Volume 7, Issue 2, 2020
Emancipation in Capitalist Society
Sovereignty as Renunciation and Expenditure in the Thought of George Bataille
This study aims to reveal the meaning of sovereignty in the context of Georges Bataille’s critique of capitalist society. In order to determine how Bataille thinks about sovereignty, it firstly touches upon the conception of the capitalist society of the thinker. It draws attention to the nature of the practices here limited to capitalist production and profit/usefulness. This limit causes people to be alienated and enslaved. Then, in the face of the limited, that is, homogeneous structure of capitalist society, this study deals with the heterogeneous structure of existence in Bataille’s view. It points out that the heterogeneous structure of existence is the primary condition of sovereignty and emancipation. It then clarifies the relationship of sovereignty with renunciation by determining the content of sovereignty. From the viewpoint of Bataille, sovereignty becomes visible through non-productive activities and therefore it is in contrast with the homogeneous society that exists with only productive activities. Pure productive activities are the most important activities that enslave humans and cancel sovereignty. According to Bataille, sovereignty dies in the life where concern bows to the future and the production. The way of capturing sovereignty in capitalist society is hidden in actions that give up being productive. Thus sovereignty is defined by the notion of expenditure rather than accumulation. The expenditure means renouncing possession and accumulation. To leave behind the forms of existence which are demanded by the capitalist society is to relinquish them. Consequently, the expenditure and relinquishing appear as two overlapping activities in sovereignty.