General economy  

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"In "The Notion of Expenditure" Georges Bataille concentrates on the more destructive expressions of potlatch, specifically ‘non-productive expenditure’- the type of ‘Killing wealth’ only rarely experienced these days. For instance, the KLF’s burning of a million pounds or Ryoei Saito’s cremation of 160 million dollars of fine art. For Bataille, ‘sumptuary moments’ are revolutionary in themselves, purely because they are the antithesis of use. Games, war, spectacle, art, non-reproductive sex, all challenge the tyranny of utility. They ‘represent activities which, at least in primitive circumstances, have no end beyond themselves’ (Bataille, 2004, p118). Later he spins off on a more Nietzschean tact, extending the metaphor to genocide and the destruction of a whole class- the power elite potlatch." --Nic Hughes [1]

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

General economy (original French: l'économie générale) is a philosophical concept by French philosopher Georges Bataille, put forward most systematically in his book The Accursed Share (1949), centering around the notion of excess and opposing restricted economies. The concept was brought to international attention by Jacques Derrida in his 1967 article on Bataille entitled From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism without Reserve.

The notion of "excess" energy is central to Bataille's general economy. Bataille's inquiry takes the superabundance of energy, beginning from the infinite outpouring of solar energy or the surpluses produced by life's basic chemical reactions, as the norm for organisms. In other words, an organism in Bataille's general economy, unlike the rational actors of classical economy who are motivated by scarcity, normally has an "excess" of energy available to it. This extra energy can be used productively for the organism's growth or it can be lavishly expended on art, luxury, fireworks, war or non-reproductive sex. Bataille insists that an organism's growth or expansion always runs up against limits and becomes impossible. The wasting of this energy is "luxury". The form and role luxury assumes in a society are characteristic of that society. "The accursed share" refers to this excess, destined for waste.

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