Friday, June 21, 2013

miraculous consumption and sovereign pleasure

Bataille relates sovereign expenditure and enjoyment to a "miraculous" moment of consumption without return or remainder. In very simple terms, Bataille operates with a dichotomous opposition between productive, accumulative labor, in which human beings become objects (and, I would add, become abject) and, on the other hand, unproductive consumption which is the sovereign pleasure of subjects. If you're familiar with the terms, it's very like Hegel's master-slave relation.

What makes it possible for sovereign enjoyment to be unproductive is not only that the master does no work, not only that the servile productive classes provide everything, even the recognition of the sovereign's subjectivity (i.e., mastery), but moreover that the pleasure of the sovereign has a certain temporality. Time, in a way, stands still for sovereign enjoyment, in as much as the moment of enjoyment does not lead anywhere.

For instance, contrast sexuality with eroticism. Sexuality and eroticism involve a lot of the same apparatus and operations, but with different ends and in different contexts. Sexuality is regular, regulated, and productive--for instance, it pertains to the lives of married couples, lives of accumulation (of beings, e.g.). Eroticism is exceptional, transgressive, and never for the sake of production. Erotic pleasure is of the moment, is entirely within that moment, and has no extension. It is a final, total moment of consumption.

This is miraculous, which I think requires two things. First, it must be the case that this moment of pleasure in consumption exceeds or transgresses the order of production, the commonplace or everyday. Second, this moment exceeds or transgresses the order of ordinary time. It breaks with normal time, and in doing so marks a limit of the accumulation of history. It is not led to nor leads to historical events. (The death of the king, which is sometimes an occasion of grotesque festival and universal orgy, does not lead to those transgressions. The transgressions are an upsurge that is outside of the ordinary time of regimes.)

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