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Bataille & Caillois, "Sacred Sociology"

Bataille & Caillois, "Sacred Sociology"

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SacredSociologyandtheRelationshipsbetween"Society,""Organism,"d"Being"
orges
Batailleand
Roger
Caillois
Saturday,November20,1937
CollegeofSociologywiththisinauguralsessionmovedintothepremisesitwouldmeet,twiceamonth,overthecourseoftwoacademicyears:theroomoftheGaleriesduLivre,abookstore(apparentlyCatholic)locatedat5rueGay-Lussac,BothBatailleandCailloisspoke.FirstCail/ois.Buthisinterventionwasnotwritten.Notraceofithasbeenoreservea.Hehimselfhasforgottenwhatitwasabout.Nonetheless,there
is
ainthetextofhissuccessoronthe''platform,"Bataille,whoseactualwords,"Cailloishavingjustgivenageneralhistoricalsurveyofsociologists'thought..."Butthat
is
all.WithBataille,theeditor'sproblem
is
theoppositebecausetherearetwobearingthetitlethat
is
ontheprogramforthatday.LackinganyIampublishingfirstthelongerofthetwo,butwithnoassurancethatwastheonlyone,
01'
thefirstonetoberead.Thislecturewasrathereclectic;echoesofNietzscheandDurkheimaretobehere,aswellasechoesofacertainBelotandofthealternativebetweenaandanundulatorydiscoursethatdeBroglie'sworkhadrecentlyphysicistswith,etc.Whatstandsout
is
thedefinitionofsecretsoci-aselectivecommunities,whichforthisreasonareopposedontheonehanddefactocommunities(thefactbeinggeographical
01'
racial)thatmadeuptheregimes,butalsoontheotherhand,towhatcanbecalleddefactoab-ofanycommunity,that
is
tosay,democracies.]
73
 
