Philosopher, novelist, influenced postructuralism (Foucault, Derrida, Barthes) his writings on eroticism influenced Lacan's work on sexuality and "jouissance". The concentration on the human realization of the inevitability of death is indebted to Kojève's reading of Hegel, despite Bataille's rejection of the "end of History" thesis as an absurdity. Bat was also the member of the first generation of the French writers to take Nietzsche seriously.
In his early work published in the "Documents journal", Bataille expressed and developed a deep concern with excess and a "base materialism" that celebrated everything foreign to the aspiration towards human ideals.
The central theme binding Bataille's thoroughly disparate and discrete writings comes from Durkheim's sociology as well as Mauss' concept of the gift relationship. The essential character of society is the sacred which establishes cohesion and delineates the limits of individual behavior. The sacred implies the self sacrificial relationship btw the individual and the collectivity. Aztec civilization exemplified this sort of human sacrifice. Also the sacred is the forbidden element that exists at the margins of society, for no society is capable of existing without a delimiting concept. For Bat the presence of the sacred is manifest in extreme emotion as well as pointless activity found within play, non-reproductive sexuality, body exhalations or anything that a rational/homogeneous society would like to expel. In festivals of waste and expenditure such as the Native American culture of the potlatch where wealth is deliberately destroyed/wasted or taboos are transgressed, the sacred becomes apparent. The notion of excess is elementary to Bataille's view of a general economy based upon the intentional production of nonutilitarian goods such as luxuries or spectacular displays of wealth and weapons systems. Bataille's notion of "General economy" is where expenditure (waste, sacrifice, or destruction) is considered more fundamental than the economies of production & utilities. E.g., the sun freely expands energy without receiving anything in return. If people intend to be free (from imperatives of capitalism) they should pursue a "general economy" of expenditure (giving, sacrifice or destruction) then they will escape the determination of existing imperatives of utility. For Bataille, people are beings of excess; full of exorbitant energy, fantasies, need, drives, & heterogeneous desires.
Bataille was continually concerned with value, thought it was found within the excess that lacerates individuals and opens channels of communication. By defining value as expenditure instead of accumulation, Bataille introduced the era of the death of the subject. Individuals must transgress the limits imposed by subjectivity in order to escape isolation, and communicate.
Bataille's prewar philosophy consists of short essays, some collected in "Visions of Excess": its central idea is that "'base matter' disrupts rational subjectivity by attesting to the continuity in which individuals lose themselves.
"Inner Experience", (a lengthy philosophy treatise) "Guilty" and "On Nietzsche" compile Bataille's "Summa Atheologica", which analyzes the play of the isolation and the dissolution of being in the terms of excess (laughter, tears, eroticism, death, sacrifice, poetry). "Accursed Share" (Bataille took this as his most important work) is systematic account of the social and economic implications of expenditure.
"Erotism: Death and Sensuality and Tears of Eros" focuses on excesses of death & sex. Human experience is the experience of limits as well as the recognition that death is the absolute limit. This recognition creates an anguish of being that is soothed through eroticism and reaffirming of life forces. Eroticism itself is also an experience of limits for it leads to the dissolution of identity found within the 'little death' of the orgasm. Bataille's erotica contains this recurrent theme, despite being dismissed as pornography. The excessively violent images of sexual degradation in the "Story of the Eye" are often derided with laughter and rejection as grotesque, but Bataille defends against such objections in a prefatory note to Madame Edwarda where he cautions the reader: "if you laugh, its because you're afraid."
Masochism and sadism are celebrated in terms of sexuality as ways of feeling "more human" and degradation and humiliation are considered as a profoundly human experience. This concentration on the ignoble offended Breton and caused problems between bat and the more orthodox members of surrealism. Bataille's writings on surrealism (criticism of the ideal aspiration signified by the 'sur' prefix as supra or higher) are collected in English within the "Absence of Myth".