From the Quarantine to the General Strike: On Bataille’s Political Economy

  • Oxana Timofeeva
Keywords: Georges Bataille, general economy, nonproductive expenditure, COVID-19, climate change, general strike


The essay explores Bataille’s general economy as the theory of nonproductive expenditure and its implications for a new politics of nature. It suggests that this theory, elaborated by Bataille in the 1940s, can be valid today and applicable in the analysis of the most urgent problems of contemporary humanity such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. The reading of general economy that is presented in this essay evokes the Bataillean notion of violence, which allows the political aspects of the human/nonhuman divide to be exposed. The essay begins with the metaphor of the sun as the source of both destructive and productive energy, continues with the reflections of the two kinds of violence, as well as two kinds of economies in Bataille, defines a passage between general economy and a possible general politics, and finally proposes to critically reconsider Bataille’s opposition between labor and nature in order to overcome it.

Author Biography

Oxana Timofeeva

Professor, Leading researcher
European University at St Petersburg, Tyumen State University,
6/1A Gagarinskaya Street, 191187 St Petersburg


Bataille, Georges (1985). Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927–1939. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bataille, Georges (1989). Theory of Religion. New York: Zone Books.
Bataille, Georges (1991). The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy, Vol. I. Consumption. New York: Zone Books.
Bataille, Georges (2001). The Unfinished System of Non-Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bellamy, Brent, and Jeff Diamanti, eds. (2018). Materialism and the Critique of Energy. Chicago: MCM Press.
Benjamin, Walter (1996). Selected Writings. Vol. 1. 1913–1926. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Boetzkes, Amanda (2017). “Solar.” In: Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment, eds. Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel, and Patricia Yaeger, 48–251. New York: Fordham University Press.
Fanon, Frantz (1963). All the Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.
Freud, Sigmund (1964). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914–1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works. London: Hogarth.
Irigaray, Luce (2015). “Towards an Ecology Of Sharing.” The Philosophical Salon.
Kendall, Stuart (2007). Georges Bataille. London: Reaktion.
Khatib, Sami (2011). “Towards a Politics of ‘Pure Means’: Walter Benjamin and the Question of Violence.” Anthropological Materialism.
Magun, Artemy (2003). “The Work of Leisure: The Figure of Empty Time in the Poetics of Holderlin and Mandelstam.” MLN 118.5: 1152–76.
Magun, Artemy (2010). “Marx’s Theory of Time and the Present Historical Moment.” Rethinking Marxism 22:1: 90–109.
Malm, Andreas (2018). The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World. London: Verso.
Marder, Michael (2017). Energy Dreams: On Actuality. New York: Columbia University Press.
Marder, Michael (2020). “The Coronavirus is Us.” New York Times. https://www.
Marx, Karl (1959). "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844." Moscow: Prog- ress Publishing.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels (1975–2005). Collected Works. Moscow: Progress Publishers/
Merchant, Carolyne (2016). Autonomous Nature: Problems of Prediction and Control from Ancient Times to the Scientific Revolution. New York: Routledge.
Noys, Benjamin (2000). Bataille: A Critical Introduction. London: Pluto Press. Plester, Jeremy (2017). “All the Hell Breaks Loose as the Tundra Thaws.” Guard- ian, July 20, 2017.
Sorel, Georges (2004). Reflections on Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sotiris, Panagiotis (2020). “Against Agamben, is a Democratic Biopolitics Possible?” Lasting Future. ben-is-democratic.html?fbclid=IwAR2ofuB22YLjcNOAkuZxx7SSAnZwYzLy5K-PExHJJ-MYcptgcY9MhuQ2mntM.
Szeman, Imre (2020). “On Solarity: Six Principles for Energy and Society After Oil” Stasis. 2020: 128-143.
Szeman, Imre, and Dominic Boyer, eds. (2017). Energy Humanities: An Anthology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Stoekl, Allan (2007). Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability. Minne- apolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Yusoff, Kathryn (2015). “Geologic subjects: nonhuman origins, geomorphic aesthetics and the art of becoming inhuman.” Cultural Geographies 22.3: 383–407.
Žižek, Slavoj (2008). Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador.
Žižek, Slavoj (2020). “Monitor and Punish: Yes, Please!” The Philosophical Salon.
How to Cite
Timofeeva, O. (2020). From the Quarantine to the General Strike: On Bataille’s Political Economy. Stasis, 9(1).