Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Notion of Expenditure



This text is an excerpt from George Bataille's "Accursed Share." "The accursed share” is whatever we have in excess in life that is destined for waste to the point it becomes a burden. He suggests there is always more than we need, meaning some of whatever we have is marked for death or cursed. The wasting of this energy is "luxury."

Bataille begins by describing social contradictions, comparing society to a young man and the law to the father, suggesting we allow pursuit of needs but do not address “nonproductive expenditure.” Bataille is supposing a necessary principle of loss, which contradicts ideas of balanced budgets and spending control.



Bataille observed that nature uses a principle of loss, in that there are regular catastrophes that destroy everything and cause us to rebuild. He felt that monetary wasting was the same practice.

Bataille describes 4 types of expenditure: jewels, belief sacrifices (donation), gambling, art



giving away can be better than having, and can be written off for taxes


The game show does not provide items of need but items of ephemeral expenditure and loss. You do not win because what you receive is a liability with restrictions and a set of costs or taxes.

Bataille explains the history of potlatch, a practice of gift giving that required a more valuable gift in return. With potlatch, the giver aims to get rid of what he has and even can include destroying some of the other’s property as a gift of reducing excess.


With potlatch, you always spend more than the other person, get rid of more than you get back


Bataille encourages us to think of expenditure as the mark of wealth.

In contemporary society, expenditure is tied to high rank. “Ostentatious loss” of great amounts is also tied to wealth.

Above Trump has filed strategic bankruptcy 4 times, most recently for the Taj Mahal casino in 2009.

Bourgeoisie is a middle class that is locked in its economic level because it spends for itself in accumulation. Aristocracy, the more noble and higher class is associated with giving away.


Bataille describes that more expenditure could help poverty as neither the efforts of Christianity or revolution have been able to resolve poverty. All civilizations are inclined to expenditure, even conceptually like giving over to glory, a practice of redeeming social loss.

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