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The Limit of the Useful

The Limit of the Useful

Current price: $34.95
Publication Date: February 7th, 2023
The MIT Press
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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as Bataille had planned to title the work, illuminates the philosopher’s later corpus, yet it remained unfinished and unpublished in his lifetime, and untranslated until now.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.

About the Author

Georges Bataille (1897–1962) was a French writer, essayist, and philosopher whose works include The Story of the Eye, The Blue of Noon, The Accursed Share, and Theory of Religion.

Cory Austin Knudson holds a visiting position in Comparative Literature at Eckerd College. His work has appeared in the Journal of Modern Literature, Postmodern Culture, and Environment, Space, Place.

Tomas Elliott is Assistant Professor of English at the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University London.