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The Sacred and the Political: Explorations on Mimesis, Violence and Religion
 9781628925968, 9781474297301, 9781628925975

Table of contents :
Cover page
Halftitle page
Series page
Title page
Copyright page
Dedication
Contents
List of Contributors
Acknowledgments
Introduction The Power of Sacrifice: René Girard and the Political
Notes
1 Aristotle on Mimesis and Violence: Things Hidden since the Foundation of Literary Theory
Introduction: Girard on Plato and Aristotle
Aristotle’s verdict on the use of violence in tragedy
The metabasis paradox (1): Castelvetro and Corneille
The metabasis paradox (2): from Dacier to Girard
Conclusion: Aristotle’s terror of mimetic violence
Notes
2 René Girard and Thomas Aquinas on Prophecy and the Purging of the Notion of Justice
Introduction
Prophecy and its relationship to knowledge in Girard and Aquinas
Prophecy and justice
The “purgation” of natural justice with the help of prophecy and reason
Conclusion
Notes
3 Unlikely Twins? Machiavelli and Girard on Violence, Crisis and the Origins of the State
Introduction: Machiavelli and Girard, a controversial pair
Violence, foundation and order
Good arms, good laws and human beings
Sacrifice and the sacred
Decline and crisis
Conclusions
Notes
4 René Girard, Human Nature and Political Conflict
The denial of human nature in recent political thought
Human nature: mimetic anthropology in an evolutionary context
Frans de Waal: from subpersonal empathy to imitation and emulation
Merlin Donald: human biocultural evolution and the formation of social order
Biocultural evolution and inter- individual human nature as tools for understanding political conflict
The sacred and the katéchon
Reciprocity: from the intra-regime sacred to global convergence
Conclusion: mimetic anthropology and realism
Notes
5 Spinoza, Girard and the Possibility of a Purely Immanent Democracy
Transcendence, self-transcendence and violence
Spinoza and democracy as omnino absolutum imperium
A plea for an immanent democracy
Conclusion
Notes
6 René Girard’s Mimetic Theory: An “Anti-political Theology”?
Introduction
Girard and Hegel
Girard and Augustine
Girard and Paul: the “apocalyptic turn”
Conclusion
Notes
7 A “Theoretical Double”: Violence, Religion and Social Order in Schmitt and Girard*
Introduction
The problem: unrestrained war and mimetic violence
The solution: decision and sacrifice
The danger: secularization and katéchon
The resolution: respatialization and desacralizations
Conclusion: the quest for a new nomos between undifferentiation and exclusion
Notes
8 Mimesis and Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason
The project
Human relations and series
Fused groups
Terror and the pledged group
Notes
9 The Sacred and the Secular: René Girard and Gianni Vattimo on Modernity and Violence
God is dead, long live God!
Secularization and resacralization
The end of violence?
Apocalypse and the katéchon
Nonviolence or good violence?
Globalization and eschatology
Notes
10 The Myth of Origin: Archaeology and History in the Work of Agamben and Girard
Introduction: an ambiguous polarity
The quest for origin, or toward an archaeology of the sacred
Marks of the sacred: history, politics and ontology
Notes
11 The Age of Panic: On Mimetic Post-modernity
Introduction
A brief survey on the experiences of post-modernity
The loss of referentiality: Vattimo and Girard
Technology and mimesis: Stiegler and Girard
Differentiation and individuation
Undifferentiation and panic: Dupuy and Girard
Conclusions
Notes
Index

Citation preview

The Sacred and the Political

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Political Theory and Contemporary Philosophy Political Theory and Contemporary Philosophy encourages a sustained dialogue among the most important intellectual currents in recent European philosophy—including phenomenology, deconstruction, hermeneutics—and key political theories and concepts, both classical and modern. In doing so, it not only sheds new light on today’s shifting political realities, but also explores the previously neglected consequences of the two disciplines. Series editor: Michael Marder Other volumes in the series include: Medialogies: Inflationary Media and the Crisis of Reality, David R. Castillo and William Egginton Democracy and Its Others, Jeffrey H. Epstein The Democracy of Knowledge, Daniel Innerarity (translated by Sandra Kingery) The Voice of Conscience: A Political Genealogy of Western Ethical Experience, Mika Ojakangas The Politics of Nihilism: From the Nineteenth Century to Contemporary Israel, edited by Nitzan Lebovic and Roy Ben-Shai On Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: The 1934–35 Seminar and Interpretive Essays, Martin Heidegger (edited by Peter Trawny, Marcia Cavalcante Schuback and Michael Marder; translated by Andrew J. Mitchell) Deconstructing Zionism: A Critique of Political Metaphysics, Michael Marder and Santiago Zabala The Metaphysics of Terror: The Incoherent System of Contemporary Politics, Rasmus Ugilt Negative Revolution: Modern Political Subject and its Fate after the Cold War, Artemy Magun The Voice of Conscience: A Political Genealogy of Western Ethical Experience, Mika Ojakangas ii

The Sacred and the Political Explorations on Mimesis, Violence and Religion Edited by Elisabetta Brighi and Antonio Cerella

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

N E W YO R K • LO N D O N • OX F O R D • N E W D E L H I • SY DN EY

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Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

50 Bedford Square London WC 1B 3DP UK

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 © Elisabetta Brighi, Antonio Cerella and contributors 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: ePDF: epub:

978-1-62892-596-8 978-1-62892-597-5 978-1-62892-598-2

Series: Political Theory and Contemporary Philosophy Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk

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For Giulia and Michael

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Contents List of Contributors Acknowledgments Introduction. The Power of Sacrifice: René Girard and the Political Antonio Cerella 1

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Aristotle on Mimesis and Violence: Things Hidden since the Foundation of Literary Theory Arata Takeda

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1

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René Girard and Thomas Aquinas on Prophecy and the Purging of the Notion of Justice Paul M. Rogers

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Unlikely Twins? Machiavelli and Girard on Violence, Crisis and the Origins of the State Ernesto Gallo

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René Girard, Human Nature and Political Conflict Kent Enns

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Spinoza, Girard and the Possibility of a Purely Immanent Democracy Stéphane Vinolo

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René Girard’s Mimetic Theory: An “Anti-political Theology”? Michael Kirwan

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A “Theoretical Double”: Violence, Religion and Social Order in Schmitt and Girard Andrea Salvatore

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Mimesis and Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason Paul Dumouchel

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The Sacred and the Secular: René Girard and Gianni Vattimo on Modernity and Violence Pierpaolo Antonello

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10 The Myth of Origin: Archaeology and History in the Work of Agamben and Girard Antonio Cerella

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11 The Age of Panic: On Mimetic Post-modernity Emanuele Antonelli

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Index

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List of Contributors Emanuele Antonelli is Research Fellow at the Fondazione Rosselli and at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Turin, Italy. His field of expertise encompasses aesthetics and hermeneutics, Mimetic Theory and French post-structuralism. He is the author of La creatività degli eventi. René Girard e Jacques Derrida (2011) and La mimesi e la traccia. Contributi per un’ontologia dell’attualità (2013). He edited special issues of the journals Lebenswelt and Tropos, and co-edited with Manrica Rotili Sensibilia 5: La vergogna/The Shame (2012). His work has also appeared in Contagion, Tropos and Enthymema. Pierpaolo Antonello is Reader in Modern Italian Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College. He specializes in contemporary Italian literature, culture and intellectual history. He has published, with João Cezar de Castro Rocha, a long interview with René Girard: Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (2008), translated into nine languages. He also edited several collections of essays and books devoted to Girard’s work, including O Sacrifício (2011); Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue, with Gianni Vattimo (2010) and Miti d’origine. Persecuzioni e ordine culturale (with Giuseppe Fornari, 2005). Elisabetta Brighi is Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, London. Her field of expertise encompasses international security, international political theory and foreign policy. She is the author of Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics and International Relations (2013) and Pragmatism in International Relations (2009), co-edited with Harry Bauer. Her articles have appeared in Geopolitics, Government and Opposition and Journal of International Political Theory, among others. She has recently contributed to the Palgrave Handbook of Mimetic Theory (forthcoming). Antonio Cerella is Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom. He has been Visiting Research Fellow at University of Sussex, Department of International Relations and at the School of viii

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Oriental and African Studies (SOAS ) in London. His research lies at the crossroad of international political theory, continental philosophy and sociology of religion. He co-edited the Special Issue of the Journal of International Political Theory on “Mimetic Theory and International Studies.” His work has appeared in, among others, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Review of International Studies and the Journal of International Political Theory. Paul Dumouchel is Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. He is the co-editor, with Jean-Pierre Dupuy, of L’Enfer des choses, René Girard et la logique de l’économie (1979), L’auto-organisation. De la physique au politique (1983), Violence and Truth (1988), Nationalisme et multiculturalisme en Asie (2010). He is also the author of several volumes, including, most recently, Economia dell’invidia (2011), The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays (2014), Social Bonds as Freedom (with Reiko Gotoh, 2014) and The Barren Sacrifice (2015). Kent Enns is Professor of Political Theory at Humber College in Toronto, Canada. Prior to this appointment, he was Lecturer on the histories of Western philosophy and political thought at the University of Toronto. Currently engaged in research on Girard’s mimetic theory, evolution and political philosophy, he has published and presented on the crisis of the neo-liberal order. Ernesto Gallo received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Turin, Italy, and has subsequently lectured in several British universities, notably at the University of Brighton and the University of Birmingham. He has published books and articles in English and Italian, in particular with reference to empires, international order and global affairs. He co-edited, with Giovanni Finizio, Democracy at the United Nations (2013). He is currently lecturing at The Open University and Kaplan International College, London. Michael Kirwan is Head of Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, United Kingdom. His research seeks to bring together Christian understandings of martyrdom and witness, both from the early Church and from contemporary situations, in light of Mimetic Theory. He is a member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, the international and interdisciplinary group dedicated to exploring the implications for both research and application of Girard’s model. He is the author of, among other works, Discovering

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Girard (2004), Political Theology: A New Introduction (2008) and Girard and Theology (2009). Paul M. Rogers is a Ph.D. candidate in Divinity at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He received a B.A. in Classics from Williams College, Massachusetts. His research interests include René Girard’s Mimetic Theory and medieval political theology, in particular Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. Andrea Salvatore is Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of Political Philosophy at “Sapienza—University of Rome.” His research interests include contemporary political philosophy, legal theory and applied ethics, with a focus on political violence (Schmitt, Girard, Walzer) and the philosophy of war and peace (pacifism, just war theory, anarchism). His publications include Undoing Ties: Political Philosophy at the Waning of the State (with Mariano Croce, 2015), The Legal Theory of Carl Schmitt (with Mariano Croce, 2013), Giustizia in contesto. La filosofia politica di Michael Walzer (2010) and Il pacifismo (2010). Arata Takeda is a Feodor Lynen Research Fellow in the Department of Germanic Studies of the University of Chicago and a Lecturer at the Institute of German Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Paderborn, Germany. He has also been a Lecturer in Modern German Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and a Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna, Austria. His work focuses on the social and cultural history of terror, particularly the historical transformation of terror from an aesthetic method to a political strategy. His dissertation, Aesthetics of Self-Destruction: Suicide Attackers in Western Literature (2010), challenged the popular view of suicide terrorism as a non-Western phenomenon by discussing salient examples from Western history and literature, and caught the attention of German media. Stéphane Vinolo is Senior Lecturer in French Language and Literature at Regent’s University, London, United Kingdom. He is the author of several works devoted to reassessing modern philosophy and René Girard’s mimetic theory, including: René Girard: Du mimétisme à l’hominisation (2006); René Girard: Epistémologie du sacré (2007); Clément Rosset, la philosophie comme antiontologie (2012) and Jean-Luc Marion–Dieu n’a que faire de l’être (2012).

Acknowledgments Little did we know in May 2013, when the idea of the book first took form, that just over two years later the volume would become a way of celebrating the life of René Girard, who died on November 4, 2015, while this manuscript was in production. Girard leaves an enormous intellectual legacy, which the present volume seeks to honour, interrogate, and keep alive. The editors would like to thank all the authors for their contributions and interest in the project, without which this volume would have never seen the light of day. We also owe thanks and gratitude, for their intellectual engagement and friendly presence, to Bianca Baggiarini, Katrin Becker, Hüseyin I. Cicek, Michael Desarno, Rosemary Durward, Viola Giuliano, Peter Lucas, Stéphane Marcireau, Jacques Emmanuel McCaughran, Martin O’Brien, Brian Rosebury, Laura Schuurmans, Anja Teichert, Scott M. Thomas, Jodok Troy, William C. Wolf, Harald Wydra and all the participants to the Conference “Politics, Violence and the Sacred: Exploring René Girard’s Thought in Security and International Studies” (UCL an, May 23–24, 2013). Along with these acknowledgments, Antonio Cerella also wishes to express his gratitude, for their constant intellectual support and friendship, to Arthur Bradley, Marco Cesa, Jonathan Colman, Fred Dallmayr, Mick Dillon, Roberto Farneti, Charlie Gere, Laurence P. Hemming, Gavin Hyman, Luca Mavelli, Fabio Petito, Rocco Ronchi, Justin Rosenberg, Richard Sakwa, Ben Selwyn, Ferdinando Tupone and Kees van der Pijl. Igitur et monere et moneri proprium est verae amicitiae.

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Introduction

The Power of Sacrifice: René Girard and the Political Antonio Cerella

The ideal of the religious man is, of course, that everything that he does should be done ritually, should, in other words, be a sacrifice. —Mircea Eliade1 To increase desires to an unbearable level whilst making the fulfillment of them more and more inaccessible: this was the single principle upon which Western society was based. —Michel Houellebecq2 The cult of humanity is celebrated with human sacrifices. —Nicolás Gómez Dávila3 Self-immolations and sacrifices, deadly processions and migration processes, martyrs and migrants are mirror figures that physically cross our socio-political imaginaries, highlighting their crisis. From the Mediterranean as a new mare nostrum to the Tibetan plateau, from Palestine to the coasts of Australia, these “figures of the exception” are indicators of the crisis of Western political categories that, exported globally, cannot take root outside of the violent and tendentious context in which they were forged. As a sort of macabre confirmation, just in the time of writing, the media broadcast the images of the discovery of the bodies of seventy-one “migrants”— men, women and children, who died in a lorry abandoned on an Austrian motorway. The horror of those nameless, broken lives, right in the heart of continental Europe, is made even more acute by the news of the sinking of countless ships carrying hundreds of “asylum seekers,” lost in that “liquid graveyard” the Mediterranean has now become. These are the specters that haunt 1

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the dreams of a common European polity; the only ones who can cross the rigid sovereign borders, and reach us to unsettle our certainties. Today, in fact, more than ever, borders have become an absolute limit, ontologically and physically, the concrete and symbolic mirror image of a “politics of sacrifice” that represents the exacting price and unspoken question inscribed in the very idea of sovereignty. As the legal theorist Paul W. Kahn has recently argued: “The fundamental character of the relationship of citizen to sovereign is not contract— as in the social contract—but sacrifice.”4 These words go straight to the heart of the Western governmental machine and seem to echo Giorgio Agamben’s analysis, according to which, “the inclusion of bare life in the political realm constitutes the original—if concealed—nucleus of sovereign power. It can even be said that the production of a biopolitical body is the original activity of sovereign power.”5 This originary biopolitical dimension seems to have resurfaced in full force with the decline of modernity and the “liquid diffusion” of the global eon. It is as if the center could no longer hold, throwing into crisis the mechanism that kept the sovereign political structure together, and thus, unveiling the tragic and intimate relation that links bios and polis. And, in fact, the sovereign state—which was established, in the Hobbesian formulation, “to produce the peace and security of the people” [Quia Civitatis instituendæ finis Pax est & Defensio]—has ended up transforming protection in control and defense in potential murder, reversing, and thus, perverting the relation between sovereign and citizen, machina and life, order and obedience.6 In this way, the Leviathan has transformed itself from a guardian into an executioner, revealing its intimate predilection for necropolitics. With his usual analytical acumen, Carl Schmitt had conceptually portrayed this dynamic very early on. In a page of his diary, dated November 12, 1947, he writes: Life is the façade in front of death (Baroque). The Leviathan itself is a façade; the facade of dominion (Herrschaft) in front of power (Macht); those mysterious curtains on the cover of the Leviathan; but it is not a “mere” façade; mere illusion or appearance; it is also prestige, glory, honor, representation, omnipotence, but it is yet again only an external omnipotence. At that time, in the Baroque age, the superiority of the interior over the exterior was not entirely understood as it is today. The whole psychology and sociology of unmasking imply a deconstruction of the baroque façade and the unveiling of the pure nucleus of power.7

Once the “Baroque shield” of modernity fell apart, from the rift of the sovereign dispositive of inclusion-exclusion emerged the dark side of the Western polis: its

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sacrificial mechanism. The border of the state, the political limes, losing its representational strength, which transformed the internal space into the public good of the civitas, has become an empty shell now overwhelmed by the entropic forces of globalization. In other words, deprived of the dialectic between the visible and invisible order—of its own form and representation—power discovers that behind its alleged legality hides naked force, potential violence neither legitimate nor theological but blind and fierce. “To be a citizen is to imagine the possibility of the sacrificial act.”8 Death, in this sense, becomes the façade in front of life. Yet, alongside this form of political sacrifice “from above,” another figure that presents itself as both archaic and modern has emerged: the martyr. At first glance, this form of violence “from below,” would seem to clash and oppose sovereign power. Immolations (both active and passive) would represent the vanishing point through which one would attempt to blow up the sovereign dispositif. “Self-immolation”—the anthropologist Emily T. Yeh has argued—“is a reclamation of sovereignty over one’s own self within a state of siege. Biological life is taken in an assertion of a political life. It is this possibility that is terrifying to the state in its quest to stabilize territorial sovereignty.”9 In the clash between the sovereign and the individual body, collective space and the time of the exception, private life and public death, thus lies the meaning of modern martyrdom. However, although symmetrically opposed to the Leviathan, these new forms of sacrifice seem to reflect, deforming it, the necrological gesture of the homo artificialis from which they want to escape and by which, in the end, appear to be gobbled up. In fact, nolens volens, it is sovereignty, as an idea of power and dimension of freedom, which they contest and that, unfortunately, they end up rescuing. But why, then, does sacrifice represent the extrema ratio of the constitution, de-construction and re-foundation of modern politics? Why does the Western political structure conceal within itself death in order to cultivate life? And what lies behind this “funeral ritual”? Once again, it has been Carl Schmitt who has interrogated this public dimension of sacrifice, taking the issue to its extreme consequences: One does not commit suicide because one hates or loves oneself. Such explanations—self-love or self-hatred—are not satisfactory in the least. The answer can only lie in the immediate symbolism of the physical action of suicide (der körperlichen Selbstmordhandlung). The physical act of killing is an essential part of it. Thus the important question is: is this action capable of a form (Form) and a rite (Ritus)? Yes, undoubtedly.10

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But what sort of symbolic of death, then, emerges from political sacrifice? Why is individual death, following Schmitt’s intuition, capable of creating a public ritual? And in what ways does the sacrifice of the individual coagulate the mass of people around itself, thus drawing the contours of a new political space? How can death be transformed into life, and the lost bios lay the foundations of the new polis? In short, what is the relation between life and death within the sphere of the political? This volume is born out of these momentous questions and seeks to critically interrogate the contemporary biopolitical paradigm and the crisis of Western politics, using Girard’s mimetic hypothesis as analytical prism. In our view, Mimetic Theory has the potential to illuminate what we have called here the “dark side” of politics and sovereignty. As is well known, in fact, Girard has placed at the center of his “archaeology of the sacred” precisely the trans-epochal importance of sacrifice and of the process of victimization. As he put it: “Every observation suggests that, in human culture, sacrificial rites and the immolation of victims come first and this is the origins of everything else, starting with language . . . any form of complex cooperation must be founded on some sort of cultural order, which is itself founded on the victimary mechanism.”11 This perspective, which in part recalls the previously mentioned analyses, possesses, in our view, an additional advantage. Mimetic Theory is, in fact, capable of binding together, through a reconfiguration of the sacrificial act, the violence “from above” and the one “from below,” the transcendent and the immanent plan; in short, the two sides of modern biopolitics. Girard has never conceptually separated the cultural from the political domain, but on the contrary, has tried, genealogically, to find an origin that could combine together the “high” and the “low,” the inside and the outside, the “sacred” violence with the immanent one. For him, it is in absolute contingency that the origins of sovereignty and our sacrificial world would lie: The inside-outside relationship lies at the heart of the scapegoat mechanism. The real wrath has to be directed against some double. Some model-obstacle, which this wrath transfigures into a monstrous double. When one such monstrous double is victimized and expelled he is also eventually divinized, for his death brings back social order. As he is expelled, the “outside” as a whole acquires the characteristics of the monstrous double. It is a place of unrestrained violence. [. . .] Even though the mechanism is totally endogenous, it is perceived as something external . . . the focal point of the mechanism is, again, the victim – a natural source of this “something” that has to be treasured, becoming sacred [. . .]

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[Accordingly] the sacred is always outside, for it has to have transcendence in order to be sacred.12

Sacrifice, in short, for Girard, would be the hidden matrix, the originary X that has created and bound together the high and the low, an inside and an outside, sign and referent, meaning and object, sovereign and subject. Murder is the primordial trace, the first boundary that would allow all the other meaningful distinctions, even—indeed, especially—the political ones. At the heart of Western institutions, therefore, there would be murder as a form of proto-politics from which all the other myths and rituals to control violence, understood as primal energy, as engine of the political machine, would emanate: I think that the story of Cain is fundamental. It reveals that Cain is the founder of the first culture, but there are no specific acts of foundation in the text. What is there? The murder of Abel. Then, immediately after that, one finds the law against murder: “if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance several times over” (Genesis 4:15). That law represents the foundation of culture, because capital punishment is already ritual murder, and the proof of it is the stoning in Leviticus, which is a strictly regulated form of capital punishment in which the whole primitive community participates. As soon as the capital punishment is established, the repetition of the original murder is so re-enacted, i.e. a murder in which everybody takes part and for which no one is responsible. From this proto-ritual killing, then, every aspect of culture emerges: the Bible gives Cain’s legacy as legal institution, domestication of animals, music, and technology (Genesis 4:20–22).13

This analysis, which follows Carl Schmitt’s insights closely,14 would reveal, according to Girard, the arcanum of Western politics, which is not only based on sacrifice, but is sacrificial by definition. The sovereign is the one who—exceeding the threshold between life and death—has the power of life and death. In Thomas Hobbes’s words: “no man that hath Soveraigne power can justly be put to death, or otherwise in any manner by his Subjects punished. For seeing every Subject is Author of the actions of his Soveraigne; he punisheth another, for the actions committed by himselfe [non potest qui Summam habet Potestatem a Civibus occidi, aut quomodocunque Iure puniri. Nam qui Injuriam facere non potest, ne Reus quidem fieri, multo minus condemnari potest. Quicquid enim fecit, facti Author est Civium unusquisque].”15 The contributors to this volume, therefore, believe that it is crucial to interrogate this most secret and “accidentally” political aspect of René Girard’s work, convinced that through this lens it might be possible to come to a richer

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reading of the crisis that characterizes Western and European politics. In fact, today more than ever, it seems that politics and sacrifice, in their co-belonging, represent the “unsaid” on which the old Eurocentric space has been built. To let this “repressed memory” resurface from its theoretical-political structure, this volume presents a tout court genealogical engagement between some fundamental authors and epochal moments of the Western tradition and the mimetic hypothesis. Through a sustained dialogue among Girard and key figures within political theory, this volume tries to interrogate some of the central categories around which Western politics has been ordered such as sacred/ secular, exception/norm, sovereignty/representation and transcendence/ immanence. The volume has, therefore, three main aims: 1.

2.

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To further the debate on an increasingly critical and yet relatively underexplored topic in political theory, namely, the place of religion in politics and of the political in religion; To shift the debate from the normative question of whether and how religion should be allowed in the public sphere (in the wake of Jurgën Habermas’s recent work) to an interrogation of how the relationship between sacrality and politics has marked the history of Western political thought and of its central categories;16 Finally, to offer an alternative genealogy of the complex interconnection between religion and politics, theology and history, based on the notions of mimetic rivalry, scapegoat and sacrifice.

For the very first time, the essays in this collection bring together Girard’s Mimetic Theory with some of the towering figures within Western political thought to stimulate a fruitful dialogue on these key political issues. In effect, we believe that interrogating Girard’s work has significant potential for both political theory and the analysis of contemporary politics. As for the former, Girard’s mimetic thesis leads to positing new questions about the “ambiguous” relationship between religion and politics, while offering a critical approach to the study of the “the sacred” able to challenge and complement classical as well as the modern political theory of, especially, Carl Schmitt, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Gianni Vattimo, and Giorgio Agamben. As for the latter, an exploration of Girard’s work is particularly beneficial in order to rethink some of the most urgent problems of contemporary political affairs: the rise of fundamentalism and religious violence, the new political theology and the biopolitical paradigm, radicalization and “othering” processes, globalization and the “apocalyptic turn.”

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Going back to the beginning, then, what is the prognosis for European politics that emerges from these “intellectual portraits” and “distant conversations” between Girard’s work and continental political philosophy? What is the future of the old continent that comes to light through the encounter between Western political theory and Girard’s mimetic approach? The deeper, “ethical” meaning behind this epochal comparison lies in seeking and finding, perhaps a little more deconstructed, the lost roots of Europe in order to rethink the space and borders of its polis, not as absolute limits but as thresholds for access to a novel and more inclusive understanding of democracy. As Aimé Césaire has written, “A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization. A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.”17 In order for Europe, with its history and political myths, not to become the cradle of this negativity, a beacon that dazzles and does not guide through the impetuous seas of globalization, a constant deconstruction and re-discussion of its fundamental political categories is necessary. Via the encounter-clash between Mimetic Theory and the Western philosophico-political discourse, this book presents one of the possible genealogical paths to sink our gaze into the soul of the “old continent” and to trace its pulsating—yet secret, sublime and violent—core.

Notes 1 Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. R. Sheed (Lincoln, NB and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 460. 2 Michel Houellebecq, The Possibility of an Island, trans. G. Bowd (London: Phoenix, 2006), 68. 3 Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un texto implícito I (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), 353. 4 Paul W. Kahn, Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 121. See also Harald Wydra, Politics and the Sacred (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 1–18. 5 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. D. HellerRoazen (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1998), 6, emphasis in the original. 6 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, sive de materia, forma, et postestate civitatis ecclesiasticæ et civilis (Aalen: Scientia, 1961), 88.

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7 Carl Schmitt, Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947–1951 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1991), 39–40. 8 Kahn, Political Theology, 121. For a very powerful discussion of the relationship between state, sovereignty and sacrifice, see Paul Dumouchel, The Barren Sacrifice, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2015). 9 Emily T. Yeh, “On Terrorism and the Politics of ‘Naming’, ” Cultural Anthropology, 2012,accessed May 12,2015,http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/ 102-on-terrorism-andthe-politics-of-naming. 10 Schmitt, Glossarium, 31. 11 René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 78, 124. 12 Ibid., 115, 106, 118. 13 Ibid., 73. 14 “Who can I recognize as my enemy at all? Obviously, only the one who can question me. While I recognize him as an enemy, I recognize that he can question me. And who can really put me into question? Only I myself. Or my brother. That’s it. The other is my brother. The other turns out to be my brother, and the brother turns out to be my enemy. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Thus begins the history of humankind. Thus looks the Father of all things. This is the dialectical tension that keeps the history of the world moving, and the history of the world has not yet come to an end.” Carl Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus: Erfahrungen der Zeit 1945/47 (Köln: Greven, 1950), 89–90. 15 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 124. 16 See Jürgen Habermas, “On the Relations between the Secular Liberal State and Religion,” in Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan (eds), Political Theologies: Public Religion in a Post-Secular World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 251–260; and Jürgen Habermas, “Notes on Post-Secular Society,” New Perspectives Quarterly 25, no. 4 (2008): 17–29. 17 Aimé Césaire, Discourse On Colonialism, trans. J. Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 31.

1

Aristotle on Mimesis and Violence: Things Hidden since the Foundation of Literary Theory Arata Takeda

Introduction: Girard on Plato and Aristotle In Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, René Girard speaks of “the Platonic terror of mimesis.”1 Girard points out that Plato’s mistrust of art can be understood as a fear of mimesis that he shares with primitive peoples.2 Primitive peoples fear mimetic phenomena such as twins or mirrors because, Girard argues, they somehow relate mimesis to violence. The prohibitions they impose on themselves, or put another way, the strictures on things they profoundly fear, reveal an incomplete but sagacious knowledge of the threat that arises out of mimetic violence.3 The phenomenon of twins and the primitive peoples’ response to it are illustrated in Violence and the Sacred.4 “It is only natural,” Girard explains there, “that twins should awaken fear, for they are harbingers of indiscriminate violence, the greatest menace to primitive societies.”5 This menace is perceived in a way as a “highly contagious disease,” the typical reaction to which would consist in preventing and avoiding contagion.6 The explanation goes on: The way primitive societies attempt to accomplish this [sc. to avoid contagion] offers a graphic demonstration of the kind of danger they associate with twins. In societies where their very existence is considered dangerous, the infants are “exposed”; that is, abandoned outside the community under conditions that make their death inevitable. Any act of direct physical violence against the anathema is scrupulously avoided. Any such act would only serve to entrap the perpetrators in a vicious circle of violence—the trap “bad” violence sets for the community and baits with the birth of twins. 9

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The Sacred and the Political An inventory of the customs, prescriptions, and interdictions related to twins in those societies where they are regarded with dread reveals one common concern: the fear of pollution.7

Plato’s animosity toward mimesis appears to be akin to this kind of primitive knowledge reflected in “the precautions taken against ‘bad’ violence.”8 Thus, Girard considers Plato to be “unique in the history of philosophy,” and, what is more, “closer than anyone to what is essential, closer than primitive religion itself.”9 Yet, at the same time, Girard tells us, Plato fails to relate his fear to acquisitive or possessive mimesis, the very form of mimetic behavior that provokes violent conflict. Plato’s approach to mimesis in The Republic suffers, as it were, from a sample bias: Plato deals with types of mimesis of representation, but not of appropriation.10 This dismissal or omission of the acquisitive dimension of mimesis is going to determine the cultural meaning of mimesis in the whole of Western thought. Girard emphasizes this by saying, “all of his [sc. Plato’s] successors, beginning with Aristotle, have followed his lead.”11 At this point, we do well to consider some reasons to be skeptical, especially with regard to Girard’s somewhat reductive view on Aristotle. In his Poetics, Aristotle manifestly opposed Plato’s attitude to mimesis; it is anything but fair to say that he simply adopted Plato’s approach. Of course, what Aristotle does is to object to Plato’s negative view of mimesis by offering, in turn, a positive one, so the conceptual framing of mimesis as such ought to remain the same, and this is what Girard is obviously referring to. But, is it indeed so? If we alter the way of valorizing something, does the valorized subject necessarily remain within the same conceptual framework? Do not the relations between various elements of the concept alter as well, so that in the end, there emerges a potentially alternative framework? This cautious skepticism leads us to our point of departure. As far as the relation between mimesis and violence is concerned—and here, I mean mimesis in the Aristotelian, not in the Girardian sense—there is a fundamental question to be asked: How does Aristotelian mimesis relate to the question of violence? Is there something that we have neglected, we have failed to see, or we have not been willing to see for millennia, something that also escaped Girard’s attention? Girard does address Aristotle’s Poetics in Violence and the Sacred, to which we shall come back to later on. However, inasmuch as Aristotle is evidently not among those who figure prominently in his thought, as do Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Claude Lévi-Strauss, the question needs a comprehensive consideration.

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Aristotle’s verdict on the use of violence in tragedy We begin by reflecting on literature, what Aristotle defines as mimesis, and its relation to violence in general. Human being’s fascination for violence is timeless, all the more so if we are not directly affected by it. Such nonaffectedness is guaranteed by the mediatory character of literary representation. Blood, violence, and gore enjoy a magnetic presence in literature, and this presence is particularly powerful in that genre of literature, which is designed to be performed and received collectively: the drama. In dramatic texts, violence always had a frequent occurrence, although the conventions of performing it, on the scene or behind the scene, have varied a great deal over the course of history.12 Violent actions represent, and have represented, part of entertainment, if not the entertainment, artistically provided to the audience. What is important in terms of the question we are raising here is the significance of the use of violence within the tradition of European tragedy. By the tradition of European tragedy, I understand a whole range of dramaturgical and theatrical practices that, whether we liked it or not, stood under the influence of the Aristotelian theory of tragedy. From the Renaissance up until the eighteenth century, Aristotle’s Poetics has been interpreted as including, as it were, a set of technical rules for dramatic composition. Beyond the question of whether it was originally intended to be descriptive or normative, it has exerted an immense normative power over the practice of writing, and writing on, drama and tragedy in particular—the shaping of the form, the finding of the motif, and the management of the plot, especially in view of the effect on the spectator. In the mid-nineteenth century, Gustav Freytag looked back to the past centuries through which Aristotle had been the authoritative figure in the field of drama and acknowledged in his seminal work on the Technique of the Drama: “Aristotle established a few of the highest laws of dramatic effect.”13 Aristotle’s definition of tragedy is generally known; it is most succinctly given in chapter 6 of his Poetics. In order to put it in the historical context within which I shall develop my argument, I quote it in Thomas Twining’s translation of 1789: Tragedy, then, is an imitation of some action that is important, entire, and of a proper magnitude—by language, embellished and rendered pleasurable, but by different means in different parts—in the way, not of narration, but of action— effecting through pity and terror, the correction and refinement of such passions [δι᾽ ἐλέου καὶ φόβου περαίνουσα τήν τῶν τοιούτων παθημάτων κάθαρσιν].14

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Whether the meaning of katharsis, as originally intended by Aristotle, is adequately captured by the notions of “correction and refinement” is a question that does not need to trouble us here. Of far greater relevance is the historical fact that this view, katharsis as moral purification, so to speak, was commonly held until Jacob Bernays presented his influential explication of katharsis as medical purgation in 185715—at a time when Aristotle’s authority for dramatic composition had at length begun to crumble. The crucial question for our consideration concerns Aristotle’s view on the relation between mimesis and violence. What does he say about the use of violence in tragedy? In order to explore this question, it is helpful to inquire what he says about the actions to be performed within the framework of a tragic plot. If tragedy is supposed to arouse pity and terror by means of action, and not by means of decoration or spectacle, as he argues in another place,16 what kind of action is the most effective to achieve this goal? Aristotle deals with this question in chapter 14. He proceeds in two steps: First, he determines that the action, in order to be piteous and terrible, take place between persons that are close to each other, such as family members, and not enemy to each other or indifferent to each other—this appears self-evident—and that the action take place in a way that one person either kills or intends to kill the other person.17 Second—and this is more pertinent to our question—he enumerates the types of scenarios under which such action can take place: “the action must be of necessity either done, or not done, and that, either with knowledge, or without”18—in other words, either there is a victim or there is no victim, and either they know what they do or “they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). From the interweaving of these possibilities, four possible scenarios can be obtained, and Aristotle presents them in a hierarchical order according to their capability of arousing pity and terror: [. . .] of all these ways, that of being ready to execute, knowingly, and yet not executing, is the worst; for this is, at the same time, shocking [μιαρὸν], and yet not Tragic, because it exhibits no disastrous event. It is, therefore, never, or very rarely, made use of. The attempt of Hæmon to kill Creon, in the Antigone,19 is an example. Next to this, is the actual execution of the purpose. To execute, through ignorance, and afterwards to discover, is better: for thus, the shocking atrociousness [μιαρὸν] is avoided, and, at the same time, the discovery is striking. But the best [κράτιστον] of all these ways, is the last. Thus, in the Tragedy of Cresphontes,20 Merope, in the very act of putting her son to death, discovers him,

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and is prevented. In the Iphigenia,21 the sister, in the same manner, discovers her brother; and in the Helle,22 the son discovers his mother, at the instant when he was going to betray her.23

It is of special interest here that in the last case, which Aristotle calls the best, violence is eventually averted. This is a remarkable passage worth analyzing in some depth—a passage that, as we shall see later on, caused some trouble to the commentators throughout history. Aristotle is not only saying that, in order to achieve its goal, tragedy can do without the use of violence, be it on the scene or behind the scene; he is essentially saying that, in order to achieve most effectively its goal, tragedy should do without the use of violence. According to him, the most advisable way to produce a tragedy in terms of plot management consists in keeping it free of violence: Performing piteous and terrible actions is not tantamount to performing violence—pity and terror can be most effectively aroused, and the kathartic effect most properly achieved, through the threatening, and not the executing, of violence. Judging from this passage, it would be quite surprising if a large number of ambitious tragedians would not follow Aristotle’s advice, and would, instead, produce tragedies after tragedies in which violence and bloodshed constitute a virtually obligatory feature. Judging from this passage, indeed, it would be rather improbable that, in tragedies attentive to Aristotle’s Poetics, violence and killing would dominate the plot. But this is precisely what has occurred in the history of European tragedy—to the extent that George Bernard Shaw remarked in an article in Hearst’s International Magazine for May 1921 somewhat ironically: “The popular definition of tragedy is heavy drama in which everyone is killed in the last act.”24 How could this happen? Why has Aristotle’s verdict on the use of violence in tragedy failed to exert its influence despite his long-standing authority in many other questions?

