Theory of Religion
Zone Books, 1989 - 126 páginas
Theory of Religion brings to philosophy what Georges Bataille's earlier book The Accursed Share brought to anthropology and history, namely, an analysis based on notions of excess and expenditure. No other work of Bataille's, and perhaps no other work anywhere since Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, has managed to draw so incisively the links between man's religious and economic activities.
"Religion," according to Bataille, "is the search for a lost intimacy." In a brilliant and tightly reasoned argument, he proceeds to develop a "general economy" of man's relation to this intimacy: from the seamless immanence of animality to the shattered world of objects and the partial, ritual recovery of the intimate order through the violence of the sacrifice. Bataille then reflects on the archaic festival, in which he sees not only the glorious affirmation of life through destructive consumption but also the seeds of another, more ominous order -- war.
Bataille then traces the rise of the modern military order, in which production ceases to be oriented toward the destruction of a surplus and violence is no longer deployed inwardly but is turned to the outside. In these twin developments one can see the origins of modern capitalism.
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What is given when one animal eats another is always the fellow creature of the
one that eats . It is in this sense that I speak of immanence . I do not mean a
fellow creature perceived as such , but there is no transcendence between the
Animals of a given species do not eat one another . ... The animal that another
animal eats is not yet given as an object . Between the animal that is eaten and
the one that eats , there is no relation of subordination like that connecting an
The animals which do not eat a fellow creature of the same species still do not
have the ability to recognize it as such ... We cannot say concerning a wolf which
eats another wolf that it violates the law decreeing that ordinarily wolves do not