willingness to expend, or the power to expend, is a virtue, and one of the highest possible. A man who engages in luxurious squandering is a man who understands the immense importance of useless expenditure, and only the latter is worthy of a whole human being. The rest is niggardly, cowardly accumulation, by humans in a pitiful half-life state. If your man cannot live in full, if he cannot exit this endless pitiful chain of utility and everyday concern for the future even for one dinner with you, he is indeed niggardly, and a coward. Dump him.
I feel that my whole life has been sucked up by my job. I work fourteen hours a day, I have no social life, and I can’t find pleasure in anything anymore. Do I need help? I’m not sure.
Yes, you can be certain that you do need help. Or rather, what you need is quite simple: take a fine crystal wine glass, the kind that gives you pleasure just by touching it, fill it with some luxurious, expensive, divinely exquisite wine, sit comfortably, relax, close your eyes, and drink. Fill your senses with the idleness of the moment, let the intoxicating effect of unproductive expenditure plunge you into the void where work is meaningless, into the world of intimacy where the only thing that has any sense, in its non-sense, is the moment of transgression. Can you feel your gradual detachment from the order of things? Can you see yourself entering the sphere of the sacred? Can you perceive the nothingness of sovereignty? Can you?
If you can’t, there are some more drastic techniques for reaching the desirable outcome that I can point you towards. Please send me a private email and I will respond promptly.
I hate my boss. She undermines me, ignores me, bullies me constantly. And yet whenever I see her I turn into a little puppy, running after her and begging for attention. I think she reminds me of my mother. I don’t know what to do, but this has to stop. Please help.
If you are looking for some willy-nilly Freudian interpretation about how your unresolved issues with your mummy are ruining your career and your life, this is not the place, and frankly I don’t have time for this. When will you realize that you can, that indeed you must, escape all systems of authority, all discourse – psychoanalysis (especially) included? That only non-discursive communication will bring you closer to what you really desire? That the law exists only in order to be transgressed? When will you realize that the only authority lies in inner experience, and that experience expiates itself? When will you, finally, turn knowledge into non-knowledge, surrender to the impossible, to the absolute night of non-meaning, if only for a moment? Since I don’t see this happening any time soon, may I recommend that you have a look at some of my texts, and specifically my fiction. There is a novel I’m currently working on, titled My Mother, which I think you might find useful.
Georges Bataille (1897-1962): French intellectual, author and now agony uncle too
I’m addicted to the Kardashians. I know this will sound silly, but they’re ruining my life. I spend endless hours watching them and then give long speeches to my friends about how this represents humanity’s lowest point, and how infuriating it is. Help! I’m living a Kardashian lie…
After conducting some (hasty, I admit) research on the internet, I have concluded that Kardashian is a television persona of substantial wealth involved with an equally wealthy music-industry star, who is selling her body image as well as televised everyday routine to the general public. I am not sure why you find it so difficult to admit that you gain pleasure from what is, in my opinion, merely innocent voyeurism. Sure, it is not socially accepted to admit to such base sources of pleasure, but let me remind you that the base, the low, the grotesque, can exert a force that cannot be matched even by the exhilarating effect of, let’s say, a Botticelli painting. I, for one, would prefer to watch the naked Kardashian in all her mundane glory to the prudish Venus, forever fixed on the wall of a museum.
As for the conversations with your friends, perhaps you could spice things up a bit by reminding them that getting our feet a little dirty sometimes is instructive, if not necessary. You could start by pointing out that the big toe, despite our best efforts to conceal its significance by treating it as the most ridiculous and base part of the body, is, in fact, the most human part of the human body! If you really want to make an impression, feel free to display your muddy foot as evidence of its truly extraordinary ability to let you stand firmly on the ground with your head high up in the heavens, while you are criticizing society’s Kardashian baseness.
© Alexandra Tzirkoti 2016
Alexandra Tzirkoti has recently completed her PhD on the theory and fiction of Georges Bataille at King’s College London. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding Out More
These are the texts by Georges Bataille from which the advice in this article has, quite shamelessly, been lifted:
• Eroticism, 1957, translation: Marion Boyars Publishers, 2006
• Inner Experience, 1943, translation: SUNY Press, 1988
• My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man, 1956, translation: Marion Boyars Publishers, 2000
• The Accursed Share, Volumes I, II & III, Zone Books, 2007
• ‘The Big Toe’ and ‘The Notion of Expenditure’, in Visions of Excess, edited by Allan Stoekl, University of Minnesota Press, 2008