The metabasis paradox (1): Castelvetro and Corneille In order to understand the broader context out of which this question arises, we first need to turn to Poetics, chapter 13. There, Aristotle deals with the question of plot construction—which, according to the reading I propose, is treated separately from the question of plot management—by focusing on the character and the peripeteia, the reversal, that is, “a change [. . .] into the reverse of what is expected from the circumstances of the action.”25 After examining a

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number of combinations between possible characters and arts of peripeteia, Aristotle states: [. . .] to be well constructed, a fable, contrary to the opinion of some, should be single rather than double;26 that the change of fortune should not be from adverse to prosperous, but the reverse; and that it should be the consequence, not of vice, but of some great frailty [δι’ ἁμαρτίαν μεγάλην], in a character such as has been described, or better rather than worse.27

The character referred to is earlier described as “a person neither eminently virtuous or just, nor yet, involved in misfortune by deliberate vice, or villainy; but by some error of human frailty [δι’ ἁμαρτίαν τινά]: and this person should, also, be some one of high fame and flourishing prosperity.”28 As the most prominent examples, Aristotle cites Oedipus and Thyestes. And he concludes by asserting: “The most perfect [καλλίστη] Tragedy, then, according to the principles of the art, is of this construction.”29 So, if in the subsequent chapter, a tragic plot that apparently involves a positive metabasis, that is, a change of fortune from adverse to good, is qualified as the best [κράτιστον]30—for such appears to be the anagnorisis, the recognition, that prevents the execution of violence—we are faced with a plain contradiction.31 This is what was maintained by Lodovico Castelvetro, who published in 1570 his Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata, et sposta (Aristotle’s Poetics Translated into Vulgar Language, and Explained), the first vernacular translation of Aristotle’s Poetics—previously it had been translated into Arabic and Latin—accompanied by a monumental commentary. In his commentary on Poetics, chapter 14, Castelvetro points out the apparent inconsistency in Aristotle’s argument in relation to that of the preceding chapter and confronts it with his own rational judgment. In order to expound Castelvetro’s train of reasoning, I paraphrase his argument at some length. By considering the possible scenarios laid out by Aristotle, Castelvetro observes: A laudable action must not involve wickedness, and more laudable is such action that involves less wickedness. By the same token, a laudable action must involve passion—by passione Castelvetro means pathos, that is, suffering, not emotion—and more laudable is such action that involves more passion. Now the third and the fourth case discussed by Aristotle, namely, the execution of violence in ignorance and the prevention of such violence, do not involve wickedness, nor does the one case involve more or less wickedness than the other, because the wickedness consists in consenting to error—peccato, referring to the Greek term hamartia—and not in committing

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the error. Since the third case does not involve more consent to error than the fourth, although in the third case the error is committed and in the fourth not committed, it follows that the third and the fourth case, although as regards the lack of wickedness they are equal, are not equal as regards the involvement of passion, because in the third case the passion is full and accomplished (piena, & auenuta), whereas in the third short and threatened (sciema, & minacciata). So, Castelvetro concludes: It is against reason that the fourth case has been considered better than the third; according to reason, Aristotle ought to have considered it the other way round.32 That would have been consistent with his verdict on the best tragedy in the preceding chapter. In brief, Castelvetro suggests that in chapter 13 Aristotle is right; in chapter 14, he is wrong. In this way, the problematic contradiction between chapter 13 and chapter 14—we may call it the metabasis paradox—can be dissolved. Should violence be performed in tragedy? According to Castelvetro’s suggestion, the answer would be absolutely positive. We cannot overestimate the importance of Castelvetro’s commentary for the Renaissance reception of Aristotle’s Poetics, and the Renaissance theories and practices of drama in general. Against this background, it is little wonder that no less a tragedian than Pierre Corneille plainly rejected the preferential order of the ways of plot management given by Aristotle. In his treatise De la tragédie et des moyens de la traiter selon le vraisemblable ou le nécessaire (On Tragedy and the Means of Treating It According to the Verisimilar and the Necessary), Corneille even goes so far as to claim that, for the purpose of arousing pity and terror—on this point there is no question about Aristotle’s authority—the case in which violence is executed “with a perfect Knowledge and Bare-fac’d” is superior to all others.33 His dramatic production bears witness to this conviction. Here is not the place to expatiate on violence and cruelty in Corneille’s tragedies, but it is worthwhile quoting the passage in which he provides the rationale for his dramaturgical practice: There is some probability [. . .] that what this Philosopher [sc. Aristotle] has said, of the divers degrees of the Perfection of Tragedy, was exact and just in his time, and according to the Humour of his Country-men; that I cannot doubt of no more than I can forbear saying, that the Relish of our Age is not like that of his, on the preference of one of these Manners to another, at least that which pleased the Athenians so nicely and exquisitely, would not please our French; this is the only way I can think of to support my scruples, and at the same time preserve the Veneration I ought to have for all that he has wrote concerning the Art of Poetry.34

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In a word, Corneille suggests that all in all Aristotle is right, and his theory is valid for all times, but in chapter 14, and only there, his verdict is obsolete. This argument has an interesting advantage: It does not have to confront the possible contradiction between chapter 13 and chapter 14—it simply circumvents the metabasis paradox. And the use of violence can remain absolutely essential in tragedy, with a few exceptions, of course, that confirm the rule.35

The metabasis paradox (2): from Dacier to Girard A compelling argument denying the existence of a contradiction between chapter 13 and chapter 14 was first raised by André Dacier, who published in 1692 his French translation of Aristotle’s Poetics along with detailed remarks on the text itself as well as the commentaries available so far. In his notes on Poetics, chapter 14, after reviewing Corneilles objections to Aristotle’s advice on plot management, Dacier writes: [. . .] those who have commented on this Art of Poetry, have comprehended nothing of this whole Chapter [sc. chapter 14], and ’tis this which made Mr. Corneille to be mistaken. They all thought, that Aristotle spoke here of the Constitution of Fable in general, but he only Teaches how Cruel Actions ought to be managed, so that the Fable may not be changed, but made use of as it ought to be, and this is the design of all this Chapter.36

Dacier obviously makes a good point here: The apparent inconsistency between chapter 13 and chapter 14 can be dissolved by specifying the subject matter of Aristotle’s verdict in each chapter. To this effect, Dacier suggests that in chapter 13 Aristotle discusses the tragic plot as a whole, in chapter 14 only a particular part of it—we may say, chapter 13 addresses the question of plot construction; chapter 14, the question of plot management. There is no metabasis paradox. This solution proves to be groundbreaking. A century later, Thomas Twining wonders how this simple point could have been overlooked by centuries of excellent interpreters prior to Dacier. In the commentary to his English translation of Aristotle’s Poetics of 1789, the translation I quote from in this work, Twining writes: It is rather surprising, that Dacier should have perceived what had escaped the superior acuteness of the Italian annotators, viz. that Aristotle is not, in this chapter [sc. chapter 14], inquiring what is the best constitution of a Tragic fable

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in general, but, what is the best method of managing the most disastrous and atrocious incidents of Tragic story, so as to produce the highest possible degree of Tragical emotion in the spectator, without producing horror and disgust.37

In fact, Dacier’s argument has been adopted and repeated ever since—with some variations, to be sure, but in principle along the same structure—by a number of important scholars over the succeeding centuries. We can find remarkably similar arguments in the interpretations offered by Johannes Vahlen, Gustav Teichmüller, Daniel de Montmollin, Donald W. Lucas and many others.38 In his landmark work on Aristotle’s Poetics of 1957, Gerald F. Else summarizes Vahlen’s standpoint as “the most widely accepted” explanation: [. . .] in chapter 13 Aristotle was considering the form of the tragic action as a whole, here [sc. in chapter 14] only the pathos and its immediate antecedents and consequences. The best form of plot-structure as a whole and the best handling of the pathos are two different things, and in this case irreconcilable, just as no one tragedy can exemplify all the “kinds.”39

It is this widespread and continuing tradition that John Moles refers to, in his “Notes on Aristotle, Poetics 13 and 14” of 1979, as “the usual attempt to save Aristotle from the charge of inconsistency: namely that in ch. 13 Aristotle is concerned with the whole plot, but in ch. 14 only the critical scene.”40 Of course, there do exist other positions. Moles himself takes a different view and argues, together with Thomas C. W. Stinton41 and Ingram Bywater,42 that Aristotle changed his mind between writing chapter 13 and chapter 14.43 Yet another view holds each of the two chapters to be right in and of itself. Else is inclined to suppose “that tragedy has two different possible focal centers,”44 and Manfred Fuhrmann suggests in 1992: “Obviously there are two ideal forms of tragedy. One needs to come to terms with this bimodality of the ideal of tragedy in the Poetics”45—a very sophisticated way, as I see it, to acknowledge the contradiction. One accepts the metabasis paradox as being what it is. Aside from these debatable views, the tendency to resort to a strong and visible tradition keeps the upper hand. Given the seeming cogency of the explanation in the manner of Dacier and Vahlen, it is no surprise that, in more recent readings of Aristotle’s Poetics, we continue to encounter similar patterns of argument in the face of the metabasis paradox. Werner Söffing writes in his study on descriptive and normative provisions in Aristotle’s Poetics of 1981: As a matter of principle, it should be taken into account that the premises of the discussion in chapter 14 are entirely different from those in chapter 13: The issue

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The Sacred and the Political at stake is not the ideal tragedy, but merely the effective management of the pathos. [. . .] It is not the course of the tragic action in general that is considered, but merely a single, critical scene.46

Stephen A. White writes in the opening of his article on “Aristotle’s Favorite Tragedies” of 1992 succinctly: “Chapter 13 asks what makes for the ‘finest’ tragedies (52b31), and Chapter  14 tries to explain what makes them ‘fine’ (53b26),”47 and later on, he goes on to elucidate: “[. . .] he [sc. Aristotle] first defines the genus he considers ‘finest’, and then isolates the two species he finds ‘most tragic’ and ‘most powerful’.”48 What is striking here is the simple strategy shared by such patterns of argument—patterns that are common to all the explanations within the tradition. They all reconcile—or attempt to reconcile— the apparent contradiction for the benefit of the normative power of chapter 13 and to the detriment of that of chapter 14. Within such framework of reasoning, the negative metabasis, that is, the change of fortune from good to adverse, continues to be Aristotle’s highest postulate of tragic mimesis, and his verdict on the best way to manage the tragic plot, namely, to do without the use of violence, remains facultative and secondary. If we now turn to Girard’s understanding of Aristotle’s Poetics, what we see is that Girard is no exception to this distorted tradition. In a noteworthy passage in Violence and the Sacred, Girard provides a condensed account of what Aristotle’s Poetics is about in terms of his fundamental anthropology: On closer inspection, Aristotle’s text [sc. Poetics] is something of a manual of sacrificial practices, for the qualities that make a “good” tragic hero are precisely those required of the sacrificial victim. If the latter is to polarize and purge the emotions of the community, he must at once resemble the members of the community and differ from them; he must be at once insider and outsider, both “double” and incarnation of the “sacred difference”. He must be neither wholly good nor wholly bad. A certain degree of goodness is required in the tragic hero in order to establish sympathy between him and the audience; yet a certain degree of weakness, a “tragic flaw” is needed, to neutralize the goodness and permit the audience to tolerate the hero’s downfall and death.49

Admittedly, Girard is most original in that he regards Aristotle’s Poetics as “something of a manual of sacrificial practices,”50 but he is quite conventional in that he presupposes that a tragedy involves “the hero’s downfall and death.” The hero’s death typically requires the use of violence. It is not difficult to identify where such understanding primarily stems from. The characterization of the

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tragic hero, as we have seen, is given in Poetics, chapter 13, in which also the type of tragedy that involves the hero’s downfall is stated to be the best. By centering on the qualities and fate of the tragic hero, and thus, keeping his main focus on chapter 13, Girard manages to avoid dealing with the specifics of the tragic plot that, according to the verdict of chapter 14, is best managed if killing and death become unnecessary. To put it in a nutshell, Girard’s major attention on chapter 13 undermines the crucial argument of chapter 14—the very argument Aristotle puts forward against the use of violence in tragedy.

Conclusion: Aristotle’s terror of mimetic violence From what we have seen of the historical engagement with the metabasis paradox so far, this much we may safely conclude: The interpreters of Aristotle, for the most part, either denied the correctness of his verdict in chapter 14, as in the case of Castelvetro and Corneille,51 or restricted its validity in the light of his supposedly more general verdict in chapter 13, as in the case of many interpreters from Dacier onwards. The overall tendency over the course of the reception history of Aristotle’s Poetics has been, to put it roughly, to take chapter 13 as a general benchmark and chapter 14 with a grain of salt. The possible contradiction between them has commonly been adjusted to the advantage of the normative authority of chapter 13 and to the disadvantage of that of chapter 14. Thus, the question of plot construction could always precede the question of plot management, and the verdict on the best tragedy could always precede the verdict on the use of violence. On this account, the use of violence as an integral part of the plot could never pose a serious problem within the tradition of European tragedy. Quite the reverse, it became imperative that a tragedy involve a negative metabasis. At this point, however, the very notion of the negative metabasis gives rise to yet another fundamental question: Does a negative metabasis necessarily involve the use of violence within the framework of the plot? A few more recent interpreters have given a judicious answer to this question. Else has pointed toward an alternative way of framing the historical tension between chapter 13 and chapter 14 by saying: If the deed of horror to come is presented so vividly that we imagine it already performed, but then is cancelled before the blood has actually flowed, the pathetic effect is all the purer. The poet has enabled us, so to speak, to suck

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The Sacred and the Political the juice without biting the rind. He has given us a pathos-in-essence, free from the actual goriness that would otherwise attach to it: an idea of the pathos which does duty for the thing itself. It springs to the eye that if the poet can achieve this tour de force—can communicate the full emotional impact of a pathos without giving us one, or in fact by not giving us one—he has achieved the ultimate so far as the pathos and its related ‘parts’ are concerned.52

As we clearly see, Else’s perceptive argument ultimately remains dependent on the explanatory scheme à la Dacier and Vahlen. Stephen Halliwell, in turn, has developed this argument further by breaking away from the seductive formula. In his seminal work on Aristotle’s Poetics of 1986, Halliwell succeeds in reconciling the arguments of chapter 13 and chapter 14 by uniting them in one larger argument, without weakening the normative weight of neither the one nor the other. His remarkable argument is built on two momentous insights: first, “that the possibility of the final movement away from adversity entails in itself a preceding stage of sufficient suffering,”53 and second, that Aristotle’s “theory accentuates the pattern of change or transformation (to the point of allowing a change into misfortune to be incomplete, or only prospective) rather than the individual states which mark its extremes.”54 Accordingly, a negative metabasis does not need to involve violence and the hero’s death. On the “superficially, and only superficially, surprising verdict” of chapter 14, as he formulates it, Halliwell writes: [. . .] what this verdict suggests is that the experience of prospective suffering is sufficient to allow the human conditions and causes of misfortune to come within the range of intelligibility, without the physical fulfillment of the misfortune becoming necessary.55

If this is indeed what Aristotle had in mind in terms of the best tragedy and the best mimetic representation of a tragic plot—an idea that leaves no room whatsoever for the metabasis paradox and keeps the logic of Aristotle’s theory perfectly intact—it must be admitted that, in this respect, the Aristotelian theory of tragedy has been fundamentally misunderstood. Aristotle’s idea, then, was to suggest that the best tragic mimesis involves an overall change into—or move toward—adversity and an eventual avoidance of violence. Only by radically disregarding this suggestion from the very beginning, was European tragedy able to develop its powerful aesthetics of violence. And only by upholding the conventional understanding of the negative metabasis in Aristotle’s Poetics, was Girard able to say that Plato was “unique in the history of philosophy.”56

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These circumstances demand that we take Aristotle’s verdict on the use of violence in tragedy seriously by giving it the attention it deserves. Seen in an anthropological light, there appears to be a deeper meaning behind the question why this very aspect of Aristotle’s thought has been systematically set aside and ignored within the reception history of his Poetics and the tradition of European tragedy. Aristotle’s preference for nonviolent mimesis appears to be just another expression of his aversion to violent mimesis, inasmuch as it intimates a problematic relation between mimesis and violence. That this relation is considered a dangerous and contagious one is suggested by Aristotle’s use of the Greek term miaron in reference to the moral revulsion against intended or committed violence57—a term that, deriving from miasma, signifies something polluted and polluting, contaminated and contaminating, and thus, alarmingly points to the contagious and imitative effect of violence.58 Here, Aristotle’s view on mimesis and violence seems to come full circle with the knowledge of primitive societies mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Once this is recognized, there is no reason why we may not speak of “the Aristotelian terror of mimetic violence.”

Notes 1 See René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 17. 2 Ibid., 15. 3 Ibid., 10–19. 4 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 56–58. 5 Ibid., 57. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid., emphasis by translator. 8 Ibid. 9 Girard, Things Hidden, 15. 10 Ibid., 8. 11 Ibid. 12 A point of reference of eminent importance, which the dramatist could return to or react against, have been the following verses in Horace’s Epistola ad Pisones, commonly referred to as Ars poetica: “[. . .] Non tamen intus / Digna geri promes in scenam; multaque tolles / Ex oculis, quae mox narret facundia praesens. / Nec pueros coram

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populo Medea trudicet; / Aut humana palam coquat exta nefarius Atreus; / Aut in avem Progne vertatur, Cadmus in anguem. / Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi”; cf. Horace, Q. Horatii Flacci Poëmata: Animadversionibus illustravit Carolus Anthon. Editio octava. Accedunt notulae quaedam, cura J. Boyd (Londini: Apud T. Tegg, 1844), 607, vv. 183–188. Leon Golden translates these verses thus: “You will not, however, produce onstage actions that ought to be done offstage; and you will remove many incidents from our eyes so that someone who was present might report those incidents; Medea should not slaughter her children in the presence of the people, nor abominable Atreus cook human organs publicly, nor Procne be turned into a bird, Cadmus into a snake. Whatever you show me like this, I detest and refuse to believe”; cf. O. B. Hardison, Jr. and Leon Golden (eds), Horace for Students of Literature: The “Ars Poetica” and Its Tradition (Gainesville, FL : University Press of Florida. 1995), 12–13. 13 Gustav Freytag, Technique of the Drama: An Exposition of Dramatic Composition and Art, trans. E. J. MacEwan (Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Company, 1895), 1; see also Gustav Freytag, Die Technik des Dramas (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1898), 3. 14 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, trans. T. Twining (London: Payne and Son, 1789), 75, 1449b 24–28, emphasis by translator. 15 Jacob Bernays, “Grundzüge der verlorenen Abhandlung des Aristoteles über Wirkung der Tragödie,” in Abhandlungen der historisch-philosophischen Gesellschaft in Breslau, Vol. 1 (Breslau: Eduard Trewendt, 1858), 133–202. It is worth noting that the beginnings of the medical purgation theory of katharsis, as opposed to the moral purification theory, can be traced back as far as the mid-sixteenth century. Francesco Robortello, in his In librum Aristotelis de Arte poetica explicationes (Commentary on Aristotle’s Book on the Art of Poetry) of 1548, conceived of katharsis as a sort of homeopathic process [cf. Francesco Robortello, Francisci Robortelli Vtinensis in librum Aristotelis de Arte poetica explicationes (Florentiæ: In Officina Laurentii Torrentini Ducalis Typographi, 1548), 53]; Antonio Minturno, in his Arte Poetica of 1563, compared katharsis to the homeopathic treatment of an illness [cf. Antonio Minturno, L’Arte Poetica del Signor Antonio Minturno (Napoli: Stamperia di Gennaro Muzio, 1725), 77]; and Lorenzo Giacomini, in his treatise De la purgatione de la Tragedia (On Purgation in Tragedy) presented in 1586, considered katharsis in relation to the healing process by means of homeopathic medicines [cf. Lorenzo Giacomini, Orationi e discorsi di Lorenzo Giacomini Tebalducci Malespini (Fiorenza: Case de Sermartelli, 1597), 36]. Another important theory of katharsis, the intellectual clarification theory, has been advanced by Leon Golden in the late twentieth century [cf. Leon Golden, “The Clarification Theory of Katharsis,” Hermes 104, no. 4 (1976): 437–452; Leon Golden, Aristotle on Tragic and Comic Mimesis (Atlanta, GA : Scholars Press, 1992)]. Golden understands παθήματα as incidents and renders the above-quoted passage as follows: “Tragedy is, then, an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the

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16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

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proper magnitude; it employs language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic adornment, applied separately in the various parts of the play; it is presented in dramatic, not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents” (cf. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Poetics, trans. L. Golden [Engelwood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice-Hall, 1968], 11). Golden’s rendering, for its part, owes much to Gerald F. Else’s reading of the katharsis clause, according to which katharsis “was not brought about ‘by pity and fear’ but ‘through (a course of) pity and fear,’ that is, in the course of a sequence of pathetic and fearful incidents” (cf. Gerald F. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument [Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press (1957) 1963], 423). According to the intellectual clarification theory, katharsis stands for the cognitive process of inference. For an overview of the main interpretations of katharsis, see Stephen Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics (Chapel Hill, NC : The University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 350–356; see 354–355 for a critique of Golden’s view. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, 89–90, 1453b 1–14. Ibid., 90, 1453b 14–22. Ibid., 91, 1453b 36–37, emphasis by translator. Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles. Cresphontes is a tragedy by Euripides, of which only fragments remain. Iphigenia in Tauris is a tragedy by Euripides. Helle is a tragedy of which neither the author nor the subject is known. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, 91–92, 1453b 37–1454a 9, emphasis by translator. See George Bernard Shaw, “Slaying Souls with a Corkscrew: Was Tolstoy Tragedian or Comedian?” Hearst’s International 39, no. 5 (1921): 16. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, 84, 1452a 22–23. By a double fable Aristotle means a plot involving two different actions, with a happy ending and an unhappy ending. Ibid., 88, 1453a 12–17, emphasis by translator. Ibid., 87, 1453a 7–10. Ibid., 88, 1453a 22–23. Ibid., 92, 1454a 4–9. The superlatives used by Aristotle in the passages in question, καλλίστη (ibid., 88, 1453a 23)—meaning the best, the finest, of the finest quality—and κράτιστον (ibid., 92, 1454a 4)—meaning the best, the strongest, the mightiest—do differ on the lexical level, but little on the level of argument. Lodovico Castelvetro, Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata, et sposta per Lodovico Castelvetro. Riueduta, & ammendata secondo l’originale, & la mente dell’autore. Aggiuntoui nella fine vn racconto delle cose piu notabili, che nella spositione si contengono (Basilea: Pietro De Sedabonis, [1570] 1576), 316–317.

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33 Cited in Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of Poetry, translation from the Original Greek, according to Mr. Theodore Goulston’s Edition (London: Dan. Browne and Will. Turner, 1705), 241; cf. also Pierre Corneille, Œuvres de P. Corneille avec le notes de tous les commentateurs, Vol. 12 (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1855), 318. I quote Corneille from an anonymous English translation of André Dacier’s notes to Aristotle’s Poetics (1705), which include original passages from Corneille’s treatise (Aristotle, La Poëtique d’Aristote [Paris: Claude Barbin, 1692], 221–222). For a full translation of the treatise, see Henry Hitch Adams and Baxter Hathaway (eds), Dramatic Essays of the Neoclassic Age (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1965), 2–34. 34 Cited in Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of Poetry, 241, emphasis by translator; cf. also Corneille, Œuvres de P. Corneille, Vol. 12, 320. 35 One of the most notable exceptions is Jean Racine’s tragedy Bérénice of 1670. Throughout his dramatic production, Racine was acutely aware of the Aristotelian demand of arousing pity and terror in tragedy, but at the same time he had good reasons to hold violence to be dispensable in tragedy, as he explained in the preface to Bérénice in 1671: “It is by no means essential that there should be blood and corpses in a tragedy; it is enough that its action should be great and its actors heroic, that passions should be aroused, and that everything in it should breathe that majestic sadness in which all the pleasure of tragedy resides,” cf. Jean Racine, Œuvres de Jean Racine, Vol. 2 (Paris: A. Belin, 1812), 109; also Jean Racine, Complete Plays, trans. S. Solomon, Vol. 1 (New York: Random House, 1967), 376. It should be noted, moreover, that during the sixteenth and seventeenth century variant genres such as tragedia di fin lieto (tragedy with a happy ending) and pastoral tragicomedy emerge, which by definition did not need involve the use of violence; however, they are to be regarded as discrete from tragedy in the ideal sense of the term in that they overtly dismissed Aristotle’s verdict on the best tragedy in Poetics, chapter 13. 36 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Art of Poetry, 244–245, emphasis by translator; cf. also Aristotle, La Poëtique d’Aristote, 224–225. 37 Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, 322, n. 106, emphasis in the original. 38 Johannes Vahlen, Beiträge zu Aristoteles Poetik, No. 2 (Wien: K. K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1866), 26–27; Gustav Teichmüller, Beiträge zur Erklärung der Poëtik des Aristoteles (Halle: G. Emil Barthel, 1867), 78–82; Daniel de Montmollin, La Poétique d’Aristote. Texte primitif et additions ultérieures (Neuchâtel: H. Messeiller, 1951), 338–339; Aristotle, Poetics, ed. D. W. Lucas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 155, n. to 54a 8. In this connection, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s standpoint remains quite unique. In his Hamburg Dramaturgy of 1767–1769, Lessing argued that chapter 13 focuses on the handling of the metabasis, chapter 14 on that of the pathos, and thus, placed equally limited weight on both chapters; cf. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (Stuttgart: G. J. Göschen’sche Verlagshandlung, 1890), sect. 38, 127–128. Vahlen criticized and modified Lessing’s

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39 40 41 42 43

44 45

46 47 48 49 50

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position so as to fit into an explanatory scheme analogous to that suggested by Dacier; cf. Vahlen, Beiträge zu Aristoteles Poetik, No. 2, 26–27. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument, 450, emphasis in the original; see also p. 451. John Moles, “Notes on Aristotle, Poetics 13 and 14,” The Classical Quarterly 29, no. 1 (1979): 77–94, here 82; see also n. 2. Thomas C. W. Stinton, “Hamartia in Aristotle and Greek Tragedy,” The Classical Quarterly 25, no. 2 (1975): 252–254. Aristotle, Aristotle on the Art of Poetry, trans. I. Bywater (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 224–225, n. to 1454a 4. Moles, “Notes on Aristotle,” 82–92. Bywater commented in his annotated translation of Aristotle’s Poetics of 1909: “In chap. 13 Aristotle was thinking only of the emotional effect of tragedy as produced by the most obvious means; here [sc. in chapter 14] he comes to see that the same effect may be produced in a finer form without their aid. It is his somehow tardy recognition of the necessity of avoiding τὸ μιαρόν that has caused this change of view” (Aristotle, Aristotle on the Art of Poetry, 224–225, n. to 1454a 4). The possibility of a change of mind, although en passant and tentatively, had been suggested as early as by Castelvetro, Poetica d’Aristotele, 316. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument, 451. Manfred Fuhrmann, Die Dichtungstheorie der Antike: Aristoteles—Horaz —“Longin.” Eine Einführung (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1992), 45–46, my translation. The passage does not appear in the first edition of the cited book, published under a slightly different title in 1973, cf. Manfred Fuhrmann, Einführung in die antike Dichtungstheorie (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1973). Werner Söffing, Deskriptive und normative Bestimmungen in der Poetik des Aristoteles (Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner, 1981), 129, my translation. Stephen A. White, “Aristotle’s Favorite Tragedies,” in Amélie O. Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle’s Poetics (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1992), 221–240, here 221. Ibid., 236. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 291. It should be noted that the distorted connection between a primordial collective violence and the suffering of the hero of Greek tragedy has been pointed out by Freud in his anthropological study Totem and Taboo of 1912–1913; see Sigmund Freud, Studienausgabe, Vol. 9 (Frankfurt am Main S. Fischer Verlag, 1974), 438–439. For Girard’s critique of Freud’s speculation and its further analysis, see Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 202–212. Among the modern scholars, Franz Susemihl questioned the correctness of the transmitted text and proposed a conjectural emendation of the critical passage of chapter 14. In his annotated translation of Aristotle’s Poetics of 1865, Susemihl inverted the order of the third and the fourth type of plot discussed by Aristotle in accordance with Castelvetro’s suggestion (cf. Aristotle, Aristoteles über die

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The Sacred and the Political Dichtkunst: Griechisch und Deutsch und mit facherklärenden Anmerkungen herausgegeben von Franz Susemihl [Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1865], 90, n. 5; 91; 183, n. 135 to C. 14 §. 19). More recently, Stinton has claimed that in chapter 14, Aristotle presents an altered view, which is ultimately wrong; see Stinton, “Hamartia in Aristotle and Greek Tragedy,” 252–254. Stinton’s claim is something of a petitio principii in that he argues that the verdict of chapter 14 applies to melodrama rather than to tragedy. Else, Aristotle’s Poetics: The Argument, 451, emphasis in the original. Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics, 180. Ibid., 182. Ibid., 236. Girard, Things Hidden, 15. Aristotle, Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, 91, 1453b 39; 92, 1454a 3; see also 87, 1452b 36. Arthur W. H. Adkins, “Aristotle and the Best Kind of Tragedy,” The Classical Quarterly 16, no. 1 (1966): 78–102, here 95–96; Sheila Murnaghan, “Sucking the Juice without Biting the Rind: Aristotle and Tragic Mimēsis,” New Literary History 26, no. 4 (1995): 755–773, here 762; 772, n. 17. For an elaboration on this point, although without any reference to Girard, see ibid., 758–768; see 769–770 for a consideration of the relation between the performance of tragedy and the ritual of sacrifice. I am grateful to Rana Saadi Liebert for pointing me to this article.

2

René Girard and Thomas Aquinas on Prophecy and the Purging of the Notion of Justice Paul M. Rogers

Introduction At the turn of the second century, the North African author Tertullian famously asked in his treatise On the Prescription against Heretics: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”1 In this work, Tertullian was trying to drive home the point that philosophical inquiry should have little or nothing to do with Christian faith and the reading of sacred scripture. His oft-quoted question has come to represent a position that takes one extreme in the broader debate over the relationship between theology—human reflection on the substance of divine revelation—and philosophy, broadly defined here as any kind of rational inquiry into the nature of reality. This essay suggests that the Athens-Jerusalem question is still an open and live debate, even if Tertullian in asking his question really intended to offer a definitive answer by advocating for the purging of all philosophy from Christian faith. A Tertullian-esque question could be fairly posed by a perceptive reader of this chapter’s title: “What has René Girard to do with Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century Christian theologian?”—and more specifically—“What have their respective notions of justice to do with their respective notions of prophecy?” The aim of this chapter is to suggest that prophecy in the works of both René Girard and Thomas Aquinas plays an important role in setting the boundaries for how political communities come to understand and exercise justice. In Girard’s thought, prophecy helps to unveil past mimetic crises and the scapegoat resolutions that lie at the heart of religious rituals and political society. In his understanding of Old Testament prophecy, Girard sees the beginning of a slow movement away from mythology toward history. This new historical awareness 27

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of past violence moves a society to confront its principles of justice and recognize (in stages) its need to strip away and purge violence and vengeance from its existing judicial structures and relations with other societies. In Aquinas’s case, in order to see how prophecy relates to justice, we have to approach the question through his theological framework of nature and super-nature. The justice that is exercised among human persons is oriented both by rational reflection and by the messages of prophets for Aquinas. In particular, he thinks prophecy helps human societies to have fitting worship of God; this worship he maintains is an essential aspect of the virtue of justice. We note from the outset that the marked contrast in methods between Girard and Aquinas at times creates large asymmetries and aporias when trying to put the two thinkers in dialogue. Despite these obvious differences in method and historical context, we show that some of Girard’s bottom-up observations drawn from anthropology find parallels in Aquinas’s more formal and theological approach. On the subject of prophecy, we observe an acute awareness in both authors that divine revelation does affect the orientation and scope of political discourse or political philosophy. At the same time, each of them displays a hesitancy to conflate prophecy and politics. Aquinas avoids conflating and confusing prophecy and politics chiefly through his framework of nature and super-nature. Girard’s thought offers some less tidy results, but he effectively gestures toward a separation of prophecy and politics. He does this chiefly by associating prophetic gifts with the anthropological concept of the sacrificial victim, who functions as the foundation for all political regimes, but who, paradoxically, stands outside and beyond political communities.

Prophecy and its relationship to knowledge in Girard and Aquinas Girard’s account of what constitutes something as being “prophetic” from his book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning draws on a rich notion of “tradition” where the structure of “prefiguration” and “fulfilment” are central components in unveiling mimetic cycles.2 He stresses that the continuity of the Old and New Testaments becomes the key “intuition” that enables us to identify this group of texts that denounce persecutory illusions as being “prophetic.” On the one hand, Girard seems to be saying that how we can identify something as being related

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to prophecy, that is the “prophetic,” has more to do with the interpretation and “interrelation” of texts than it does with the inspiration of particular persons. The interpreter alone comes close to participating in prophecy by interrelating biblical texts and identifying their common denouncement of persecution. On the other hand, Girard admits that this act of interrelating depends on a prior “intuition” about the continuity of the Old and New Testaments. Girard does not say exactly what the content of this intuition is or where it comes from. The intuition itself has to be related to some notion of the inspired status of the biblical texts, and this is not something established by rational argument, but comes to be believed as the testimony of prophets. The notion that those who interpret a scriptural text participate in some way in the “prophetic” is not a foreign notion even in the environment of the New Testament. St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians explains that he imparts spiritual words to the Corinthians “not taught by human wisdom,” but “taught by the Spirit.” Only the “spiritual” person is able to interpret these spiritual words. He contrasts this with the “unspiritual” or “natural” person, the psychikos, who does not receive “the gifts of the Spirit of God.” Spiritual things are “folly” to the natural person, who is not able to understand them because they can only be understood spiritually. In contrast, the spiritual person is the one who can judge “all things” and “is judged by no one.”3 What is it that enables the spiritual person “to judge all things” in Paul’s eyes? It is not the ability of the spiritual person qua human being that enables someone to interpret spiritually, but rather the ability to interpret spiritually comes from the fact that the spiritual person has put on “the mind of Christ.” Thomas Aquinas also thinks the ability to interpret human speech can sometimes be given by God as a gratuitous gift. He calls this gift the “interpretation of speech,” and he thinks this gift of interpretation can ultimately be reduced to the gift of prophecy.4 In this gift, Aquinas thinks the mind is supernaturally illuminated so that it can understand and expound certain obscure words and phrases. Exegesis, thus, can possess a prophetic element. This understanding of prophecy as a true interpretation of a text or of any form of human speech, however, is not the dominant meaning of the word for Aquinas. One of difficulties Aquinas faces is the staggering amount of things the word prophecy (prophetia) can refer to. It can refer to knowledge about future events just as much as it can refer to knowledge about the past or present. It can include knowledge about the divine nature, about angels or demons, or about how human beings should live. The vast range of objects that can fall under

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prophetic knowledge shares no common feature as objects for Aquinas; they are only united to each other by the fact that they can be known through the light of prophecy, which can only be given by God. Aquinas devotes four questions to prophecy in his Summa theologiae composed during the second half of the thirteenth century. Most of my analysis of Aquinas’s understanding of prophecy presented here is drawn from these four questions, which come at the end of the Summa’s moral section on the complete array of virtues and vices. Aquinas categorizes prophecy as a gratuitous grace as opposed to sanctifying grace.5 Sanctifying grace unites us directly with God, while a gratuitous grace does not sanctify the one who receives it; rather a gratuitous grace is given for the benefit of a community either to instruct them in revelation or to confirm that revelation. Prophecy is a gratuitous grace that “first and principally pertains to knowledge.”6 Girard seems to share this largely cognitive understanding of prophecy with Aquinas. Still, he seems to have more frequent recourse to the category of prophetic interpretation as the knowledge of how to understand human speech or texts. He notes in I See Satan Fall Like Lightning that this idea of the “prophetic” as relating to the interrelation of textual interpretation has “nothing to do with what passes as prophetic in popular perception: fantastic claims to divination that are common in most societies.”7 Girard cautiously distances his notion of the prophetic from the mantic seer who claims to possess foreknowledge of future events. Girard also remains critical of conceptions of prophecy that depend too heavily or exclusively on Christology. For this reason, he thinks a Christian thinker like Pascal is wrong to conceive of prophecy as “a kind of mechanical code, a sort of puzzle that only Christians are able to solve because they have the key to it.” Critically, he thinks Pascal’s notion of prophecy excludes the Jews from understanding their own texts because they do not possess the key to interpreting these texts, “which is the very person of Christ.”8 It remains difficult to evaluate Girard’s critique of Pascal, in the first instance, because he neglects to refer to any specific text of Pascal’s, but on a more profound level, it could be argued that his critique of Pascal’s notion of prophecy is itself in tension with what St. Paul says about the spiritual person in 1 Corinthians. Paul thinks the spiritual person has “the mind of Christ,” and it is the mind of Christ that enables one to understand spiritual words. Now, Paul does not elaborate on what it means exactly to possess “the mind of Christ.” It is not clear whether he excludes those Jews who did not believe in Christ from possessing “the mind of Christ,” even if only partially.

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Girard tries to resolve this tension by offering a notion of prophecy that is less Christocentric. Out of his critique of Pascal’s notion of prophecy, Girard presents his preference for what he calls a “positive sense” of prophecy that excludes no one, especially not the writers of the oldest parts of Old Testament who were prophetically inspired. Here, Girard points to a common link shared by both Old and New Testament prophecies; they both share the common theme of defending the innocence of victims unjustly condemned. In this way, he sees prophecy as existing on a continuum, where growth in the awareness of victim persecution grows over time as prophetic testimony spreads and further prophets arise to unveil more and more the truth about mimetic violence. The Old Testament, he thinks, discloses this truth partially. In its prophetic incompleteness, the Old Testament points to the reality that we need God “to accept the role of the victim of the crowd so that he can save us all.”9 Girard does not see prophetic revelations as isolated phenomena. He thinks that divine revelation always exists in a dialogical relationship with previous revelations that came before it. He maintains that Christian revelation “is basically of the same nature and proceeds from the same type of insight” as Old Testament revelation.10 Unsurprisingly, the unifying principle for his notion of revelation seems to be the common insight that is given into the victim mechanism. This insight, he thinks, comes gradually to human beings as God continues to act in the world, and its effect builds up over time. Here, we can observe how much Girard has recourse to some notion of what might be called a “tradition” that is passed down from generation to generation, propelled no longer by some mimetic cycle, but by conscious belief based on the testimony of prophets. “The Christian revelation,” he explains, “in its highest sense desires to be guided on the basis of the older, related revelation, to be enriched by its treasury of knowledge and its marvellously concrete and picturesque forms of speech.”11 The thread that guides Christian revelation is the “knowledge” possessed by an older revelation that came initially through prophecy.

