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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It no longer aims at the greatest expenditure of forces , as an archaic social
system did in warfare and festivals . The expenditure of forces continues , but it is
subjected to a principle of maximum yield : if the forces are spent , it is with a view
was required for the rational organization of an empire , as concerns the use of
the resources produced , in the first phase the order of things maintained
ambiguous relations with the archaic society ; production remained subordinated
This clear revelation of a decline of the whole living religious world ( salient in
these synthetic forms that abandon the narrowness of a tradition ) was not given
so long as the archaic manifestations of religious feeling appeared to us ...