The Limit of the Useful
416 pp., 5 x 8 in, 1 figure
- Published: February 7, 2023
The first English-language translation of an essential, early work key to understanding the French philosopher's later thought.
In the decade prior to the publication of Inner Experience (L'expérience intérieure), the twentieth-century French philosopher Georges Bataille produced a nascent masterwork containing some of his most original and extensive reflections on a range of subjects. With thoughts on ritual sacrifice and military conquest, the nature of laughter, and the mechanisms of capitalism, The Limit of the Useful, as Bataille had planned to title the work, illuminates the philosopher's later corpus, yet it remained unfinished and unpublished in his lifetime, and untranslated until now.
This is the first English-language translation of what Cory Austin Knudson and Tomas Elliott argue is one of Bataille's most structurally consistent works. Paired with draft essays and plans for The Accursed Share, along with over a hundred pages of appendixes and notes, the volume distinctively elaborates Bataille's thought. The Limit of the Useful spans a decade of rich intellectual ferment in Bataille's life as he first formulated his challenge to capitalism, engaging with concepts and ideas in ways not seen in his other published works. The volume bridges the gap between Bataille's surrealist literary writings and later scientific pretensions, drawing attention to, and filling in, an overlooked lacuna in his oeuvre.
“Profound and endlessly thought-provoking essays on wealth, waste, sacrifice, science, and war—prescient reading for the twenty-first century.”
Allan Stoekl, Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature, Pennsylvania State University; author of Bataille's Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability
“The Limit of the Useful is a laboratory where we can see Georges Bataille's thought of excess in the process of development. Attentive to capitalist speculation, the economics of energy, and the paradoxes of sacrifice, this expertly translated edition allows us to rediscover a Bataille who haunts our present crisis.”
Benjamin Noys, Professor of Critical Theory, University of Chichester; author of Malign Velocities and The Persistence of the Negative