Prophecy and justice We can now turn to examine how Girard’s and Aquinas’s respective notions of prophecy relate to their concepts of justice. After this, we will conclude by briefly

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looking at how these notions of justice relate to their thinking about political communities. In Violence and the Sacred, Girard argues that there is a direct correlation between the elimination of sacrificial practices and the establishment of a judicial system.12 Girard notes a development in human societies from “preventive” measures that try to limit violence to “curative procedures.” These curative procedures act as intermediaries between the purely religious orientation of a people and the superior efficiency of a judicial system. Girard notes that such curative procedures remain ritualistic in character and often involve sacrificial practices. They attempted to limit “the impulse for revenge” in order to protect the safety of a group. For example, reconciliation between two parties could come about by a type of mutual compensation. Girard thinks these procedures point in the direction of formalized legal systems. At this level, retribution or retributive justice still holds the dominant impulse in human society, but eventually a legal authority begins to constrain these impulses for revenge. Girard characterizes this as revenge “forged into a principle of abstract justice that all men are obliged to uphold and respect.”13 Once a newly forged judicial system emerges on the scene, the sacrificial and religious dimensions move into the background. Like sacrifice, he explains, the judicial system “conceals—even as it also reveals—its resemblance to vengeance, differing only in that it is not self-perpetuating and its decisions discourage reprisals.”14 In this account of the development of judicial systems, Girard notes that judicial processes do not really conceal the fact that they are more about preserving the safety of the community than about some abstract concept of justice. He thinks that we incorrectly think the judicial system is founded on “a unique principle of justice unknown to primitive societies.”15 The emphasis comes to be misplaced, he suggests, when human beings start to reflect on these judicial processes and attempt to conceal the impulses for revenge. At this point, a potential tension arises when we compare Girard’s account with Aquinas’s notion of natural right and justice. Justice, Aquinas thinks, is meant to direct a person in his relations with others so as to foster a kind of equality. Something is said to be “just” not only in relation to the act of a person, but also in relation to how that person’s act relates to others. For example, a person’s work is said to be “just” when it fosters some kind of equality with another through the payment of a wage due for some service rendered.16 Aquinas calls the object that establishes the equality a “right” (ius), and the “right” is the

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object of the virtue of justice. Justice, he says, is a habit “whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will.”17 Justice deals with how one relates to others, and at its core, it is a social and political virtue. Aquinas makes several important distinctions within his notion of justice. The first major distinction is between “general justice” and “special justice.” Justice can in some way be said to be a “general virtue” because all virtues can be ordered to the common good. Even a virtue like temperance, for instance, which relates to acts that refer to the appropriate enjoyment of pleasures, can be related to the right ordering of a community toward the common good. How much alcohol I drink, for example, is referable to me in the first instance, but it can also be related to others. The amount of alcohol I drink affects how I relate with others, leading me, depending on the case, to become more lethargic or less inhibited and more reckless. When I drink too much, I am not only intemperate, but if I decided to drive a car, I am also acting unjustly. As a general virtue, justice has the unique feature among all the moral virtues of being able to refer other things to the common good of a community. Justice also relates to Aquinas’s notion of law. Law, he explains, has the prerogative to direct those who are subject to it toward the common good. For this reason, Aquinas says that “general justice” can also be called “legal justice.” “Since it belongs to the law to direct to the common good, . . . it follows that the justice which is in this way styled ‘general,’ is called ‘legal justice,’ because thereby humankind is in harmony with the law that directs the acts of all the virtues to the common good.”18 Legal justice acts as a kind of ruler over the other moral virtues. Aquinas makes a further distinction between “legal justice” and “particular justice.”19 Particular justice relates to particular goods and individuals as opposed to the common good. It directs a person’s individual, external actions and their use of external things. Unlike internal actions like thoughts and desires, these external actions and things can be communicated from one person to another. This, however, does not mean that particular justice and general justice are opposed to each other. Aquinas thinks particular justice still has a social dimension, if related to the actions between individuals.20 For instance, the right ordering of relations between family members is a type of particular justice, which Aquinas calls “domestic justice.” Domestic justice aims at the good of a household or family. It is not in opposition to the common good; Aquinas thinks the good of a family is orderable to the common good. He just thinks that there is special type of good that is sought in a household that is an intermediate to the

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common good. From this notion of particular justice, Aquinas shows how flexible his notion of justice is to different social realities. It is here that tensions arise when we compare Aquinas’s notion of justice with Girard’s thesis about the emergence of legal systems as set out in Violence and the Sacred. Against Girard’s general thesis that primitive societies do not exhibit signs of possessing a notion of justice when their judicial systems come into being, it could be argued that primitive societies do possess a more basic and almost intuitive awareness of particular justice, which has yet to be explicitly identified or expressed as a principle of justice. This would enable us to account for why primitive peoples like the Chukchi were observed to avert attention away from wrong-doers in order to avoid continued violence and disputes.21 Among the Chukchi, the following basic moral principle is still operative: “Do good and avoid evil.” Still, it has not yet reached an expanded sense to include a principle of justice, such as give to each what is due. At the same time, this objection based on what I take to be Aquinas’s notion of the first principle of the natural law—“Do good and avoid evil”—may be incommensurable with Girard’s thinking on justice in the final analysis.22 It seems that Girard’s entire method hesitates to ask questions about the notion of justice itself. He is more interested in searching for the historical and practical circumstances that lead human beings to create judicial systems. In this way, his method shares a kindred spirit with that of the cultural anthropologist. For instance, he seems to imply that it is the stability of judicial systems that enables human beings to speak about justice in abstract or theoretical terms. Justice as a lived reality must be already something valued by a society before it can become the topic of theoretical discussion. The question that follows is how do societies first come to possess justice as a lived reality, or to put it another way: How do societies first begin to live justly? Girard thinks that violence forces societies to seek to live justly almost instinctually, by continuously containing and channelling violence in ritual sacrifice. He finds evidence for this in the way early reflective discussions about justice continue to hide an awareness of how judicial systems arise out of ritual sacrifice. Perhaps one of Girard’s most insightful observations is the parallel he sees between both ritual sacrifice and judicial systems in their appeals for some transcendental ground. He describes this parallel as follows: Just as sacrificial victims require the approval of a divinity, so too do judicial systems appeal to a theology as a guarantor of justice. For Girard, this makes apparent “the transcendental quality” of the judicial system.23 He observes that in both cases

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some stability is required. In ritual sacrifice, there must be some prescription of approved sacrifices and the conditions under which they are to occur. Such prescriptions also must be rooted in some account of divine revelation; otherwise, how would someone know these were the appropriate sacrifices. In the case of the judicial system, there needs to be some “transcendental quality” in order for violence to be bypassed. Without this transcendental quality, violence would spread indefinitely. He thinks if an established judicial system goes through a process of “demystification,” it necessarily follows that such a judicial system will disintegrate because society will be thrown back into unrestrained violence. “Only the introduction of some transcendental quality that will persuade men of the fundamental difference between sacrifice and revenge, between a judicial system and vengeance, can succeed in bypassing violence.”24 The act of demystification here is portrayed as having a sacrificial quality and being itself essentially religious. This means that demystification has failed to see that it actually causes violence to proliferate, even though it thinks it is itself less violent than the judicial system. Any demystification of a judicial system draws a veil, Girard thinks, over the subject of vengeance, which has the possibility of becoming quite real again. The result is a world without any universal value: As soon as the essential quality of transcendence—religious, humanistic, or whatever—is lost, there are no longer any terms by which to define legitimate forms of violence and to recognize it among the multitude of illicit forms. The definition of legitimate and illegitimate forms then becomes a matter of mere opinion, with each man free to reach his own decision.25

Would Girard think that Aquinas’s own account of justice functions as a kind of demystification? It is probable that he would not precisely because Aquinas’s account of justice remains open to some notion of the transcendent. In particular, his notion of natural law is able to preserve a transcendental quality even in his analysis of human judicial systems. All human laws, Aquinas thinks, are derived ultimately from the natural law.26 The natural law itself is the participation of the eternal law in a rational creature.27 For Aquinas, then, natural law has some transcendental quality insofar as it is a participation of the eternal law. A divinely revealed law, however, is generically different from a human law according to Aquinas. Divine law is, by its very nature, beyond the abilities of human knowledge, and prophecy functions as the chief vehicle for promulgating divine laws to humanity. Aquinas thinks the divine law relates primarily to the final

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end of human beings, which is supernatural. It does not directly govern other intermediate and natural ends, such as the end of the civil state. Does this mean, then, that there is no relationship between human law and divine law according to Aquinas? Does he admit a case where Athens has nothing to do with Jerusalem? Aquinas’s approach to the relationship between divine law and human law is quite subtle, and examining it will enable us to frame properly the question of the relationship between prophecy and the political order. In a brief but important passage, Aquinas conveys his opinion that prophecy is, in fact, necessary for the government of people, but he adds that it is necessary chiefly in order to govern people “in the order of divine worship (cultum).”28 In the ordering of divine worship, Aquinas explains, “nature is not sufficient, and grace is necessary.” Prophecy, thus, orders specifically the virtue of religion, which renders the honor due to God through worship. The virtue of religion for Aquinas falls under the virtue of justice, and as a virtue, religion entails the appropriate giving of honor that is due to God. In Aquinas’s account of the moral virtues, the virtue of religion has a unique relationship to the other moral virtues because it can command and order a person’s actions toward the worship of God.29 The virtue of religion has two types of acts, he explains. The first type includes those acts that are directly and immediately related to the worship or reverencing of God; these consist of things like sacrifice and adoration. Religion also has a second type of act. This second type takes acts that belong to other virtues and orders them toward the worship of God. Here, by exercising the virtue of religion a person uses other acts as a medium for the worship of God. Aquinas explains that any virtue that is concerned with the final end, such as religion, can command through an act of the will other virtues that are only concerned with the means to that end. For example, an act such as assisting orphans and widows is taken properly from the virtue of mercy, Aquinas says, but this act of mercy can also be an act of religion when it is directed toward honoring God. Likewise, to remain chaste relates directly to the virtue of temperance, but the virtue of religion can direct a person to act chastely in order to honor God. Now, when it comes to the ordering of human society to the civil good, Aquinas thinks that natural justice suffices. This natural justice is not the justice that is infused by the Holy Spirit, but it is the justice that exists “through the principles of natural right.” He explains in his Disputed Questions on Truth: The society of men, insofar as it is ordained to eternal life as its end, can be preserved only through the justice of faith, of which prophecy is the principle.

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Hence, Proverbs (29:18) says: ‘When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered abroad.’ But, since this end is supernatural, both the justice, which is ordained to this end, and the prophecy, which is its principle, will be supernatural. The justice, however, by which human society is governed in the order of the civil good, can be held sufficiently through the principles of natural right implanted in man; and thus, prophecy need not be natural.30

As the last sentence of this passage indicates, the context of Aquinas’s discussion here is not centered directly on the political order. The passage comes from his disputed question “On Prophecy” (q. 12), and more specifically, from the article that asks whether prophecy is natural. It is clear from this passage that Aquinas draws a noticeable distinction between the natural and supernatural ends of human society. He does not conflate or confuse the two. The supernatural end of human society requires the justice of faith, which requires the testimony of prophets. Meanwhile, the civil good of human society can be achieved “sufficiently” by the justice that is derived from the natural law. Admittedly, much weighs on how one interprets the word sufficiently here. In the above passage, Aquinas is merely admitting that the justice that emerges or emerged in human societies where divine revelation did not occur is real. It is not a false justice, even though it imperfectly orients human beings to their final end, which Aquinas insists is supernatural. This natural justice can become more perfect through grace, and this follows a basic framework in Aquinas’s thought whereby he holds that “grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it.”31 From this, we can conclude that Aquinas’s account of justice would not constitute an act of demystification according to Girard. The framework of nature and super-nature allows Aquinas to ground even his notion of human/ civil justice in the transcendent “justice of faith” that comes by means of prophecy. The interrelation between these two types of justice—the justice of the civil good and the justice of faith—is the focus of the last section of the chapter. It is here that we find a sketch for the purging of the notion of justice in both authors.

The “purgation” of natural justice with the help of prophecy and reason The title of this chapter has used the language of “purgation” to characterize a potential effect that prophecy can have on the notion of justice. In Girard’s thought, we see this notion of purgation in his discussion of the “anti-mythical

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inspiration” of the Bible.32 Especially in his analysis of the biblical story of Joseph (Gn 37–46), Girard contends that the Bible offers a unique insight into cycles of victimization that effectively move individuals to come to grips with mimetic violence. The Joseph story does this not by avoiding a structure that is similar to myths like the Oedipus myth. In fact, it has a similar structure, but the crucial difference lies in the way the Joseph story condemns “the general tendency of myths to justify collective violence.”33 “In the biblical world human beings are generally just as violent as in the mythic worlds, and single victim mechanisms abound. What stands against any world of contagion and violence is the Bible itself, the biblical interpretation of these phenomena.”34 The “anti-mythical” inspiration that Girard seems to be identifying here is the way the biblical texts “interpret” the vindictive nature of myths. It is through its interpretation of these myths that the Bible is able to see “the mimetic war of all against all.”35 The interpretation itself is the locus for prophetic revelation according to Girard. In being able to unveil mimetic violence, the Bible allows human beings to move from a mythical mentality to a historical mentality. Prophecy, thus, allows us to be grounded in history. It is this historical awareness that allows a society to grow slowly toward confronting past violence, and eventually, to confront its own understanding of justice. This growth is “not linear,” and it remains “quite complex.”36 Girard observes, for instance, that it took centuries for the West to develop and acquire “a Christian sensibility.”37 The process of growth involves the slow unveiling of mimetic violence and the slow purgation of it from society. In Aquinas’s case, because prophecy embraces the very promulgation of the divine law, the effect the divine law has on justice can be ultimately traced back to prophecy as its root. For Aquinas, this purging of justice is affected less by isolating the notion of justice in rational discourse and comparing it with the revealed precepts of the divine law and more by the virtue of justice coming into a real relation with the other virtues, chief among them, the virtue of charity. In this way, we can speak of two kinds of purgation. The first type is a conceptual purgation that occurs through reflection on the nature of justice in the light of what the divine law prescribes or counsels. According to this first, conceptual level, the thought that justice needs to be orderable to charity affects a purgation of any previously held notion of justice. The second and more critical type is an actual purgation of disordered passions and desires from the human will. Justice exercised with charity (as opposed to being reflected on), what Aquinas calls “infused” justice, disposes us to similar acts that natural justice would, but it adds

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a new dimension. Infused justice orients just acts to love of God and love of neighbor.38 On the real and actual level, infused justice helps us to harmonize acts with other virtues such as mercy, liberality and pity. All these virtues are meant to harmonize with one another. Over time, justice is tempered by its relationship with mercy, for instance, which expels the violent impulses of natural justice. In the final analysis, Aquinas’s notion of infused justice admits that any human form of justice has to be understood in relation to divine justice and has to participate in some degree with divine justice.39 According to Aquinas, human beings and human society can progress in justice, and this is due in large part to their ability to receive the divine law through the testimony of prophets. He attempts to show this by examining the development between the Old and New Testaments. While the Old Law was meant specifically for just one human society, the Jewish people, the New Law is meant to have a universal scope and applicability. The Old Law was given to the chosen people through prophets, and the prophets continually reminded Israel of the need for fidelity to the Law. Old Testament prophecy affected a slow transformation on the Israelites’ notion of justice. Aquinas sees this transformation as type of prefiguration for the coming of Jesus and the ushering in of the New Testament, a new law not meant to overturn the Old Law, but to transform and fulfil it.40 Both Girard and Aquinas think there is definite progression from the Old to the New Testament, especially in moral expectations.41 Aquinas likens the relationship between the Old Testament and the New to the relationship between something imperfect and something more perfect. There is certainly continuity between the two testaments; both are divine law. Still, there is also progress from the Old Law to the New. How this progression translates historically in human societies Aquinas does not probe extensively. He is limited, in part, by his methodology. Nevertheless, he still admits that the divine law, because it takes root in the human person who exists as a historical creature, never takes the human person outside of history. Here, we also see a parallel with Girard; prophecy for Girard enables human beings to understand themselves better and especially to see the reality of mimetic violence in human life. This includes understanding themselves as situated in history. In fact, Girard seems to suggest that prophecy is a key factor in allowing humans to achieve the awareness of history, which is to grasp that they are, in part, participators in and shapers of history. Overall, Girard’s account of prophecy brings out more than Aquinas’s

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the historical dimension of how justice has been purged over time. Aquinas is more devoted to explaining how this formally comes about: through the virtue of charity interacting with the virtue of justice and all the other moral virtues.

Conclusion For Aquinas, prophecy is not political per se, and he would likely find the notion of “political prophecy” to be ultimately incoherent. Prophecy for him is about orienting people to their final end, which is supernatural. While not per se political, prophecy can still relate to the political order, but it does so indirectly. The only realm that Aquinas thinks human government needs prophecy is in the realm of divine worship.42 In his question on sacrifice in the Summa theologiae, Aquinas explains how divine worship in the Old and New Testaments was reordered and purged of its focus on external sacrificial over time. The worship of the New Testament is especially reoriented to the inner person; external sacrifice is freed from any need to continue mimetic violence, and it can, instead, become an outward sign of an inward act. This reorientation of worship will also be extended to the entire moral realm for Aquinas, and this signals a new ordering of justice. Under the New Law of the Gospel, internal dispositions will become essential features for how virtue is exercised. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” is no longer an acceptable standard for justice. This was justice understood only as equality, but Jesus teaches in the Gospel: “Do not resist one who is evil; but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:38). Loving one’s enemies, doing good to those who hate you, praying for those who persecute you, these are the newly revealed dispositions of justice lived in union with God. When anchored in charity, the just person’s dispositions are not changed even when suffering injustice from a neighbor. This does not mean that just people lose or lay down their natural rights, but rather that they seek justice so as not to perpetuate further injustice. The implications of this notion of prophecy suggest that, for Aquinas, the justice by which society is governed, that is natural justice, is formally distinguished from divine revelation. This distinction allows divine revelation to be in a potentially progressive dialogical relationship with Aquinas’s concept of justice. What would this dialogue look like? If we were to broaden this picture, it would translate into a general dialogue between theology and political philosophy.

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Girard’s own notion of prophecy, as has been seen, is much less formal than Aquinas’s. This is more a result of Girard’s own anthropological method. He does think prophecy profoundly influences the way religion is practiced in societies, and because religion is so central to human culture and the development of human political communities, prophecy indirectly affects the mode of existence of political communities. He thinks prophecy has the potential to do this by progressively unveiling the mimetic crises that lie at the heart of human experience and which forged political communities.43 In this way, prophecy and revelation, more broadly, help human beings to understand themselves. They allow for a transition from a mythical self-understanding, which is cyclical, sacrificial and mimetic, to a historical self-understanding, which is more linear and providential.44 Human historical self-awareness contributes slowly over time to a continuous refinement of justice. It is through this refinement of a society’s collective understanding of justice over time that violence and vengeance can potentially be purged from the political order. In his account of this “purging” stirred on by prophecy, Girard emphasizes the intuitive appeal that prophecy has for the human individual, rather than its appeal to rational justifications or dialectic. In Violence and the Sacred, he observes a clear link between prophecy’s “intuitive grasp” of violence and the inspiration of tragedy. “Tragic and prophetic inspiration,” he explains, “do not draw strength from historical or philological sources but from a direct intuitive grasp of the role played by violence in the cultural order.”45 This intuitive grasp relates immediately to how violence is present in a community. Only secondarily does it lead to systematic reflection or philosophizing about the role of violence in society. Compared to Aquinas’s account, would it be fair to characterize Girard’s account of prophecy as “anti-intellectual”? It would seem that Girard’s own method would force one to answer “no” to this question. While Girard does focus on the intuitive aspect of prophecy and its almost sudden emergence from violent conflict, he does not rule out its ability to inform reflective or rational discussions about violence and justice in society. In fact, prophecy points out the central role that violence plays in society and the need to address it. In this way, it appears that Girard remains somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of political prophecy, and by extension, political theology. Prophetic inspiration maintains a constant and living connection to life on the ground, even though it paradoxically comes from on high. Prophets address directly people as they live and think at the present moment, and prophetic messages allow them to root their lives in

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something that goes beyond the present and extends into eternity. Prophecy stirs us to reflect on the political realities that intervene, but it does not displace the need for the rational reflection, which is at the heart of political philosophy. For Girard, prophecy contributes more to a meta-philosophy than directly to political theory as such. Thus, we observe a surprising convergence in these two authors. Girard’s and Aquinas’s conceptions of the relationship between prophecy and politics do not inevitably lead to a political theology. Theology and political philosophy maintain their respective domains, yet prophecy, because its orientation is precisely to something that is above and beyond the civil good, does seem to urge political philosophy to consider things beyond the civil good, or rather prophecy urges politics to see how the civil good is related to a supernatural good, which all human persons are called to share. This common foundation of a good that is universally shared is a religious concept for both Aquinas and Girard, and perhaps, the notion of a communicable and participatory form of the good may offer a useful concept for discussions in political theory, which may help to clarify such notions as international solidarity or human rights. The notion of a participatory form of the good may also indicate a possible answer to the question of whether the individual civil good, that is the good of any individual state or nation, ought to be conceived of in isolation from the good of all nations. It is here where religion seems to provide a strong impetus to political theory to consider some notion of an international common good, which may require a more refined understanding of justice.

Notes 1 Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, “On the Prescription against Heretics,” in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (eds), The Writings of Tertullian, trans. P. Holmes, vol. 15 of Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1870), 9. 2 René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. J.G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 129. 3 The full passage is 1 Corinthians 2:13–16: “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. Unspiritual people do not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Spiritual people judge all things, but are themselves to be judged by no one. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’

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5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30

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But we have the mind of Christ.” All English biblical translations are taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV ). Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae (hereafter = ST ), II -II , q. 176, a. 2, reply to objection 4. Following customary citation, the individual parts of the Summa theologiae are designated by Roman numerals (II -II = Part Two of the Second Part), while each individual question (q.), article (a.), and reply by Arabic numerals. The English translation used throughout, unless noted otherwise, is Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Benziger Bros., 1947). ST, I-II , q. 111, a. 1, response. ST, II -II , q. 171, a. 1, response. Girard, I See Satan, 129. Ibid. Ibid., 130. Ibid. Ibid. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 18–24 and 297–299. Ibid., 21. Ibid., 22. Ibid. ST, II -II , q. 57, a. 1, response. ST, II -II , q. 58, a. 1, response. Ibid., a. 5, response. Ibid., a. 7, response. Ibid., a. 8, response. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 25–28. See ST, I-II , q. 94, a. 2, response. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 24. Ibid. Ibid. ST, I-II , q. 95, a. 2. ST, I-II , q. 91, a. 2. ST, II -II , q. 172, a. 1, reply to objection 4: “the prophetic light extends even to the direction of human acts; and in this way prophecy is requisite for the government of a people, especially in relation to divine worship; since for this nature is not sufficient, and grace is necessary.” ST, II -II , q. 81, a. 1, reply to objection 1. Thomas Aquinas, Questiones disputatae De veritate, q. 12, a. 3, reply to objection 11. English translation is taken from Thomas Aquinas, Truth, 3 vols,

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31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39 40 41

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43 44 45

The Sacred and the Political trans. R. W. Mulligan, J. V. McGlynn and R. W. Schmidt (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952–1954). ST, I, q. 1, a. 8, reply to objection 2. Girard, I See Satan, 110. Ibid., 112–113. Ibid., 115, emphasis added. Ibid. René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2007), 259. Girard’s discussion here is relevant to the Judeo-Christian tradition as a whole. Ibid., 260. See ST, I-II , q. 63, a. 3. See ST, I-II , q. 61, a. 5, response: “justice, by imitating the divine mind, is united thereto by an everlasting covenant.” See Matthew 5:17. See René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 158: “I think it is possible to show that only the texts of the Gospels manage to achieve what the Old Testament leaves incomplete. These texts, therefore, serve as an extension of the Judaic bible, bringing to completion an enterprise that the Judaic bible did not take far enough, as Christian tradition has always maintained.” See also ibid., 176: “Even at this earlier stage the inspiration of the Bible and the prophets is at work on the myths, undoing them in order to reveal their truth. Instead of invariably displacing the responsibility for the collective murder toward the victim, this form of inspiration takes a contrary path; it looks once again at the mythical elaborations and tends to deconstruct them, placing the responsibility for the violence upon those who are really responsible—the members of the community.” ST, II -II , q. 172, a. 1, reply to objection 4. Aquinas thinks humans have a natural obligation to worship God, but this obligation is specified not by natural law; it is specified either by human law or by divine law. Only the latter is communicated to prophets; see also ST, II -II , q. 85, a. 1, response and reply to objection 1. On the notion of progress, see Girard, I See Satan, 166: “[t]he true engine of progress is the slow decomposition of the closed worlds rooted in victim mechanisms.” See ibid., 110–113. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 66.

3

Unlikely Twins? Machiavelli and Girard on Violence, Crisis and the Origins of the State Ernesto Gallo

If there is a normal order in societies, it must be the fruit of an anterior crisis. —René Girard1 Thus having considered all these things, I conclude that to order a republic it is necessary to be alone; and for the deaths of Remus and Titus Tatius, Romulus deserves excuse and not blame. —Niccolò Machiavelli2

Introduction: Machiavelli and Girard, a controversial pair Comparing the work of Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) with that of René Girard (1923–2015) might seem highly problematic and certainly controversial. To start with, can we actually compare a committed Christian author to the “bad guy,” the “wicked man” of Renaissance political theory? Despite all, and in contrast to easy intellectual common places, some similarities between the two authors are striking, and comparisons have already been attempted; first, by Jim Grote, and later, and more comprehensively, by Harald Wydra.3 Girard was an academic in twentieth-century American academia; Machiavelli, on the other hand, was first of all a practitioner, an official of the Republic of Florence and a diplomat in the profession’s early stages; furthermore, he was a passionate and engaged political writer and a passionate historian of his city. Although Girard himself is a complex author, interpreting Machiavelli has always been a very problematic intellectual enterprise and a source of great controversies (an “enigma,” in Croce’s view).4 In this regard, two fundamental issues have to be considered: first, the Florentine wrote in sixteenth-century Italy, 45

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in a specific and often mythicized historical context (the “Renaissance”); second, he wrote in his contemporary Florentine vernacular and contributed to shaping modern Italian language, an aspect which makes Machiavelli’s interpretation more intriguing, but also more difficult. Girard’s thought too has been subject to attentive scrutiny and a range of different viewpoints. His theory has often been criticized for being all-encompassing, lacking evidence, and offering a conservative and Catholic perspective under the guise of scientific work. Yet, no political writer (perhaps with the exception of Karl Marx) has been as controversial and sometimes despised as Machiavelli. Maybe the Elizabethan conception of a “murderous Machiavelli” has by now been overcome; however, a wide variety of contrasting interpretations of the author of Il Principe is still generally accepted. Although the theme of Machiavelli’s interpretation by far exceeds this chapter’s purposes, it is important to sketch at least three broad perspectives. The oldest and most traditional, especially in Christian cultural environments, is the more-or-less direct offspring of the ancient Elizabethan refrain. Machiavelli would be the immoral theorist par excellence, the “teacher of evil” of Leo Strauss’s reflections.5 By unscrupulously suggesting the use of violence, cruelty, fraud and deception, and openly disregarding traditional Christian and medieval virtues, the Florentine would have qualified as the most immoral writer in the history of political thought. Furthermore, he would have highly praised loyalty to the republic to the detriment of any regard for individual human beings or other political communities. Even if it is true that Machiavelli completely detached himself from the ancient and moralistic tradition of the Christian “mirror of princes,” this interpretation cannot be fully accepted. A more nuanced and historically informed reading in fact points to the specificity of his context and his frequent references to more traditional ethical views. A large number of Machiavelli’s interpreters, especially in the Italian and continental tradition, have by contrast emphasized the “amoral” taste of his policy prescriptions. Croce, for instance, famously illustrated how Machiavelli had drawn a line between “politics” and “ethics,” and proclaimed the autonomy of the former from the latter.6 This line of thought, which highlighted the Florentine’s sharp and almost “scientific” realism, has been followed by Federico Chabod, Ernst Cassirer, and Gennaro Sasso, among others.7 Ethics and politics would be two different realms; no confusion, no overlap would be possible between them; and in this sense, Machiavelli would be seen as one of the founders of modern and empirical “political science.” This perspective has also been challenged, especially in the English-speaking academia.

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In more recent times, and in the wake of a re-appraisal of the “Discourses,” more emphasis has been placed on Machiavelli’s republican political sympathy. Early on, Hans Baron had cast light on Machiavelli’s “civic humanism.”8 Influential studies by John Pocock, Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner and Maurizio Viroli have demonstrated the writer’s strong attachment to republican politics and morality, his passion for the ancient classical models of Sparta and Rome, and the inspiration he provided to republican authors, hence after, including the “founding fathers” of the United States.9 While some readings have probably gone too far—from Isaiah Berlin’s interpretation of Machiavelli as a supporter of pagan morality to Viroli’s advocacy for a “Christian” Machiavelli10—it remains clear that most sensible studies locate the thought of the Florentine secretary in a region between “realist amorality” and “republican ethics.” Was Machiavelli a “modern”? Can we call him the “first of the moderns” or even the father of modern “political science”? Or was he rather looking backwards—to the world of the poleis or Rome’s ancient republic, dreaming of a past that would not be repeatable in an age of rising “national” kingdoms, widening horizons, and “shrinking” oceans? Both aspects could possibly co-exist, if we accept the idea that categories such as “modernity” have a multifaceted character. Nevertheless, what remains firm is the point that Machiavelli, despite from time to time expressing sympathy for specific forms of Christianity, was no Christian thinker in the full and traditionally accepted meaning of the word, and usually and consistently espoused other forms of allegiance, first and foremost to republican ideals. In this sense, the distance from the Florentine and Girard is evident. The latter, for his part, has relied on deep and extensive reading of classical literary works and has elevated “mimetic desire” to a “psychological law.” In a nutshell: Human beings desire what other human beings desire, and any resulting conflict can be solved only by resorting to scapegoating. Only the Gospels, by proclaiming the scapegoat’s innocence, would have provided an alternative to violence as a ritual instrument to preserve social order and unity. As is well known, Girard’s “strong” theory has raised a number of controversies. Apart from criticizing its Christian connotation, the literature has pointed to a basic poverty of evidence and even a mystical or dogmatic flavor.11 While it is true that Girard’s ideas have resonance with the works of a wide variety of authors—from Vattimo to contemporary neurosociology—its basic tenets have been often criticized as failing the test of any acceptable scientific hypothesis. In what terms can we thus compare Girard’s opus, which is inspired by Christian values, with Machiavelli’s secular and sometimes irreverent reflections (let us not

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forget his “lively” and provocative comedies)? This chapter aims at highlighting the surprisingly strong similarities between the two authors’ works according to four key epistemic-political dimensions. First, both Machiavelli and Girard emphasized the importance of the “founding moment” of communities, its intrinsic violence, and its role in bringing about order and stability. Thus, the chapter explores the interplay of imitation, desires and conflict in both authors, the necessity of murder in Girard’s “scapegoating” mechanism and Machiavelli’s reflections on the “founding murder,” especially in the case of Rome. Second, the “foundational” role of violence and force is explored with reference to Machiavelli’s study of the relations between “good arms” and “good laws,” which is a constant aspect of all his works. How does this theme relate to Girard’s studies on war and “political” violence? Why were war and military affairs so central to Machiavelli’s social and political thought? What role do they play in Girard’s anthropology instead? A third key dimension is that of “sacrifice” and “sacrificial violence,” a point that is of obvious importance for Girard, and highly relevant to Machiavelli as well, in particular, in the Discorsi. Sacrifice relates to “sacred” and “religion,” and a parallel is here drawn between Girard’s Christianity and Machiavelli’s peculiar (and sometimes enigmatic) attitude to religion. Finally, both authors have dealt with “crises,” and in particular, with the phase of “undifferentiation,” which would lead to violence, sacrifice and later order. How does Machiavelli’s declining Italy compare with the age of global “decadence” Girard has written about? How can we overcome the crisis in new ways? By resorting to God? Or by calling for a “new prince”? The chapter, therefore, ends by assessing the role that “socio-historical circumstances,” or qualità de’ tempi, to use Machiavelli’s expression, play in each author’s work. What can be learned from Machiavelli’s Italy and Girard’s “apocalyptic anthropology”— about the twenty-first century? This is the critical question the chapter tries to address.

Violence, foundation and order The violence of a society’s founding moment has been one of Girard’s main concerns. In an intriguing parallel, Machiavelli attributed a major role to the foundation of republics and principalities, praised the “founders” above anyone

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else and clearly highlighted the necessity of violence in the birth of the state, as in Romulus’s case. Let us first consider, then, Girard’s core tenets on this issue and then shift our attention to Machiavelli’s observations. As is well known, according to Girard, in situations of crisis the mimetic nature of human beings—and their desires— leads to rivalry, conflict and ultimately scapegoating. More precisely, he believes human beings invariably imitate others’ desires; they “borrow their desires”; this mimesis brings about competition and conflict, also given the scarcity of desired objects.12 Once conflict and violence have become endemic, they lead to scapegoating: The group focuses on a victim, which is “sacrificed” with the purpose of bringing stability and order to the community. Social order is thus produced and reproduced through a “scapegoating mechanism” by which the murder of a designated victim restores calm and brings a temporary end to the mimetic conflict and crisis. Ancient myths provide several examples: One case of a victim mentioned by Girard and widely discussed by Machiavelli is that of Remus, Romulus’s twin brother, murdered by the latter at the moment of Rome’s foundation. Other notorious scapegoats are Oedipus and Abel.13 However, Girard drew a clear line between ancient, “archaic” religions and myths, and Christianity, which put an end to the necessity of scapegoating, and through Jesus, demonstrated the innocence of the victim and the possibility to achieve peace and order through mildness and the rejection of any violence. Also, the Bible would have represented a transition between archaic religions and Christianity since it had already revealed the scapegoat’s innocence. By contrast, Machiavelli did not grasp the revolutionary meaning of the Christian revelation Girard instead envisages.14 Nonetheless, he proposed a fascinating and somehow similar hypothesis on founding acts and their intrinsic violent potential. In Chapter VI of The Prince, Machiavelli links the order and strength of the “new” (that is, newly founded) principalities to a necessary combination of occasione (“opportunity”) and virtù (“virtue,” “strength”). As he writes, “Such opportunities, therefore, made these men happy, and their excellent virtue enabled the opportunity to be recognized; hence their fatherlands were ennobled by it and became very happy.”15 Machiavelli’s choice of terms is accurate and highly selective. Let us try to reconstruct his complex, yet clear-cut, thoughts on the long “occasione-virtù” chain and its roots. At the origins of conflicts and enmity, we find, according to Machiavelli, ambitions, desires, and bad “humors” (the omori). Ambizione (“ambition”) often has a negative and destructive connotation. Machiavelli associates it with vain

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desires, appetites and the selfish search for private gain.16 It is embodied by the corrupt princes of Milan and Naples, that is, those who allegedly neglected their cities and brought in foreign armies. To some extent, ambition can be tamed and turned to serve the common good; the Florentine, who dedicated to it one of his Capitoli (“Chapters”), and recognized that ordine (“order”) and ferocia (“harshness”) can help use ambition in a positive way. Untamed ambition, by contrast, leads to ruin and corruption, and adds to the omori of the political body. Omori literally means “bodily fluids” and bears witness of Machiavelli’s frequent use of medical metaphors with reference to political communities; as if he wanted to further stress the holistic and organic character of his preferred type of political experience. Conflict and crisis gain ground where vain ambition and bad humors unfold. This might result in oppression (see the Hebrews in Egypt, the Persians under the Medes, Italy oppressed by “barbarians”) and dispersion (Athens’s inhabitants before Theseus’ arrival); yet, it is precisely this condition that lays the ground for the crucial occasione.17 And if the occasione is seized by a subject of ability and strength—if it combines with virtù and talent—then order and greatness will necessarily follow. As Machiavelli clarifies in the Chapter VI of The Prince, neither occasione nor virtù can thrive without the other. Only their combination will bring great benefits and new ordini (“orders, laws”), as the stories of Moses, Cyrus, Romulus and other “founders” such as Theseus show. What is, then, the role of violence in the foundation, in the emergence of new states? At this level, then, another crucial idea—that of necessità (“necessity”)—enters the stage. As we have seen, Machiavelli often insists on the necessity of the occasione-virtù combination: “It was necessary then for Moses to find the people of Israel in Egypt, enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. . . . It was fitting that Romulus not be received in Alba [. . .] Cyrus needed to find the Persians. . . .”18 Is, therefore, violence a necessary condition of the foundational political moment? What does Machiavelli’s “necessity” really mean? Chapter IX , Book I, of the Discorsi is dedicated to the necessity for a republic’s founder or reformer to rule alone; hence, Romulus’s fratricide was ethically reproachable but somehow, once again, necessary. It has been noticed that Machiavelli’s concept of necessity might refer to a range of phenomena, natural, human, or political;19 it is a sort of powerful and cogent destiny, yet it leaves room to a degree of human freedom and agency. Violence, in sum, in the founding act might not be indispensable, but it is highly likely to occur and important also to strengthen the state’s esprit de corps. Should we thus excuse Romulus because his actions were somehow necessary? On this point, the Florentine has no doubts: yes, because he aimed at founding a

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republic and pursued the “common good.” “For as many are not capable of ordering a thing because they do not know its good, which is because of the diverse opinions among them, so when they have to come to know it, they do not agree to abandon it.”20 Hence, a state requires only one founder. Romulus wanted the common good, as his subsequent acts would prove; he created a senate and established lasting institutions, which hardly disappeared with the monarchy’s end. Hence, as Machiavelli powerfully sums up, “he who is violent to spoil, not he who is violent to mend, should be reproved.”21 “Secure tranquillity” is a translation of racconciare, literally “to mend,” “to fix,” “to create some order.” With this idea, he means that a degree of violence is useful, and in a sense necessary, if we have to found a stable, orderly and powerful state. How does Machiavelli’s Romulus compare to Girard’s, and to a long tradition of criticism (Cicero, Horace) or embarrassing silence (Virgil)? As Berns points out, Machiavelli’s Romulus is first and foremost a politician, and is assessed only on his political skills and vision.22 Fratricide is evil, but this remark belongs to a different realm, that of morality. Politically and historically, Romulus is one of the great “founders,” and acted in the name of the common good. Although Romulus was obviously a King, his “republican” attitudes are revealed by the fact that “no ancient order was innovated by the Romans, except that in place of a perpetual king there were two annual consuls. This testifies that all the first orders of that city were more conformable to a civil and free way of life than to an absolute and tyrannical one.”23 Machiavelli’s Romulus, to summarize, deserves to be included in the list of the great founders; in particular, the great founders of cities and states. Girard’s Romulus is a fratricidal, and in this, he can be listed among those who murdered “scapegoats” at the founding moment; he embodies a key figure of ancient myths and archaic religions, much before the Christian revelation and the Bible itself. For the Bible, according to Girard, already shows a different perspective: Cain murders his brother, like Romulus, but Abel’s innocence is clear. Clouded with myth, Girard’s Romulus remains an embodiment of ancient times; Machiavelli’s is, by contrast, a model for modern Italy; a resolute prince, although brutal and ethically reproachable.

