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The three volumes of The Accursed Share address what Georges Bataille sees as the paradox of utility: namely, if being useful means serving a further end, then the ultimate end of utility can only be uselessness. The first volume of The Accursed Share, the only one published before Bataille's death, treated this paradox in economic terms, showing that "it is not necessity but its contrary, luxury, that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems." In the second and third volumes, The History of Eroticism and Sovereignty, Bataille explores the same paradox of utility from an anthropological and an ethical perspective, respectively. The History of Eroticism analyzes the fears and fascination, the prohibitions and transgressions attached to the realm of eroticism as so many expressions of the "uselessness" of erotic life. In the third volume, Batille raises the ethical problems of sovereignty, of "the independence of man relative to useful ends."
Following in the wake of his groundbreaking War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, Manuel De Landa presents a radical synthesis of historical development over the last one thousand years. More than a simple expository history, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History sketches the outlines of a renewed materialist philosophy of history in the tradition of Fernand Braudel, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari, while also engaging the critical new understanding of material processes derived from the sciences of dynamics. Working against prevailing attitudes that see history as an arena of texts, discourses, ideologies, and metaphors, De Landa traces the concrete movements and interplays of matter and energy through human populations in the last millennium. De Landa attacks three domains that have given shape to human societies: economics, biology, and linguistics. In every case, what one sees is the self-directed processes of matter and energy interacting with the whim and will of human history itself to form a panoramic vision of the West free of rigid teleology and naive notions of progress, and even more important, free of any deterministic source of its urban, institutional, and technological forms. Rather, the source of all concrete forms in the West's history are shown to derive from internal morphogenetic capabilities that lie within the flow of matter-energy itself.