740SACREDSOCIOLOGY
I
Caillois'sintroductionleadsmetothedevelopmentofsomegeneralreflections,reflectionsofametaphysicalorder,specificallyofanontologicalorderonthenatureofsociety.Issocietyabeing?Isitanorganism?Orisitsimplythesumofindividuals?Ingeneral,questionsthataresofarfromandalsoexternaltoscienceproperarenotthesorttocreateanatmospherefavorabletothedevelopmentofaccurateknowledge.Nonetheless,thequestionofthenatureofsocietyisenttoanysocialscienceandparticularlytothedomainthatwehavedesignatedbythenameofsacredsociology.
It
wouldbeimpossible,therefore,andfutileatthesametime,totrytoevadethisquestion.Indeed,forussacredsociologyisnotjustapartofsociologyasis,forexam-ple,religioussociology,withwhichitrisksconfusion.Sacredsociologymaybeconsideredthestudynotonlyofreligiousinstitutionsbutoftheentirecom-munifyingmovementofsociety.Hence,itregardspowerandthearmy,amongotherthings,asitsrightfulobject,anditcontemplatesallhumanactivities-sci-ences,arts,andtechnology-insofarastheyhaveacommunifyingvalue,intheactivesenseoftheword,thatistosay,insofarastheyarethe
creators
ofunity.
1
InlaterdiscussionsIshallreturntothepreciselyspecific
sacred
characterofev-erythinginhumanexistencethatis
commllllijying.
But,fromtheoutset,Imustinsistthatwhensacredsociologyisunderstoodinthismanner,
it
supposesthatthequestionof
being
isresolved.Moreaccurately,itisaresponsetothisques-tion.
It
acknowledgesthat
ill
addition
totheindividualswhomakeupsociety,thereexistsanoverallmovementthattransformstheirnature.
It
keepsitsdis-tance,therefore,fromanynotionaccordingtowhichsocialexistencewouldonlyaddcontractstoIndividuals.'thatistosay,preciselyfromthenotionsonwhichthewholepresent-daycultureisbased.
It
wouldevenbesurprisingifitdidnotcontradictthewaymostofusreactmentally(oratleastcontradictourbiases).Havingsimplyacknowledgedthis,andCailloishavingjustgivenahistoricalsur-veyofsociologicalthought,Ishallattempttodevelopageneraldescriptionsothataconsistentrepresentationofsocietywillbecomepossible.
1.Societyasdifferentfromtheslimoftheelementsthatcomposeit
Ahumansocietyisintheworldasadistinct,butnotisolated,existence.
It
istinctnotonlyfromtherestofthingsandbeingsbutalsofromothersocieties:iscomposedofamultitudeofelementsthataremoreorlessidenticaltothatcomposetheneighboringsociety,buttheybelongexclusivelytoitinaficientlystablemanner.AgroupofhumanbeingslivingonanislandmakeGreatBritain.YetanappreciablenumberofBritishsubjectsaretobefoundtheisland.Viceversa,theisland'spopulationincludesacertainnumberofeigners.GreatBritainexists,nolessforallthat,inanentirelydistinctexcludingtheseforeignersandincluding,inadditiontotheislanders,the
SACREDSOCIOLOGY075
tudeofBritonsscatteredthroughouttheworldHhB.d.ence,onteonehandthereantonsan,ontheother,thereisGreatBritain.'reI~wedno;consideranatomaspresent-dayideasrepresentit,thereareonthe1.an,.eectron~and,ontheother,theatomformedbythecomingtogetherofeectronsinaparticularmovement
3
AmII
.0
ecuepresentsthesamedoubleaspect:
It
IS
boththegivennu~berofatomsthatcomposeit(whichcouldexis~alone)andt.hemo~e~ule,that
IS
tosay,somethingthatgreatlydiffersfromatomsareentirelysimilarexceptthattheyarenotcombinedintoamolecularfor-
f.
Somemoleculesarealsoabletoformmicellesthatarethemselvesdif-romt~e~um.ofthemoleculesnotyetbroughttogether.Inanotherdlre~tIOn,crystalsformextremelyunifiedwholeswithinwhichl?setheI~'autonomy.Themicellesenteringintothecompositionofdblumtsaresituatedonthethresholdoflivingmatter.Thislatterpresentsou.e~spectatleastas~Iearlyasdoesinorganicmatter.EveryoneknowsthatcellISdIffel:entfromtheJuxtapositionofthepartscomposingit,whicharemol-andnuc~lles:Andfart?eruponthescaleofbeingsamulticellularorgan-cannot~elegaIde~~sasimplecoexistenceofcells.Hencewecomebackto,WhICh,.COmbIl1l.ngorganismsatthehighestlevel,makesthemintootherthantheirsum.Evenifthefacts~'equiresomereservations,thisenumerationofthemencour-onetogeneralize:Theformationofabeingcomposedofsimplerbeins~completelybanalprocess,orevenafundamentalprocessofeverythi:geXIs~s,whetheI~ornotit.isinert.(ForitisunderstoodthatthegreatastralanthegalaxI~sgroupingthemdonotescapefromthismodalityofbe-.l!nderth.esecircumstances,itceasestobeparadoxicaltospeakofsocietabeing.Qu~tethecontrary,theparadoxisinthedifficultyweoftenhavei~"TaWhaIheof~hepresenceofthisbeing.Theparadoxisinexclaimingiron-ruttISsideofthePyren"d'..ees...annot
111
recognizing-whethertP"t"'P"toI.t
0.1
seducedbyIt-the
existence
oftheconntryandtheflag,whichef-limitthementalboundariesofallthoseconstitutingit.
Atom,molecule,micelle,cell,organism,society
verygen~r~ldesc~-jptionofthecompositionofbeingsissounfamiliartoonrthatItImmedIat~lycomesupagainsttheimprecisionofvocabulary.Theofexp~'essIOnbreaksdownbecausesocietyispresumedtobecom-.notoforgams~sbutofindividuals.Thenotionofindividualitycanbeap-~ustaswelltoinertcorpusclesastolivingbeings'itcanevenbeappliedt
uV~CllC~
Theword"individual"cannotbeused,the~'efore,todesignateade~onthescaleofforms.Ontheotherhandtheword"organl'sm".alidth11''ISsome-ppe
0
tece.Obviously,itisnecessarytoovercomesuchgreatin-.Atoms,molecules,micellesandcellsarewellenoughdefined,but
 
