For Lacan, everybody is sick, without exception. You are either a neurotic or a psychotic or a pervert. To conform to the system means to adopt an impersonal identity — but nobody can do this completely, without making themselves mentally ill. Hence, we are all emotionally unsound and poor conformists. Bataille is a more complex version of Lacan, since whatever Lacan states in cynical, psychoanalytic terms, Bataille states in Nietzschean, paradoxical terms.
Bataille’s conception of sacrifice makes clear his own view of the overwrought nature of the human condition — at least as he and Lacan experienced it in 20th Century France. Conforming is always a concession to impersonality, in both Bataille and Lacan. Conforming preserves the bourgeois person. The cost is impersonality; the benefit is preservation of oneself via creature comforts, bourgeois status and (impersonal) identity. The practical opposite to this norm of bourgeois conformity is personal self-actualisation. Herein is the Nietzschean paradox (and it also depicts what I call “intellectual shamanism”). To self-actualize is to give up the benefits of self-preservation:
I love him who reserveth no share of spirit for himself, but wanteth to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walketh he as spirit over the bridge. (Nietzsche)
Bataille takes up a Nietzschean perspective when he associates self-actualization with sacrifice. He is also Freudian (and was used by Lacan to develop his perspectives), for he views sacrifice in terms of psychological deviance, on the basis of one’s circumstances being untenable (the need to represent impersonality in the workplace leads to an opposite, reactive attitude, once one has time to oneself). In his essay in book form, Theory of Religion, Bataille portrays the worker in a state of destructive reverie. Bourgeois form and sobriety are sacrificed to despair. This structurally determined polarization of the worker’s consciousness is between the profane (one’s experience of work) and the sacred (one’s experience of free time, expressed as a frenzy of destructiveness.) Free time and money to spend purely to satisfy one’s appetites are the worker’s accursed share.
The Freudian influence on Bataille renders this reading of the worker and his behavior as pathological — although, like Lacan thought, necessarily so. Civilization is not experienced by organic and instinctively driven human beings as a natural condition, thus it necessarily produces its discontents. Bataille’s point is that society structures the psyche of the worker in terms of polarizing his consciousness, so that it swings between conformity and destructiveness. Bataille’s views are also Marxist.
Nietzsche’s views are not at all Marxist in any way. He expresses his views in terms of evolutionary proposals. He expresses his ideas in terms of Darwinism.
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an OVER-GOING and a DOWN-GOING.
This is a tragic view of the world — that in order for humanity to make progress beyond its apelike origins, many who aspire to do something great will fall along the way and not meet their goals. Their failures, however, are necessary, because they offer the basis for others to learn and thus succeed.
Thus for Nietzsche, sacrifice for the benefit of humanity is achieved by those who attempt — (and perhaps fail) — to self-actualize: a “down-going” is also an “over-going”. A failure to do all that one had wanted to is nonetheless also transcendence of humanity’s existing ape-like condition. One promotes evolution through one’s attempts. One sacrifices oneself to the future of humanity, rather than sacrificing the future of humanity to one’s self to the degree that one departs from the script of an impersonal conformist who wants everything to stay just the same.