Good arms, good laws and human beings The connection among violence, institutions and human behaviors is highly visible in time of peace too, and in the running of both principalities and

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republics. In Machiavelli’s political perspective, physical force is always present, even if only on the horizon. Princes and states must always be ready to fight, and Machiavelli sees a positive side to it. As he puts it: The principal foundations that all states have, new ones as well as old or mixed, are good laws and good arms. And because there cannot be good laws where there are not good arms, and where there are good arms there must be good laws, I shall leave out the reasoning on laws and shall speak of arms.24

Why are the “good arms” (le buone arme) so important—even more important than the “good laws”? What are the “good arms”? According to Machiavelli, “good arms” are first of all important because “the nature of peoples is variable; and it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to keep them in that persuasion.”25 Accordingly, force is necessary, and only “armed prophets” (unlike the Florentine friar Girolamo Savonarola) can, and in fact, did succeed. Machiavelli’s pessimistic anthropology has been widely discussed and scholars have interpreted him in different ways: “fickleness” (natura . . . varia) seems to better represent the idea that human beings are moody and changeable; their nature, whose negative traits are sometimes highly visible, can be molded and improved under the spur of force and arms. Their absence, as in Savonarola’s case, can bring only ruin and corruption. “Good arms” are, therefore, useful in keeping the “beast,” the wicked side of humankind in check. As Machiavelli put it, the prince himself has to learn how to use the beast, and in particular, the “lion” and the “fox”; all this is necessary because men “are not entirely good,” as Chapter XIX of The Prince famously illustrates. Again, Machiavelli’s negative anthropology is linked to circumstances; human behavior, instead of being intrinsically evil or naturally bad, is unpredictable: “Good arms” are thus always necessary. First and foremost, “good arms” are a deterrent. More than anything, however, they can grant independence and freedom to the community; only the “armed prophet” will be able to succeed and contribute to them. Once again, Machiavelli’s politics, and in particular, republican politics, rests on collective self-defense; the sole guarantee of freedom and autonomy against external enemies and internal unrest. What are then the “good arms”? Here, Machiavelli is straightforward. “Good arms” are our own arms; any other type (mercenary, mixed or auxiliary) is flawed because it makes us dependent (on foreign powers, other princes and mercenary chieftains). Machiavelli dedicates the central part of The Prince to this topic, and in particular Chapters XII to XIV. Only if we rely on our own arms (and armies),

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can we be strong, independent and free. That has been the case of Sparta, Rome and the Swiss (who “are very well armed and very free”26); while famously it has not been the case with Italy’s princes and republics, from Milan to Naples and Venice to Florence. “Good arms,” in short, are a condition of freedom since they boost loyalty and dedication; furthermore, they can contribute to a prince’s or a republic’s full independence, or “liberty,” which Machiavelli usually declinates in a plural, collective sense: the independence of the community. This condition of liberty, which is crucial in the Discorsi, and has been widely emphasized by Skinner,27 deeply depends on arms and military skills; in the end, it depends on a moment of violence, or the threat of it. As Machiavelli put it, “fear is held by a dread of punishment that never forsakes you.”28 “Fear” is thus crucially important in maintaining and enhancing freedom. Apart from supporting freedom, “good arms,” in fact, act as a deterrent and inspire “fear.” Fear is an important emotion in Machiavelli’s thinking and can play a major role in both principalities and republics. A famous chapter (XVII ) in The Prince insists on the importance for him to be feared rather than “loved.” Here, Machiavelli shocks readers with one of the most pessimistic anthropologies of human beings, and states the necessity for a prince to be “feared” because men are “ungrateful, fickle, pretenders and dissemblers, evaders of danger, eager for gains.”29 One interesting example the Florentine refers to is that of Hannibal. The general from Carthage was able to keep an immense army united and disciplined thanks to his “inhumane cruelty,” a virtue that proved decisive and made him venerando e terribile, “venerable and terrible in the sight of his soldiers.”30 Yet, Machiavelli, whatever his detractors’ claims, hardly praised cruelty per se. In this passage, he reminds the reader that Hannibal’s cruelty was somehow made necessary by the extraordinary conditions of his expedition (the army’s size, its campaign in a foreign land, its large internal variety, etc.). Hannibal is defined terribile, an adjective Machiavelli often used (together with the word terrore) to describe an overarching, all-encompassing and paralyzing fear; a fear (or “terror”) that can prevent and block human action, and is thus politically unproductive.31 Hannibal, however, had to use an extreme and pervasive degree of terror; and he used it successfully, at least for some time. However, “terror” can lead to hatred; and hatred, as Machiavelli explains in Chapter XIX , has to be avoided. Those who became hated ended badly—like Antoninus Caracalla and Maximinus; while Emperor Severus (193–211), who enjoyed great reputation

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and “knew how to play the role of the lion and the fox,” was highly successful in seizing and maintaining power.32 Severus was, in fact, “feared” (temuto) by his soldiers and people, not seen as a source of terror; and Machiavelli generally used words such as paura and timore to denote “fear,” while he referred to “terror” by using terrore and calling its victims sbigottiti. Other famous princes, such as Cesare Borgia and King Ferdinand, used cruelty to instigate fear, avoid hatred and inspire admiration: The Duke Valentino executed his brutal lieutenant Remirro de Orco, shifting on him the burden of Romagna’s ferocious repression, and left his subjects satisfatti (satisfied) and stupidi (shocked); Ferdinand disposed of the “infidels” in Spain, and thus, made his cruelty “pious” (Chapter XXI ). Creating “fear” and not “terror” is crucial in republics as well; and here, Machiavelli praised the role of religion (in particular, the Roman religion, as ordered by Numa) in inspiring timore, and thus, instigating reverence, discipline and ultimately obedience.33 Rome’s religion was key in maintaining the unity and strength of the republic, as Machiavelli explained throughout the Discorsi. While religion is important in instigating fear and supporting unity, dissent and conflict are key to republican greatness. Once again, Machiavelli sees an aspect of violence as fundamental to strength, virtù and liberty. Immanent and subterranean tensions, such as those between the Senate and plebeians, can lead a republic to liberty and power. This was the most important cause of Rome’s greatness (Discorsi, I: 4–7). The constant division and dissent gave Rome freer institutions (above all, that of “tribunes”) and triggered its expansion, conquests and empire. Such praise of conflict set a clear distinction between Machiavelli, and most ancient and modern writers, including Cicero, the Florentine humanists and Guicciardini.34 In contrast to centuries of political thinking, Machiavelli held that a subtle “balance of terror” between different factions is the main guarantee of freedom and the point of departure for expansion.35 Oligarchies such as Venice or Sparta, in this sense, would be less powerful and dynamic than Rome with its “mixed” constitution. The price to be paid for Venice’s and Sparta’s stability was enduring stagnation, coupled with the impossibility to expand and build an “empire.” Rome, by contrast, would have had an inherent tendency to grow and expand: “I believe it is necessary to follow the Roman order and not that of the other Republic . . . and to tolerate the enmities that arise between the people and the Senate, taking them as an inconvenience necessary to arrive at Roman greatness.”36 The balance between the Senate and the “plebeians,” who were also

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guaranteed by tribunes and extremely well armed, made the Republic’s expansion possible and sometimes necessary. Despite differences between principalities and republics, between The Prince and the Discourses, one crucial aspect of Machiavelli’s thinking as a whole is the emphasis on conflict, tension and violence as triggers and promoters of virtuosi political behaviors, order, civic liberty, power and greatness. In this sense, an element of contact with Girard is evident; although, while the French philosopher would propose a full and comprehensive theory of human action in both a scientific and a (Christian) religious sense, Machiavelli drew on assumptions about human anthropology and the social circumstances that favor “virtuous” or “vicious” behaviors. Nevertheless, a latent spiritual and religious dimension can be envisaged in Machiavelli, too, and it is to this that we now turn our attention.

Sacrifice and the sacred The topic of “sacrifice” and the “sacred” is fundamental in Girard’s thought. On this issue, Wydra,37 who envisaged several affinities between the two authors, has already attempted a comparison with Machiavelli. Drawing on his analysis, our purpose here is to explore this question in further depth. As previously mentioned, Girard claims that finding a scapegoat is the only way through which the escalation of mimetic violence can be put to an end. Sacrifice would then bring back order and social cohesion. While myth (in “archaic religions”) and ancient literature held the scapegoat as guilty, the Bible and Christianity have revealed its innocence.38 Machiavelli, for his part, never used terms such as sacrifice and sacred, but we find in his works striking parallels with the classical and ancient world studied by Girard. This applies, in particular, to concepts such as that of ripigliare lo stato and leads us to reconsider the issue of religion and spirituality in the Florentine’s thinking. Let us return to some key passages of the Discorsi. A good republic uses institutional instruments to defend and maintain its freedom. “Sacrificing” a powerful and suspicious citizen can help save liberty and provide an outlet to a republic’s tensions, conflicts and accusations.39 Once again, Machiavelli refers to murky and bewildering omori and the need for them to find outlets.40 Where the law provides such outlets, like in ancient Rome, even Coriolanus, the enemy of the people, can be judged ordinarily. Here, it be must be noticed that Machiavelli insists on the importance of modi ordinari, “ordinary

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ways,” of accusing and judging. The linguistic root is ordini, “order(s),” as the key characteristic of effective law and the guarantee of a stable and firm republic. Florence did not have such modi ordinari, and suffered disorder and corruption as a result of the ambition of citizens such as Francesco Valori.41 Machiavelli also stresses the risks engendered by the chain of “private offence—fear—defence— rise of factions—ruin,” when no legislative mechanisms to deal with offences to liberty exist.42 As is usual with him, republican unity and liberty are paramount, and in this sense, some form of institutionalized scapegoating becomes essential. “Good laws” might be less important than “good arms,” but they are crucial when they encapsulate elements of violence; at least, some outlets. But was Coriolanus guilty? Should Valori be held responsible? Machiavelli does not seem particularly interested on this point. His main concern is with political stability and order, not with the origins and roots of scapegoating. If the “sacrifice” is public and contributes to stability, it is welcomed; the issue of guilt is not particularly important. Even more interesting are Machiavelli’s ideas of the esecuzioni or ripigliare lo stato; these are probably the notions that come closer to Girard’s scapegoating hypothesis. Here is a passage in the Discorsi in which Machiavelli illustrates the esecuzioni (executions): One should not wish ten years at most to pass from one to another of such executions; for when this times is past, men begin to vary in their customs and to transgress the laws. Unless something arises by which punishment in brought back to their memory and fear is renewed in their spirits, soon so many delinquents join that they can no longer be punished without danger.43

Such executions, which were common in the early Roman republic, instigated fear and terror, and urged citizens to avoid corruption and follow the ancient customs. This often happened in Rome, at least until the allegations against Scipio, while it had not been the case in Machiavelli’s Florence. He used the term esecuzioni to mean both “executive orders” and “capital punishment,” stressing the somehow intrinsic link between the two.44 Interestingly, also Girard strongly highlighted the powerful link between capital punishment, frequent executions and maintenance of social order; this is, after all, what had been common in pre-Christian experiences.45 According to Machiavelli, however, rulers in Florence in the years 1434–1494 often stated the necessity to “regain the state” (ripigliare lo stato) every five years; as Machiavelli writes,

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Those who governed the state of Florence from 1434 to 1494 used to say . . . that it was necessary to regain the state every five years; otherwise, it was difficult to maintain it. They called regaining the state putting that terror and that fear in men that had been put there in taking it, since at that time they had beaten down those who, according to that mode of life, had worked for ill.46

Here, Machiavelli clearly states the importance of “returning to the origins” of a state. He highlights the importance of old customs, and the terror and fear they can instigate in men. A long list of “scapegoats” is given, which includes Brutus’s children, Manlius Capitolinus, Manlius Torquatus’s son, Scipio and so on, all “sacrificed” in the name of the state’s health and prosperity. The parallel with Girard is clear, although a question arises anew: Is there any religious significance in Machiavelli’s idea of sacrifice? This is a complex question, which goes far beyond the purpose and scope of this chapter. Machiavelli’s spirituality and religious attitudes have been read in very different—sometimes even opposite—ways: from Sasso’s interpretation of Machiavelli as an “anti-Christian” to Viroli’s view of the Florentine’s “puritan” Christianity and “religion of liberty.”47 Can we talk of Machiavelli as at least a supporter of “civil religion”?48 Can we find in his writings a sense of “sacred” and “sacredness,” perhaps with reference to secular phenomena and public life? The question is difficult and subtle, but important since a “sacred” or religious perspective would cast a new “Girardian light” on the role played by executions and “sacrifices” in the Florentine’s thought. Machiavelli suggests (The Prince, VI ) that the great founders and innovators, such as Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, are worth “veneration”; and after overcoming dangers and resistance, “they remain powerful, secure, honoured, and happy.”49 The emphasis on founders is even stronger in the Discorsi, in which the founders of religions are held in higher honor than those of states and republics (Book I, chapter 9). Several chapters of the Discorsi (11–15) are then dedicated to the importance of religion, whose centrality in Machiavelli’s thought can no longer be overlooked. His “religion,” however, is mainly that of the “ancient” (“archaic,” in Girardian terms), of classical Rome: The one established and organized by King Numa; whereas Christianity is famously blamed (III : 1), not per se, but in relation with the corruption of the Roman Church, and thus, of the Italian peninsula. Machiavelli is not interested in the religious message: religion is praised as long as it is terrifying and aweinspiring, as an instrument of political stability and common civic greatness.

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Machiavelli’s religion is important not as an aim, but as an “instrument” and hardly nothing else.50 Can we talk about a Machiavellian religion of republic (or liberty) instead? Would such religion then justify sacrifices, executions and the other actions studied by Machiavelli in ancient Roman history? This question has been addressed by Viroli in his insightful and much-debated interpretation.51 What is firm is the fact that Machiavelli, despite praising civic values and emphasizing the importance of liberty, never used expressions such as “civil religion” or “religion of liberty.” He wrote about Rome’s “pagan” religion, and praised it, although as has been shown above, he did so in mainly “instrumental” terms. The idea of Machiavelli’s paganism (proposed by Isaiah Berlin) seems, therefore, hardly tenable.52 In general, any association of the Florentine with religion (Christian, pagan, or a “religion of liberty”) is problematic at least. But after all, what is relevant here is the fact that Machiavelli, like Girard, expounded the role of religious institutions, sacrifices and executions in keeping order, renovating the community, and bringing it back to its pristine integrity and greatness. Only the Roman Church had remained corrupt, in spite of the beneficial “return to the origins” promoted by Franciscans and Dominicans, which is highly praised by Machiavelli: But as to the Sects, these renewals are also seen to be necessary by the example of our religion, which would be altogether eliminated if it had not been drawn back toward its beginning by Saint Francis and Saint Dominick. For with poverty and with the example of the life of Christ, they brought back into the minds of men what had already been eliminated there. Their new orders were so powerful that they are the cause that the dishonesty of the prelates and the heads of the religion do not ruin it. Living still in poverty and having so much credit with peoples in confessions and sermons, they give them to understand that it is evil to say evil of evil, and that it is good to live under obedience to them and, if they make an error, to leave them for God to punish.53

While associating Machiavelli with the “religious sphere” remains a source of controversy, the aspect he shares with Girard is that political order and greatness (and “liberty” in the case of republics) are reproduced through executions, punishments and other violent acts, which he does not dare to call “sacrifices,” but still show signs of a kind of awe-inspiring “sacredness.” Such acts become more and more important when a state faces a phase of crisis; and perhaps, on this topic, parallels between Machiavelli and Girard are even more striking.

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Decline and crisis Central to Girard’s anthropology is his theory of the “mimetic crisis.” The crisis unfolds when “mimetic desires” become overwhelming. But what external circumstances make them irresistible? When do mimetic desires and mimetic rivalry become pervasive and dominant? Girard makes clear that, in some phases, the crisis spreads and solutions become difficult. Despite Christianity’s potential, Girard observes that in modernity human beings have rarely followed its ethical principles and values. By contrast, one of his last works focuses on the modern “tendency towards extremes,” a tendency that, according to Girard, had already been captured by the notorious war theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831).54 In Napoléon’s conquests Clausewitz glimpsed a new mode of warfare, unrestrained and geared to the enemy’s annihilation. The fading of traditional societies’ restraints has, then, left space to a modernity of absolute and uncontrolled warfare, that of the world wars and Hitler, Europe’s demise and crisis, and the spiral of terrorism and the global war on terror. The current world’s crisis, according to Girard, can well be explained as a mimetic conflict between the West and Islamism, in which no constraint, no scapegoating mechanism, seems to hold. An absolute and extreme antagonism seems to characterize both the Western and the Islamist stances. Where will this fight to the extreme end? Where will mutual scapegoating lead? Can we still afford scapegoating—and returning to archaic religion? Or, following Girard, should we finally embrace the Christian ethical teaching? Scapegoating does not work any longer; its flaws have become visible, as 9/11 has brutally shown. The world is potentially on the edge of a general conflict without limitations; precisely the kind of conflict, Girard says, Clausewitz had forecast and imagined when he witnessed Napoléon’s victories and reacted with a mix of hatred and fascination. War is now everywhere, and knows no limit. In the age of the “global war on terror,” Girard’s vision has become “apocalyptic.” “Wars without limits” seem to have no solution, violence is pushed to the extremes, and the world itself is engulfed into a constant state of crisis. Machiavelli, too, had understood the role of antagonism in crises and their endless reciprocity, although the scale of his analysis was obviously smaller and more circumscribed; mostly, Italy and its states. Machiavelli’s analysis and theory of crisis was mainly elaborated in his late and less known Istorie fiorentine (“History of Florence,” 1532), which he wrote after receiving a formal commission from the Medici family. Although the book focuses exclusively on the Tuscan

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city within Italy’s context, it contains deep insights into the reasons of Florence’s decline and crisis (culminated with the rather unexpected arrival of French armies in 1494), and key comparisons with ancient Rome’s history of lasting success and glory. Rome and Florence were both republics; why did the former achieve greatness and empire, while the latter, despite her wealth, moved from crisis to crisis, hardly expanded, and ended up threatened and humiliated by foreign armies? Why did the other Italian states (Milan, Naples, above all) generally follow the model of Florence and not that of Rome with its centuries of republican greatness? Using Chantal Mouffe’s political language, we could call ancient Roman politics (as depicted by Machiavelli) “agonistic,” in contrast with Florence’s “antagonistic” one.55 As Machiavelli puts it: “the people of Rome desired to enjoy the highest honors together with the nobles, [. . .] the people of Florence fought to be alone in the government without the participation of the nobles.”56 Florence was, in fact, dominated by factions and parties, who were bitterly fighting each other, resorting to war, killings, and exile of enemies. On the contrary, in Rome enmities were mediated by law. The people and nobility of Florence aimed at their own benefit, and at annihilating the enemy; those of Rome, despite their divisions, did not lose sight of the common, “public” good. Hence, Florence swung between “licence” (a kind of chaos or anarchy) and servitù (“enslavement”; Machiavelli referred to “dictatorship” or “tyranny” such as that of the Duke of Athens, 1342–1343), while Rome held to a unitary and cohesive political system. In Florence, “private” goods always prevailed over the “public” good, and as a result, the republic was involved in centuries of crisis. Similar considerations apply to those princely states (such as Milan and Naples) where the “new princes” mainly consolidated their own position and strengthened their dynasties, without any attention to the state and its armies (The Prince, XXIV and XXVI ). Factionalism combined with indolence and brought about ruin. In this regard, Machiavelli’s interpretation of Italy’s crisis bears interesting resemblances with Girard’s analysis of the limits of scapegoating. In Florence or Milan, the nobility and rulers started scapegoating for the sake of it, without further consideration on their cities’ security. In a sense, by inviting the French into Italy, they “scapegoated” their whole cities. The pernicious ambition of a Ludovico il Moro or Naples’s Aragonese princes has something in common with Girard’s notion of mimetic desire. Thus, two aspects here deserve further consideration. First, why were Italian cities in this sorry state of crisis? Why did the republics fall prey to greedy condottieri, wealthy businessmen, and sometimes, religious

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authorities? Here, Machiavelli clearly pointed to two great differences between ancient Rome and modern Italy. The first difference deals with the military; the other, with religion. Large sections of The Prince (Chapters XII –XIV ) and The Art of War focus on the military problem. While Romans were accustomed to military discipline and the freedom generated by “autonomous armies,” modern Italians became dependent on mercenaries, lost fighting virtues and often liberty itself. Mercenaries and condottieri further contributed to corruption, division and the rise of factions. As to religion, Machiavelli in the Discorsi (I: 12) celebrated the fear and respect engendered by Rome’s awe-inspiring cult, and criticized Christianity, especially in its institutionalized, Church-driven, version. The “evil example of the court of Rome” would have ruined religious life and the morality itself of those living nearby, the Italians. The lack of spiritual and disciplining principles would have thus contributed to Italy’s long decline, and ultimately, crisis. From a different angle, Florence’s constant state of crisis did not prevent the city and its citizens from achieving power. Crisis in Florence derived from recurrent and bitter fight among several factions, and in particular, between the grandi (nobility) and the popolo. Such fight generally had social and economic connotations, and involved struggling for earnings and acquisition.57 As is convincingly argued by Filippo Del Lucchese, this constant struggle created power; Florence ended in the hands of the popolo and in a state described as “wonderful equality” (mirabile ugualita, Istorie 3, chapter 1).58 This suggests that the crisis led to the empowerment of specific groups and strata, and had a “constructive” aspect. It also reminds us of medicine’s conception of crisis as a moment of resolution and decision, very similar to Girard’s notion of pharmakon (and let us not forget Machiavelli’s frequent references to medical terms and ideas).59 Having said that, we have to recognize that “crisis” created and can create “power,” but hardly any “greatness” or “glory.” Machiavelli seems to suggest that social conflict has a creative and “positive” potential, but only in early republican Rome did it lead to growth, expansion and empire. Florence, by contrast, did not gain any “international” power or prestige. In the Istorie’s Proemio, Machiavelli clearly stated that Florence had achieved wealth and prominence despite, and not because of, its internal divisions. Without them, it would have become far more powerful. Divisions and conflict, in Machiavelli’s view, bring greatness and prosperity when they are regulated and organized by institutions that make clashes sustainable and even “productive”; and that was the case of ancient Rome. When conflicts (usually of social nature) are

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uncontrolled and aim at the enemy’s elimination (as in Florence), the republic’s autonomy and power will suffer, and a persistent condition of crisis will follow. Antagonism and “fight to the extremes,” in other words, impose their toll. A similarity between Girard and Machiavelli can, therefore, be envisaged also with reference to the concept of “crisis.” The scale is tremendously different, but both Florence’s ruthless fight among parties and the global war on terror are examples of “fight to the extremes,” in which the opponent is to be eliminated and no scapegoating seems to hold. In a sense, while in the modern and individualistic world, soldiers and fighters sacrifice their own lives (even in the fundamentalists’ suicidal choice), in Machiavelli’s Italy, Florence’s parties, or Milan’s lords, sacrificed their cities in front of “foreign rulers” and other enmities. According to Girard, scapegoating has lost is significance as a mechanism of restraint; according to Machiavelli, scapegoating worked, in Rome’s case, when it had been properly inscribed in the city’s institutions and supported by religion. Both writers discredit “fundamentalism.” Yet, while humanity is Girard’s supreme horizon, the homeland, Italy, represents for Machiavelli the main source of values and identity. Any choice or politics in favor of isolated parts (or parties) is condemned since it will lead to further crisis, political disintegration, and ultimately, collapse of political unity.

Conclusions How relevant and important is a comparison between Niccolò Machiavelli and René Girard in the early twenty-first century? As this chapter has shown, despite their differences, the two scholars drew similar conclusions on many themes and political issues. Both illustrate the foundational role of violence and conflict, the political meaning of sacrifices and scapegoating, the connections between ambitions, desires, and crisis. They highlight all of this in spite of their different views on religion, and especially, Christianity. Locating their ideas and message within their specific sociohistorical contexts is, therefore, crucial to understand why they have reached similar conclusions and what this can suggest to a contemporary audience. As a Christian author, Girard has conveyed the powerful idea that Christianity proposes a peaceful alternative to the experience of desire, mimetic crisis and sacrificial violence, which has so far characterized human history. Such an alternative is even more important in our modern world, in which development

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and technology are contributing to a “fight to the extremes” that could even end up annihilating human existence as such. The idea of a “battle to the end,” as originally noticed by Clausewitz, is Girard’s main target. In the modern world, scapegoating no longer works. The European struggle between France and Germany has led to world wars and Nazi Fascism; in the current age, a world clash between Western and Eastern nuclear powers might unfold and destroy the planet itself. High technology has captured the modern mind and soul, and mimicking the others has become a source of potential world destruction. Modernity is turning “apocalyptic.” Against this resurgence of archaism, only a complete espousal of Christianity’s ethical principles can be viable. Machiavelli’s world was far more circumscribed and his prescriptions distant from any transcendent authority. His passion and concerns rested with Italy, and more particularly, Florence’s troubled city-state. His aim was to illustrate and explain the way toward a strong, stable and glorious republic (such as ancient Rome’s), and in the crisis’s darkest moment, to highlight how a virtuoso prince should have acted in order to unify Italy and free her from “barbarians.” His main targets were Florence’s greedy factions and Italy’s corrupt, vain and shortsighted princes. He, therefore, rejected any transcendental ethics or solution, but urged Italian rulers and leaders to act in the name of the “common good,” and overcome the narrow pursuit of their private gains. His republican ethics of collective liberty was a kind of secular substitute of religious spirituality. Machiavelli’s res publica required virtuosi citizens, like the early Romans or the Swiss in the sixteenth century; that is, citizens educated to respect law and religion, trained in military exercise, who feared Gods and rulers, and fought in their names. Both Girard and Machiavelli stress the central role of violence in political life. Far from being just one aspect of politics, violence is for them a necessary part of the political experience. The great founders resorted to violence, and wars and sacrifices hold a community together. Following Machiavelli, conflict and fear are productive, and lead States toward greatness and liberty. An important difference, however, arises when we consider the Christian teaching, in which violence does not find any place. Machiavelli does not condemn violence per se. Ripigliare lo stato implies some executions, sacrifices, and selective use of physical force. Force is sometimes necessary and useful, in order to boost collective morale. Machiavelli proposes a way to channel and tame violence, not to eradicate it. After all, this has been a key concern of modern political theory, from Machiavelli and Hobbes to federalism and democratic theory. As James

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Madison wrote in 1787, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”60 Divisive, conflicting and aggressive attitudes cannot disappear; the task of politics is to reduce and use them in a profitable way. Girard goes much further. According to him, violence should be avoided and Christianity has a solution. Since, in the modern age, violence has overcome all traditional limits, eradicating it has become a moral imperative. Otherwise, our world risks being trapped into a whirlpool of apocalyptic collapse. In sum, Machiavelli and Girard are two scholars from highly different ages; two writers with absolutely different concerns and starting points. Yet, both the Florentine and Girard urge us to reconsider the violent roots of politics, and act on them. Their “realism” implies that we can hardly escape violence; hence, we have to choose. We can look for institutional solutions and try to somehow accommodate and channel conflict; or we can go further and embrace a message of salvation and rejection of the use of physical force. Ultimately, this dichotomy can serve as a crucial starting-point for reflecting on the future of humankind in the revealing, “apocalyptic” times in which we live.

Notes 1 René Girard and Michel Treguer, Quand ces choses commenceront . . . Entretiens avec Michel Treguer (Paris: Arléa, 1994), 29. 2 Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, trans. H. C. Mansfield and N. Tarcov (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 30. 3 Jim Grote, “The Founding Murder in Machiavelli’s The Prince,” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 5 (1998): 118–134; Harald Wydra, “Human Nature and Politics: A Mimetic Reading of Crisis and Conflict in the Work of Niccoló Machiavelli,” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 7 (2000): 36–57. 4 Benedetto Croce, “Una questione che forse non si chiuderà mai. La questione del Machiavelli,” Quaderni della Critica, 14 (1949): 1–9. 5 Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli (Glencoe, IL : Free Press, 1958), 9–11. 6 Benedetto Croce, Elementi di Politica (Bari: Laterza, 1925). 7 Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1946); Federico Chabod, Scritti su Machiavelli (Torino: Einaudi, 1980); Gennaro Sasso, Niccolò Machiavelli (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1980). 8 Hans Baron, “Machiavelli: the Republican Citizen and Author of The Prince,” English Historical Review 76 (1971): 217–253.

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9 See Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner and Maurizio Viroli (eds.), Machiavelli and Republicanism. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1975); Quentin Skinner, Machiavelli (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); Quentin Skinner, Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); Maurizio Viroli, La redenzione dell’Italia: Saggio sul “Principe” di Machiavelli (Roma: Laterza, 2013). 10 Isaiah Berlin, “A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli,” New York Review of Books, November 4, 1971; Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli’s God (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2012). 11 Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 7; Luc de Heusch, “L’Evangile selon SaintGirard,” Le Monde, June 25 (1982): 19. 12 René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965); Wydra, “Human Nature and Politics,” 38. 13 René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 144–146. 14 See René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) and Girard, Things Hidden. 15 Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. H. C. Mansfield (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 23. 16 Russell Price, “Ambizione in Machiavelli’s Thought,” History of Political Thought 3, no. 3 (1982): 383–445. 17 Vittorio Morfino, “Temporalità plurale e contingenza: l’interpretazione spinoziana di Machiavelli,” Etica e politica 6, no. 1 (2004): 1–37. 18 Machiavelli, The Prince, 23. 19 Fabio Raimondi, “ ‘Necessità’ nel Principe e nei Discorsi di Machiavelli,” Scienza and Politica 40 (2009): 27–50. 20 Machiavelli, Discourses, 29. 21 Ibid. 22 Thomas Berns, Violence de la loi à la Renaissance: l’originaire du politique chez Machiavel et Montaigne (Paris: Kime, 2000). 23 Machiavelli, Discourses, 30. 24 Machiavelli, The Prince, 186. 25 Ibid., 24. 26 Ibid., 50. 27 Skinner, Machiavelli. 28 Machiavelli, The Prince, 67.

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29 Ibid., 66. 30 Ibid., 67. 31 See Erica Benner, Machiavelli’s Ethics (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2009). 32 Machiavelli, The Prince, 78–79. 33 See Machiavelli, Discourses, Book I. 34 See Marco Geuna, “Machiavelli ed il ruolo dei conflitti nella vita politica,” in Alessandro Arienzo e Dario Caruso (eds.), Conflitti (Napoli: Dante e Descartes, 2005), 15–37; Skinner, Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction, 74–75. 35 See Filippo Del Lucchese, Conflict, Law and Multitude in Machiavelli and Spinoza: Tumults and Indignation (London: Continuum, 2009). 36 Machiavelli, Discourses, 23. 37 Wydra, “Human Nature and Politics.” 38 Girard, Things Hidden, Book II . 39 Machiavelli, Discourses, Book VII , chapter 1. 40 Wydra, “Human Nature and Politics,” 52. 41 Ibid. 42 Machiavelli, Discourses, Book VII , chapter 1. 43 Ibid., 211. 44 See Harvey Mansfield, Machiavelli’s Virtue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). 45 Wolfgang Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2013, 284–289. 46 Machiavelli, Discourses, 211. 47 Gennaro Sasso, I corrotti e gli inetti: Conversazioni su Machiavelli (Milano: Bompiani, 2013); Viroli, Machiavelli’s God. 48 See Ronald Beiner, “Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau on Civil Religion,” Review of Politics 55, no. 4 (1993): 617–638. 49 Machiavelli, The Prince, 25. 50 See Skinner, Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction, 70–72. 51 Viroli, La redenzione dell’Italia. 52 Berlin, “A Special Supplement.” 53 Machiavelli, Discourses, 211–212. 54 René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010). 55 Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (London: Verso, 2013). 56 Niccolò Machiavelli, Florentine Histories, trans. L. F. Banfield and H. C. Mansfield (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1988), 105. 57 Del Lucchese, Conflict, Law and Multitude in Machiavelli.

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58 Ibid. 59 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 94–98; Del Lucchese, Conflict, Law and Multitude in Machiavelli, 75. 60 Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, The Federalist, ed. J. R. Pole (Indianapolis, IN : Hackett, 2005), 251.

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4

René Girard, Human Nature and Political Conflict Kent Enns

One of the serious and hitherto largely overlooked potentials of René Girard’s Mimetic Theory is its reintroduction of the concept and theorizing of “human nature” to contemporary political philosophy. In light of this overarching objective, this chapter attempts to accomplish four critical aims. First, to briefly explore some of the reasons for the virtual elimination of theorizing about human nature from political thought of the past century; second, to show the profound relevance of a Girardian account of human nature to political understanding by briefly elucidating an evolutionary-based account of mimetic anthropology with reference to the recent modeling of empathy developed by Frans de Waal and Merlin Donald’s theory of behavioral-cognitive evolution.1 These approaches, as I try to show, emphasize our deeply mimetic “interindividual” formation and the profoundly socially-mediated character of political experience. Third, by bringing together Girard’s clearer-eyed assessments of our ineluctable propensities for rivalry and violence with de Waal and Donald’s insights, this work establishes a more evolutionary and anthropologically thorough account of human nature and of those constituents of social and political experience. This analysis lends, in my view, serious credibility to the core of Girard’s mimetic anthropology. This also shows that the violence that necessarily attends politics takes place almost inevitably according to a logic of “misrecognition”2 that is in part constitutive of the “sacred”—that is, a tendency particularly evident in pre-axial religion and social orders (but hardly limited to them) by which collective order is psychologically and politically maintained through the generation and expediting of victims who are understood as guilty, polluted or simply expendable.3 In fact, extending the broader political implications of this evolutionary account of inter-individual human nature and Mimetic Theory allows for the explication of the ineluctable character of the 69

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volatility afflicting many contemporary regimes in an era of global convergence; that is, the increasingly shared appropriative (or reciprocal) desire for globally defined “goods”—wealth, trade, power, status—all the while, regimes nonetheless cling to the conviction of their cultural exceptionalism and difference. In Girardian terms, this is a situation of rampant “internal mediation”4 that renders our increasingly globalized culture prone to the devastatingly lethal violence of highly technologized weapons, including weapons of mass destruction. According to Girard, the “apocalypse” (literally, the “unveiling”) of this situation suggests that we must, like Christ (individually and at the level of regimes), step back from internal mediation and renounce violence, or completely annihilate ourselves. However, the final part of this chapter challenges the relevance of this “apocalyptic” vector in Girard’s thought—which proposes our utter destruction or the near miraculous solution to the political problem by renouncing escalatory internal mediation and violence—and instead, offers a more nuanced and realistic analysis of the political according to the evolutionary-anthropologically grounded account of mimetic anthropology set out in the earlier sections of this chapter. This interpretation is endorsed, in part, by Girard in some of his works, but is insufficiently acknowledged by his more theologically-minded interpreters—even by himself on some other occasions. In short, political thought must reject Girard’s existentially stark either/or and rely on the more productive insights of evolutionarily-grounded mimetic anthropology. This cannot be done without a certain form of moral jeopardy: such political thought, in fact, risks merely upholding or preserving “sacred” orders at the expense of unacknowledged victims. Nonetheless, it does so in the knowledge that mimetic anthropology starkly reveals that human nature is inevitably prone to violence and rivalry. Confronting this challenge means confronting the question of whether political thought based on Girard’s mimetic anthropology must part ways with the apocalyptic vector in his thinking—a vector that impossibly demands a complete renunciation of what mimetic anthropology shows we are made of.

