René Girard and Secular Modernity
Christ, Culture, and Crisis
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
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I came late to RenÃ© Girard, and after three false starts. In the early ness and finality of Jesus, I discovered and was much influenced by Walter Wink on the New Testament âpowers and principalities,â though without appreciating Girardâs influence on Winkâs trilogy. In the late 1990s I was asked to review Why Must There Be Scapegoats? ...
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...greatest intellectual achievement: the theory of evolution by natu-ral selection. Darwinian molecular biology is now foundational for everything we know about lifeâs development, illuminating so much complexity by an essentially simple mechanism. Similar attempts to unify the human sciences have met with less success, from grand ...
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...with the first plank of Girardâs controversial threefold program, the mimetic theory. Mimesis is typically defined in terms of human imita-tion. It is about the representation of external reality and other people.1 But mimesis goes deeper and further for Girard. It is a particular kind of representation, involving imitation not so much of othersâ actions ...
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...is to become acquainted with his singular approach to the archaic sacred, which he sees as the fons et origo of human life and culture. He argues that humanity emerged from the fires of mimetic crisis via a mechanism of âsacred violence,â whereupon stability and civilization became possible. The sacred is thus a human agency, though neither an ...
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We come now to the third plank of Girardâs vision, and the most controversial. In the Bible, from the innocence of victims first pro-claimed in the Hebrew Scriptures to a full revealing and overturn-ing of the scapegoat mechanism in the Gospels, Girard identifies draining away of the protection offered by what Girard calls âthe false ...
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...equality, from differentiation to undifferentiation, from external to internal mediation. It is the social shift to a more level playing field, but it also increases the mimetic risk of envy, rivalry, and violence. The available mimetic models proliferate, their proximity awaken-ing desire and encouraging its escalating rivalry. Secularization for ...
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All the great political thinkers of modernity, including those re-ceiving most Girardian attention (Hobbes, Tocqueville, Carl Schmitt), ârecognized the fearful creakings coming from the machinery of the modern state at the time when it was still being developed and es-tablished.â1 Those creakings reveal the katÃ©chon already under strain. ...
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I have traced the three elements of Girardâs visionâmimeticism, sacrifice, and their gospel overcomingâto reveal the wellsprings of secular modernity at a level deeper than ideological and functional definitions of secularization and modernity typically place them. A shift to internal mediation without sacred protection is the long and ...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013