Victimhood in Bataille's Reading of Sade and in Popular Sovereignty


PHILOSOPHY TODAY, vol.65, no.4, pp.789-805, 2021 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 65 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.5840/philtoday2021726420
  • Journal Name: PHILOSOPHY TODAY
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Periodicals Index Online, ATLA Religion Database, Humanities Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Philosopher's Index, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.789-805
  • Keywords: Georges Bataille, Marquis de Sade, victim, sovereignty, general economy, restricted economy
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


This article reveals three aspects of victimhood in Bataille's reading of Sade (of the other, of the self, and Sade's language) and relates them to some of Bataille's metaphysical and political notions: the impossible, the general and the restricted economy, sovereignty, and transgression. Doing so shows a progressive simplification of possibilities for transgression from the pre-Christian world to that of popular sovereignty, i.e., the sovereignty of the crowd, the latter leaving open one avenue for transgression: Sadean victimhood. The article then applies these aspects to the pamphlet in Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir, "Frenchmen, Some More Effort If You Wish to Become Republicans:' in relation to a contemporaneous document of popular sovereignty, the preamble to the Constitution of the Year III, titled "Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and Citizen:' Attending to the aspects of Sadean victimhood in "Effort" shows that its system's very impossibility makes it the Declaration's logical completion. Finally, that impossibility is revealed as the sovereignty of the masses, distinct from that of the crowd.