In this introduction to the work and theory of René Girard, I look at mimetic desire, scapegoating, mimetic crisis, ritual, sacrifice, culture, and religion.
Rene Girard, born in 1923 and died in 2015, was a French thinker whose thought spanned across disciplines. His focus was on mythology, violence, sacrifice, and religion, but the range and implications of his thought touch on history, psychology, literary criticism, anthropology; in fact, you could list every area of the humanities here.
Girard seems to be able to supply answer to a difficult question: how and why did culture emerge?
Scholar Harald Wydra calls it a ‘fundamental anthropology’ and tells us that Girard’s thought can help us make sense of ‘humanity’s immense “progress” during the short time of its existence.’
In other words, the question is this: why did the first myths and stories emerge – culture – and how do they underpin humanity’s direction since. He’s one of those rare thinkers that can change your entire way of looking at things.