Energetic Ethics. Georges Bataille in the Anthropocene

In Luca Valera & Juan Carlos Castilla (eds.), Global Changes: Ethics, Politics and Environment in the Contemporary Technological World. Springer Verlag. pp. 171-180 (2020)


In this chapter, we develop the claim that today, in light of the distributed catastrophe called the Anthropocene, the question of ethics first and foremost becomes a question of economy and energy. Supplementing existing ethical approaches to the question of economy and energy, we offer what we understand to be a more fundamental economical interpretation of the Anthropocene by way of Georges Bataille’s philosophical thought on economy. We will argue that inasmuch as it results from what has come to be known as “the great acceleration”, the Anthropocene can be understood as a consequence of an economic consideration of energy that is oriented towards scarcity and utility, which is to say to Bataille’s “restricted economy”. Additionally, we show how for Bataille, such a ‘restricted’ consideration of energy is an ethical affair, since it misunderstands the constitutive abundance of energy associated with “the general economy”, thereby simultaneously and catastrophically misunderstanding the ethos of human existence in servile terms of labour and efficiency. Finally, we investigate how Bataille’s concept of sovereignty seeks to surpass such servility and efficiency by way of a consideration of energy that is oriented towards expenditure. We offer a reinterpretation of the ethics of sovereignty by confronting it with our contemporary deteriorating oikos inhabited in the Anthropocene. We close by arguing that notwithstanding its irrevocable difficulties, the question of ethics in the Anthropocene must be considered as an energetic ethics of sovereignty.

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Author Profiles

Jochem Zwier
Radboud University Nijmegen
Vincent Blok
Wageningen University and Research

References found in this work

The Emerging Concept of Responsible Innovation. Three Reasons Why It is Questionable and Calls for a Radical Transformation of the Concept of Innovation.V. Blok & P. Lemmens - 2015 - In Bert- Jaap Koops, Ilse Oosterlaken, Henny Romijn, Tsjalling Swiwestra & Jeroen Van Den Hoven (eds.), Responsible Innovation 2: Concepts, Approaches, and Applications. Dordrecht: Springer International Publishing. pp. 19-35.
Subsistence Emissions and Luxury Emissions.Henry Shue - 1993 - Law and Policy 15 (1):39–59.
Saving Earth: Encountering Heidegger's Philosophy of Technology in the Anthropocene.Jochem Zwier & Vincent Blok - 2017 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 21 (2/3):222-242.

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