I keep finding myself thinking about Georges Bataille’s relation to Marx, even though this would not directly relate to my current projects. Would the diminished potential for surplus value make this blog entry more likely to fall under the category of “unproductive labor” for Marx? At the risk of becoming tangential here, perhaps I can use this to begin to work out some of these ideas and then move on.
Last week’s revelation that the commodification of human labor that Marx discusses would be more closely translated as “thing-ification” recalled Bataille to my mind in full force. For Bataille, the master/slave relationship of possession entails a sort of thing-ification of both master and slave insofar as once this relationship is established, both live in a world in which people are things. Bataille refers to this as “the order of things.”
In The Accursed Share, Bataille refers to the thing as a commodity. He seems to suggest that the most important application of Marx’s work lies beyond “the solution of the material problem.”
The fundamental proposition of Marxism is to free the world of things (of the economy) entirely from every element that is extraneous to things (to the economy): It was by going to the limit of the possibilities implied in things … by carrying to its ultimate consequences the movement that reduces man to the conditions of a thing, that Marx was determined to reduce things to the condition of man, and man to the free disposition of himself. (135)
At this point, it seems that while Marx writes about the thing-ification, or commodification of human labor, Bataille may take this further by positing the thing-ification of people not only in the slave society but also in industrial, capitalist society. The order of things reduces people from living in a sort of immanent state. Bataille seems to answer Marx’s “surplus value” with the “surplus energy” of “the accursed share,” even arguing that an answer to capitalism may lie in unproductive labor/expenditure.
My thoughts are still somewhat nascent and fragmentary, so I’m not sure where this is going, if anywhere.