The denial of human nature in recent political thought Where the ancients saw the political as largely determined in terms of the good (we today might say, the “values”)—upheld and inculcated by a regime whose citizens and subjects were thereby shaped5—we moderns tend to see states as morally neutral (or insist they should be) and individuals as virtually divinized,

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self-shaping and self-determining choosers despite the staggering symmetry of their desires, their life plans, their values, and of course, the degree to which they (or is it we?) cling to our minor differences in the virtually ubiquitous insistence on our individual uniqueness.6 Still, it should strike us that in comparison with the oeuvres of the great political philosophers of the past, political thought of the last century and a half, particularly political thought in the liberal and Marxian traditions, has largely jettisoned serious consideration of human nature and how such a nature (if one exists) might impact the behavior of individuals and shed light on the various dispositions and formative qualities of regimes.7 One of the reasons for this development goes back to Rousseau who in the First, but especially the Second Discourse (On the Origin of Inequality), maintained that human nature is innately good, but that it is society that corrupts it and turns it into a groveler for opportunities to oppress others. Thus, Rousseau’s later Social Contract famously reaps this harvest, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”8 Rousseau’s answer does reflect some keen insight into mimeticism under increasing conditions of equality, but that is built on a primary matrix of natural goodness. His texts argue in a manner that on this point is deeply at odds with mimetic anthropology (let alone that of the Greeks) that human nature is innately good, but corrupted by society and its institutions. The corollary here is that if society and its institutions are overturned then human individuals can release themselves into a kind of political freedom that is authentic and nonoppressive. Human nature, therefore, to the extent that it could be fully fleshed out in such a theory as Rousseau’s, is highly susceptible to the socially constructivist forces of a corrupt modern society, but which in this enlightenment reverie, retains the capacity to return to a benign default of “frictionless” desires9 and an existentially authentic mode of choosing one’s life for oneself (i.e., being the author of one’s own desires). But according to Girard (and as will be shown, Merlin Donald), the transmission and nonvoluntary acceptance of largely ancestral social, political and mythic-religious values on a cultural level is to be attributed to inter-individual mechanisms that precede any rational decision or conscious consent that individuals or communities might putatively achieve in the context of these formative powers.10 Furthermore, where in the wake of Rousseau communitarians, Marxists, critical theorists and left liberals, despair of the corrosive consumerism and banal conformity that afflicts economically advanced liberal societies in the apparent absence of readily actionable virtues or “collective purposes,”11 Mimetic Theory recognizes basic and universal

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mechanisms of culture that establish the very possibility of politics as such (including the mimetic dynamic of rivalry). There are, however, broader political notions and deeper metaphysical commitments that animate modern political discourse. These are at work in principles of rights (to life, liberty and property), social contract, legitimacy and popular sovereignty that, as political notions, at least since the early Modern period with Hobbes and Locke, have progressively served to establish a bulwark between the state and the individual, and to valorize the individual as the constitutive atom of politics and political understanding. And these have contributed greatly to the now conventional consensus regarding the separation of church and state, and the progressive enfranchisement of citizens within rights-based Western-style democracies. But for the individual to serve such an exalted explanatory and legitimizing function for the political, he or she must be understood to have the unique authorizing power of undetermined choice. The construal of the human as choice, the capacity to pursue the good as he or she sees it, is the leverage point for virtually all mainstream political thought, and certainly the various strands of recent liberalism. And this seems to become more plausible in argument to the extent that social and biological determinants of human behavior are minimized. To be clear, an individual can be understood as the authorizer of regimes and the bearer of such rights only because he or she has the deliberative and moral capacity to choose (or will) without coercion what way to live, what good to pursue. The philosophical articulation of the moral and political capacity to will antedates at least to Augustine,12 but in modern philosophy, is canonically recast in Descartes’s dualistic metaphysics where freedom is conceived as the capacity of the will to infinitely determine itself,13 and eventually, as a philosophical commitment to freedom construed as what Kant termed “spontaneity”—that is, the locus of the inherent dignity of the modern individual resides neither in his or her obedience to the “natural law” of a divinely ordered cosmos (as in Greek and much Hellenistic thought), nor in the phenomenal causality of nature, or even of divine command, but precisely in his or her ability to autonomously initiate (i.e., to will) freely chosen acts, or as Kant argues, uncaused causes.14 In fact, in terms of political philosophy, once Kant’s critical delimitation of human freedom is established,15 thicker descriptions of human nature and the formation of human beings under different types of regime are relied on less and less as a necessary starting point for or complement to political understanding.16 Instead, politics and regimes come to be judged largely in terms of legitimacy—which is

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always a matter of the uncoerced consent (or choice) of individuals and their relative freedom to pursue a good as they see fit.17 This pervasive voluntarist commitment to the individual as the basic political entity, and to freedom as spontaneous choice, is the ground zero of the Western tradition of modern ethical and political thought, and constitutes the ideologically dominant “paradigm of autonomy.”18 The discourse of autonomy currently spans from extreme libertarian claims for far greater unimpeded individual freedoms to more modest liberal defenses of proceduralism with their prioritizations of the right over the good, to the Marxist commitment to radical equality and a recovery of genuine human agency and freedom—thus, its critique of those ideological and structural features of modern bourgeois life that appear to induce the perils of false consciousness, exploitation and conformity under the pervasive mechanisms of capitalist democracy and its attendant industries of culture. Yet, from another perspective, post-Kantian political thought remains largely captive to the voluntarist or “romantic lie” that individual uniqueness and the capacity for authentic choice are the measure of humans and the presocial moral standard to which (at least Western democratic) political regimes must answer.19 Without ever really acknowledging the evolutionary-biologistic dimension of the context to which it is responding, recent liberal thought has proceeded in such a way as to banish even the countenancing of human nature and innate traits and dispositions by leveraging the entirety of its enterprise (and the legitimacy of the putative regimes it attempts to endorse) on voluntarist political atoms20 whose sole politically relevant feature is the capacity for choice21—what have been called “thin selves”; that is, individual selves whose capacity for politically deliberative choice is not encumbered in any decisive phenomenal way.22 Thus, in a recent work, Girard has claimed that “[m]imetic theory contradicts the thesis of human autonomy” and that indeed “[i]ndividualism is a formidable lie.”23 And this, in short, represents the greatest obstacle within political philosophy for grasping Girard’s key insights into the fundamentally mimetic nature of human beings and political communities.

Human nature: mimetic anthropology in an evolutionary context Girard’s mimetic anthropology describes how hominization takes place in early humans through the inadvertent discovery of the scapegoat (or single victim

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mechanism).24 The progressive institutionalization of this form of violence through ritual, prohibition and myth (what Girard refers to as “archaic” or “primitive” religion) has permitted human cultures to survive the inter-individual violence perpetually generated by their universal tendency for mimetic reciprocity.25 Accordingly, the fundamental political problem for any society is to control the violence generated by human mimeticism. But, at the same time, mimetic anthropology shows that the matrix of political association is archaic religion and its foundation on the “misrecognition” of the scapegoat mechanism. This significantly limits (though does not eradicate) the ascription of the formation of archaic political orders to enlightenment-style problem solvers best defined by deliberative and free choice agents. Mimetic anthropology shows, instead, the enormous degree to which human desires do not originate in an authentic and sovereign self-determining agent: Rather, our desires would be the reproduction of the desires of others. What we tend to think of as most our own is, in fact, borrowed from another “in a movement which is so fundamental and primitive that [we] completely confuse it with the will to be Oneself.”26 This line of thinking should lead us to at least question whether the prism of autonomy and freedom is really the best vantage point for understanding human collective behavior in the context of politics. The virtually ideological dimension of this occlusion, which largely permeates our political-philosophic horizons, is exposed by Girard’s Mimetic Theory27 and by the increasing understanding of how imitation is an inextricable feature of our evolutionary suite of capacities and dispositions that ultimately shape human individual formation, communities and conflict. What is required for a more complete contemporary form of political understanding is to grapple both with the question of human nature (beyond the question-begging claim of a pervasive social construction of an ostensibly blank slate) and the mechanisms of social formation that are rooted in—and sustained by—particular features of that human nature. Girard’s mimetic anthropology offers the greatest prospect of success in this regard. His attempts to establish congruence with evolutionary theory are incomplete but almost certainly on the right track, as evidenced by the appropriation of Mimetic Theory by researchers in a range of disciplines whose explanatory frame of reference is an evolutionary one.28 Girard’s mimetic anthropology does not rely on only the apparent correctness of describing different types of human motivations (and fears)—as has often been the case in the history of political philosophy—but, in fact, is supported by, and explainable in terms of, evolutionary principles that enjoy

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broad consensus across numerous disciplines (even if in the details much disagreement abounds). Furthermore, in a manner entirely congruent with Mimetic Theory, a significant body of empirical evidence and research shows not an isolated rational individual struggling to come to terms with the world and her means of sustenance, nor a completely socially determined blank-slate. Rather, this research, some of which will be sketched in below, is best understood as describing an individual who from the beginning is already involved in an inter-subjective matrix that itself mimetically facilitates and channels further development. Mimetic anthropology can facilitate a kind of “translation” of those evolutionary and inter-relation features of human nature most relevant to political understanding, including not only individual formation, interindividual mimeticism, rivalry and mimetic violence, but also, and equally significantly, the emergence of cultural norms and collective beliefs in transcendent powers that ineluctably constitute the nonrational (“sacred”) dimension of any human collective form or political order, from the most “primitive” to the most “civilized.” Mimetic anthropology, therefore, can both inform and be informed by larger scale evolutionary theories without destroying the theoretical core and explanatory power of mimetic anthropology itself. In the register of political philosophy, this should demonstrate that Girard’s mimetic hypothesis has a kind of plausibility superior to other theories of human nature in the Western philosophical canon. This approach also allows for sidestepping some of the most distorting biases regarding individualism, freedom and selfdetermination that overburden much contemporary political thought. In my opinion, Merlin Donald’s theory of cognitive and behavioral evolution, though deficient in its rendering of the problems of human violence, offers the most cogent possibility for a deeper and evolutionarily embedded mimetic anthropology.29 However, before setting out Donald’s evolutionary scheme, it will be useful to sketch in another area of research that complements and enriches Girard’s mimetic anthropology. For our purposes, it is relevant to explore the research program carried out by Frans de Waal (and others) because it establishes, at the nonvoluntary level, a “shared neural background” evident across numerous species that enacts the imitative propensities of human beings (and other animals), including the nonvoluntary inference (even experience) of the bodily emotional states and intentions of others. By considering this “shared neural background” and how it can complement a large-scale account of the socially-embedded nature of the evolution of human consciousness, it becomes

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possible to appreciate how profoundly Girard’s mimetic anthropology captures a recently emerging consensus on the evolutionary centrality of a foundational inter-subjectivity and imitation to human nature.

Frans de Waal: from subpersonal empathy to imitation and emulation The work of primatologist Frans de Waal contains important evidence for mimetic anthropology. Girard himself recognizes that mimetic behaviors were not unique to humans and that in important ways Mimetic Theory’s cogency depends on showing evolutionary contiguity between human sociality and that of other species.30 At the proximate level of behavioral explanation, De Waal points to the need to describe not reciprocal altruism as such (especially since its modeling in prisoner’s dilemma scenarios typically involves overly individualistic and rationalistic cost-benefit type deliberations),31 but rather empathy itself. “Even if contingent [altruistic] reciprocity were to play a role [in spontaneous helping], it is good to realize that it is impossible to learn behavioral contingencies without spontaneously engaging in the behavior in the first place. We must, therefore, assume an impulse that propels individuals to defend, share with, or rescue others.”32 De Waal’s approach involves taking up a number of forms of adaptive behaviors observable across a wide array of social species, such as bodily synchronization, coordinated movements, collective responses to danger, assisting others in need, communication about food and the reflex-like transmission of fear. With regard to primates, for example, he notes forms of “spontaneous behavioral copying,” including contagious yawning and selfscratching, feeding facilitation, bodily mapping and identification, gaze tracking and limited imitation (as learning from seeing an act done) in tool use and foraging techniques. Pointing to the existence of the mirror neuron system underpinning empathic inter-subjectivity, de Waal notes that “[a]t the core of the empathic capacity lies a mechanism that provides the subject with access to the subjective state of another through the subject’s own neural representations. When the subject attends to the other’s state, the subject’s neural representations of similar states are automatically activated.”33 Accordingly, de Waal describes empathy as a largely “unconscious” and automatic “sharing in the other’s state of mind via bodily communication . . . [that] does not require the subject to sort through information gained from the other as well as digging inside itself to

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arrive at an evaluation of what might be going on with the other.”34 Empathy is rather “all the ways in which one individual’s emotional state affects another’s, with simple mechanisms at its core and more-complex mechanisms and perspective-taking abilities as its outer layers.”35 Although it can only be touched on very briefly here, de Waal offers what he calls a perception-action mechanism (PAM ) to model this constitutive intersubjectivity or empathy,36 and for present purposes it is worth reviewing a number of his conclusions. De Waal claims not only that “altruism is a product of socioemotional connections between conspecific individuals,” but more comprehensively “that all forms of imitation have a shared neural perceptionaction [mechanism or] foundation, from the vocal mimicry of birds to the copying of feeding techniques by primates,”37 and that this “underpins these cognitively more-advanced forms of empathy and serves to motivate behavioral outcomes.”38 De Waal’s “Russian Doll Model” of the shared neural basis of empathy encompasses the most primitive (i.e., archaic, least complex and most widely shared) layer of other-induced emotional states, involuntary empathic emotional contagion and routine processes (with both imitative and empathic dimensions), which are shaped by neural “automaticity and spontaneity.” Over this primitive automatic layer, but not in any way eliminating its affectivity, are empathically induced imitative (or shared) goals as well as sympathetic concern and empathic consolation. Here is operative an irrepressible “identification with others based on physical similarity, shared experience, and social closeness.” Reflecting even greater cognitive capacity for self-other distinction, the outermost layer of this model comprises true imitation and imitative emulation along with perspective taking and targeted empathic helping, with both imitative and empathic dimensions being associated with “shared representation.”39 Though significantly lacking the modeling of rivalry and violence that is crucial to understanding animal and human social orders,40 it nonetheless articulates a richer neuropsychological and behavioral account of what is entailed by Girard’s notion of mimesis. It is contiguous with the continuum between animals and humans (in fact, it models a dimension of increasing complexity of inter-subjective experience) and it shows the largely precognitive imitative-empathic disposition of many animals, especially primates, including of course, human beings, to be nonconsciously and consciously involved in the emotional states and actions of conspecifics. De Waal himself attaches enormous sociocultural explanatory potential to this account. According to this “bottom-up view” of widely shared neural mechanisms underpinning empathy, “basic matching mechanisms between the

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bodies of individuals led to the capacity to mimic actions and share emotions, which mechanisms were refined ever more during evolution to lead to the capacity to spread entire cultures and to mentally trade places with others.”41 Although de Waal’s model is extremely important in order to corroborate Girard’s hypothesis, it is Merlin Donald’s theory—to which we turn next—that arguably offers to mimetic anthropology the most compatible and comprehensive account of human behavioral-cognitive evolution, including the formation and spread of human cultures.

Merlin Donald: human biocultural evolution and the formation of social order Both de Waal’s “Russian Doll model” of empathy and Merlin Donald’s biocultural evolutionary schema rely on higher, cognitively richer domains of experience layered over, and encapsulating (though not by any means extinguishing), widely shared and more primitive capacities.42 The greater potential of Donald’s theory is that it can plausibly frame mimetic anthropology within a model of biocultural evolution that accounts as much for shared mental states as it does the emergence of language (or symbolicity), and by extension, related cultural institutions (i.e., regimes) supported by narrativized symbolicity (i.e., myths).43 Among the virtues of Donald’s larger theory is, therefore, its highly compelling account of human biocultural evolution that for the most part does not succumb to the pitfalls of methodological individualism, and which can indeed trace a cultural-evolutionary frame for the mimetic hypothesis as a whole. Rather than emphasizing individuals as the “subjects” of evolution, Donald construes intelligence or knowledge as the acquisition of a species as a whole. This “intelligence” operates in a multi-level evolutionary context of genes and individual development, in which the adaptive capacity for learning and the larger sociocultural warehouse that stores (and is shaped in response to) the information are contained. Though it is “scaffolded” onto forms of shared neural and social connectivity (that de Waal models so well in higher animals and humans), Donald considers this dispersed cognitive network to be a uniquely human evolutionary achievement.44 However, in minimizing the pervasiveness of human violence, his theory requires, in my view, supplementation by Girard’s mimetic anthropology that provides for a keener understanding of the inadvertent emergence of social, religious and political order from the context of biocultural evolution.

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Donald’s four stages of biocultural evolution: episodic, mimetic, mythic and theoretic Donald’s theory of cognitive-cultural evolution in primates begins with the split of the hominid line and chimpanzees from their common ancestor approximately six million years ago (mya), and posits four stages in hominid evolution with three transitions.45 Donald describes the cognitive-behavioral world of Miocene apes (approx. 5 mya) and Australopithecine (4 mya) as “episodic culture,” which is limited by individuals being able to remember only specific events and judgments, and directly applying them when subsequently cued by similar circumstances. Like today’s chimpanzees, “episodic primates” could not selftrigger memories, and aside from direct environmental cues, found it very difficult to access their own memories voluntarily. This implies that rudimentary tool use is spread by direct imitation—extrapolation to new circumstances remains near impossible.46 Moreover, according to Donald’s reconstruction, episodic culture, driven by morphological and cognitive developments, transitioned to the mimetic culture of early hominids, finally culminating in Homo erectus between 2 and 0.4 mya. Mimetic culture was made possible, therefore, by new abilities (built on neuro-morphological as well as anatomical changes, including the respiratory apparatus and the morphology of the larynx) to develop skill through repetition, produce more advanced tools through refinement and instruction, and to display emotion voluntarily. One of Donald’s major insights is that this capacity for voluntary reproducibility contributed to the ability to represent events through mime and nonlexical prosody, which then allowed for much greater social coordination (including sophisticated hunting practices), the emergence of “rehearsable” group norms and roles, and group ritual. At its richest, mimetic culture allowed for the modeling of society itself through collective group ritual that would elaborate in increasingly conventionalized gesture the “culture” of the group—its agricultural and/or hunting practices, its modes of warfare, its ritualized dances for birth, death and so on.47 Thus, if not religion per se, mimetic culture included elements on which its later emergence depended.48 And all this transpires in the absence of language; but it also turns out to function pre-adaptively as the cognitive-behavioral scaffold (like episodic culture before it) on which the next stage depends. The second transition to mythic culture was, then, accomplished by archaic (but anatomically modern) humans as well as behaviorally modern Homo

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sapiens (0.5 mya–present). Newly evolved lexical capacity, probably driven by competition between hominid species (especially that between archaic Homo sapiens and the hitherto very long-lived and successful Homo erectus), provided for more precise and rapid communication, which would confer obvious fitness advantages but it also facilitated immense social coordination by installing in the minds of its members a shared network of narrative (or oral culture) which itself more precisely modeled social norms, a collective identity built on shared (largely mythic) history. These narratives would have been enacted in various ways—oral song and lore, dance, rituals and symbolic pictures. Myth would be the dominant form of interlocking brain and culture in this period as it relies almost entirely on internal (biological) memory to sustain itself. Until very recently, a significant number (but not all) of mythic cultures transitioned to modern theoretic culture, which is defined by the technology of external memory storage. The cognitive-cultural changes this time are driven not biologically, but by the creation of an “external memory field” (typically by axial age cultures) that gave the ability to retrieve information and at least equal footing with memorization and this, for the first time, permitted the emergence of “criticism” of established knowledge, practices and norms (since they could now be precisely examined in stabilized external written form).49 With these stages, Donald offers a “cognitive ethology” of human culture, with culture being defined as “a collective system of knowledge and behaviour.” This approach is highly complementary with what might be called Girard’s general behavioral sensitivity, since Donald notes that “[c]ultural patterns constitute our most fundamental information on the cognition of animals, and ethological observation is often a more accurate and more efficient method of mapping out basic cognitive features of a species than laboratory experimentation.”50 The relevance of this model to Girardian mimetic anthropology can be made more evident through drawing out some of the collective behavioral dimensions of Donald’s mimetic, mythic and theoretic phases of culture.

Social-political implications of Donald’s biocultural evolution and mimetic anthropology The transition from “episodic culture” to what Donald describes as “mimetic culture” is the great divide in human evolution,51 and constitutes the founding of political culture in a prelinguistic context. Donald’s thinking here is fascinating because he recognizes that deeply “human” mimetic qualities, in fact, correlate

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very strongly with social features of collective life, and that these features emerge prior to language. In fact, with the emergence of “mythic culture,” the first task of language will be to lexically and symbolically represent the episodic and mimetic life-world that Donald describes as follows: Mimetic skill, extended to the social realm, results in a collective conceptual “model” of society, expressed in communal ritual and play, as well as in social structure. [. . .] Reciprocal mimetic interactions would ensue, leading to collectively invented and maintained customs, games, skills, and representations. Mimetic skill, added to a pre-existing episodic culture, would necessarily lead to cultural innovation and new forms of social control. In effect, the mimetic “customs” of a group would serve as a collective definition of the society.52

Donald’s theory entails that these features, in being episodically and mimetically operative prior to language, will thus comprise an already constituted ancestral horizon of social involvement, empathic investment and meaning prior to any overt deliberation or eventual critical theorizing. This, indeed, is in large part constitutive of Girard’s notion of the archaic sacred, the humanizing (and also violent) matrix of our recent cognitive-behavioral evolution. Donald observes: The emergence of mimetic skill would have amplified the existing range of differences between individuals (and groups) in realms such as social manipulation, fighting and physical dominance in general, toolmaking, tool use, group bonding and loyalty, pedagogical skill, mating behaviour and emotional control. This would have complicated social life, placing increased memory demands on the individual; but these communication tools would also have created a much-increased capacity for social coordination. [. . .] Mimesis would have provided obvious benefits, allowing hominids to expand their territory, extend their potential sources of food, and respond more effectively as a group to dangers and threats. But it also may have introduced some destabilizing elements, especially by amplifying both the opportunities for competition and the potential social rewards of competitive success in hominid culture.53

This is the closest Donald gets to acknowledge the potentially highly conflictual dimensions of mimetic culture and of human nature and culture in general— even though this crucial feature is better captured by Girard’s notion of reciprocal mimesis. The socially and cognitively collectivizing nature of mythic culture—which for Donald’s cognitive ethology is more socially decisive than the fact of the emergence of language itself—is effectively consigned to elaborate on mimetic

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culture.54 “The myth is the prototypal, fundamental, integrative mind tool. . . . It is inherently a modelling device, whose primary level of representation is thematic. The pre-eminence of myth in early human society is testimony that humans were using language for a totally new kind of integrative thought.”55 Myths constitute the material on which religion, “self-identity, morality, class, and authority” are enacted and conceived and can influence every phase of life.56 Accordingly, it is collectivity—not individuality—that becomes the “essence of human reality.”57 “Culture adds great power to our typically mammalian brain systems by filtering our cognitive activities through an elaborate public process.”58 Thus, language “imposes massive conformity and welds a group of people into a cohesive identity.”59 Our cultures, in fact, “invade us and set our agendas.”60 When “theoretic culture” (or criticism) emerges, it will inevitably be oriented within a horizon of culturally interlocked community of minds that exist in a cognitively distributed network of ancestral meaning; that is as much empathic sharing of emotions, intentions, as it is customs, action memories, bodily ritual (and actor-like role playing61), prohibitions and symbolic and mythic meanings. Effectively, this is in line with what Girard calls primitive or archaic religion.62 Following this train of thought, Donald approaches the insights of Plato and Girard (among others) in recognizing the foundational significance of religion and ritual to any culture. He underlines the crucial political relevance of an evolutionary account of Girard’s Mimetic Theory, when he concludes that “[t]ogether oral and mimetic traditions define self, tribe, and caste; express how life is to be lived; and specify, usually implicitly or obliquely, what is to be valued.”63 Human collectivities, then, are constituted as “communities of mind” and the mechanisms that accomplish this, from mirror neurons and the de Waalian shared neural background of empathy to the cognitive interlocking of brain and human surround in mimetic and mythic culture (Donald), are well captured by Girard’s notion of mimesis (as has been recognized by numerous researchers, although few attempts have been made at a large scale integration as this work attempts to sketch out64). It is this insight that allows us from a cognitive-cultural and co-evolutionary perspective to recognize the astounding perspicacity of Girard who, from the visual angle of the humanities—awash in doctrine about the uniqueness of individuals and artistic creativity and originality—recognized that the individualism so touted by a later “theoretic culture” was a mask and a ruse for deeper and more “thorny truths” about human collectives and the things that they have done, and do, to preserve and enhance themselves.

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Biocultural evolution and inter-individual human nature as tools for understanding political conflict As previously discussed, there are two great obstacles for contemporary social and political thought for grasping the direct relevance of Girard’s mimetic anthropology. The first is our pervasive commitment to the voluntarist “romantic lie” of our supposedly sovereign and autonomous desires that underwrite our notion of political legitimacy and have contributed, at least since Kant, to the overthrowing of any substantive theory of human nature in political thought. Second, mimetic anthropology as a theory of evolutionary hominization and the formation of social order (i.e., archaic religion and the subsequent emergence of more formalized political orders) does not posit a rationally transparent means for this transformation. The tendency for us to define archaic hominids on the model of the methodological individual (i.e., a post-Enlightenment problem solver) functions as a distorting anachronism. Rather, the lengthy, inadvertent and violent discovery of the sacred (through the production of victims) functions as a collective social-psychological “domestication” that allows humans to survive the increasing brain size and cognitive mimetic reciprocity that outpaced great ape dominance patterns.65 Further, the theories of de Waal and Donald have been highlighted in this chapter because Girard himself relies on them to make crucial connections between evolutionary theory and mimetic anthropology.66 The eschewing of methodological individualism in those theories based on an empathic shared neural networks that spread human cultures (de Waal) and the cognitively collectivizing mimetic and mythic culture (Donald) shows that the primary human experience is inter-individually immersive, social, and its terms of what is to be “valued,” is embedded in the ancestral—that which long precedes the modern individual’s claim to make a decision about the efficacy and legitimacy of such values. Accordingly, Girard’s mimetic anthropology (including his studies of archaic religion and world myths) is needful because it builds from these “misrecognized” immersive contexts, and from our universally reciprocal mimetic nature, an account of the violent sacred that attends all human orders.

The sacred and the katéchon As outlined in the Introduction to this volume, according to Girard, sacrifice is the mechanism accidentally discovered that resolves mimetic crises; that is,

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sacrifice is violence that protects the community from its own contagious violence.67 Archaic (and modern) individuals not only internalize what Donald calls a mimetic and mythic “community of mind” (supported by a shared neural mechanism like that proposed by de Waal), but when in crisis, they also tend to unknowingly mimic each other’s oppositional postures (while proclaiming their profound difference to each other). Thus, members of communities under collective crises will almost inevitably imitate each other’s panic, fear and hostilities.68 As a result, a kind of de-differentiation takes place (Girard calls this process “doubling” in the context of his analyses of myths of origin), where established social protocols and political hierarchies disintegrate and the very “equalization” produced heightens reciprocal mimetic mediation, further fueling lethal rivalries and the outbreak of violence.69 This mimetic form of violence, which can contagiously “snowball” and utterly decimate entire communities from within, represents for Girard the first order of a collective or political problem in the earliest of human (or proto-human) groupings—a problem that is inadvertently solved (if it is) by directing collective violence against a single victim (or a subgroup), one whose “selection” may well be utterly arbitrary.70 This “false transcendence” is of a piece with the mythically configured horizon of the collectivity’s involvement in violence and its distorting misrecognition of social causality: It has attributed blame for some crisis to the victim, while subsequently attributing to the same victim, now immolated, a conciliatory (or bonding) power that transcends the community and which it is unable to recognize as the outcome of its own operations.71 The sacred (or the “archaic sacred” or “archaic religion”), then, represents the “institutionalization” of sacrifice, that is, the deliberate repetition of elements of the crisis and collective dedifferentiation to stave off repetitions of full-scale de-differential crises.72 In this sense, the sacred is generative because ritual, prohibitions and myth emerge from it as praxeological and symbolic orders.73 However, it would be an error to assume that the social-psychological mechanisms (and institutions) of the sacred are limited only to archaic social orders. Sacrifice is not always sufficiently efficacious—“primitive” societies can live in relative states of dedifferentiation for decades, even centuries, with longrunning vendettas, or blood feuds, slowly claiming enormous numbers of lives in acts of “private revenge.”74 “Civilized” societies, however, owe their “good fortune to one of our social institutions above all: our judicial system which serves to deflect the menace of [interminable “private”] vengeance. The system does not suppress vengeance; rather, it limits it to a single act of reprisal, enacted

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by a sovereign authority specializing in this particular function.” 75 And this is the katéchon: the necessity of producing victims (for the sake of order), while violating the Christian ethical injunction against such victims.76 For Donald, Christianity represents no doubt the outcome of an emergent “theoretic culture,” as a function of literate elites. For Girard, it was to an extent far greater than other axial age religions directed toward a more “equal” demographic with more politically mixed effects.77 For Girard, Christianity’s unveiling of the collective’s culpability in sacrificial violence against innocents is a mixed blessing. It inaugurates a process of unveiling violence that he calls “apocalypse”: the anti-political message concerning victims in the Gospel and conversely the need to produce some victims for fear of greater destruction being fully unleashed.78 Thus, this paradoxical outcome represents a deepening threat to the political because it is sustained by the use of limited violence to contain greater violence—though it includes protectiveness of individualism and the group. Yet, the deepest values of Christianity militate against those very practices that have largely served to sustain human communities since their founding.79 As Girard argues, “The question of katéchon concerns all those who have the authority to act. How must they act if they know? What is the weight to be given to sacrifices in a world in which the truth has been revealed? This is the modern predicament.”80 The context for this shifts as we move from more stabilized political Western regimes with specified justice systems and property and individual rights (all driven by a rein of controlled reciprocity) to an international context with only partial revelation of the Christian vision of the victim (the sacred), and is once again driven by reciprocal desires.

Reciprocity: from the intra-regime sacred to global convergence As Donald’s and Girard’s analyses show, each community of mind will be in the grip of religious-mythic articulations of justice: It will interpret its “own” as having the luster of the immemorial and ancestral, and it will reproduce the mimetic reciprocity that binds crowds against victims, that binds groupings against rival groupings, regime against regime.81 Within the European Middle Ages, this was already taking place, within the transformation from the “persona” (with God) to the increasingly secular “individual.”

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For Girard, then The error is always to reason within categories of “difference” when the root of all conflicts is rather “competition”, mimetic rivalry between person, countries, cultures. Competition is the desire to imitate the other in order to obtain the same thing he or she has, by violence if need be. . . . Human relations are essentially relations of imitation, of rivalry. [. . .] [I]t lies in the desire for convergence and resemblance.83

Institutionally, the private rights of property, movement, contract and so on, on which modern economies are founded, end up valorizing the individual in a manner highly commensurate with, if not identical to, the Christian dispensation: “globalization is mainly the abolition not only of sacrifice, properly speaking, but also of the entire sacrificial order: it is the encompassing spread of Christian ethics and epistemology in relation to every sphere of human activity.”84 The globalized hastening of the apocalyptic potentials unleashed by Christianity do not simply or only introduce new “critical” ideas or “principles” to non-Western cultural groupings, but the freedoms and lifestyles of the West (as real or imagined) themselves become models of mimetic emulation, and hence, rivalry. That is, the West is both an emulative model and rivalry-provoking obstacle to the mimetically formed aspirations of many non-Western collectivities: “Far from turning away from the West, they cannot avoid imitating it and adopting its values, even if they don’t avow it, and they are consumed like us by the desire for individual and collective success.”85 Girard applies the implications of this globalization of commercial modernity and its values to a definition of our epoch as a whole: “The only way modernity can be defined is the universalization of internal mediation.”86 What may often appear to the Western “community of mind” as moral (albeit often economically motored) Kantian cosmopolitan progress toward some universal peaceful federation (with greater enfranchisement and mutual recognition fostered among notionally equal peoples and nations under broadly

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Western international agreements on rights or trading regimes, etc.), for Girard represents an increasingly volatile convergence of interests and rivalry. As an international affairs commentator has recently argued, in an era of international economic interdependence “competition has more to do with status than ideology. As a result, [geo-political] differences between great powers [in the past] frequently lead to complementarity and cooperation, whereas [geoeconomic] convergence is often at the root of [contemporary] conflict.”87 From a Girardian perspective, whether by the cross or by commerce, a global apocalyptic culture emerges in which individuals and groupings (including regimes) are increasingly rendered proximate rivals (by law, trade agreements, consuming habits), with each insisting on the uniqueness of its identity (whether as individual or as “community of mind,” whether exerted on internal or external enemies). Girard would certainly balk at such cosmopolitan optimism put forward as an interpretative paradigm.88 Mimetic anthropology in an evolutionary frame acknowledges that a universal order is highly unlikely but must insist that non-Western regimes and peoples will, at least in part (and perhaps, wholly), interpret cosmopolitan “progress” according to the ancestral “goods” and categories that have evolved in their respective “communities of mind”—that is, within a horizon that, like that of any other generated by human collectivities, will contain elements of mythic misrecognition about the violence that sustains it. Furthermore, such groupings and regimes will often interpret opportunities for “progress” (as understood from a typical Western cosmopolitan perspective) as, in fact, ways to improve the situation or maximize the interests of their grouping or regime—as intuited within that “community of mind”—not necessarily as a favorable opportunity to become more “Western.”89 It simply is not clear whether such diversity between communities of mind would, in fact, conduce toward geo-political “complementarity and cooperation,” manageable convergence (i.e., cosmopolitanism), or instead, heighten the conviction of uniqueness that besets each party in mimetic crises of de-differentiation—to which Girard prophesizes global geo-economic convergence will almost certainly lead us. But for Girard, our contemporary constellation of the exhaustion of the mechanisms of the archaic sacred (precisely due to the recognition of and concern for victims introduced by Christianity90), the increasing extent of potentially lethal reciprocity (or internally mediated) rivalries spread by the ongoing global expansion of market society, and the massively lethal weaponry

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of modern technology immerses us within a horizon fraught with our immanent destruction. Girard, as well known, proposes a solution to this crisis based on the externally mediated model of Christ himself: To avoid the risk of our own selfdestruction, we must give up our all our mimetic violence.91 From this perspective, it must be acknowledged that political thought informed by mimetic anthropology (understood in relation to Donald’s biocultural modeling of human evolution) is in no way constrained to accept Girard’s apocalyptic diagnosis or his proposed solution: “Sooner or later, either humanity will renounce violence without sacrifice or it will destroy the planet.”92 As I have previously shown, even though this apocalyptic diagnosis can arguably be considered correct, Girard’s solution is not one that can in any way be understood as political,93 and perhaps, it was never intended to be.

Conclusion: mimetic anthropology and realism Informed by mimetic anthropology, political thought can best approach its object—regimes and human collectivities—by incorporating a concise yet nonreductive account of the origin of collective beliefs and the practices, rituals and institutions that arose (often inadvertently as part of the “solution”) to contain mimetically generated intra-group violence. This means reintroducing the concept of human nature to political thinking. It also implies that the political must be understood first and foremost (though ultimately not only) as two, always and already, active constellation of forces: first, as that set of interactions at play when constitutionally mimetic (not primarily, or decisively, free and rational) creatures inevitably generate rivalry and violence as a result of this particularly accentuated predisposition within them and which is unrelentingly activated in any social milieu; second, as that immersion of communities in distorted and distorting religious (or ideological94) interpretations of their own origins and those unifying violent (and sacrificial) practices that undergird the relational order. Politics, therefore, is sustained by the sacred. In the manifest absence of religion (that first hierarchical-symbolic form of ordering human things), politics is the sacred.95 Girard’s notion of conversion involves the recognition of our own inevitable participation in this “human mechanism,” in the inter-individual forming of our character, of our models, of our envies and rivalries, and this “conversion” entails refusing to “join the mimetic unanimity.” This recognition can involve (or not) the turning to a model that does not provoke rivalry,96 but it at minimum

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includes a kind of weariness at the excesses of the unending spectacle of human mimeticism.97 Conversion—the reflective distancing of oneself from the escalatory mimeticism that generates to rivalry and violence in their individual and collective manifestations—is, perhaps, within reach of many (if we prefer the more inherently democratic Christian dispensation to the narrower, even jingoistic, Greek one), but it can never (or perhaps, only very rarely) be openly practiced by those whose office it is to enact affairs of state in a context of multiple “communities of mind,” which must also enact theirs. For individuals who seek respite from the relentless workings of human mimeticism, the hope resides with them and in those nonproximate models that their respective communities of mind may have occasionally produced, but the hope for politics is even more modest. At the level of the regime and its leadership, open conversion would be tantamount to capitulation and an abdication of the very responsibility to uphold and preserve a community of mind, a way of life; tactical conversion is more the norm while operations of the sacred proceed apace. For the regimes themselves to renounce violence would be to expunge the sacred from the political—which is to say, the end of politics (could we ask at this point, as a matter of political thought, if what is hoped for is understood?). Expecting the worldly powers to renounce violence (and hence, politics) is to participate in a misrecognition foisted on us by an ideology of freedom and autonomy; that is, to falsely believe that we as individuals or regimes could be the authors of unique sovereign desires that somehow escaped the matrix of human mimeticism. In fact, our best hope is that our increasing knowledge of both mimeticism itself as well as of the potential lethality of our neighbor-rivals will facilitate not some impossible collective renunciation of escalatory mimesis and violence, but rather more nuanced calculations on how to manage the contagious rivalry that global convergence brings with itself. But from the perspective of Girardian mimetic anthropology, this hope is only realism. The ostensible anarchy of international relations—where no agency of “objective” justice can impose punishments—can be compared with the dedifferentiated conditions of the archaic sacred where violence was typically directed against those from whom revenge is to be least feared. Thus, the potentials for mimetic violence brought about by global convergence will not unfold without calculation—in fact, the very lethality of modern weaponry along with the geo-economic interdependence will likely lead especially large-scale actors to avoid direct confrontation. However, if regimes find themselves mimetically driven to violently enact their exceptionalism, they likely will do so with displaced violence on surrogate conflicts (the proxy

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war being, of course, the apposite example here). In fact, “archaic” regime-level politics in which opposing states see themselves as absolute existential threats has largely been mitigated by the calculation foisted on deeply interdependent parties (if not the complete internalization of cosmopolitan values). Such “existential” politics, though, continues to be enacted by subregime level communities of mind who have, according to some internally or externally mediated model, critically disarticulated themselves from the regime-level order, its professed good(s), and its “sacred” manner of exercising violence to uphold that order. Thereby they too insist on their own exceptionalism.98 Convergence impels the globe to rivalry, possibly even violence. But regimelevel and international multilateral institutional structures are typically designed to foster “critical” oversight against mimetic contagion even, it must be acknowledged, in many authoritarian regimes.99 Furthermore, geo-economic convergence has also its stabilizing elements: “We live in a world where certain fields function according to objective laws . . . and these laws prevent mimetic escalations, as in the case of competition and the free market economy.” And this, along with the “encompassing spread of Christian ethics and epistemology [i.e., individualism], may well provide “elements of stability that replace the external mediation once provided by the [archaic] sacred order.” Certainly Girard notes that such “systems are . . . inevitably bound to produce injustice and violence . . . [but] we have to take into account that this system is also protecting us.”100 Girard, however, also foresees greater explosions of violence, and hence, the need to renounce it before it is too late. However, as argued above, the renunciation of all violence exceeds politics and also exceeds the limits of what mimetic anthropology tells us regarding the interpolation of individuals within communities of mind and their respective mythic dimensions of the sacred. Girard’s injunction regarding conversion is not politically actionable, and perhaps, is not meant to be. Thus, our hopes must be modest, our expectations realistic. Evolution has saddled our human nature as much with a will to survive as with potentially lethal mimeticism, and surviving our mimeticism has, in a sense, always been the modest business of politics.

