Sacrifice and Expenditure: The Sexual Economics of Georges Bataille and Ezra Pound

Stevenson, Guy. 2017. Sacrifice and Expenditure: The Sexual Economics of Georges Bataille and Ezra Pound. European Journal of English Studies, 21(1), pp. 76-92. ISSN 1382-5577 [Article]

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This essay compares the unorthodox literary economic theories espoused by Ezra Pound and Georges Bataille in the 1930s and 1940s, and explores the connections that these politically and stylistically divergent writers made between monetary and sexual circulation, wealth and natural growth. Interrogating their respective primitivist approaches to pre-capitalist cultural systems (Pound’s to a medieval arcadia before usury and Bataille’s to ancient Aztec and North American tribal societies), it draws attention to unexpected convergences between the writers’ political and economic ideas. The author demonstrates that Pound – a supporter of Mussolini’s fascist state – was, by the use-value basis of his economics, in many ways closer to Marx than the expressly Marxist Bataille. Although Pound shared Bataille’s preference for pagan and Catholic ‘splendour’ over Protestant thrift, as well as his belief that sexual repression and puritanical fear were contributors to a blockage in the system, his economic approach ultimately abhorred the Nietzschean ‘squander’ celebrated in Bataille’s The Accursed Share. The essay ends by using the two writers to shed light on the literary-philosophical conditions that incubated fascism, as well as the perversely depoliticising and dangerous effects of interpreting the economy according to metaphysical ‘truths’. In so doing it warns against such tempting conflations in the present day.

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Ezra Pound, Georges Bataille, sexual economics, John Maynard Keynes, fascism, modernism, social credit

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


16 April 2016Accepted
10 March 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

24 Oct 2017 14:45

Last Modified:

13 Aug 2018 15:45

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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