The College of Sociology, Paris, 1937-39

Collège de Sociologie

A experimental group from the early 20th Century. Interesting (apologies for any spelling mistakes, my OCR is cheap):

… Denis Hollier describes the project of the College as one of ‘depoliticizing collective experience’, a critique of the ‘monopolization of community by the political’. Initially in texts by Bataille, Michel Leiris and Roger Caillois, the College addressed the question of the sacred and the totality of human existence, developing a notion of community that attempted to resist its co-option by various governments and social movements. The 1930s were supremely the time when certain notions of community based on some essence, idea or project, be it organic nature, racial purity, the Fatherland, the body of Christ or the dignity of labour, were being employed as the goal and guarantee of liberal democratic, socialist and national socialist repressions. Beyond the individuating and depersonalizing effects of the homogeneous social order lies the realm of ritual, festival and artistic, mystical and religious experience. Against democracy’s limitations, the College’s lectures, delivered in regular open sessions, raised the question of human wholeness and communal vitality, often in in darkest forms. The sociology of the College, as described in the note on its foundation which appeared in Acephale, was concerned with sacred forms beyond the limits of scientific enquiry: ‘sacred sociology’, Bataille and Caillois state, investigates all human activities, the ‘entire communifying movement of society.

The notion of community, the object of the College’s lectures, corresponds to the modes of communication and community reached in the experience of the extreme states to which Bataille was already being drawn. In one of the pieces inaugurating the College, Bataille contrasts the determined action, servility and usefulness of democratic societies with the total movement in which life plays and risk itself. The movement of communication allies itself with the precipitation towards communitarian existence. It involves, however, an inapprehensible energy rather than a restricted, and thus servile, framework. Like the College itself, the community must serve no master, no minister, no Fuhrer: it must be headless. As Hollier notes, the College had no single voice, topic or programme, but many, often conflicting voices: its ‘structure’, more like a ‘collage’, was acephalic, headless.

Bataille’s earlier ‘Programme (relative to Acephale)’ offers a glimpse of the impossible totality addressed by the sacred sociology of the community. The excessive and radical nature of Bataille’s programme suggests why disagreements about its direction caused the subsequent disbanding of the group. Through proposing the ‘decomposition’ of all communities, the forms of community that arise within bourgeois economic and social systems, Bataille establishes an impossible goal, the affirmation of a nonrealizable and distinctly non-utilitarian ‘universal community’. The programme eviscerates the idea of community, in its everyday sense, and displays the crime, aggression and violence within communed structures, noting their importance as values within an acephalic universe of energies without direction, a play of forces in excess of bounded states or defined duty. The values that the programme advances me thus shown to be heterogeneous to community even as they provide points of cohesion as sacred, unifying principles. The acephalic affirmation of (impossible) community emanates from a Nietzschean current of thought in which value is transvalued, overcoming the subordination of the opposition between good and evil.

The Blackwell’s Georges Bataille Reader, p.6-7

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