Notes 1 See Frans B. M. de Waal and Pier Francesco Ferrari (eds), The Primate Mind: Built to Connect with Other Minds (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2012);

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Merlin Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1991). Girard states: “I used méconnaissance because there is no doubt that one must define the scapegoat mechanism as a form of misrecognition of its injustice.” Cf. René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion. Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 86. Girard specifies that in archaic sacrificial culture the selection of victims will always be informed by the perceived unlikelihood of retaliation or revenge by the victim or his or her relations. Cf. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 13. Internal mediation is Girard’s description for the emulative (or mimetic) rivalry that is generated by proximate equals; that is, between individuals of roughly the same social standing that effectively become models for each other’s desire. Unlike the knight Amadis of Gaul, who serves as a model for Don Quixote, and Quixote for Sancho Panza (who are separated by established conventions of social rank and distance), citizens of modern democratic regimes are, according to their constitutional ethos, perceived as equals—be they presidents or paupers, salesmen or celebrities. Cf. René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966), 7 and ff. See, for example, Plato, The Republic, Book VIII , and Aristotle, The Politics, Book IV. Going against what are, in my view, Girard’s insufficiently nuanced criticisms of Plato, we can recognize in this thinker ample evidence of the astounding clarity with which he understood this mimetic dimension of human things. The ideal regime laid out in The Republic can be seen as an impossible but seductive solution to the ineluctable political problem of internal mediation and lethal positional rivalry (of which Thrasymachus, with his utterly mimetic dreams of happy tyranny, represents a particularly toxic form) by setting up stable externally mediated models (the Myth of the Metals, carefully approved stories and myths, a rigid and theistically-endorsed social hierarchy) and an ethic of civic/polis service that minimized the scope of private status and obligation (property, family, etc.) such that the only appropriate (or sanctioned) outlets for rivalry become regime-oriented military exercises, and of course, other regimes themselves (we set aside here the more theoretical problem of the philosophers, their degree of knowledge and their motivations for participating in the “best regime in speech”). Hence, whether in the domain of the “ideal” or the quotidian, internal rivalry, national rivalries, war and readiness for war are to be understood, at least in part, as constitutive of the political. See Andrew O’Shea, Selfhood and Sacrifice: René Girard and Charles Taylor on the Crisis of Modernity (New York and London: Continuum, 2010), 178–180, where he discusses the inversion in modern politics such that Western communities no longer

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The Sacred and the Political divinize the collective (or its mechanisms), but rather the individuals and their willing (or their consciences), which have gained an inestimable worth. There are also some highly relevant nonphilosophical reasons for this jettisoning of human nature, some of which played out in the arena of anthropology. Following the increasingly public reception of Darwin’s evolutionary ideas in the late 1800s, forms of social Darwinism began to be promulgated that used evolutionary principles to promote ideas of racial superiority, eugenics, and eventually, nationalist political ideologies. In the early twentieth century, the still young discipline of anthropology sought to ward off this influx of anti-egalitarianism by directing its energies to the elucidation of differences between cultures and conceiving of the autonomy of culture as a “supraorganistic” shaper of individuals, with some anthropologists going so far as to reject explicit links between human biological nature and the culture. This trend is cogently explained by Donald E. Brown, Human Universals (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991), 54–87. See also René Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, trans. M. B. DeBevoise (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2014), 14, where he argues that modern anthropology in “restricting itself to the study of cultural rules alone, without concerning itself with the context in which differences come to be situated, the human reality of violence ended up being erased.” Further, in the wake of the totalitarian disasters of the twentieth century, particularly that of National Socialism, holding forth ideas on a biologically shaped or determined human nature became tantamount in academic and intellectual circles to covertly supporting any racist ideology and tacitly importing claims about the superiority of one culture or civilization over another. Such sensitivities contributed to the virtual exclusion of human nature from much of the anthropological and sociological literature of the last century, to say nothing of political thought. Steven Pinker’s treatment of the reception that greeted Edward O. Wilson’s Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1975) is illuminating on this score. See Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002), 108–115. Cf. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole (London: Everyman, 1993), 181. For present purposes, we might define “frictionless” desires as those that in being pursued would not bring the individual into conflict with his or her fellow creatures. From the point of view of Mimetic Theory, however, any desire is modeled on the desires of others, and hence, is potentially embedded in (as well as provokes) rivalry, jealousy, competition and often violence. Donald and de Waal both resist a trend shared among evolutionary theorists in which there is “an unquestioned presupposition, which is linked to human agency: they seem to adopt a sort of ‘methodological individualism.’ As soon as they start discussing human culture, they seem to assume that the modern individual is the

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prototype of the primitive human being that produces and transmits culture. [. . .] Durkheim states that the autonomy of social facts cannot be simply explained by individual psychology. The emergence of culture is one of those facts.” Cf. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 98. Bernard Yack tracks the political dissatisfaction and a particular yearning for utter transformation that Rousseau’s intuition brings in its wake. See Bernard Yack, The Longing for Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and Nietzsche (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1986). See Augustine, Augustine: On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings, trans. P. King (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), especially I.2 and III .22. See also Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, trans. R. W. Dyson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Book V. See Stephen L. Gardner, Myths of Freedom: Equality, Modern Thought and Philosophical Radicalism (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), 54. Gardner’s book is, in my view, a very astute and underappreciated Girardian assessment of the distorting emphasis on freedom in Western philosophy and current ideological debates. Many of my claims in the first part of this chapter owe something to this book. See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. P. Guyer and A. W. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), especially A 537/B 565. Louis Dupré does an exemplary job of tracking this lineage from the Greeks through the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. See Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 112–144; and especially 131 and 220 on Kant. Significantly, Immanuel Kant’s Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) has been much less deeply considered by political thinkers than his critical philosophy and the moral works, though even there in the Anthropology it is evident that the heteronomy of the finite is never such that the distinctive human trait, freedom of the will, is utterly subsumed by the surround of the phenomenal or the willing of others. There are, of course, notable exceptions to this trend including Montesquieu, Adam Smith and Hume, de Tocqueville, and Constant—but their relatively secondary stature in terms of the reception of Modern and Enlightenment political philosophy in comparison to, say, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant and J. S. Mill (to say nothing of Rawls), corroborates the contention here that a pronounced bias toward human freedom and individualism has come to dominate modern political thought, much of which remains oblivious to how potentially limiting this approach can be. See, for example, Immanuel Kant, “On the Common Saying: ‘This May Be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice’,” in Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 74; where he notes that for the purely lawful civil state the

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The Sacred and the Political principles of “freedom,” “equality” and “independence” are those “laws by which a state alone can be established in accordance with the pure rational principles of external human right.” In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, Kant specifies that only those laws should be obeyed to which one has given consent; cf. Kant, Political Writings, 99. The degree to which Kant both anticipated contemporary hopes as well as largely setting out the rationalist framework on which moral arguments for cosmopolitanism are currently based, can be observed in his claim that “this enlightenment . . . must gradually spread upwards towards the thrones and even influence their principles of governments”. Cf. Kant, “Idea for Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose,” in Political Writings, 51. This assumes, utterly against the anthropological insights of Girard, that highly mimetic creatures find satisfaction in the mutual recognition of political equals and that the global spread of such law-enshrined universal equality and freedom will increasingly bring about peaceful relations between individuals and nations. Where Kant saw the rational hope for perpetual peace, Girard sees unrelenting internal mediation—“equals” striving to become each other’s models. For Girard, this reciprocity plays out at the inter-individual level as well as in the anarchic sphere of relations between peoples (possessed and dispossessed) and sovereign nations. Cf. Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 8. See Jerome Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chapters 22 and 23, in particular. Karl Ameriks observes that “this general idea is surely Kant’s most popular contribution, and . . . it seems that everyone now strives to account for autonomy in some way or other.” Cf. Karl Ameriks, Kant and the Fate of Autonomy: Problems in the Appropriation of the Critical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 5. The Kantian underpinnings to Rawls’s theory have not, it seems, in any way prevented it from becoming the most widely discussed work of twentieth century political thought. Again, consult Yack, The Longing for Total Revolution, see especially 18–27 for a discussion of how the Kantian (and Rousseauian) project of human freedom inaugurates an epoch of political dissatisfaction. He argues that Kant’s “dichotomy between human freedom and natural necessity . . . forms the conceptual foundation upon which all of the most influential nineteenth-century German moral philosophers and social critics, even those like Marx and Nietzsche who explicitly reject it, erect their positions” (22). Cf. Dupré, Passage to Modernity, 139. Richard E. Flathman, Willful Liberalism: Voluntarism and Individuality in Political Theory and Practice (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 123–124. See Ronald Beiner, What’s The Matter with Liberalism (Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, 1992), 32. In Politics, Aristotle makes a clarification that speaks to this issue: “men are bad judges where they themselves are concerned, but also, inasmuch as both parties put

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forward a plea that is just up to a certain point, they think that what they say is absolutely just.” Cf. Aristotle, Politics, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1950), 213 [1280a]. René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010), 10, 18. See, also, Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 77. Effectively, Girard’s theory accounts for the transition from primate-style dominance hierarchies (with intra-group braking mechanisms on violence) to the challenges faced by more cognitively and mimetically advanced humanoids (whose tendency to escalatory reciprocity presents a constant threat to individual and group viability). Cf. René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 84–104. Reciprocity denotes that “human relations are an unending exercise in mutual imitation. . . . A relationship may be benevolent and peaceable, or it may be malicious and belligerent. In either case, curiously, it does not cease to be reciprocal.” The “universality” of reciprocal violence denotes “the fact that all cultures, and all individuals without exception, participate in violence; that violence is what structures our collective sense of belonging and our personal identities [. . .] [M]imetic reciprocity . . . is always there from the beginning of every culture; and it is always there afterward, reappearing in its bad, violent form to put an end to every culture.” Cf. Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 10, 31, 15. Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel, 4. See Gardner, Myths of Freedom, passim. Girard describes himself as a “Darwinist” in Evolution and Conversion, 97 and 171. See also the essays collected by Scott R. Garrels (ed.), Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2011). See especially Andrew N. Meltzoff, “Out of the Mouths of Babes: Imitation, Gaze, and Intentions in Infant Research—the ‘Like Me’ Framework,” in Mimesis and Science, 55–74; and Vittorio Gallese, “The Two Sides of Mimesis: Mimetic Theory, Embodied Simulation, and Social Identification,” in Mimesis and Science, 87–108. For a very good overview, see Scott R. Garrels, “Human Imitation: Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Perspectives,” in Mimesis and Science, 1–38. Two recent large-scale works have brought to the fore the relevance of evolutionary approaches to social and political thought: Robert Bellah, Religion and Human Evolution (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2011) and Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011). Both works rely on recent theorizing on human evolution and focus on the emergence of religion and politics as forms of social order and meaning. Like Girard, Bellah conceives of religion as the first form of symbolically articulated social (and

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eventually political) order. Interestingly, both Bellah and Girard invoke the work of Merlin Donald as providing an important framework for understanding human cognitive and behavioral (or biocultural) evolution. In Religion and Human Evolution, Bellah acknowledges the enormous explanatory scope of Donald’s approach, around which, in fact, he organizes his own account (xviii–xix). He specifically notes his overall reliance on Donald’s “phylogenetic” model of cultural evolution and development as the explanatory parallel to his “ontogenetic” “typology of religious representation” (cf. 118–135 and 272–281). Donald’s work allows for the nonindividualistic nature of early (pre-)human groupings to be articulated and recognized without falling into the trap of “methodological individualism” that distorts so much evolutionary theorizing on human behavior. Fukuyama, on the contrary, repeatedly falls into the anachronistic temptation to see early humans as Enlightenment-style problem solvers whose involvement in the world is not one primarily of immersive mystery and socially bounded ritual and violence, but one of solving prisoner’s-dilemma-style problems with an eye to long-term benefits, as if the veils of archaic religion could be opportunistically lifted as spiritually “neutral” benefits presented themselves to a hypertrophied faculty of human calculation. See Fukuyama, Origins of Political Order, 439–440. For a very brief cautionary statement regarding the distortions of game-theoretic modeling that has come to dominate attempts to build an evolutionary ethics on the frame of reciprocal altruism, see Brian Skyrm’s recommendation of moving “from the high rationality approach of classical game theory to a low rationality approach through adaptive dynamics” in Michael Tomasello’s Why We Cooperate (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 2009), 143. See also Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd, Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 246–247. However, despite the evolutionary caveat’s regarding Fukuyama’s evolutionary approach to political development, he does accomplish highly significant political-anthropological insights, including the intractable relevance of kin-groups to political rule and social order—something Girard grasped as early as Violence and the Sacred (1972)—and unlike both Bellah and Donald, Fukuyama does not in the least minimize the significance of domination and violence in human social orders and politics. 30 See Girard, Things Hidden, 90 and 98; also, Id., Evolution and Conversion, 171. 31 See ibid., 98 and 127–128, where he notes a predominant bias toward methodological individualism—this is arguably a carry-over into the domain of science of those very prejudices and presuppositions discussed in the first part of this chapter. See also Frans de Waal’s important caution against the methodologically individualistic calculative biases built into much of the theory around reciprocal altruism, which for many researchers must bear the entire load in accounting for the emergence of pro-social, even moral, behaviors: “Helpful acts for immediate self-gain

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are indeed common, but it seems safe to assume that future return benefits remain largely beyond the animal’s cognitive horizon. [. . .] Altruistic behavior cannot be motivated by unforeseen payoffs such as inclusive fitness or return benefits in the distant future.” Further, “the evolutionary reasons for altruistic behavior are not necessarily the animals’ reasons. . . . To assume [that] . . . animals really help each other in the knowledge that this will benefit themselves is . . . cognitively demanding in the extreme, requiring animals to have expectations about the future behavior of others and to keep track of what they did for others versus what others did for them. Thus far, there is little or no evidence for such expectations.” Cf. Frans B. M. de Waal, “A Bottom-Up View of Empathy,” in The Primate Mind, 129–130, emphasis added. Ibid., 131–132. He wants to minimize the undue “attention to executive cognitive function and a hierarchical view of the view of the mind, which puts the neocortex in control,” ibid., 122. This kind of approach is much in evidence in the work typically championed by scholars such as Steven Pinker or Robert Wright, for example, which subtly rests on methodologically individualistic assumptions. Ibid., 121. Ibid., 125. Ibid., 135. Research on differing levels of voluntary and involuntary bodily mapping, empathy, mimicry, imitation and the inferring of others’ goals—which can offer support to a de Waal-like account of subpersonal empathy, or a richer account of Girardian mimesis—has expanded greatly since the 1980s in a wide range of disciplines, including primate psychology, comparative, experimental, developmental and social psychology, behavioral ecology, cognitive science (including cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology and comparative cognition), neuroscience, evolutionary biology and cultural evolution. For an overview, see Scott R. Garrels, “Imitation, Mirror Neurons, and Mimetic Desire: Convergent Support for the Work of René Girard,” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 12–13 (2006), 47–86. For important and highly relevant recent work on mirror neurons that uses an approach sympathetic to de Waal’s modeling of empathy, see Marco Iacoboni, “The Human Mirror Neuron System and Its Role in Imitation and Empathy,” in The Primate Mind, 32–47; Pier Francesco Ferrari and Leonardo Fogassi, “The Mirror Neuron System in Monkeys and its Implications for Social Cognitive Function,” in The Primate Mind, 13–31. See de Waal’s “Russian Doll Model,” in The Primate Mind, 135. See Frans B. M. de Waal and Pier Francesco Ferrari, “A Bottom-Up Approach to the Primate Mind,” in The Primate Mind, 7. De Waal does not argue that this explains all perspective-taking—more narrowly referred to as Theory of Mind by other theorists; see, for example, Pinker, The Blank Slate, 61–63, and especially How the Mind Works, 221–223 (for a “computational” and linguistically based notion of Theory of Mind). Moreover, he notes limitations in much Theory of Mind research and situates the

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The Sacred and the Political matter within the broader scope of “perspective taking.” He argues against models of the evolution of perspective taking (or narrowly construed, Theory of Mind) based on intra-specific competition and claims “the evolutionary origin of this ability is not to be sought in social competition, even if it is readily applied in this domain . . . but in the need for cooperation. At the core of perspective-taking is emotional linkage between individuals—widespread in social mammals—upon which evolution (or development) builds ever more complex manifestations, including [Theory-ofMind-like] appraisals of another’s knowledge and intentions.” Cf. de Waal’s “Do Apes Have a Theory of Mind?” in Stephen Macedo and Josiah Ober (eds), Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2006), 69–73. De Waal, “A Bottom-Up View of Empathy,” 135. Ibid., 135–136. With increasing human cognitive-mimetic evolution in the process of hominization, Girard points to the tendency of the lethal violence of mimetic reciprocity to exceed the primate braking mechanisms and dominance hierarchies that tend to limit the lethality of such intra-group violence. Interestingly, de Waal has not been shy about elaborating on primate violence in other works. See, for example, Frans B. M. de Waal, Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 77–135, 180–184; Id., Our Inner Ape (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 43–88 and 133–148. However, de Waal has generally been keen to examine ape violence not as irremediably destructive and utterly definitive of primates, but rather within contexts of reconciliation that involve de-escalating behaviors such as rapprochement through grooming, stabilizing dominance hierarchies, learned peacemaking, conciliatory go-betweens and even scapegoats. See Frans B. M. de Waal, Peacemaking Among Primates (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1990); and Id., Our Inner Ape, 148–174. It might be argued, however, that de Waal often seeks to minimize the significance of primate and human violence in keeping with a larger moral disposition to foster pacific relations among human beings. See Frans B. M. de Waal, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society (New York: Harmony Books, 2009), 22–26. De Waal, “A Bottom-Up View of Empathy,” 136. Girard nicely points to the less tidy reciprocal mimeticism of “mentally trading places” (or Theory of Mind in evolutionary psychology) in distinguishing between “biologically determined appetites and needs, which are common to both men and animals, and unchanging since they bear on fixed objects, [and which] stand in contrast to desire and passion, which are exclusively human. Passion, intense desire, is born the moment our vague longings are trained on a model that suggest to us what we should desire, typically in desiring the model itself. The model may be society as a whole. . . . Everything that humanity endows with prestige it transforms into a model. This is true of not only of

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children and adolescents, but also of adults. [. . .] What we call desire or passion is not mimetic accidentally, or from time to time, but is mimetic unavoidably, all the time. Far from being the most personal emotion there is, our desire comes from others. Nothing could be more social.” Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 4–5. Though it cannot be addressed here, it should be noted that de Waal’s modeling of empathy helps to fill in a dispositional-motivational gap in Donald’s theory. Donald first fully elaborated his theory in The Origins of the Modern Mind. Two years later, a special section of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (16, no. 4, 1993: 737–791) was dedicated to this book. It includes Donald’s summary of his argument, assessments and criticisms from multiple commentators as well as Donald’s response to the criticisms. In the concluding chapters of A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness (New York: Norton, 2001), Donald offers another summary of his theory and draws out more of its social-behavioral implications. Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 158. This evolutionary principle is dubbed the “Baldwin effect” and describes how: “Cultures are more efficient than individuals at exploiting the fitness value of genetic variations, which might otherwise have a negligible impact.” Cf. Donald, A Mind So Rare, 260. Organisms, then, can “pass on their particular capacity to acquire certain characteristics, rather than any of the characteristics they actually acquire.” Cf. Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 323. Thus, the Baldwin effect helps explain the enormous evolved plasticity of human cognitive ability which from birth can, for example, learn any set of cultural codes, practices and language (and literacy) though none of these is innate to humans, though each, of course, contributes to the fitness of those who possess them. See, Donald, A Mind So Rare, 302–304. Though Donald discounts the significance of precise chronology because his theory addresses cognitive succession, or an “evolving cognitive architecture,” leading to modern cognitive structure, he nonetheless tracks this cognitive evolution onto a fairly noncontroversial paleo-anthropological and archaeological consensus of the timeline for succession in human ancestry since the split from the common ancestor. See Merlin Donald, “Précis of Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 16(4) (1993): 738; Id., The Origins of the Modern Mind, 95–123 and the concise charts in Id., A Mind So Rare, 260 and 325. See Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 149. It is worth noting that Donald suggests that mimetic and later mythic representations would not constrained by the facts of what “really happened.” In Evolution and Conversion, Girard suggests that with Homo habilis (2.4–1.4 mya) “there must have been some form of religious fear, some taboos” (113). This

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possibility is supported by Donald’s theory in that the something of rehearsability and enacting of mimetic culture had to have been already operative to account for the manufacture of stone tools now associated with habilis. Girard defines the archaic sacred as characterized by an “absence of criticism”—that is, immersed in the false transcendence (objectivity) of a community’s tolerated or endorsed violence against victims without having formulated (as Biblical culture eventually did) a theoretic perspective to recognize its own mechanisms of the sacred. See Girard, Battling to the End, 23. On the piecemeal way that this culturally took hold, see Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 37. Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 148 and 162. It is worth noting that Donald’s conception of mimesis includes some less voluntarist dimensions (mimicry and imitation, to be discussed below), but that the overall conception of mimesis retains a voluntarist bias largely because he wants to construe the cognition and consciousness that eventually emerges from our evolutionary history as a supramodal “domain-general” capacity, not one limited to particular modular functions and whose multi-level capacities lend it exceptional adaptability, symbolic-cultural integration and focus. That said, the theory as a whole permits, in my view, a somewhat messier rendering with both conscious and nonconscious features of empathy (in the de Waalian sense) and mimesis (in the Girardian sense) at work across the four layers (episodic, mimetic, mythic and theoretic) of cognitive culture—each of which remain active though “encapsulated” by the subsequent layer. Girard and Donald share a commitment to the notion that the process of hominization required some sort of rupture in the relative cognitive solipsism of episodic culture. See Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 171, 174 and 189. As is well known, Girard attributes this break, this introduction of “noninstinctual attention” to the single victim mechanism; see Girard, Things Hidden, 99–100. Also consult Terrence Deacon’s The Symbolic Species (New York: Norton, 1998). Both Donald and Deacon’s ideas are discussed by Girard in Evolution and Conversion, chapter X. Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 173. Donald, “Précis of Origins of the Modern Mind,” 741. Donald sidesteps the messier and bloodier dimensions of early myth and mythic cultures when he says of myth that it “tries to integrate a variety of events in a temporal and causal framework,” Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 215. But given that the vast majority of myths seem to flagrantly violate principles of temporality and causality, their origin and function is better accounted for in terms of social categories and/or Girard’s own theory of myth that is methodologically informed by a strikingly consistent evidentiary approach. See Girard, Evolution and Conversion, chapter 5, and Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1903] 1963).

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54 As Donald points out, the “innate” and socially immersive dimensions of mimetic and mythic culture are “mandatory, hardwired, and extremely subtle and powerful ways of thinking.” Cf. Merlin Donald, “An Evolutionary Approach to Culture: Implications for the Study of the Axial Age,” in Robert N. Bellah and Hans Joas (eds), The Axial Age and its Consequences (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press), 72 and 61. This quote is a good example both of the scope and depth of Donald’s theory of human nature, but also its inadequate theorizing of the rivalry and violence generated precisely by mimesis and of the constraints of mythic, or archaic, culture. Without in any way rejecting Donald’s overall project, Girard cautiously observes, “I have the sense that Donald ties mimesis to the purely creative capacity of the human being.” Cf. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 111. See also Donald, A Mind So Rare, 312–320. 55 Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 215. 56 Donald, A Mind So Rare, 295. 57 Ibid., 298. 58 Donald, The Origins of the Modern Mind, 288. 59 Donald, A Mind So Rare, 274. 60 Ibid., 298. 61 Ibid., 265–266. 62 Recognizing this in Donald’s work should help readers who are otherwise sceptical of Girard’s claim that mimesis is utterly pervasive in human relations and that religion (including sacrifice) is central to the domestication of humanity as it contends with the disorder and violence generated by our evolved mimetic nature. See Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 177; and also Id., Things Hidden, 41–44. 63 Donald, A Mind So Rare, 298, emphasis added. 64 See, for instance, Susan Hurley and Nick Chater (eds), Perspectives on Imitation, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 2005). For surveys of a range of neurological and psychological treatments of human mimesis, see the essays gathered in Part 1 of Garrels, Mimesis and Science. 65 “Once dominance hierarchies disappear, societies founded on them either disappear or embrace the sacred. Only the sacred can save them, because it alone can create prohibitions and rituals that eliminate [or regulate] violence. One mustn’t think of archaic religion in terms of freedom and morality, but in terms of a mechanism of natural selection.” Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 86. See also, Id., Things Hidden, 95 and Id., Evolution and Conversion, 76. 66 In Evolution and Conversion, Girard cites primarily de Waal’s primatological studies. However, the latter had yet to publish the work on shared neural networks cited in this chapter that would also support Girard’s imitation thesis and its hypothesis of an evolutionary continuity between animal and human species.

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67 In many of his writings, Girard seems to suggest that the single victim mechanism was a unique, culturally founding event. However, in those writings where the context is explicitly evolutionary he is much more careful to point out that the domestication of the single-victim mechanism into ritualized sacrifice (of a piece with the process of hominization itself, for Girard) and the emergence attendant institutions (myth, religion and social hierarchy) takes place over enormous (and more evolutionary plausible) time periods. See Girard, Things Hidden, 96–97, 100; Id., Evolution and Conversion, 97, 99, 171, and especially, 105. 68 That is, mimetically spread with startling rapidity; something accounted for in de Waal’s modeling of empathically contagious fear. 69 For Girard, it is precisely our evolved propensity for escalatory mimeticism that exceeds what in most other higher animals is an instinctual braking mechanism against lethal violence among conspecifics. In this sense, as much as human mimeticism enculturates and fosters useful group bonding and even competition, it can also have culturally maladaptive dimensions. For an interesting discussion of such phenomenon, see Richerdson and Boyd, Not by Genes Alone, chapter 5. 70 “Human culture consists essentially in an effort to prevent violence from being unleashed by separating and differentiating all those aspects of public and private life which, so long as they remain subject to the natural order of reciprocity, are at risk of lapsing into irremediable violence.” Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 12. Girard refers to the first “spontaneous” or unplanned instances of this as the “single victim mechanism” in his “Violence and Religion: Cause or Effect?” The Hedgehog Review, 6, no. 1 (2004): 8–13. 71 See René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 44. See also Id., Things Hidden, chapters 1 and 4. 72 Girard, “Violence and Religion: Cause or Effect?”. 73 Efforts to avoid repetition of mimetic crises would lead to elaborate systems of kin groups and prohibitions while, conversely and concurrently, ritual initially would represent attempts to re-enact those beneficial bonding effects inadvertently brought on by spontaneous violence against a single victim and that is often elaborated in varying forms of ritual substitution (including deliberate human, and later, animal sacrifice—evidence that Girard educes from virtually every major religion-culture of which we have record). Violence and the Sacred (1972) and The Scapegoat (1986) are, perhaps, Girard’s most systematic attempts to account for, in a theory of religion, the irruption of ritual and prohibition in every human community of which we have record. See especially chapters 1, 2, 4, 10 and 11 in Violence and the Sacred; and chapters 3 and 8 in The Scapegoat. 74 Philip Carl Salzman, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (New York: Humanity Books, 2008) is an anthropological study of Middle Eastern kin, clan and segment groups that sometimes ally with religious entities and/or national parties (which in

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turn, rely on ethnic-clan groupings to promote themselves and push others to the periphery) in order to pursue collective action problems and community norms (preserving the group’s reputation for defensibility and honor). From within Western democratic regimes, we find it hard to conceive of institutions other than centralized governments as being decisively political. This constitutes part of our exceptionalism (and hence, delusion) of our own community of mind—and ought to remind us that mimetic anthropology is a key tool in coming to grips with the political which cannot (and may not ever be) subsumed under the Theoretic (Donald) or Christian (Girard) cultures that tend to expose the injustice of political violence on ineluctable victims. 75 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 15. 76 Since Hegel, a wide range of thinkers has converged on this interpretation of the historical-cultural significance of Christianity. As Tocqueville understood, this begins the slow process in the West of the increasing recognition of the inherent value and dignity of the individual and the slow but progressive enfranchising of his rights. Even Nietzsche, we might note, accepts this interpretation while despairing of its consequences in the language of slave morality. More recently, many thinkers have positively acknowledged the political-cultural significance of Christianity’s recognition of the individual for the West and its moral and interpretive frameworks. Consider, for example, Richard Rorty’s claim to be a gratefully “freeloading atheist” on the “Jewish and Christian elements in our tradition.” Cf. Richard Rorty, “Postmodern Bourgeois Liberalism” in Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical, Papers, Vol. 1. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 201–202. Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (Cambridge MA : Harvard University Press, 2007) is, of course, a monumental examination of the decisive influence of biblical religion on the culture of the West. For a more concise treatment, see Charles Taylor, “The Future of the Religious Past,” in Hent de Vries (ed.), Religion: Beyond a Concept (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). Slavoj Žižek, The Fragile Absolute, or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? (London: Verso, 2000) is one of his most sustained treatments (with, by now, de rigueur provocations) of Christianity and its radical ethos of equality. Jürgen Habermas, in his Time of Transitions (Polity Press: Cambridge, UK , 2006), makes, perhaps, the most definitive of such claims: “For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national

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constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.” Ibid., 150. It is worth noting that the Christian notion of “persona”—traceable through Augustine, Boethius, Tertullian and so on—specified a soul known by God, and hence, not justly condemnable by the mechanisms of the archaic sacred. As earlier noted in our mention of voluntarism in the Middle Ages, the “persona” of Christianity became the increasingly neutral and secular individual (without losing its provenance). Girard notes that “since the High Middle Ages all the great institutions have evolved in the same direction: more human private and public law, penal legislation, judicial practices, the rights of individuals.” Cf. René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. J. G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 166. Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 40. See Wolfgang Palaver’s exploration of this tension in the politics of the Medieval Church in relation to the katéchon—that which holds back greater violence through the limited use of violence; “Hobbes and the Katéchon: The Secularization of Sacrificial Christianity,” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Vol. 2 (Spring 1995): 37–54. Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 98. Girard states, “Only small minorities resisted. Instead of being unanimous, as in myths, the hostility toward victims in biblical narratives involved only a majority of the community. . . . [Yet] recalcitrant minorities . . . were nonetheless influential enough to guide the compilation of the holy scriptures and shape the great traditions of Judaism and Christianity.” Ibid., 37. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 242–243. Ibid., 237–238. Ibid., 245. See also Donald, “An Evolutionary Approach to Culture.” Though not in entire agreement with each other or the present discussion, the separate essays by Björn Wittrock, Charles Taylor and Matthias Jung in The Axial Age and its Consequences are particularly illuminating. The volume also contains substantial discussions of non-Western axial cultures. See also Girard’s discussion of axial insights from religions other than Christianity in Evolution and Conversion, 212–214; and on Hinduism in Sacrifice, trans. M. Pattillo and D. Dawson (East Lansing, MI : East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press 2011). Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 238. Ibid., 240. Mark Leonard, “Why Convergence Breeds Conflict,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2013): 125–135. However, he does acknowledge progress in terms of justice in some areas. See Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 242.

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89 Another way of framing this from a realist purview of international relations theory is to note that each country would continue “holding fast to its own form of exceptionalism.” Leonard, “Why Convergence Breeds Conflict,” 131. 90 Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning contains an illuminating discussion of this; see, in particular, chapter 13. 91 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 237. 92 Girard, Battling to the End, 21. 93 An over-hasty renunciation of all violence runs the risk of substituting often morally ambiguous (but necessary) decision and action with moral self-flattery— with a conviction that one can simply remove oneself from the violence of the sacred and comfortably (or despairingly) leave it to its machinations. As Girard puts it: “[M]an has a tendency to relapse into the sacred, prompting violence to defend any idea or principle seen simply as sacred.” If we substitute “sometimes tolerating present” for “prompting,” we can glimpse the moral abyss over which the Girardian injunction against violence is suspended. Cf. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 259. 94 “Ideologies are not violent per se, rather it is man who is violent. Ideologies provide the grand narrative that covers up our victimary tendency. They are the mythical happy endings to our histories of persecutions.” Ibid., 237. 95 Political thought (as opposed to normative grappling or apocalyptic messianism) cannot exempt itself from upholding something of the sacred; it must countenance the tactical use of violence for the preservation of an order (or “system of justice”) that may well be in many other respects utterly worth preserving (this would be political philosophy’s best case scenario). 96 See Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 223. 97 Girard argues that Christianity’s unleashing of the principle of individualism, now institutionally sheltered and ideologically reconfigured, allows the individual “true autonomy” and “individual judgments.” However, if looked at more carefully, what Girard means by conversion in terms of autonomy and freedom is not some extraction from mimeticism, but rather, first, the recognition of one’s immersion in mimeticism and, second (and modestly), that “freedom means to talk about man’s ability to resist the mimetic mechanism.” Ibid., 240 and 222. 98 But even such disarticulation will be affected, or infected, by globally and technologically mediated mimetic rivalry: “Human relations are essentially relations of imitation, of rivalry [. . .] Far from turning away from the West, [terrorists and other sub-regime level actors] cannot avoid imitating it and adopting its values, even if they don’t avow it, and they are also consumed like us by the desire for individual and collective success.” Ibid., 238. 99 Ibid., 251. 100 Ibid., 244–247.

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Spinoza, Girard and the Possibility of a Purely Immanent Democracy Stéphane Vinolo

We are not asserting that everything that is done by right is also done in the best way; it is one thing to till a field by right, another thing to till it in the best way. [. . .] Consequently, it is one thing to rule and to take charge of public affairs by right, another thing to rule in the best way and direct public affairs in the best way. —Baruch Spinoza1 Since the very beginning of philosophy, democracy as a political system has suffered severe criticisms. From Plato to Badiou, the belief that human beings are politically guided not only by truth but also by majority opinion has been seen as a complete misunderstanding of politics. Likewise, as the current global economic crisis illustrates, attacks against democracy have come from both leftand right-wing groups. The idea that society must be ruled by opinions, whose only legitimacy rests on the majority principle, is somehow seen as disenchanting. Indeed, the vast majority of us would expect to be ruled by ideas or beliefs that are justified either by rational arguments or transcendent values. Within this philosophical framework, a purely immanent democracy that is only based on the legitimacy of majority opinion might not be as satisfying as a political system based on transcendent symbols. Majority opinion is nothing more than a mere reflection of what citizens want or desire in a specific historical moment. From an absolutist viewpoint, democracy is a fragile system, which serves as a mechanism to elaborate values that are not necessarily based on an inherent concept of transcendence, but rather of self-transcendence. Within the notion of self-transcendence lies a clear opposition between theological systems and democracies. No one has better described this opposition than Jacques Derrida. Citizens are, he argues, both the voice and the ear of the 107

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law. When we analyze democracy in light of its interconnectedness, we can see that it functions cyclically: “[. . .] I don’t imagine it was ever possible to think and say, even if only in Greek, ‘democracy,’ before the rotation of some wheel.”2 Democratic values are thus inherently self-transcendent. Their principles are not drawn from a fixed external point of reference, but are rather placed in a transcendental position by an immanent and quantitative process. The crucial issue that I want to discuss in this chapter is the (re)articulation of transcendence and self-transcendence in relation to democratic regimes. This antagonism, as I will show, lies at the heart of Girard’s Mimetic Theory. From a Girardian point of view, the whole of human history is signed and divided by the act of Revelation. Although the ancient world was ruled by a sacred selftranscendence, the post-Revelation era has deconstructed this mechanism through the “real” transcendence of Christ, and nothing can be further apart than these two forms of sacred.3 From a structural point of view, however, the Revelation is nothing more than the revelation of what we thought to be a transcendent structure within a self-transcendent framework. Democracy could thus be seen as the shadow of an archaic belief projected in the contemporary world. It could be perceived as the contemporary embodiment of a lynching mob that used to stabilize human societies in the ancient world. In this sense, there is a strong similarity between the ancient crowd and contemporary majorities. From archaic societies to democracies, the common thread is often seen as being strictly numerical; that is, the greater number will determine human values and decisions. In fact, many modern-day democracies are faced with the Girardian problem of scapegoating, and some authors have analyzed the ritual roots of democratic systems.4 However, even though the mechanism undergirding the self-transcendence of democracies is very similar to the one that Girard unveiled in his analysis, they should not be considered as identical. We should bear in mind that there is a significant difference between what we refer to as crowds and what is considered to be majority opinion. These differences, which are mainly epistemological, have a significant impact on politics and political action. Since we know that victims are innocent, we cannot afford to merely relying on self-transcendent mechanisms. We should likewise consider the protection of victims and guarantee the rights of minorities. Despite these differences, there is still a very disturbing similarity between contemporary victimary thinking and the archaic scapegoating mechanism. Therefore, it is worth exploring whether democracy might be considered as a “mimetic double” of this archaic mechanism.

