Georges Bataille defines eroticism as the "assenting to life up to the point of death". (Erotism, introduction) For Bataille, eroticism distinguishes man from the animals because it is a consciously intellectualized feeling that is possible only in a context where sexuality is repressed, or at least where erotic pleasure is independent of reproduction as an end. Bataille relates eroticism to a knowledge of evil and the inevitability of death, rather than simply an expression of joyful passion. He quotes de Sade's observation that "There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image." While De Sade's "aberration" may be the logical extreme of this link, "In essence, the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, of violation." (p. 16) This violence accompanies the change of state from the discontinous to the continuous, for existence is at stake in the transition. The essence of eroticism is to substitute for their persistent discontinuity a miraculous continuity between two beings. "Only the beloved can bring about in this world what our human limitations deny, a total blending of two beings, a continuity between two discontinuous creatures." (p.20) But above all, eroticism is for Bataille a challenge to death, the power to look death in the face and to perceive in death the pathway into continuity. (p.24)
For Bataille there are three types of eroticism: physical, emotional, and religious.
In Michel Foucault's introduction to Anti-Oedipus , he claims that "The dream that had cast its spell, between First World War and Fascism, over the dreamiest parts of Europe--the Germany of Wilhelm Reich and the France of the Surrealists--had returned and set fire to reality itself." Foucault claims that one should "Read Anti-Oedipus as art, in the sense of erotic art. against the fascism in us all, that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us."
"Pour les Surréalistes, on peut dire -- en paraphrasant Breton -- que la révolution sera sexuelle ou ne sera pas " Xavière Gautier, Surréalisme et Sexualité, p. 36 For Maurice Nadeau, the true surrealist revolution was the triumph of desire. The Surrealists' strategy of "erotic scandal" of metamorphic objects cf bicycle (the readymades, anagrams) "An object that is identical with itself is without reality" from Hans Bellmer's Petite Anatomie de l'Inconscient .."tel détail, tel jambe, n'est perceptible, accessible à la mémoire et disponible, bref n'est réel que si le désir ne la prend pas fatalement pour une jambe."
For Bellmer desire is a multiplier of objects. The body becomes an anagram, producing the reciprocal pleasure of the parts. He is, in Alain Jouffroy's words the "téchnicien de l'impossible" who explored what Bellmer called the "physical unconscious" -- the body's underlying awareness of itself. Through the perceptual inversions of the masculine and the feminine along the body's "axis of reversibility" Bellmer explored the unconscious rebellion that exists in every individual, a rebellion also acted out in the travail Sadique of metamorphosis of woman into man and man into woman (See Philosophie dans le Boudoir)
In his later writings, Freud described the two basic instincts as Eros and Thanatos, life and death. In Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse argued for the liberation of Eros as the negation of a repressive reality principle, a liberation involving instinctual regression, that would reactivate "early stages of the libido which were surpassed in the devlopment of the reality ego, and ... would dissolve the institutions of society in which the reality ego exists." He goes on to point out that "In terms of these institutions, instinctual liberation is a relapse into barbarism."
A slogan from Paris, 1968: Socialism or Barbarism. Why can't we have Both?
Following Schiller, Marcuse focusses on the "violent" solution of the conflict between sensuousness and reason, matter and form (spirit), nature and freedom, the particular and the universal by the establishment of the "repressive tyranny of reason." (p.190) Marcuse advocates the desublimation of reason and the self-sublimation of sensuousness through the transformation of sexuality into Eros. While sublimation appears in Freud's writings primarily as an adaptive response to the repressive modifications of the pleasure principle, Marcuse proposes a non-repressive sublimation of the resexualized body.
For Marcuse, the historical progress of sexual instinct beyond the performance principle breaks the primacy of the genital function and resexualizes the body. This enlargement of the field and objective of sexuality suggests its conceptual transformation into Eros. Marcuse stresses the social nature of this field, contrasting the neurotic reactivation of narcissistic libido in the individual with the culture-building cultivation of associated individuals. "The culture-building power of Eros is non-repressive sublimation: sexuality is neither deflected nor blocked in its objective; rather in attaining its objective, it transcends it to others, searching for fuller gratification." (p.211) see work and play.