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Theory of Religion Paperback – June 29, 1992

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"According to Bataille, religion is the search for a lost intimacy.' Bataille's discussion of this claim moves from the complete immanence of animality to the shattered world of objects and then to the partial recovery of intimacy and immanence through sacrifice. More ominous, Bataille argues that not only was the archaic festival an affirmation of life through destructive consumption, but it also sowed the seeds of war. The book concludes with a discussion of the rise of the modern military order and the origins of modern capitalism. The argument here is wide-ranging and significant. Ethics

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books (June 29, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299090
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Georges Bataille was born in Billom, France, in 1897. He was a librarian by profession. Also a philosopher, novelist, and critic, he was founder of the College of Sociology. Bataille died in 1962.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Martin on October 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is remarkable that none of the previous reviews here on Amazon mention Alexandre Kojève. At the end of this book Bataille lists several authors who provided 'reference points' that guided his steps. The note for Kojève, and his "Introduction à la lecture de Hegel", is twice as long as the next longest entry. (Others here singled out by Bataille are: Georges Dumézil, Emile Durkheim, Sylvain Lévi, Marcel Mauss, Simone Pétrement, Bernardino De Sahagún, R. H. Tawney, and Max Weber.) Of Kojève's book Bataille says, "The ideas that I have developed here are substantially present in it." Now, even though their two positions are not reconcilable, and Bataille does not expect them to be reconciled, Bataille says of Kojève's "Introduction" that, "[n]o one today can claim to be educated without having assimilated its contents. (p. 124)"

Note also that the long Epigraph that Bataille places at the beginning of this book comes from Kojève. This epigraph ends thusly:
"In contrast to the knowledge that keeps man in a passive quietude, Desire dis-quiets him and moves him to action. Born of Desire, action tends to satisfy it, and can do so only by the 'negation,' the destruction or at least the transformation, of the desired object: to satisfy hunger, for example, the food must be destroyed or, in any case, transformed. Thus all action is 'negating'." (Kojève, "Introduction to the Reading of Hegel", p. 4 of the English translation.)

Who exactly is Alexandre Kojève? Well, it is he, not Fukuyama, who is the originator of the so-called 'End of History' debate.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Taylor Carr on September 3, 2007
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Known by some as the "metaphysician of evil", Bataille's book on religion is what is basically a Nietzschean approach to theology - thus much of it illustrates the importance of the darker side of faith, such as the necessity of suffering, sacrifice, and even evil itself. However, there is a lot more going on here than a simple commentary on religion. There is discussion of man's relation to animality, the lost intimacy we seek, and Bataille challenges our perception of objects. This is much broader in the scope of subjects it covers than I thought it would be, and it certainly will be confusing to some who are unfamiliar with philosophy, especially those who have no introduction to Nietzsche's works.

One thing I disliked about this book (which seems to be a recurring theme in many philosophical writings), is the author's tendency to repeat things over and over. I understand the value of restating ideas many times to impress something upon one's memory, but this does get quite redundant in some arguments and concepts Bataille presents. As another reviewer mentioned, this is purposefully vague for the fact that it does try to be everything to all religions. If Nietzsche's thoughts and assertions have captured your interest, Bataille is the next logical step. It is a sort of "re-evaluation" of the values the author sees in religion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rex Styzens on August 21, 2012
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Some authors one reads and when finished their books are put on the shelf for future reference. Other authors one has to live with for a period of time before they can be shelved, as is this one. It is mentioned in the reviews here that Bataille writes poetically. I understand poetry to be written work that shows the reader something unique and original. This book fulfills that goal.

It is a small book, but it has already demanded far more of my attention than I expected. I give it five stars because it is honest as well as brilliant. It also rubs me the wrong way in many places. I accept that as the price of being an attentive student. He declares that the true meaning of life is heard only in the screams of the dying. Life matters because it doesn't last forever, hence screams are affirmations. If it is intended, however, the related implications that celebrate sexism are questionable and the implications of sadism abhorrent.

Bataille urges us to reconnect with our unconscious to achieve a sense of belonging at odds with competitive individualism. The translator renders that as "immanent," "intimate," and "immediate." Along with a theory of religion, Bataille offers an explanation of the emergence of the profane, "the order of things." Sacrifice reverses that and allows the original immanent order to appear mythically, thus restoring the primacy of our belonging to materiality and in particular as transient.

Bataille probes animal sacrifice as generating and relying on the myth of a universal condition shared by humans and animals. With that he explores the continuity between violence and ecstasy that can then be applied to inform his vision of the emergence and historicality of human culture.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer F Armstrong on May 29, 2012
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I think that by choosing this term, "destruction", Bataille did not mean this in an simple way at all. Rather, it means making a shift from a mode where everything seems fixed and eternal, stuck in stone, into a mortal mode. So, in this sense, one becomes a mortal again and acknowledges mortality through being destroyed, consuming, and sacrificing an animal (traditionally).

The mode of the profane is "continuity". Kind of like when somebody in your workplace dies, but someone else gets their job and life goes on in its regular mechanical pattern.

The mode of the sacred is "discontinuity". Mortality (death) intervenes, and one has to recognise that one is animal and matter,

Of course Bataille's writing about the sacred and profane seems quite extreme, because he is trying to incite people to think in terms of doing their "sacred" duty and committing the bourgeois to death. I think this is the underlying refrain in his text -THEORY OF RELIGION - which I am able to pick up, because I am pineal.

But the bourgeois themselves, the current academics and intellectual leaders do not pick up on this underlying meaning, despite the fact that this project is more than hinted at here and expounded more directly in some of Bataille's other books. They can't pick up on it because they cannot hear that echoing refrain that, when describing the depression of returning from work on Friday and taking up drinking in consolation goes, "I destroy, I destroy, I destroy..."

"I, the proletarian, am a potentially destructive beast and yet I am in chains to bourgeois mores and its structures of continuity.
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