Some Notes on Bataille’s Laws of General Economy for Traders

There are so many problems with contemporary discourses and practices concerning the economy. It is impoverished, but an outline is clear. Business-school types (mainstream and unreflective) take an anti-Keynesian standpoint. Liberals are Keynesians usually. Most traders I have met espouse radical theories of economic singularities, the type enshrined in the fantasies of Ayn Rand. Examine IBD for relentless idiocies on the subject of man (people) and wealth. But these people (men) and their fantasies are not unique to themselves. The general form of their thought is also found in contemporary psychology and psychiatry, with their common emphasis on “cognitive therapy.” The common thread is that that man (people) are rational and capable of inventing themselves anew and training themselves to do precisely what? Of course, the answer is prosper. But what does to prosper mean? It means to take one’s share. But when the injustice of the system of the economy blocks the flow of goods and services and channels them elsewhere, how can the rational man (person) remain, well, rational? They don’t. It is built into the system itself. They (many of us) suffer depressions of economies and of subjectivities. While depression is good for business, it is not understood in terms such as these generally. “Irrational exuberance”– Greenspan– is not occasional; it is everyday. Depression is the antipode– the recognition of one’s singularity as failure to be full. It is, as rich traders describe their sexual exploits: “High heels and low self-esteem.”  Giving of themselves so, they are good for business, sex, and psychiatry.

Consider the following quotes– entered mainly by hand– of Georges Bataille (1897-1962) from The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Volume 1. Consumption:

“…there is generally no growth but only a luxurious squandering of energy in every form! The history of life on earth is mainly the effect of a wild exuberance; the dominant event is the development of luxury, the production of increasingly burdensome forms of life.”

“…when we curse death we only fear ourselves: The severity of our will is what makes us tremble. We lie to ourselves when we dream of escaping  the movement of luxurious exuberance of which we are the most intense form.”

“… the two world wars organized the greatest destruction of wealth– and of human beings– that history has recorded. Yet these orgies coincide with an appreciable rise in the standard of living..”

“…the extension of economic growth itself requires the overturning of economic principles—the overturning of the ethics that grounds them. Changing from the perspectives of restrictive economy to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transformation: a reversal of thinking—and of ethics. If a part of wealth (subject to a rough estimate) is doomed to destruction or at least to unproductive use without any possible profit, it is logical, even inescapable, to surrender commodities without return. Henceforth, leaving aside pure and simple dissipation, analogous to the construction of the Pyramids, the possibility of pursuing growth is itself subordinated to giving: The industrial development of the entire world demands of Americans that they lucidly grasp the necessity, for an economy such as theirs, of having a margin of profitless operations. An immense industrial network cannot be managed in the same way that one changes a tire… It expresses a circuit of cosmic energy on which it depends, which it cannot limit, and whose laws it cannot ignore without consequences. Woe to those who, to the very end, insist on regulating the movement that exceeds them with the narrow mind of the mechanic who changes a tire.”

“Under the present conditions, everything conspires to obscure the basic movement that tends to restore wealth to its function, to gift-giving, to squandering without reciprocation.”

“…the fact that being afraid, of turning away from movement of dilapidation, which impels us and even defines us, is not surprising…

“…this atmosphere of malediction presupposes anguish, and anguish for its part signifies the absence (or weakness) of the pressure exerted by the exuberance of life. Anguish arises when the anxious individual is not…stretched tight by the feeling of superabundance. This is precisely what evinces the isolated, individual character of anguish. There can be anguish only from a personal, particular point of view….particular existence always risks succumbing for lack of resources. It contrasts with general existence whose resources are in excess and for which death has no meaning.”



1. The market is the superabundance of the sun made technological.

2. A fraction of those engaged in the market will capture capital because only a fraction are seriously interested in accumulation. (It is no surprise that most successful traders I have seen are also bodybuilders or health nuts).

3. Everyone can take their share, but to do so the individual must overcome the innate drive to give it back. Most will perversely enjoy the market via anguish and trepidation as they give away their shares.

4. Even those who capture capital will turn and sumptuously waste it on travel, costume, dining, gambling, etc. They must. Without doing so, the zeros are simply signs on a screen.

5.  A skillful trader must act contrary to nature. For when the profits ring up, the temptation will always be to return the share, to burn it in another throw of the dice, as it were; for the flames are everywhere and (nearly) all consuming.

(Thus, a trader should remind him or herself that he will squander some money later; market hours are for accumulation, period. There should be no surprise that floor traders regularly took weekends in Vegas. They acted correctly; for  the dichotomy must be preserved.)

6. When the morning bell rings, the market and its participants engage in an orgy of exchange and a conflagration of energy and capital.  Most will leave tepid and exhausted. To take one’s share is to take it with the promise that later one will light it afire elsewhere– or, give it with the purpose of enabling life.

7. An ethics true to the human condition in a superabundant world will center on the circulation of gifts; for giving is the first experience; it is the sun that gives energy and makes possible life.

8.  From the point of view of nature, there is no anguish. Anguish is felt by individuals who realize they are not engorged of the superabundance of life.

shiva god of destruction

Shiva– God of Destruction

9.  There is no reason for anguish. Walk outside. In a condition of market-induced anguish, the smallest things of the world will appear as they truly are– magnificent stores of the energy (wealth) of the world. The world is itself stretched tight. Only the luxury of one’s complex bio-system allows one to imagine separateness as a meaningful self-conception.

10.  When you throw away money, do not despair. Enjoy it. You are inadvertently sharing the wealth. Everyone will do so eventually, if only in the luxurious transformation into simple matter, called death.


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