Theory of Religion

Front Cover
Zone Books, 1989 - Philosophy - 126 pages

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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About the author (1989)

Georges Bataille was a French poet, novelist, and philosopher. He was born in Billon, Puy-de-Dome, in central France on September 10, 1897. His father was already blind and paralyzed from syphilis when Bataille was born. In 1915, Bataille's father died, his mind destroyed by his illness. The death marked his son for life. While working at the Bibliotheque National in Paris during the 1920s, Bataille underwent psychoanalysis and became involved with some of the intellectuals in the Surrealist movement, from whom he learned the concept of incongruous imagery in art. In 1946 he founded the journal Critique, which published the early work of some of his contemporaries in French intellectual life, including Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Bataille believed that in the darkest moments of human existence-in orgiastic sex and terrible death-lay ultimate reality. By observing them and even by experiencing them, actually in sex and vicariously in death, he felt that one could come as close as possible to fully experiencing life in all its dimensions. Bataille's works include The Naked Beast at Heaven's Gate (1956), A Tale of Satisfied Desire (1953), Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo (1962), and The Birth of Art: Prehistoric Painting (1955). Bataille died in Paris on July 8, 1962.

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