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Following Bataille, we challenged this assumption. That is to say, to act in ways that are not determined by considerations of utility, efficiency or productivity. While such considerations may be necessary to provide and secure the basic resources necessary to sustain life, it is ultimately opportunities for sovereign consummation that makes life feel worth living. It is our contention that the importance of the former is regularly absolutized, while the latter is under-emphasized. Why should this be ignored as a motive in our efforts to create more sustainable business practices?

Why should these desires not be brought to bear on our relationship with non-human nature? In fact, we would argue that this happens all the time. Why else would people decide to save a forest for the sake of preserving an endangered species of diminutive frogs—thereby willingly foregoing the considerably revenue that could potentially have been generated from the sale of timber or the produce cultivated on cleared land?

There has perhaps never been a time or a place where pragmatic, utilitarian values have predominated more than the nineteenth century, western USA. If such an act of sovereign consummation can be undertaken in a context as unprepossessing as that, why should we doubt the power or efficacy of the deeply human impulse behind it?

Every year hundreds of people attempt to scale Everest—the highest mountain in the world.

Many of them will spend their life savings to do so. A small number will succeed. One in ten will die in the attempt. Because, in truth, it makes no sense from a rational, calculative, utilitarian point of view. Like so many of the things that make us feel most truly alive, it is an act of pure, sovereign consummation. So perhaps we should try bringing people to the mountain.

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Show them the pristine natural landscape with its clear lakes, towering old-growth forest and teaming meadows. Then show them the jumble of profitable toxic reservoirs, blackened smokestacks and piles of broken debris that could replace it.

Give them an opportunity to do something that makes no practical sense. Bataille was a French intellectual, who came to prominence in the mid-twentieth century. He was close, among others, to prominent philosophers such as Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Klossowski and Hyppolite. Many of these scholars had a background in philosophy, as well as a broad knowledge of the literature, social sciences, ethnology, psychoanalysis, etc.

In their writings, they brought all of this to bear on some of the pressing ethical and politico-economic concerns of their times.

Bataille’s Peak — University of Minnesota Press

For an excellent overview and clarification of the confusions around utility and well-being in economic theory, see Hausman And even in these calculative terms, the metaphor seems to be misappropriated, as Winnett , p. The exception is Francois Perroux. See Guillaume for a discussion of the reception of Bataille as an economist. Sometimes Bataille defines consummation as unproductive consumptions.

Bataille : Cf the comments of Sorensen : That is indeed the case, to the extent that the concern for sustainable development is unavoidably future oriented. Ostrom is maybe the better known reference. But see Dardot and Laval for a more radical view. Painter-Morland declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Demuinjck declares that he does not have a conflict of interest. Ornati declares that she has no conflict of interest.


This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 10 August Introduction In this paper, we investigate some basic assumptions inherent in discourses around sustainable development in order to better understand its current paradoxes and impasses. In Fig. Open image in new window. Compliance with Ethical Standards Conflict of interest Prof. Ethical Approval This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Abramovitz, M. The allocation of economic resources.


Google Scholar. Akerman, M. The role of metaphor in economic understanding of the environment. Environmental Education Research, 11 1 , 37— CrossRef Google Scholar.

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