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In order to tackle this issue, we must first distinguish between two conceptions of democracy: the contemporary democracy and the Spinozian one. If the aim of democracy were to promote transcendent and absolute values, it would be very close to archaic societies and, therefore, would face the same prospect of violence. To protect democracies from such a danger, a Spinozian democracy would then be required. Through a rereading of Spinoza’s conception of democracy, I argue that the sole efficient response to the crisis of undifferentiation triggered by post-Revelation is a purely immanent democracy that has definitely renounced any kind of transcendent value. Furthermore, in order to defend an immanent democracy, a clear distinction between transcendent and selftranscendent political regimes is discussed. Regardless of the values defended within a transcendental framework, a political regime that is based on such values is likely to be perceived as violent because of its inherently absolutist structure. Even though it is crucial to distinguish between victims and victimizer, they are both—in this writer’s opinion—a potential source of violence because they portray their actions as being justifiable by some sort of transcendent framework. In this regard, therefore, a Spinozian democracy appears to be the only solution to human violence.

Transcendence, self-transcendence and violence There is a very disturbing paradox that every reader of René Girard’s Mimetic Theory has to face, and which is fully developed in Battling to the End.5 In this work, Girard posits that by unveiling the mechanism of scapegoating and the innocence of the victims, Christ has limited the possibility of lynching, and therefore, has reduced the level of violence in human societies. Christ would have brought about a positive truth and indirectly acted as a vector of peace. In a post-Revelation era, we should refrain from using the same scapegoating mechanisms. It should be assumed that societies would be saved by the creation of a barrier between internal and external mediations. Nonetheless, the Revelation of victims’ innocence has had dramatic consequences. Even if we agree that the murder of innocent victims is absolutely unacceptable, we should still pay close attention to the fact that this scapegoat mechanism has stabilized human communities for centuries. Once the sacrificial chain has been broken, political systems become inefficient, and this inefficiency means that violence

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can no longer be restrained. Hence, according to Girard, Revelation should be considered as a pharmakon to violence. It is, by its very nature, both a cure against any collective action of violence, and a “poison” that has fully unleashed mimetic violence with no further obstacle that could reasonably stop it: “A scapegoat remains effective as long as we believe in its guilt. Having a scapegoat means not knowing that we have one. Learning that we have a scapegoat is to lose it forever and to expose ourselves to mimetic conflicts with no possible resolution.”6 While, for Girard, the archaic Gods represent the paradigmatic figures of selftranscendence (in which a victim, emerging from the immanence of the community, is divined by means of a misunderstanding of the process of her eviction), Christ is the model of the “real transcendence” (who reveals the truth of the mechanism from a position radically external to the community). Following Girard’s insight, we may say that the truth is spread by “real transcendence,” which could thus save us from violence. Ironically, though, this event leads to even more violence. The “real transcendence” that is revealed is even more violent than the one represented by the self-transcendent archaic Gods: “The fetters put in place by the founding murder but unshackled by the Passion, are now liberating planet-wide violence and we cannot refasten the bindings because we know now that scapegoats are innocent.”7 How, then, can we stop violence, especially when the consequences of miscognition are neither acceptable nor efficient, and when the consequences of truth-revelation lead us toward apocalyptic scenarios? A possible answer to this dilemma has been partially provided by Girard himself. According to him, there is no political resolution to this situation because political obstacles to mimetic violence are nothing but supplementary actions of violence. Today, societies are suffering from a complete and structural inability to contain reciprocal violence. The only way to escape these extremes is through a complete conversion8 to the message of Christ: “To make the Revelation wholly good, and not threatening at all, humans have only to adopt the behaviour recommended by Christ: abstain completely from retaliation, and renounce the escalation to extremes.”9 We can only admire Girard’s ethical stance here; however, we cannot be but sceptical about its probability of success. Girard himself is well aware of the implausibility of this ethical approach, and the deeply dark and pessimistic atmosphere that shines through the pages of Battling to the End could be read as a reflection of this “double bind” situation: “We can all participate in the divinity of Christ so long as we renounce our own violence.

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However, we now know, in part thanks to Clausewitz, that humans will not renounce it.”10 Girard’s Mimetic Theory clearly highlights the scope and limits of both transcendence and self-transcendence mechanisms through which order is established in human societies. According to it, therefore, there are only two historical paths left open to humankind: either global conversion or global apocalypse. Unless we can prove that Girard has overlooked a third option: the possibility of a purely and immanently-founded community, that is to say, a Spinozian democracy.

Spinoza and democracy as omnino absolutum imperium Spinoza is among the very few philosophers who explicitly explored the relationships among mimetism, violence and politics.11 More important, he has provided us with an in-depth and powerful insight into the nature of mimetism. As we can read in his Ethics: “From the fact that we imagine a thing like ourselves, toward which we have felt no emotion, to be affected by an emotion, we are thereby affected by a similar emotion.”12 A second point of comparison between Girard and Spinoza can be found in the importance they both attribute to the figure of Christ. This could sound quite odd because Spinoza is usually considered a pantheist-cum-atheist. This reading, however, tends to overlook the crucial position that the figure of Christ and faith occupy in the Theological-Political Treatise. On this point, it is worth recalling Levinas’s analysis. He described Spinoza as a betrayer of the Jewish community because of the significant role that Christ plays in the Spinozian reading of the sacred texts. Levinas suspects him to have submitted Judaism to the Revelation of the New Testament.13 Even if we disagree with such an allegation, Levinas is definitely right in arguing that Christ is at the heart of Spinoza’s hermeneutics in the Theological-Political Treatise. Furthermore, both the allegations of pantheism and of atheism should not lead us to believe that the whole existential experience of the Ethics should be read, as Pierre Macherey has suggested, as a profound ethical conversion.14 Even more left-wing interpretations of Spinoza have argued that there is something like a quivering feeling of conversion that runs throughout the Ethics. However, despite these similarities, there remains one major difference between Girard’s and Spinoza’s theoretical apparatus, which I use to spell out the

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possibility and the necessity of a purely immanent democracy. As Girard has pointed out, if all human beings behaved according to the ethical principles of the Gospel, humanity would be saved by a complete renouncement to desire. For him, there is no third option between total and all-embracing ethical conversion and equally total and all-encompassing violent escalation to extremes. A similar idea can be found in Spinoza’s philosophy, but with one important difference: Between conversion and apocalypse, there is still a way for politics. Spinoza posits, just like Girard, that politics is nothing more than a prosthesis for the masses. Their need for politics stems from their lack of knowledge and education. Politics, therefore, is thought of as a simple and makeshift means to rationalize things. Nevertheless, if we could imagine a society in which all individuals reached the highest level of knowledge, a society in which all humans had read and interiorized the message of the Ethics, politics would be totally unnecessary. This is not because politics would not have any impact on violence, but rather because individuals, guided by reason, would naturally desire to live in peace and have nothing to expect from politics. This dichotomy between politics and knowledge appears clearly in the Theological-Political Treatise: “Now if men were so constituted by nature as to desire nothing but what is prescribed by true reason, society would stand in no need of any laws. Nothing would be required but to teach men true moral doctrine, and they would then act to their true advantage of their own accord, whole-heartedly and freely.”15 There exists friction between political systems that can be created through ignorance, and what might be described as the anarchy of wise men; that is, a purely self-organized social system that is based on the conjoining of all human desires, and yet still guided by reason. At a conceptual level, then, Girard and Spinoza seem to share very similar views of politics—understood as a kind of relief from ignorance. Spinoza does, however, also resemble Girard in that he has no illusion about the actual achievement of a solid and self-organized social system. Humankind, as a whole, cannot achieve this kind of knowledge. The logical conclusion of the Ethics is that the ignorant cannot be saved.16 Yet, even though the ignorant cannot be saved by knowledge, they can still be saved by obedience.17 At this point, we can almost predict an unbridgeable gap between Girardian and Spinozian thought. Obedience, in Spinoza’s work, is defined as the opposite of knowledge because it tends to be interpreted as an adaptation to an external law (whereas consent can be defined as obedience to an internal law; e.g., the law of rationality). We cannot but notice that although Spinoza is usually described as a philosopher of freedom and liberation, his major political texts

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can be read as two treatises on obedience: obedience to divine laws in order to live according to the vera vivendi ratio—true conception of living18 (in the Theological-Political Treatise), and obedience to the political laws (in the Political Treatise). Accordingly, there is still something that can be done in order to protect us from violence and injustice: obedience to law. In Spinoza’s work, there is thus a clear depreciation of knowledge in the political life in favor of a purely externalist and behavioral obedience to the law. Whether citizens agree to the law or not, the important point is that obedience per se, as a concept, exists in society: “It is not the reason for being obedient that makes a subject, but obedience as such.”19 The divergence between Spinoza and Girard cannot be more irreconcilable. Girard not only has no hope in politics, but also describes democracy as the utmost mimetic regime. Democracy is a regime that leads us toward the fastest road to apocalypse by eliminating most of the cultural, religious and societal differences among individuals: “The increasing equality—the approach of the mediator in our terms—does not give rise to harmony but to an even keener rivalry.”20 Since 1961, Girard has described democracy as a “mimetic machine.” When, for instance, Girard analyzes Tocqueville’s discussion of the destruction of the Ancien Régime, he precisely explores the links between the new forms of political and social equality spread by the Revolution and the massification of rivalry. In the ancient monarchical systems, the fight for power was limited by the boundaries established by a king’s family. Conversely, in democratic regimes today, the desire for power is extended to all citizens and all peoples. The extension of rights and liberties to all citizens theoretically implies that everyone can aspire to the same positions and desire to possess the same things. What was a limited rivalry is now a potential bellum omnium contra omnes: “They have destroyed the annoying privileges of some of their fellow-men; they encounter the competition of everyone.”21 After having dismantled the transcendence of the divine rights of sovereigns that used to rule the old regimes, democracy is now facing the problem of an even more violent self-transcendence of power. It is not surprising, then, that Girard in 2007—establishing a link between democracy, mimetism and global rivalry—still believed that democracy, even more than other political regimes, was a futile and useless shelter to violence: “Only democratic hope can claim to put an end to the tragedy, but we now know that this is a modern platitude.”22 Moreover, democracy was considered a political regime that was somehow spreading more and more violence: “Democracy is the author of that little invention, the power to draft people.”23 The critique of

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self-transcendence put forward by Girard is, therefore, a critique of the archaic Gods and the scapegoat mechanism as well as a strong conceptual offensive against the futility and the political impotence of democracy. Spinoza, to the contrary, has given democracy a fundamental position by means of his philosophical system. Spinoza’s approach to democracy is purely positive and affirmative. In his view, democracy is not to be seen as the best possible political regime, but, rather, as the best regime from an absolutist position. Democracy, in other words, is the “ultimate” political regime, or at least, the best of the political regimes that humanity will ever experience: “I pass on at length to the third kind of state, the completely absolute state which we call democracy.”24 In what way might democracy be considered an “absolute and ultimate” regime in Spinoza’s thought, and how does it face the problem of violence? How can Spinoza still believe in democracy when the self-transcendence of values and power resembles the murderous mechanism of scapegoating? How can we believe in democracy where there is a constant effort to promote the will of the majority, that is, that form of grouping that resembles the most to the unanimity of a lynching crowd?

A plea for an immanent democracy In order to understand why we should side with Spinoza—that is, in favor of a purely immanent democracy—we must first identify the essential problems that contemporary democracies are facing regarding the linkage between mimetism and violence. According to Mimetic Theory, rivalry and violence would emerge not from real equality, but from structural equality, that is, equality understood as a fundamental governing principle of society. Due to the loss of the transcendental dimension, which was capable of justifying the differences among citizens, any social diversity among them might nowadays be perceived not only as divergence but also as injustice. For the equality principle posits that we can all reach the same status or goal. Therefore, if a person has something that I do not possess, this difference might not only be perceived as a neutral difference, but also as a social injustice. From this egalitarian perspective, the status of the victims has been radically changed because of the deconstruction of the scapegoat mechanism. More specifically, most of us want to be seen as a victim because the victim status is now considered the ideal position to justify and legitimize violence. Today, the violence of the victimizer is

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unanimously considered unjust, while the violence perpetrated by the victimized is perceived as morally just. This process, however, according to Mimetic Theory, has little to do with psychology or sociology: It is the result of the deconstruction of the scapegoat mechanism that is advancing relentlessly since the event of the Revelation. Because of the legacy of the two World Wars and the Holocaust, Europe has entered a post-modern era that is mainly based on “victimary thinking.” Eric Gans, for example, has shown the impact of this victimary thinking on the political realm and, at the microlevel, on academic socialization in university departments.25 Wherever we look, victims are at the center of the media’s and the public’s attention. On the one hand, this process surely represents a kind of moral progress. Yet, on the other hand, a novel form of “victimhood” has been forged; a radical phenomenon directly linked with deconstruction: victimary competition. An example of this dynamic could be the way in which, at the time of this writing, minority groups that have been persecuted in France for centuries are raising serious claims against the current French government. These claims, although legitimate in themselves, are mimetic too. The persecuted group members wish to be recognized as victims. But being recognized as victims per se also implies that they are recognized as victims like other minority groups. By the same token, each minority demands its own commemorative day, and elaborates its own version of national history (which has to be taught in schools) as well as its own museums that are funded and inaugurated by the same political bodies. Indeed, when there is no equanimity among minority groups, there emerges a tendency to feel less recognized and less legitimate than others. The point here is not to criticize this desire for recognition, but simply to stress the mimetism that is pervading “victimary thinking” and its consequences. Indeed, in our contemporary world, there is a spiral of claims of a mimetic nature that resemble those used by victimizers. This phenomenon echoes Pascal’s philosophical views, according to which there is nothing the truth can do in order to stop violence: It is a strange and tedious war when violence attempts to vanquish truth. All the efforts of violence cannot weaken truth, and only serve to give it fresh vigour. All the lights of truth cannot arrest violence, and only serve to exasperate it. When force meets force, the weaker must succumb to the stronger; when argument is opposed to argument, the solid and the convincing triumphs over the empty and the false; but violence and verity can make no impression on each other. Let none suppose, however, that the two are, therefore, equal to each other; for there

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is this vast difference between them, that violence has only a certain course to run, limited by the appointment of Heaven, which overrules its effects to the glory of the truth which it assails; whereas verity endures forever and eventually triumphs over its enemies, being eternal and almighty as God himself.26

Mimetic violence is thus not only based on the misunderstanding of the persecutors, but also on the unveiling of the scapegoat mechanism. From an epistemological and moral standpoint, the victim/victimized and the victimizer have little in common. They are opposite forces, like positive and negative charges. However, from the point of view of mimetic violence and the escalation to extremes, victims and victimizers are, very dangerously, becoming similar to mimetic doubles. In the ancient world, for example, violence was expulsed by means of violence. As Girard metaphorically put it: “In order to prevent the destruction of his kingdom, Satan makes out of his disorder itself, at his highest heat, a means of expelling himself.”27 Our contemporary world already knows its double—the satanistic violence based on the equally mimetic violence of the victims based on the truth and the deconstruction of the scapegoat mechanism: “The sacred, which has been returning for 2,000 years, is thus not an archaic form of the sacred, but a sacred that has been ‘satanized’ by the awareness we have of it, and that indicates, through its very excesses, the imminence of the Second Coming.”28 From the archaic world to our present day, victims are equally sacred (even though in a very different way). Although victims, in the archaic world, used to be made sacred because of their false guilt, they are now sacralized because of their true innocence. Any objection, any obstacle, any doubt that opposed these claims is thus perceived as a supplementary violence on the victims that justifies even more their claims, consolidating their status. Two contemporary French philosophers have shown how this dynamic works and how violence is spread today in the name of victims. Alain Finkielkraut has analyzed, for instance, the new wave of anti-Semitism that, according to him, is very different from the anti-Semitism of the past. While German anti-Semitism was based on the annihilation of otherness, Jews are now persecuted in the name of the victims; that is, in the name of the innocence of the Other. Hitler, as is well known, gave anti-Semitism an evil connotation, but this has also somehow protected the Jews from the resurgence of Nazi thinking and violence. Finkielkraut, however, argues that the new form of anti-Semitism, which is affecting modern democratic societies, is justified, in the mind of the victim, by their “alleged innocence.” The new challenge that Jews, therefore, have to face is violence in the name of the Other, that is, in defense of the victim:

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The Other is wholly innocent, and even if his intentions are revolting, even if he comports himself as a declared enemy, it is never anything other than a legitimate defense. If the Other commits reprehensible acts, it is only in reaction to the spirit of reaction—in response, for example, to the apartheid practices and the harsh security measures to which he has been unfairly subjected. If he is angry, it is because exploitation and exclusion have made him dream of opening fire on the crowd; it is because his rights have been violated in France and his brothers murdered in Palestine. If he is a fanatic, it is because of the degradation to which the Gaudins and the Zionists have condemned him.29

From a different perspective and through a deep analysis of the roots of 9/11, Jean-Pierre Dupuy reaches similar conclusions. To make his point, Dupuy refers to an interview delivered by Osama bin Laden on February 5, 2002, in which he declared that violence is not only theologically defendable, but also logically justified by the rules of reciprocity, and most important, that the violence of the victims is no less reciprocal than that of the victimizer: “If killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists. [. . .] We kill the kings of the infidels, kings of the crusaders, and civilian infidels in exchange for those of our children they kill. This is permissible in Islamic law and logically.”30 In both Dupuy’s and Finkielkraut’s analyses, we can clearly see an application of Girardian thought: the unveiling of the scapegoating mechanism and the innocence of the victims brings about even more violence. This new form of mimetic violence, however, is based on the new status of innocence of the victims. Furthermore, it knows no limits because values that are perceived as “just” and “legitimate” are potentially as violent and as illegitimate as the ones of the persecutors. Thus, on the one hand, we should denounce the persecutors and accept the innocence of the victims, but on the other hand, we should find a way by which the mimetic violence of the victims can be contained because, due their perceived legitimacy, “good values” could be even more dangerous than the “bad ones.” Therefore, when transcendence and self-transcendence are solely understood as justificatory principles, and when both of these concepts might be equally subjected to violence, where can we find a middle ground on which to establish neutral relations? It is at this conceptual level that Spinoza, by means to his concept of purely immanent politics, can help us shed some light on this issue. As previously mentioned, if a democracy is based on “good” or “positive” human values, it might be no less violent than a democracy based on “bad

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values.” The only real way to fully escape violence, and mechanisms of victimization is to abandon the entrenched view that political systems should be solely founded on values. As a matter of fact, any political system that continues to refer to transcendent or self-transcendent values can in itself be subject to scrutiny. In other words, we should renounce the belief that the political common denominator is a matter of “right” and “wrong.” Instead of perpetually seeking a well-founded political system anchored on absolute values, we should rely on its emerging antithesis: a nonfounded politics. Accepting this view does not mean, however, that there are no legitimate reasons behind established political systems, but rather that their basic foundation should rely on a Spinozian perspective, which we could define as the unbearable lightness of mathematics and numbers. Let me try to spell out this point in a little more detail. In principle, the sole legitimacy of law lies in the fact that it has been voted or selected by a majority of the citizens. Consequently, members of a society will try to follow the majority views and behave accordingly, even if some of these views are considered to be unfair. In other words, as Spinoza points out, society as a whole will act in accordance with the dictates of the collective group, despite moral discrepancies: We see, then, that the individual citizen is not in control of his own right, but is subject to the right of the commonwealth, whose every command he is bound to carry out, and he does not have any right to decide what is fair or unfair, what is righteous or unrighteous. On the contrary, since the body of the state must be guided as if by a single mind (and consequently the will of the commonwealth must be regarded as the will of all), what the commonwealth decides to be just and good must be held to be so decided by every citizen. Thus, although a subject may consider the decrees of the commonwealth to be unfair, he is nevertheless bound to carry them out.31

Such an immanent form of democracy without resting on any value other than the majority principle could be interpreted as a very authoritarian regime. In some cases, though, the laws of a country might be balanced more by individual values than group or collective behavior. How, then, can we determine which moral values we should follow? Moreover, if we are capable of rejecting law in the name of our own moral value, how can we stop others from emulating this behavior, creating a dangerous “snowball effect”? As a matter of fact, nowadays even the most passionate follower of civil disobedience would not state that just any law could be disobeyed. Murder and rape, for instance, are seen as blatant transgressions of law and should, therefore, be punished accordingly. Conversely,

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it is argued that there are “bad laws” that we can disobey, in the name of higher moral values, and “good laws” that we must always follow. Who decides, then, whether one action is morally justifiable, especially when it involves abiding by the law? If we accept that it may be possible to disobey a law that has been approved, this clearly implies that the vote of the majority can also be contradicted by other more ambivalent and conflicting values. For example, when France voted “no” to the European Constitutional Treaty in 2005, Daniel Cohn-Bendit32 asked Europe to repeat the vote because, in his view, many people did not really understand the full meaning of the referendum. In the same vain, Eva Joly33 denounced the arrogance of the Irish who had voted against the EU Treaty. In both cases, the citizens were told they were “wrong” and their votes were “misinterpreted.” This is the crucial point I wish to make: Can a vote or a legal decision be wrong even though it has been approved by a majority? It could be argued that it would be wrong only if we accepted the view that politics is merely about moral norms. But if we accepted such an idea, we would face the paradox of always having a minority for which the law voted by the majority is wrong. How to decide, then, which minority has the right to disobey the majority’s decision? In a purely immanent democracy, we could embrace the idea that the results of an election should not be evaluated according to the “right” or “wrong” hypothesis, but only as far as the will of the people is concerned. In this sense, no one can simply be considered wrong in the realm of politics, just like no one can be evil in mathematics. During the 2005 European electoral campaign, most of the French media acted exactly as their counterparts. They presented polls showing people’s preferences, which were portrayed as influenced by their level of education. The “no” was not even considered as a free expression or an option, but merely as the result of a lack of knowledge. Media could not even imagine that some of us really wanted to vote against the EU Constitution. To them, to vote “no” was not an option, but a mistake. In this case, the lack of respect for the vote in the referendum was not only permitted, but also promoted because it was perceived as a conflict between “right” and “wrong.” Another good example of this phenomenon is the problématique of the same-sex marriage. After France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, some city mayors declared that they would disobey the new law, opposing same-sex marriage. Surprisingly, both politicians and the media took part in this heated debate, advocating obedience. In the case of the 2005 treaty, both the media and politicians find disobedience to the vote not only acceptable but also necessary,

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whereas the disobedience of the city mayors in the case of same-sex marriage was denounced as unacceptable and as a violation of the deepest principles of French democracy. This shows once again that when we support disobedience in the name of our own personal values, we are immediately faced with the problem of determining, and discriminating between, “good” and “bad” values. Perhaps, the following example can better illustrate this issue. If we ask ourselves: Does it make any sense to say that direct taxation is fairer than indirect? In one sense, it does, but the opposite opinion is also totally plausible. In any case, this has nothing to do with being right or wrong. By the same token, we could debate whether proportional representation is fairer than majority representation. Once again, however, both arguments could be equally defended. It would be, therefore, an arduous task to try to demonstrate which option is fairer. Whereas, it is much easier to ask people to vote for the option they prefer or feel comfortable with. By voting, however, people are not demonstrating who is right and who is wrong; they are just advocating a preferred way of living by defining society’s rules according to their own interpretations and moral standpoints. In a purely immanent democracy, defense against a violent majority is reduced by the “law” of the lynching mob—as Girard has correctly pointed out. When this phenomenon occurs, it literally undermines Spinoza’s vision and his idea of promoting an immanent politics of the crowd. Accordingly, there is some confusion on what the crowd represents and what the democratic majority signifies. In light of this argument, it is important to remember that, despite his defense of democracy, no other philosopher has been as sensitive to collective violence as Spinoza. This is not only for biographical reasons, but for theoretical ones too.34 Conversely, if we accept the view that a majority is nothing more than a crowd, then we would not be doing proper justice to Spinoza’s thought. Once again, there is an epistemological conflict. In effect, although the members of a crowd might believe they are morally right, the majority is aware that its legitimacy is solely determined numerically. Thanks to Girard’s anthropology, we can now better understand the difference between a democratic majority and a crowd as well as the reasons why a democratic majority is protected from mimetic violence. In a sense, Girard advocates Spinoza’s ideas. A crowd, whether it is a crowd of victimizers or one of victims, is always driven by the view that their actions are justified by values (self-perceived as “good” or “right”). The persecutors or victimizers, however, believe in the justified actions taken against the victim in the same way that we

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believe in the innocence of the victimized. On the contrary, a democratic majority knows that it has not clearly established, once and for good, what is “right” or “wrong.” The only legitimacy of a true majority lies in what we could refer to as the lightness and grace of numbers. I refer to this form of legitimation as “the lightness of numbers” because, unlike transcendent values, a majority can easily move from one choice or position to another. Let us discuss a final example to reinforce this point. In 2013, France decided to legalize same-sex marriages. In so doing, France did not demonstrate that same-sex marriage was good, fair or moral. It was not a matter of demonstration, truth or validity; it was a matter of will and choice, of a way of living. Thus, the idea that nonadherence to the law will not be persecuted became a conventional fact. Citizens who disagree with this law will be respected anyway. They probably would have a variety of interesting arguments to defend their beliefs against this “unjust law,” but because politics is not about being right, they would be asked to respect the law, and all the mayors will be expected to celebrate same-sex marriages as long as this decision reflects the overall will of the majority: “Therefore, if a man who is guided by reason has sometimes to do, by order of the commonwealth, what he knows to be contrary to reason, this penalty is far outweighed by the good he derives from the civil order itself; for it is also a law of reason that of two evils the lesser should be chosen.”35 In fact, every citizen would have the chance to fight for his or her own beliefs, putting forward a public, political campaign, running for election, supporting a party or simply voting against a particular law. Because there are no democratic transcendent values, the opponents of the law will likewise be able to undo what the previous majority had done, but only when they come to power by creating a new majority. Until then, they will be asked to obey the laws. Arguably, the prospect of a purely immanent democracy is somewhat disappointing, and perhaps, even disenchanting as it does not tell us how we should live. And this is probably what we all expect to obtain from philosophy and politics. But if we agree with Girard that violence is the biggest challenge that the world is facing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we could then accept that avoiding the escalation to extremes is probably the main goal we should aim to achieve. Accordingly, the first end of politics would be peace and security, although reformulated in Spinozian terms: “[. . .] the best state is one where men live together in harmony and where the laws are preserved unbroken. For it is certain that rebellions, wars, and contempt for a violation of the laws are to be attributed not so much to the wickedness of subjects as to the faulty

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organization of the state.”36 Neither transcendent nor self-transcendent values would, therefore, be of much help to prevent us from global violence. As I have tried to demonstrate, the only way forward is to abandon our “warrior democracies,” based on quasi-transcendental values, in favor of a purely immanent democracy.

Conclusion Today, in the light of Girard’s insights, it is becoming clearer that what is threatening our democracies is a global mimetic crisis leading to an apocalyptic escalation to extremes. Economic crises, environmental crises, social crises are just some of the major issues we are facing in our post-modern world. Indeed, these phenomena can be precisely conceived and defined by frameworks elaborate by thinkers such as Spinoza and Girard. Mimetic Theory, which is a philosophical and anthropological approach built on the concept of crisis, is helpful to show us a way out of this apocalyptic moment. Yet, according to Girard, time is getting short: “[. . .] if the escalation to extremes continues a little longer, it will lead straight to the extinction of all life on the planet.”37 Nevertheless, Christianity has unveiled the scapegoat mechanism and limited its efficiency. The apocalypse is no longer a simple metaphor to define the end times. The differences on which societies were once based are now showing their fragility: “Today, violence has been unleashed across the whole world, creating what the apocalyptic texts predicted: confusion between disasters caused by nature and those caused by humans, between the natural and the man-made: global warming and rising waters are no longer metaphors today. Violence, which produced the sacred, no longer produces anything but itself.”38 This paradox consists of a new devastating violence, which is not only perpetrated by mimetic victimizers, as it used to be, but by mimetic victims as well. Most of the violence that occurs today has a direct correlation with the actions, behaviors and beliefs of both victimizers and victims. It is a purely reciprocal phenomenon: “Reciprocal action can thus be a source of both undifferentiation and of differences, as path to war and a road to peace.”39 The old heroism, based on the conquest and the submission of peoples, has been substituted by the new heroism of the defence of the victims: “The primacy of a defensive position is consistent with the appearance in a conflict of the principle of reciprocity as a suspended polarity in the sense that victory will not be immediate, but will be total later.”40

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However, transcendent truth justifies violence even more than a self-transcendent lie. The violence of the victim is based on a single truth, and therefore, any obstacle tends to distort its meaning. And this new violence knows no logical remedy: “We now know that differing violence, failing to renounce it straight away, always makes it grow.”41 Accordingly, if neither transcendence nor self-transcendence can save us now, only immanence can. This is exactly what Spinoza has tried to establish in his very unique, in the whole history of philosophy, conception of democracy. Nowhere else has democracy been described in more absolutist terms. Even though Girard argues that democracy is the most mimetic regime and the closest one to the structure of a lynching mob, the fact that a crowd is always determined by self-justifying (transcendent) values allows us to clearly distinguish between mimetic crowds and democratic majorities. A crowd is founded on common values. Self-righteousness is the key feature of crowds and represents the pharmakon of violence. Consequently, crowds are spontaneous and mimetic, whereas a democratic majority is rational and organized. More important, Spinozan democracy is also paradoxically the regime that provides us with the strongest, and at the same time, lightest conception of power. On the one hand, it offers a very strong notion of politics because it conceives majority as its only form of real legitimacy. On the other hand, it is also the lightest because no idea is treated negatively a priori, and therefore, freedom of thought and speech are more likely guaranteed. The idea that politics should not be about being “right” or “wrong,” but about knowing what citizens want and desire from society is probably a little disenchanting, as citizens would like to defend42 their ideas and way of life even against majority opinion. Nonetheless, it is the best way to guarantee peace without abandoning rationality.

Notes 1 Baruch Spinoza, “Political Treatise,” in Id., Complete Works, trans. S. Shirley (Indianapolis, IN : Hackett, 2002), 698–699. 2 Jacques Derrida, Rogues, trans. P.-A. Brault and M. Naas (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2005), 10. 3 “Jesus is not divinized by the false unanimity that puts only a temporary end to collective violence. He is an unsuccessful scapegoat whose heroic willingness to die for the truth will ultimately make the entire cycle of satanic violence visible to all people, and therefore, inoperative. The ‘kingdom of Satan’ will give way to the

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‘kingdom of God’.” Cf. René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lighting, trans. J. G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 2. Cf. Jacques Rancière, Hatred of Democracy, trans. S. Corcoran (London: Verso, 2007); Michel Serres, Rome: The Book of Foundations, trans. F. McCarren (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1991). René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010). Ibid., xiv. Ibid., xi. Girard discusses, back in 1961, his major intuition in terms of conversion: “Since the beginning of the ‘novelistic conversion’ in Deceit, Desire and the Novel, all my books have been more or less explicit apologies of Christianity.” Cf. Girard, Battling to the End, xv. Moreover, he also describes the relationship between conversion and Mimetic Theory in terms of reciprocity: “My conversion is what put me on the mimetic path and the discovery of the mimetic principle is what converted me.” Ibid., 196. Ibid., xiv. Ibid., xvi. I have already discussed the numerous links between his work and that of Girard in Stéphane Vinolo, “Critique de la Raison Mimétique: René Girard lecteur de Jean-Paul Sartre,” in Charles Ramond (ed.), René Girard. La théorie mimétique, de l’apprentissage à l’apocalypse (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2010), 59–104. Baruch Spinoza, “Ethics,” in Id., Complete Works, 292. Emmanuel Levinas, Difficult Freedom: Essays on Judaism, trans. S. Hand (Baltimore, MD : The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 106–110. Pierre Macherey, Introduction à l’Ethique de Spinoza, La cinquième partie, les voies de la libération (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994). Spinoza, “Theological-Political Treatise,” in Id., Complete Works, 438. Alexandre Matheron, Le Christ et le salut des ignorants chez Spinoza (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1971). “Everyone without exception can obey, not merely the very few—very few, that is, in comparison with the whole human race—who acquire the habit of virtue by the guidance of reason alone.” Cf. Baruch Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, trans. M. Silverthorne and J. Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 194. “Isaiah teaches nothing more clearly than that the divine law in an absolute sense signifies, not ceremonies, but that universal law that consists in the true conception of living.” Ibid., 68. Ibid., 209. René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965), 136–137.

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27 28 29 30 31 32 33

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Ibid., 120. Girard, Battling to the End, 47. Ibid., 139. Spinoza, “Political Treatise,” 774. “Transeo tandem ad tertium et omnio absolutum imperium, quod democraticum appelamus.” We cannot but regret that Samuel Shirley has decided to translate the most equivocal and important concept of Spinoza’s politics—imperium—with the word state. See Eric Gans, “Victimocracy,” The Chronicles of Love and Resentment, no. 442, May 25, 2013. Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (London: Penguin Classics, 1982), 168. This quote of Pascal is the exergue of the French version of Battling to the End but, sadly, it has not been reproduced in the English version. Girard, I See Satan, 35. Girard, Battling to the End, 2010, xi. Alain Finkielkraut, “In the Name of the Other: Reflections on the Coming AntiSemitism,” Azure 18 (2004): 21—33, 31. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, “Anatomy of 9/11: Evil, Rationalism, and the Sacred,” Substance 115, no. 37 (2008): 33—51, 43. Spinoza, “Political Treatise,” 691. Daniel Cohn-Bendit is copresident of the European Greens—European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. Eva Joly is a French magistrate and politician for Europe Écologie—The Greens. She has represented this party as a candidate for the presidency of France in the 2012 elections. Spinoza, “Political Treatise,” 741–742. Spinoza witnessed the lynching of Johan and Cornelis de Witt on August 20, 1672. Thanks to Leibniz, we know that on this occasion Spinoza wanted to go out at night and post a placard near the site of the massacres on which he had written: “Ultimi barbarorum”—the worst of the barbarians. Ibid., 713–714. Ibid., 699. Girard, Battling to the End, xiv. Ibid., x. See also: “Christ took away humanity’s sacrificial crutches and left us before a terrible choice: either believe in violence, or not; Christianity is nonbelief.” Cf. ibid., 21. Ibid., 13. Ibid., 17. The violence of the victims is the evil mimetic double of the persecutors: “Our passions and desires come from others; we never draw them from the depths of ourselves. It is because the adversary is hostile that I become so too, and vice versa.” Ibid., 34.

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41 Ibid., 44–45. We have modified the translation of Mary Baker, who has translated the French expression “différer la violence” as “suspending violence.” The Derridian vocabulary of différance is absolutely essential to Mimetic Theory. For this reason, we prefer to use the expression “differing violence.” 42 It is worth noting that most of the Romance languages express the idea that, in an argumentation, a position is to be “defended,” which immediately implies that the participant in the discussion is feeling “attacked.”

