The Notion of Expenditure (Bataille, 1933)
by George Bataille, 1933
Every time the meaning of a discussion depends on the fundamental value of the word useful – in other words, every time the essential question touching on the life of human societies is raised, no matter who intervenes and what opinions are expressed – it is possible to affirm that the debate is necessarily warped and that the fundamental question is eluded. In fact, given the more or less divergent collection of present ideas, there is nothing that permits one to define what is useful to man. This lacuna is made fairly prominent by the fact that it is constantly necessary to return, in the most unjustifiable way, to principles that one would like to situate beyond utility and pleasure: honour and duty are hypocritically employed in schemes of pecuniary interest and, without speaking of God, Spirit serves to mask the intellectual disarray of the few people who refuse to accept a closed system.
‘La notion de depense’ appeared first in La Critique sociale, 7 (1933). See OG, I, pp. 302-20. Originally published in English in 1984, in Visions of Excess: selected writings, 1927-1939, ed. Allan Stoekl, tr. Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, Jr (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 1985), pp. 116-29. Here from The Bataille Reader.