760SACREDSOCIOLOGY
"organism"mustbereservedforgroupsofcellsandinthissensesubstitutedfor
individual,
It
willstillbenecessarytodistinguishbetweensimpleorganismsandlinearorganisms,Thename"simpleorganism"mustbereservedforanimalswithnosymmetry,orwithaxialorradialsymmetry,suchassponges,starfish,jellyfish,Theseanimalstogetherformcoloniesunitingconnectedelements,andnotsocieties,Totheextentthatwestilltakethetheoryofacolonialoriginofor-ganismsintoaccount,wecansaythatsimpleorganisms,bygrouping,formcompoundorganisms,Theorganismscontemplatedbythecolonialtheoryareactuallycomposedofsegmentsthatarelinearlydisposedfromheadtotail.Insomeinstances,thesesegmentsmaintaintheirautonomy,Worms,forexample,earthworms,classifiedbynaturalistsamongtheoligochaetesprovidethesim-plestexampleofthissortofassociation;higheranimals,insectsandvertebrates,intheirembryonicdevelopment,thenintheirnervoussystemorintheirskele-tons,retainsomethingofthesegmentedcharacteroftheworms,Doubtless,sci-encehasnotsettledthispoint:
It
isevencurrentlydemonstratingasortofrepug-nancewithrespecttothecolonialtheory,Butwestillmustholdontothefactthatsociety,whichisthemostcomplexstructuralforminaparticulardirectionofthecompounddevelopmentofbeings,isformedonlyonthebasisoflinearorganisms,
3,Thenotionof"compoundbeing"
Now,ifIwanttogobackoverthesereflectionsIhavejustmade-togetsomesortofoverallpictureofthem-Iwillsimplystatethesequence:atom,molecule,micelle,cell,simpleorganism,linearorganism,andsociety,Iwilladdthattheatomandmoleculeareperhapsonlythemostcoherentconstructionspossibleforthemindandthatthedistinctionbetweensimpleorganismsandlinearorg;anisllisismuchmoredifficulttomakethantheothers,Subsequently,Iwillshowthesereservationsdonotseemtroublesometome,AllIhavetodoforthemo-mentistoremarkonanewvocabnlar'yinadequacy:IactuallyhavenoworddesignateingeneraltheelementsIhavejustenumerated,Thewords''whole,"gronp,""association,""totality,""body,""structure,"arefarfrommak-ingobviouswhatcharacteristicsdistinguishformationssuchasatomorcellverydifferentformationsthat,fortheirpart,areneithereasilynorclearly
u,",'""'_.
nated:Concretely,Ihaveinmindsomethinglikeapileofsandorofrocks,oraglassofwater.Iamled,therefore,toproposethatwespeakofamasswhenisaquestionofassociationsthatdonotmodifythepartsthatformthem,and"compoundbeings"whenitisaquestionofatoms,cells,orelementsofsameorder,Ibelieveitispossibletodefinethese"compoundbeings"bysaying,thattheypresentsomethingmorethanthemasscomposingthem,namely,acificmovementthatitispossibletocall"communifyingmovement,"at
SACREDSOCIOLOGY077
when
it
isaquestionofalinearorganismorofa'
4
presentamoreorlesspronounceddifference',soc~ety;andsecond,thattheyementsthataresimilarbutnotcompounded,inrelationtoamassformedofel-
4,Society
is
acompoundbeing
Withthisponderousandtedioustaskoffd1'blunamentaterminologyId'POSSletocontemplateafirsti
t
11'.compete,Itciety?
It
isnotamass
It
isnotann~Ig~nta~swertothequestion:Whatisso-,orgamsmeitherA''I',ismmakesnomoresensethanas''1",SSlmlatmgIttotheorgan-insome"w~~s),Butiti~,a"comp~:da~~i~~~,t~themolecule(asdidDurkheimTherigidityofsomeISpositiv
i
Thli"ofothersisnegative:Theyli~itt~ym~theirIdeasto~tric~identifications,wanttogiveanexampleofsuchemseves,tochallengmgIdentifications,Ilianunnuancedngidity
It
istakfpubicationbyaFrenchastronomerEmil,',en,roma,recent(theexactpublicationdatei~Jul~Belost,IntheInte~'natlOnalJournallishesbetweenlivingorganismsadtYh937),ThecompansonBelotestab-,nsarsasthemeritbesidf',intoadomainthatIneglected'tb''es,
0
introducingscribedonlyoneofthelinesofco~us~?w;~ause,mordertosimplify,Ide-theevolutioncharacteristi~o:;:~n
0
heingsf,A~terhavingattemptedtothatepases
0
existenceofastar,Belot~~ev:~p:~~t~h~t~~rn~~a~~es~~~~:o!t~hestarsanbdtheiI~e,volution,ofcosmogonist'hemustdi'h"cannotesufficientforthediversestars'andhelsc~vertecomparativeevolutionofsuchneearnveatthegenerallafbiIbiogeneticsinallthebeingsoftheCws~
10
o?yand,osmos.WeWillspecifythese:(I)Dualismisattheoriginofthestarsatth",,nebulas,attheoriginoftheIan.'eongmofspiralgiantstaronanebula'thedplietaryshystel~throughtheimpactofa,uaIsmatteonginoflivibei,called
sexuality,
(2)Inthelatterth.'
I.
~ngemgsISce~lulardivisionandintheannelidse::r~~~~
l:~og;,Il~S~S
hroughbeings,Amongcosmicbeinsthr'eIVI~lOnofwholeata
Barbell
formasHPoig'.,oughItScondensationastararriveswhichcaseitdividesi~twon~i~ean~Jeanshavedemonstrated,incanleavesmallplanets(Mar;a,slmPslecell,!hep,lanetaryvorticesphenomenon',s,upiter,aturn)intheirwake-adividein
frac~~~~/:~;::l~IS,
~hespiralsofunstablespiralnebulasspiral(3)I11bei
fi
,a~s,ependsontheunitoflengthofthe,naemgs
ertilization
and
birth
a'bh(novasforthebirthofthe1...:rearuptpenomenabirththereisa
shortperioX
;;etar;l,mg~),(4)Insexuality,beforedurationoftheperfectedbeing~~S
.at~oll
incomparisonwiththenebulousestationbefor'
01
Pan~ts,afewcenturiesof(5)
E
bgI'efore~un?redsofmillionsofyearsoflifemryosrvetemporanlyIn'1''rruleuthatisdifferentfromthatin

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