” Like Friedrich Nietzsche, Bataille was disillusioned with the emancipatory aims of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century liberalism and sought a liberation beyond that promised by liberal modernity. The liberal world, according to Bataille, was the bourgeois, workaday world of modern individualism, a world that degrades man by rendering all of human activity subordinate to some end outside that activity itself. In this sense, modernity determined human life in terms of action governed by what Bataille called “project.” Project makes every moment of life servile by valuing it solely in relation to its usefulness in producing a desired end. It finds an ally or mirror, according to Bataille, in the forms of knowledge and rationality promoted by Hegelian systematic philosophy.
The Hegelian spirit, which for Bataille expressed the spirit of modernity, belongs therefore to a sad, servile, and serious culture, a culture that is always on the job, one that has no time for errant moments of laughter, tears, drunkenness, or ecstasy. These nonproductive instances of useless nonknowledge suppressed by the workaday logic of the workaday world are indices pointing to modernity’s lack of lack, its lack of the meaningless amid the fullness and completion of meaning achieved by the modern world. There is, in the modern world, no rose that grows without why.”