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The One by Whom Scandal Comes

René Girard (Translated by M. B. DeBevoise)

Publication Year: 2014

“Why is there so much violence in our midst?” René Girard asks. “No question is more debated today. And none produces more disappointing answers.” In Girard’s mimetic theory it is the imitation of someone else’s desire that gives rise to conflict whenever the desired object cannot be shared. This mimetic rivalry, Girard argues, is responsible for the frequency and escalating intensity of human conflict. For Girard, human conflict comes not from the loss of reciprocity between humans but from the transition, imperceptible at first but then ever more rapid, from good to bad reciprocity. In this landmark text, Girard continues his study of violence in light of geopolitical competition, focusing on the roots and outcomes of violence across societies latent in the process of globalization. The volume concludes in a wide-ranging interview with the Sicilian cultural theorist Maria Stella Barberi, where Girard’s twenty-first century emphases on the continuity of all religions, global conflict, and the necessity of apocalyptic thinking emerge.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Series: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture

Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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A Note on the Translation

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pp. vii-viii

In the matter of scriptural citation I have quoted from the New American Bible, the verse numbering of which sometimes differs from Protestant bibles, and added a number of notes identifying various passages alluded to in the text. I have, however, followed the author in preferring the New King James Version’s rendering of the famous phrase from Matthew...

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pp. ix-xii

The one by whom scandal comes—a rather grand and somewhat incriminating title, suggested by Maria Stella Barberi, who assures me that in proposing it to Benoît Chantre at Éditions Desclée de Brouwer in Paris she did not have the author of the present work in mind! She was inspired, she says, by the topics I discuss, which bear on all the most...

Part 1. Against Relativism

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Chapter 1. Violence and Reciprocity

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pp. 3-20

Why is there so much violence in our midst? No question is more debated today. And none produces more disappointing answers.
In the past, when people talked about the threats facing humanity, they always mentioned human violence, but it came aft er other perils that seemed to them still more formidable: destiny, the gods, nature, perhaps...

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Chapter 2. Noble Savages and Others

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pp. 21-32

The first ethnological investigations of primitive religions naturally attracted the interest of scientific journalists and popularizers since they combined ritual cannibalism and human sacrifice with other exotic forms of violence of which the public was fond. The moral superiority of the West seemed as obvious then to Westerners as its technological superiority...

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Chapter 3. Mimetic Theory and Theology

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pp. 33-46

Raymund Schwager attributes an essential role in Christian redemption to the phenomenon of the scapegoat.1 What does this phenomenon involve? The Gospels tell us. They portray Jesus as a victim, sentenced to death for no reason, in the wake of a wave of contagious violence that furnished those who were caught up in it with false reasons, false grounds...

Part 2. The Other Side of Myth

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Chapter 4. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

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pp. 49-56

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: In I See Satan Fall Like Lightning you propose a new reading of the Gospels, which you see as the source of mimetic theory.1 Do you think that the debate to which the book gave rise has helped to clear up certain misunderstandings?

RENÉ GIRARD: To the Gospels one must add the Old Testament, for my book begins by considering the Tenth Commandment, which, basically, says that

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Chapter 5. Scandal and Conversion

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pp. 57-66

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: Following the gospel revelation, then, human violence was unmasked and became a manifest danger, threatening to bring us down, to lay us low. This, I take it, is what you mean by the notion of scandal—the stone, or obstacle, on which the sinner stumbles—which you sometimes identify with Satan, and which in any case is essential to the development...

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Chapter 6. I Do Not Pray for the World

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pp. 67-74

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: It is clear from what you have said so far that mimetic theory is very well suited to interpreting the Incarnation and the Passion of Christ, respectively, as the demythologization of religion and the revelation of the innocence of the victim. But does mimetic theory have anything to say about the eschatological consequence of the Incarnation and the...

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Chapter 7. The Catholic Church and the Modern World

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pp. 75-84

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: You see the Catholic Church as the prototype of Christian testimony. Yet the Church has often been criticized for acting as the guardian of secular law, the institutional sacralization of violence. I’m thinking especially of the Inquisition.

RENÉ GIRARD: This reminds me of an Italian friend, an American citizen actually, who used to say that the Church is like...

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Chapter 8. Hominization and Natural Selection

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pp. 85-92

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: Some readers of your last book understood you to have given up on modern hopes and expectations of scientific progress. They feel that promoting research in the name of the future, rather than of the past, holds greater promise because it would open up new perspectives in mimetic theory. How do you respond to this...

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Chapter 9. A Stumbling Block to Jews, Foolishness to Gentiles

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pp. 93-102

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: Augustine’s formula “victor quia victima,”1 referring to Christ, construes the sacrificial visibility of Christianity in terms of a Sacrifice that put an end to all sacrifices—

RENÉ GIRARD: Yes, of course. That is also why those who are non-violent may implicitly (as the theologians say) be considered to be Christians. But they may be considered Christians...

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Chapter 10. Lévi-Strauss on Collective Murder

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pp. 103-112

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: What led you to take an interest in anthropology after the publication in France of Deceit, Desire, and the Novel in 1961?

RENÉ GIRARD: The book you mention dealt with a number of European novelists whose work had revealed the workings of desire and mimetic rivalry to me. When I was done writing it I began to wonder whether this...

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Chapter 11. Positivists and Deconstructionists

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pp. 113-126

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: From the anthropological point of view, there is a limit to our knowledge of ultimate things, a limit beyond which it is not given to human beings to glimpse the hidden foundations of the world. Hypotheses may be advanced concerning these foundations, but they cannot be known empirically. Nevertheless you insist, rightly it seems to me, that...

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Chapter 12. How Should Mimetic Theory Be Applied?

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pp. 127-130

MARIA STELLA BARBERI: When you say that your ideas will either be rejected or become commonplace, do you mean that in the latter case they will be deprived of their interpretive force, or, rather, that in acquiring the status of a scientific theory they will become obvious?

RENÉ GIRARD: They ought to become obvious, because they are obvious! On the other hand, there’s no...


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pp. 131-136


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pp. 137-139

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173999
E-ISBN-10: 1609173996
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611861099
Print-ISBN-10: 1611861098

Page Count: 151
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1st
Series Title: Studies in Violence, Mimesis and Culture