Oxana Timofeeva

3 June 2020

Nature, Violence, and the General Economy: Re-reading Bataille

In 1844 Karl Marx famously formulated a task for a new materialist theory that would turn the criticism of heaven into the criticism of earth. Today, when the coronavirus pandemic changes the ways of ecological thinking, this claim becomes all the more appropriate, and its understanding becomes more literal.  Materialist perspectives in human, social, natural and technical sciences suggest that the history of humans has to be inscribed into the history of things, the history of the World – into the history of the Earth. In 1940s Georges Bataille proposed the concept of the general economy, or the economy on the planetary scale, which he opposed to the restricted economy, i.e. economy in our habitual sense or the activities of human beings. “For some years, being obliged on occasion to answer the question “What are you working on?” I was embarrassed to have to say, “A book of political economy,” – he writes in the Preface to the first volume of his Accursed Share. The aim of this workshop is to try to take this claim seriously, and to discuss some political aspects of Bataille’s theory and its possible developments in the age of Capitalocene, also known as the sixth mass extinction.

Required Reading:

Bataille Georges. Accursed Share. Vol. 1. NY: Zone books, 1991. Part 1. Theoretical introduction (p. 19-44).

Oxana Timofeeva is a philosopher working as an Assistant Professor on contemporary philosophy at the European University in St. Petersburg and as a senior research fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow. Timofeeva is a member of the artistic collective Chto Delat? (What is to be done?), and a deputy editor of the journal Stasis. She spent her childhood in Surgut, one of the centers of the oil industry in northwestern Siberia. Starting her academic career with a doctoral thesis on the theories of Georges Bataille, she later turned to animal studies and anthropocene thinking and recently published a materialist theory of oil.