Volume 1, Issue 2, 2001
Luxury, Waste, Excess and Squander
Leadership and The Accursed Share of Georges Bataille
Part of the Renaissance genius was to look at familiar things in unfamiliar ways. Although a variety of approaches to the study of leadership are becoming familiar, it still helps to consider new ones. Of use in such moments are the works of unfamiliar writers who have spent considerable energy thinking from an
alien perspective. One does not have to accept their assertions uncritically in order to profit from reading them, yet it does take courage sometimes to start down a strange path.
In the spirit of applying new ideas to familiar themes, this article interprets volume one of Georges Batailles The Accursed Share in the light of the phenomenon we refer to as leadership. Bataille, who was born in 1897 and died in 1962, certainly qualifies as a writer with an alien perspective. He has the potential to offend. At times, he becomes positively cryptic, as in asserting 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space.' Nonetheless, the book itself develops a plausible line of reasoning.
Society, it argues, is determined by how it disposes of energy. And since energy that cannot be used will be squandered, it matters how a society chooses to do this. Bataille argues further that moments of true 'sovereignty occur when we squander what would otherwise have been useful This paper summarizes the
argument of The Accursed Share and applies it to the outpourings that followers make to leaders. Rather than regard these uneven relationships as examples of utilitarian reciprocity, perhaps we can tap into the idea that attentiveness to leadership is more in the form of an offering or sacrifice to something that expresses us, as an excuse to display exuberance. This approach promises insight into issues of charisma, followership as self-denial, and mass psychology. It also pertains to the tendency of followers to turn against leaders in ritual sacrifice as meaningful superfluity.