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René Girard’s Mimetic Theory: An “Anti-political Theology”? Michael Kirwan

Introduction I understand this exploration of “Mimesis, Violence and Religion” as an opportunity to test the following syllogism. The first premise: that the social and political sciences have been compelled, over recent decades, to incorporate into their analyses a global “return” or recrudescence of religion in the public sphere— the alleged “return of the theo-political”—thus drawing back from premature and largely discredited theories of secularization. The second proposition: that the Mimetic Theory (MT ) of René Girard, as an exploration of the role of sacralized desire and violence in human societies, is a broadly credible paradigm for understanding processes of social formation. The conclusion: that MT has a distinctive contribution to make to contemporary political thought. To some extent, this is to read René Girard against the grain. On the whole, Girard has shied away from political explanation; for example, he engages directly and polemically with Hegel, Freud, Nietzsche, but shows little interest in Karl Marx. Literature—specifically, certain great European novels and the drama of William Shakespeare—is his initial chosen medium for articulating his key insights, with mythology and the Bible coming later as areas of concern. The latest phase of his work, above all in Achever Clausewitz, is oriented toward an apocalyptical historical thesis, prompted by the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz and by the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin.1 At no point in Girard’s long career does political theory command the attention of this polymath and interdisciplinary scholar. This reticence seems at times to border on the allergic, for which there may well be good biographical reasons. As a youth in wartime occupied Paris, Girard witnessed the mimetic contagion that engulfed his fellow citizens into eddies of hatred on either side of the political 127

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divide. He has himself expressly considered it the duty of an intellectual to be “above the fray” with respect to right or left wing labels in politics. And yet, Girard’s work cannot be understood outside the terms of Carl Schmitt’s dictum, that allegedly secular political concepts are ultimately derived from religious meanings and commitments. With regard to the origins of the political, MT insists on an attentiveness to the paradox of violence in social formation, and finds itself drawn to the traces of ambiguity that we find in many classical accounts. Wolfgang Palaver, in a chapter entitled “Political Implications of Mimetic Theory,” explores the genesis of major political institutions, such as sacred kingship and the death penalty, through the victimage mechanism.2 Palaver quotes Girard’s description, in Violence and the Sacred, of sacred kingship as a deferred or delayed scapegoating: “The king reigns only by virtue of his future death; he is no more and no less than a victim awaiting sacrifice, a condemned man about to be executed.”3 The veneration shown toward the intended victim in the interim before death is transformed by that victim into real political influence, thus generating political sovereignty. This process can be traced in anthropological data from Africa, Tibet and elsewhere, but is also hinted at in Hobbes’s famous description of a community’s “war of all against all,” whose violent snowballing effect issues in the choosing of a sovereign, contractually endowed with a monopoly of violence so as to preserve the community from itself. The “exceptional” nature of the sovereign, thus set apart from the community as well as above it, is further elaborated in Carl Schmitt’s “decisionism,” and in his friend/enemy distinction, first adumbrated in Greek tragedy, specifically in The Eumenides by Aeschylus. The play asks: How is civil strife to be overcome? The Chorus of the Eumenides (formerly the goddesses of wrath, but now mysteriously turned benevolent) promises an end to the civil war, as “man with man and state with state/Shall vow the pledge of common hate/And common friendship” (Eumenides, 978–987). There is rejoicing over “these alien Powers that thus are made Athenian evermore.” Marcel Detienne shows how the founders of early Greek cities paid attention to divine powers, identifying Apollo, the founder (Archēgetēs) and Hesta. He adds: [T]he Aphrodite-Ares pair, which is of major importance and represents the relationship between the rituals of warfare, on the one hand, and harmony and concord, on the other, introduces a set of major tensions that must be taken into account in any analysis of the political field.4

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The pairing of the god of war and the goddess of love is clear enough, but the activities associated with Apollo and Hesta (the demarcation of space, the preservation of a sacrificial flame) are also echoes of foundational sacrifice. The fundamental sense of ambivalence remains at the heart of recent attempts to discern the “theo-political.” Hent de Vries asserts that “religions contain both an integrative and a potentially disintegrating or even violent aspect of modern societies,” an ambivalence that leaves us in need of new concepts and new research practices: “No unified theory is currently available to hold these trends together in a compelling explanatory account or historical narrative.”5 Scott and Cavanaugh point out an “essential similarity” between the terms politics and theology: “both are constituted in the production of metaphysical images around which communities are organised.”6 These images may be totemic objects, such as flags, constitutions, territories or charismatic personalities; for Girardian Mimetic Theory, the metaphysical image in question is the scapegoat, the ambiguous figure whose expulsion or destruction is nevertheless the source of cohesion and even healing for the community that has persecuted him or her. In this troubling figure (alluded to in Derrida and Plato’s pharmakon, and elaborated by Giorgio Agamben as the homo sacer) is to be found the origin of concepts such as sovereignty and legitimacy. I propose in this chapter three trajectories in a description of “political Girard”: a Hegelian, an Augustinian and a Pauline. These may be viewed synchronically, as a double palimpsest, so to speak; or diachronically, as three moments or phases in Girard’s intellectual career. With regard to this latter approach, I am particularly interested in the argument of a philosopher, JeanMarie Domenach, who offers a number of vivid observations on Girard’s insights: The more I return to the work of Rene Girard, the more his “hypothesis,” as he calls it, appears as the heroic apogee of modern rationality: a voyage to the end of the sciences of man which, having reached the edge of the abyss of nihilism, do an amazing about face that leads them back in a blazing journey to the very domain they believed they had left forever: that of the Word of God.7

Domenach characterizes Girard as “the archaeologist who, at the eleventh hour, discovers the precious tablet.”8 He expresses his own anxieties about this “voyage to the end of the sciences of man”: an extraordinary volte face back to the Gospel revelation, and a gift whose fortuitous timing should make us suspicious. It may be asked, however, to what extent does Girard’s work really entail such a reversal? Also, whether the surprise and misgivings expressed by Domenach in 1988 are

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quite as valid in our present intellectual climate, where a more widespread “religious turn” among philosophers has been registered? I wish to describe Girard’s heroic voyage as not merely a volte-face, but also a “journey of intensification,” following the American theologian David Tracy, as the best way to appreciate the alleged “apocalyptic turn” in Girard’s later work.9 On the surface, this later phase, which is certainly initiated by the events of 9/11 and by subsequent geopolitical developments, seems to veer uncomfortably toward an evangelically-inspired quietism: an “anti-political theology,” according to which Girard has claimed that “politics can no longer save us.” But is this a correct reading? Does this alleged apocalyptic emphasis denote, for whatever reason, a genuine and unsettling rupture in Girard’s thought, or is it merely an emphatic underlining of a position that has been implicit in Girard’s work from the beginning?

Girard and Hegel I begin with the thinker who in all likelihood has shaped Girard’s Mimetic Theory more than any other. For many intellectuals of Girard’s generation, Alexandre Kojève’s lectures on Hegel in Paris between 1933 and 1939 were highly significant; Girard read the text of these lectures in 1959 when working on his first book. It is difficult not to regard his account of mimetic desire other than as a variant on Hegel’s struggle for recognition: the contest between Master and Slave for the desire, the attention, of the other (arguably, only Sigmund Freud plays as significant a role as Hegel in the evolution of Girard’s own thinking). The Master-Slave dialectic (Herrschaft und Knechtschaft) is a myth, elaborated by Hegel in order to explain how self-consciousness sublates into Absolute Knowledge or “Spirit.”10 “Spirit” cannot come to be without first a selfconsciousness recognizing another self-consciousness. When the two “selfconsciousnesses” become mesmerized by the mirror-like other, they attempt to assert themselves. A struggle for “recognition” (Anerkennung) ensues; this will be a struggle to the death, unless this is avoided by the agreement, or subordination, to slavery. The Master emerges as Master because he does not fear death as much as the slave, while the slave, precisely because of this fear consents to his enslavement. Kojève explicates Hegel’s interest in “desire according to the other,” declaring that “human history is the history of desired Desires.”11 For Hegel, of

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course, the desire is for “recognition”: I desire that you should desire me. For Girard, the desiring subject desires what the model desire, not the model himself. It is worth noting, en passant, a fascinating parallel to Girard’s own work in that of an almost exact contemporary, the psychoanalyst and anticolonial revolutionary, Frantz Fanon (1925–1961). Behind Girard and Fanon looms Hegel’s trope of the Master-Slave relation, and particularly, the emphasis on recognition. This has been of crucial influence on Frantz Fanon’s analysis of colonial subjugation and its effect on the human psyche. The conclusion to The Wretched of the Earth, written about the same time as Desire, Deceit and the Novel, contains extraordinary resonances: Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them. . . . We today can do everything, so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe. Yet it is very true that we need a model, and that we want blueprints and examples. For many among us the European model is the most inspiring. We have therefore seen in the preceding pages to what mortifying set-backs such an imitation has led us. European achievements, European techniques and the European style ought no longer to tempt us and to throw us off our balance. . . . Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.12

We need only look, says Fanon, to the disaster which is the United States of America, to see what happens when a former European colony tries to catch up with Europe: America is “a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.”13 The temptation to create a “third Europe,” with equally catastrophic results, must be resisted. It is in the light of such warnings, and what happens if such warnings are ignored, that we can understand Girard’s initial reading of the appalling events of September 11, 2001. Soon after the attacks, Girard claimed that the atrocity was the bitter fruit of “an exacerbated desire for convergence and resemblance,” arising from rivalrous human interaction, such that “[w]hat is experienced now is a form of mimetic rivalry on a planetary scale.”14 In fact, Girard partly changes his mind on this topic, coming to see a specifically religious dimension in the catastrophe of 9/11. His initial response in November 2011, however, is basically a Hegelian discernment of “desires which are desired.” No doubt the desire for convergence and resemblance has been “exacerbated” under the conditions of

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accelerated modernity, but the conflict itself does not require a specifically transcendent explanation. What has now to be established, however, is that Girard is no Hegelian. However indebted he may be to Hegel for his conceptualization of the problem of conflictual desire, Girard nevertheless distances himself from Hegel’s ontologization of violence, his placement of violence at the center of his system. Girard insists instead on the nondialectical nature of human interaction; or, to be more precise, he argues for a “novelistic dialectic,” by which he means the process of enlightenment and conversion in the novels of Proust, Dostoyevsky and so on, as explored in Deceit, Desire and the Novel.15 These novels do indeed portray an “unhappy consciousness,” but one which is very different from that of Hegel and Sartre, and from the “subterranean metaphysics” of modern humanism. The entangled desires of the characters are oriented toward a difficult conversion, from false to true transcendence; the model of desire being explored here is not Hegelian, but Augustinian.

Girard and Augustine Augustine of Hippo, therefore, is the second figure whose work overshadows that of Girard; specifically, his “Two Cities” tradition of political theology that, in modernity, finds secularized expression in Thomas Hobbes, and in the twentiethcentury “reincarnation” of Hobbes, Carl Schmitt. In the Confessions, and in the City of God, Augustine depicts a painful pilgrimage from falsehood to truth. Idols must be identified, and then rejected, before true worship and a true relationship with God can ensue—much as we find in the characters from Girard’s chosen novels. Augustine describes how desire and violence are connected; thought for Augustine the middle term is worship. The citizens of the Heavenly City, therefore, are known by their love of God, by true worship (sacrifice), and by the peace which they seek and enjoy. This contrasts with the earthly City, characterized by self-love, false worship (idolatry) and love of domination. Even though (as in the parable of the wheat and tares from Matthew) the two cities are “mixed together from the beginning to the end,” they differ in their practices of worship (Bk. XVIII , ch. 54): One of them, the earthly city, has created for herself such false gods as she wanted, from any source she chose—even creating them out of men—in order to worship them with sacrifices. The other city, the Heavenly City on pilgrimage

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in this world, does not create false gods. She herself is the creation of the true God, and she herself is to be his true sacrifice.16

Love of the “earthly city” and its values is, therefore, a form of idolatry. At best, it can achieve a tenuous social stability through the coercion of others—“peacekeeping,” rather than peace—but can never provide the foundation for a genuine conviviality. Essential to a correct understanding of the Two Cities doctrine is the renunciation of Augustine’s earlier Manichean dualism. Despite the apparently all-pervasive coercion, which we associate with the “Earthly City,” Augustine in The City of God insists on the primacy of ontological peace. In terms of their origins and status, the two cities are strictly incommensurate; it is only and precisely God’s mercy and patience, expressed in the period of waiting that comes to be called the saeculum, that they coexist at all, until their definitive separation at the end of time. What happens to the tradition after Augustine, however, is a debasement of this finely balanced depiction of Two Cities. With the loss of the “eschatological” dimension, the Manichean dualism returns, and a concern for “two jurisdictions” of essentially competing claims: two kingdoms, two swords and so on. William T. Cavanaugh understands this decadent understanding to be rooted in a shift of register with regard to the term saeculum, from a temporal to a spatial description. Once the term saeculum no longer denotes the period of God’s merciful waiting, as it were, but delineates a space, sphere or realm—“the secular”—then the problem of the theo-political becomes one of rivalrous struggle for contested space and competing jurisdictions.17 The “Westphalian” solution, according to which the secular power is given authority over the religious for the sake of resolving violent religious difference, leaves to the Church the task of defending its share of the territory; the Church’s activity becomes, therefore, just one political performance among many. It is in the light of this Westphalian development that the political economy of Thomas Hobbes, in the seventeenth century, and the political theology of Carl Schmitt, in the twentieth, are to be understood. For both thinkers, and for Girard, the same puzzle is being addressed: Why is there order and not chaos? In Leviathan (1651), Hobbes offers an etiology of kingship and sovereignty, which derives from a concurrence with Augustine about the wretchedness of human beings in their natural state. Like Girard, Hobbes identifies a crisis of undifferentiation with respect to desire: the natural equality of humans (perniciously preached by Christianity) engenders equality of hope, which breeds envy, and ultimately, universal competition and strife (Leviathan ch. 13).

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Christian egalitarianism is a recipe for widespread conflict, therefore: the famous “war of all against all.” The role of the State, or “Leviathan,” is here affirmed as that of a katéchon, a restraining force against the tide of unlimited destructive violence (the term itself has New Testament provenance).18 Girard scoffs at the “enlightened” doctrine of a “social contract,” according to which the monopoly of violence is entrusted to the sovereign. Hobbes and others invoke such a notion to explain how human communities resolve the crisis: much more plausible, Girard argues, is the idea that a community’s aggression is more or less spontaneously realigned and projected onto a marginal individual or group. With the identification and expulsion (or destruction) of a scapegoat, the community’s unanimity (minus one) and its equilibrium is restored. But both Hobbes and Girard agree on the conflictual condition of humankind in its natural state, and on the cold fear that drives humans into the saving arms of Leviathan. As Cavanaugh notes, this “soteriology” of the State as peacemaker demands absolute sovereign authority: it is not simply that the Church comes to be subordinated to the civil power; rather, Leviathan has swallowed the Church into its yawning maw.19 Moving on three centuries, the key notions in Carl Schmitt’s political theology—the state of exception, the katéchon and the Freund-Feind distinction— all have resonances in Mimetic Theory, as Wolfgang Palaver and other scholars have demonstrated. It may be worth noting that all the major works of Girard’s prime were written during the period of the Cold War, with the “stand-off ” of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 being an especially significant marker. Like Hobbes, Carl Schmitt attempts an appropriation of the language and concepts of Christianity (more precisely, in Schmitt’s case, Roman Catholicism), for what is, in fact, a purely immanent political project. Schmitt’s classic text Political Theology sets out the roots of sovereignty as a secularized theological concept, while The Concept of the Political defines politics in terms of the FreundFeind (“friend-enemy”) distinction, which Schmitt claims is biblically validated.20 Any attempt at their reconciliation is a “denial of difference,” and an upsetting of the balance between states. Schmitt refuses to allow the apparent harmonizing neutrality of the modern liberal state to mask the brutal reality of the modern revolt against God. Wolfgang Palaver and others recognize the inadequacy of Schmitt’s version of political Christianity, while recognizing the power of his diagnoses.21 What is required is a theological critique, which will respond to the genuine concern that is expressed in Schmitt’s arguments—namely, the fear of undifferentiation that is

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at the origin of both religion and politics, and that always threatens to engulf and appropriate an authentic evangelical political vision. Palaver argues that the MT of René Girard can contribute to such a theological framework. In fact, it is in its engagement with that tradition of political theology, which we may loosely call “(post-) Augustinian,” that MT finds its closest dialogue partners as well as its clearest opponents. It is easy to present the various developments of postAugustinian political theology (in Luther, Hobbes, Schmitt) as a distortion or debasement of an original and luminous vision, and a number of scholars will describe the recovery of Augustinian paradigm precisely in these terms. It may equally be argued that the seeds of decadence are themselves to be found in The City of God, in its undervaluation of the innate human capacity for cooperation and covenant, and in Augustine’s failure more generally to resolve the dilemma of the autonomy, however relative, of secular institutions, and of the role of coercion in political governance. In any case, the avowal of a “Hobbesian” or “Schmittian” justification of the political order is both entirely compatible with Girard’s reading of sacralized violence as a means of social stabilization, and clearly inadequate as an articulation of the Christian gospel. Such an avowal leaves us well short of the refusal of barbaric fascism demanded by Rowan Williams: “[T]he fundamental requirement of a politics worth the name is that we have an account of human action that decisively marks its distance from assumptions about action as the successful assertion of will.”22 There is a further twist, however, insofar as political theology and MT have had to register our advancement into a “post-Westphalian era,” in which the geopolitical resolution of the alleged “Wars of Religion” in early modernity no longer applies. The “soteriology” of the Nation State consists not only in its exclusion of religion (and therefore, religious disputes) from the public sphere, as Cavanaugh argues, but also in the possibility of a “sacrificial” resolution of disputes among nations, by means of highly codified warfare. On both counts, the intended defense mechanism is breaking down: the resurgence of violent religious identity and behavior is, in the age of the Internet, quite independent of national borders, while in Battling to the End, Girard takes up Carl von Clausewitz’s argument that the mass mobilization of populations for warfare— symbolized by the Napoleonic armies of 1806—will lead to a negation of war’s katéchonic function. War is no longer effective as a “sacrifice,” that is, it can no longer protect the mass of population from destruction—as is all too evident when we consider the threat from contemporary terrorism, in which every citizen has become a potential combatant. Whether we decide that society is

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underpinned by a social contract that affords us protection, or by a scapegoating mechanism that yields an illusion of solidarity, in both cases the presuppositions of an Augustinian or Hobbesian security no longer hold.

Girard and Paul: the “apocalyptic turn” We come, therefore, to a further moment in Girardian political theology, what has been referred to as an “apocalyptic turn,” associated especially with his book Achever Clausewitz and with other writings since 2001. This development has caused some consternation and requires careful analysis. I am inclined to ask whether it is better understood as a “Pauline” moment—an “intensification” of some aspects of the Augustinian dimension, specifically a heightened sense of urgency, which Girard follows Clausewitz in describing as an “escalation to extremes”: A violence which, now globalized and loosed from its katéchonic constraints (codified warfare, in other words), threatens to engulf us totally. The citation of Paul at this juncture invites comparison with the considerable interest in Paul as a political theologian, beginning with the lectures of Jacob Taubes, and taken up by Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Žižek and others. Taubes’s extraordinary lectures on the political theology of Paul are delivered against the backdrop of his unlikely conversations with Carl Schmitt, while Giorgio Agamben’s work on the state of exception and the homo sacer takes up directly where Schmitt has left off. By contrast, Girardian scholarship on Paul is comparatively scarce, and there is, as yet, no extensive study of Girard and Paul that takes in the findings of the “New Perspectives” on Paul. What we do have is an explicit and unsettling recourse to the language of apocalypse and apocalyptic, defined as “an interpretation of politics in the form of a coded narrative.”23 “[S]omething is being revealed about our world order, whether by divine grace or human reason.”24 This revelation not only documents the threat to order, but also is itself a cause of the instability. Girard writes of an “apocalyptic feeling,” which he identifies very precisely with the conviction of the early Christians that “the time is short.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) According to Robert Hamerton-Kelly, the attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath in creating a “globalised civil war” have created a heightened sense of history and its convulsions. These, in turn, have initiated a significant change in Girard’s Mimetic Theory, an “apocalyptic turn” that Hamerton-Kelly has proposed as constituting a fourth phase in Girard’s intellectual career: a

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historical-apocalyptical analysis, following on his earlier engagements with literature, comparative anthropology and biblical theology.25 We may note, incidentally, a parallel with the history of Girard’s engagement with the term “sacrifice.” For the second time, Girard articulates a key theologicalanthropological discovery by means of a powerful but problematic religious concept; the difference between these two cases being that whereas he argued for a rejection of “sacrificial” thinking and practice in the name of the Christian revelation (a stance he was later to revise markedly), he now argues—albeit again, in the name of Christian truth—in favor of “apocalypse” as an essential hermeneutical key for the contemporary epoch of human culture. With apocalyptic revelation comes the responsibility of serious choice: [T]he Gospel does not provide a happy ending to our history. It simply shows us two options (which is exactly what ideologies never provide, freedom of choice): either we imitate Christ, giving up our mimetic violence, or we run the risk of self-destruction. The apocalyptic feeling is based on that risk.26

As indicated above, there is debate as to whether there is an “apocalyptic turn” in Girard’s work. In fact, Robert Hamerton-Kelly insists that MT was an “apocalyptic theory” from the outset. Desire, Deceit and the Novel, for example, contains a chapter entitled “The Dostoyevskian Apocalypse.” More generally, in Girard’s account of human desire and its inherent instability, we have, in nuce, the “escalation to extremes” that Girard only later comes to describe in historicalapocalyptic terms. While rejecting the charge that he is a cultural pessimist, Girard is nevertheless clear that history is not carrying along at the same pace and rhythm as before. Specific aspects of our situation make it unique, and indeed, uniquely dangerous. The decomposition of the sacred mechanism in the modern period precisely instantiates this ambiguity; how we react to the collapse of sacrificial safeguards will determine whether or not we have a future at all. Girard repeats this warning in Evolution and Conversion: In other words, precisely the uncomfortable ambiguity of our situation, which could go either way, at least shows we are not dealing with an ideology, such as the “end of history,” or the inevitable triumph of the proletariat, which leaves us no choice in the matter. Instead, what lies ahead will consist of dialectical turns so astonishing that they are going to take everybody by surprise.27

The situation has been further complicated by the sequence of events from 1989 to the crisis initiated by the 9/11 attacks. Even during the Cold War, a precarious

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stability was achieved because the enemy superpowers operated within a humanistic, and therefore, predictable, paradigm. Girard has referred in a lecture to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, in which Kruschev “turned the other cheek” by recalling his missiles, thereby avoiding catastrophe. The problem with the present threat of militant Islam, for example, is its complete unpredictability; hence, Girard’s rather shocking declaration at the “Colloquium on Violence and Religion” (2008) to the effect that we are beyond the point where politics can help us. The search for a political solution merely prolongs the illusion that we are in charge of things, that the world is predictable. “We must be willing to think in a wider context, and in my view, this wider context is the apocalyptic dimension of Christianity.”28 The question to be addressed here is whether the renewed stress on this complex biblical reality enhances or undermines the effort to derive a “political theology” from Girard’s Mimetic Theory. Is apocalypse awareness (which, as Girard describes it, is all about the problem of violence without sacrificial protection) a corrective to our politics or a substitution for it? I have proposed three moments or layers of political insight in Girard’s Mimetic Theory: the first two, the Hegelian and the Augustinian, are in a sense relatively straightforward, notwithstanding the complexity of each of these thinkers. I have proposed Paul as the emblematic figure of the third phase, in preference to the label “apocalyptic.” Such a choice, perhaps, helps to “rescue” Girard from the company of Left Behind “rapture” enthusiasts and the like; more important, it brings Girard into direct conversation with the contemporary theologians and philosophers who have found Paul such a fascinating catalyst for political reflection. And it need hardly be said that some of the ambiguities around Mimetic Theory and politics remain in place as we continue to read Romans chapter 13 in all its perplexing possibilities. There is no space here to fill out in detail what such a conversation would look like, but the work of the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, may be cited as an illustration. In March 2009, Agamben was invited by the Bishop of Paris to deliver an address in the cathedral of Notre Dame. His speech, published subsequently as The Church and the Kingdom, draws on his understanding of messianic time and political economy in order to deliver a challenging critique of the institutional Church and its lost sense of purpose.29 Christians are meant to live as sojourners in the world; a displacement that also implies a distinctive experience of time as messianic. To experience this time implies “an integral transformation of ourselves and of our ways of living.”30 At stake here is a proper relation between the ultimate and the penultimate (a rejection,

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therefore, of any radicalism that would separate them and require us live solely with the ultimate). For Agamben, history is a field traversed by two opposing forces: on the one hand, Law or State (the katéchon, the maintenance and deferral of the end along a linear and homogenous line, as in 2 Thessalonians). This force is dedicated to economy, the indefinite governance of the world. The second vector is “messiah or Church,” the economy of salvation. Only a dialectical tension between these poles can enable a community to form and persevere over time. And yet, precisely this tension seems today to have disappeared. Eschatological urgency, no longer present in the Church, reappears in the form of secularized parody, in the states of permanent exception and emergency, and an unprecedented “hypertrophy of law.” “[N]owhere on earth today is a legitimate power to be found; even the powerful are convinced of their own illegitimacy.”31 Agamben calls on the Church to recover its messianic vocation, or be lost in time and “be swept away by the disaster menacing every government and every institution on earth.”32

Conclusion I have cited Agamben to emphasize that, if in 1988, Girard’s was a lone and uncanny voice, this has been much less the case in subsequent decades, as thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben come to a similar engagement with religious thought. His work on homo sacer and the “state of exception” is largely an excursion into classical philology and legal theory; and yet, Agamben himself has maintained that “[M]y books . . . are confrontations with theology.” “I think that it is only through metaphysical religious and theological paradigms that one can truly approach the contemporary and political situation.”33 I have attempted to show that Girard himself has operated under a similar imperative. The three trajectories, which I have identified in his work in such a way that they can be read either as synchronic or diachronic—as palimpsest, or as a “journey of intensification”—testify to the theological undertow of Girard’s thought. Taken in succession, they represent a break with Hegelian dialectic, in favor of an Augustinian narrative of novelistic conversation; the Augustinian paradigm in its turn has to give way, as the post-Westphalian collapse of katéchonic protections becomes more and more evident, and only the language of apocalypse and of apocalyptic choice is adequate to our situation. The designation of this third phase as “Pauline” allows Girardian theory access into

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one of the most remarkable and suggestive conversations in contemporary political theology. There is no straightforward sense in which Girard is a political theorist. In Deceit, Desire and the Novel and then in Violence and the Sacred, Girard formulates anthropological insights by reading texts: first, his treasured European novelists, then the myths and legends of the history of religion, as evidenced in ancient drama. Burton Mack summarizes: “Texts are in touch with the mechanisms and events that generate social structures and their history. . . . By combining the two literatures (novels with mimetic plots and myths of killing), Girard produces the full dramatic sequence.”34 Approbation of Girard’s MT as a resource for political theology requires a judgment on the legitimacy of this way of operating, of moving from fictional to actual violence. Can assertions about violence within symbolic and literary constructs be extrapolated to the “real world”? Is it plausible that “[t]exts are in touch with the mechanisms and events that generate social structures and their history”?35 Even if this license is granted, there remains the objection of Domenach, and others like him, suspicious of a gift that seems too good, and too timely (the “archaeologist’s discovery at the eleventh hour”) to be true: If I voice an objection, is it to avoid succumbing to the seductiveness of an audacity that would, return Christ on the cross to the centre of the world? It seems to me it is out of fear of meeting up again with some demons I thought I had exorcized: the claim to close off in a global explanation, the myth of a social transparency finally realized, the dream of a City that the Spirit would penetrate and dedicate to the Good. In short, a desire to know that does not know its limits and claims suddenly to illuminate all history, past, present and yet to come, like a pyrotechnics expert igniting a Catherine wheel. The tragic, in my view, will continue its dialogue with certitude. For there will subsist until the end a share of night that is not the reverse side of day, but the place for the propagation of light.36

It is easy enough to share Domenach’s misgivings about the totalizing dangers of religious thought, a refusal of the tragic in the name of a dogmatic and omniscient certitude. But how discordant this reticence sounds, when compared to recent philosophical projects, such as Agamben’s, which argue the exact opposite: that it is in the absence of the theological that we run the risk of closure and totality! Only a resistance to such closure will enable us to respond to the injunction of Rowan Williams, who urges a rejection of the “barbarism” of meaningful action, understood as pure successful assertion and conjuring “the spectre of the

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purest fascism.”37 Whatever else may be said on this topic, it is at least clear that Girard distances himself from any such conception of action. On the contrary, like Freud and Marx, he sees social interactions unfolding as a result of the misunderstanding (méconnaisance) of the agents concerned. A community, newly reconciled to itself by the expulsion of a victim, disguises its violence from itself by means of myths, prohibitions and rituals. Even so is Jesus done to death “at the hands of political and religious meaning makers.” In place of this “barbarism,” Rowan Williams appeals to an understanding of action as testimony, and acknowledges theology as: the discipline that follows what is claimed as the supreme act of testimony, and thus the supremely generative and revisionary act of all human history: the Cross for Christians, the gift of Torah and communal identity for Judaism.38 Even well-meaning readers still fail to follow me in my conviction that JudeoChristianity and the prophetic tradition are the only things that can explain the world in which we live. There is mimetic wisdom, which I do not claim to embody, and it is in Christianity that we have to look for it. It doesn’t matter whether we know it or not. The Crucifixion is what highlights the victimary mechanism and explains history.39

Notes 1 René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010). 2 Wolfgang Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2013). 3 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 120. 4 Marcel Detienne, “The Gods of Politics in Early Greek Cities,” in Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan (eds), Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), 91–101. 5 Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan, “Introduction: Before, Around, and Beyond the Theologico-Political,” in Id., Political Theologies, 8. 6 Peter Scott and William T. Cavanaugh, “Introduction,” in Id. (eds.), Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 1. See also Creston Davis, John Milbank and Slavoj Žižek (eds), Theology and the Political: The New Debate (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 2005); William T. Cavanaugh, Jeffrey W. Bailey

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and Craig Hovey (eds), Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology (Grand Rapids, MI : Michigan: Eerdmans, 2012). Jean-Marie Domenach, “Voyage to the End of the Sciences of Man,” in Paul Dumouchel (ed.), Violence and Truth: On the Work of René Girard (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1988), 152–159, 159. Ibid., 152. See David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1980). Cf. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. by A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), especially Chapter IV A, “Independence and Dependence [Unselbständigkeit] of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage.” Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. J. H. Nichols Jr. (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, [1947] 1980), 6. Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. C. Farrington (London: Penguin, 1967), 251–252. Ibid., 252. René Girard, “What Is Occurring Today Is a Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale,” Le Monde, 6 November 2001, 1. René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965). Augustine, City of God, trans. G. R. Evans (London: Penguin, 1984), 842. William I. Cavanaugh, “From One City to Two: Christian Imagining of Political Space,” Political Theology 7, no. 3 (July 2006): 299–321. The Greek word katéchon means “to hold back, hold fast, to bind, restrain,” and is used by St. Paul to refer to the restraining hand of God before the chaos of the end times is unleashed (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). Mark 13 and Luke 21 similarly refer to a delay or deferral of the apocalypse. It is in the Book of Revelation, 20:7–8, however, where we find the most graphic portrayal, in Michael’s struggle to contain Satan. William T. Cavanaugh, “ ‘A Fire Strong Enough To Consume the House’: The Wars of Religion and the Rise of the State,” Modern Theology 11, no. 4 (October 1995): 397–420, 406. The distinction has, for Schmitt, a theological basis: He quotes Genesis 3:15 (Eve and the serpent) and Genesis 11:9 (the Tower of Babel) to prove that God wills enmity and division in his creation. See Wolfgang Palaver, “A Girardian Reading of Schmitt’s Political Theology,” Telos 93 (Fall 1992): 43–68. Rowan Williams, “Preface” to Theology and the Political, 1. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, “An Introductory Essay,” in Id. (ed.), Politics and Apocalypse (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2007), 1–28, 5. Ibid., 2.

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25 Ibid., 5. 26 René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 237. 27 Ibid., 261. 28 René Girard, “Apocalyptic Thinking after 9/11: Interview with René Girard,” Substance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, 115, 37, no. 1 (2008): 20–32, 25. 29 One commentator has suggested that, in this address, “philosophy becomes again the handmaid of theology” insofar as it “questions anew the matter of faith and the meaning of the earthly institution of which it is the guarantor.” Another describes Agamben’s talk as a “strange synthesis” of anarchic radicalism and political Augustinianism. 30 Giorgio Agamben, The Church and the Kingdom, trans. L. de la Durantaye (London, New York, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2012), 13. 31 Ibid., 40. 32 Ibid., 41. 33 Giorgio Agamben, “ ‘Der Papst ist ein weltliche Priester’: Interview with Abu Baku Rieger,” Literaturen (June 2005), 22. 34 Burton L. Mack, “Introduction: Religion and Ritual,” in Robert Hamerton-Kelly (ed.), Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation (Stanford, CA .: Stanford University Press, 1987), 1–73, 17. 35 Ibid., 17. See also Mark Juergensmeyer (ed.), Violence and the Sacred in the Modern World (London: Frank Cass, 1992). This collection of essays considers how the mimetic hypothesis sheds light on existing conflicts across the globe. 36 Domenach, “Voyage to the End of the Sciences of Man,” 159. 37 Williams, “Preface,” 1. 38 Ibid., 3. 39 Girard, Battling to the End, 196.

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A “Theoretical Double”: Violence, Religion and Social Order in Schmitt and Girard* Andrea Salvatore

The murder of Christ was a ritual murder. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that our eon begins with a ritual murder. —Carl Schmitt, Glossarium1

Introduction If we focus on the key concepts of violence and social order, René Girard’s cultural anthropology and Carl Schmitt’s political theory appear to be similar in structure and content, although both authors occupy quite distinct realms of discourse.2 In particular, they share a general view that can be schematically summarized in four main tenets: (1) a widespread violence is at the origin of any social context; (2) this violence can be effectively restrained, but never totally eliminated; (3) the only way to restrain such violence is by directing it—or better, redirecting it—against a determined minority, which is still an integral part of the community; and (4) this minority is composed of people who are considered, by the whole community, as the sole responsible party for an extremely dangerous situation, which consists in a serious and impending crisis that must be overcome. Following this interpretative path, the text aims to draw a detailed comparison between Schmitt’s political theory and Girard’s cultural anthropology, with particular reference to their respective concepts of violence and social order. In doing so, I try to highlight the numerous ideas that are common to both, and also the conceptual developments that are peculiar to them. For a better understanding, I have divided my chapter into four parts, each dedicated to a specific aspect of the parallel reading I propose: the problem, the solution, the danger, the resolution. There are two main reasons 145

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for this. The first has to do with a consistent interpretive framework within which Schmitt’s and Girard’s theories can be more fruitfully compared: From this methodological standpoint, the division sketched above grasps what I consider to be the key aspects and the major turning points that are common to the two theories. The second reason concerns the lesson we can learn from such a comparison, with particular reference to the ongoing transition to more reliable and stable forms of global governance. From this theoretical point of view, the four-step analysis casts some light on an essential factor that is usually overlooked: what are the hidden (and more often than not, concealed) social side-effects of any process of political stabilization, especially in the case of the highly complex system of multiple interactions that characterizes the international context?

The problem: unrestrained war and mimetic violence In both theories, what can be defined as the original situation is characterized by a structural and widespread violence: either political communities, in Schmitt’s political theory, or the religious contexts, in Girard’s anthropological inquiry, are affected by violent relations—whether already operating or still only potential— among their members. Such conflict leads to a rapid and dramatic escalation that traps the whole community in an irreversible spiral of endemic and ubiquitous violence. In Schmitt’s account, the escalation is shaped according to a polemological and oppositional logic, by virtue of which the other is denied as a fellow citizen because of its being considered as “existentially different.” In Girard’s theory, the escalation is shaped in the light of his mimetic hypothesis, according to which human beings imitate both the desires of others and the very violence that follows from this mimetic rivalry. These positions represent a stunning reversal of conventional (political) wisdom: indeed, according to both authors, enmity does not stem from substantial inequality, but quite the reverse, from complete equality. The more human beings are similar, the more they focus their antagonism on each other. But if this is so, then, in order to restrain the conflicts that unavoidably arise, human beings as political actors should not pursue what unites them, but again, on the contrary, what divides them. This general view of human nature, shared by Schmitt and Girard, is rooted in a very similar anthropology, which leads, on the one hand, to a fierce critique of Aristotle’s and Rousseau’s faith in the intrinsic sociability and goodness of

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human beings, and on the other hand, to emphasizing the essential role and the deterministic imprint of the original sin in shaping interactional patterns.3 Schmitt’s conception of human nature is rooted in a slightly revised version of so-called “philosophical anthropology,” largely inspired by the concept of Weltoffenheit (world-openness) developed by one of the foremost representatives of philosophical anthropology, Arnold Gehlen, in his famous work Man: His Nature and Place in the World.4 Like Gehlen, Schmitt conceives of human beings as not-defined beings, who “act” and “take position.” Human beings are portrayed as devoid of an instinctual background that makes them capable of facing in a preprogrammed way the problems occurring in their own environment (Umwelt). The environment is a set of conditions that enable a given organism to survive. In other words, the environment is a dimension that animals construct in relation to their proper organic constitution. Animal conduct is guided by instinct and impulses that are appropriate to their environment, and this makes animals highly dependent on the latter. Quite the contrary, the biological constitution of human beings does not presuppose any specific environment. They can adapt and transform their surroundings, and in doing so, they adapt and transform themselves. Yet, this unlimited possibility is also the main source of risks. If their world-openness grants human beings an innumerable set of possibilities, it also makes them exposed to an overabundance of urges (Triebe), which human beings are unable to handle. Such an overabundance ends up being a “burden” (Belastung). As a consequence, human beings must seek a “relief ” from the burden of overwhelming stimulation. This is what Gehlen calls “relief principle” (Entlastungsprinzip): The activity of human beings on themselves transforms their own burdens into chances to save their own life. By capitalizing on this frame, Schmitt intends to highlight that self-preservation actually entails the readiness to kill and to be killed. This is why Schmitt depicts the human being as a dangerous and risky being (in the double meaning of “exposed to risk” and “risk-attracted”).5 Central to Girard’s anthropology is instead the victimage mechanism, whose appearance is considered by the French anthropologist as the threshold of the process of hominization.6 According to Girard, appropriative mimesis—the imitation of the desire to possess an object—is common both to human beings of all ages and higher nonhuman animals. What ultimately distinguishes the former from the latter is the degree of intensity of the conflicts caused by the mimetic antagonism. This difference is the ground of all other differences between human beings and nonhuman animals. Conflicts among the latter are

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always settled by reverting to dominant patterns, that is, instinctive behaviors that, by establishing a rigid hierarchy, can put an end to intra-species rivalry. Only human conflicts escalate to such a degree that the very existence of human species as a whole turns out to be menaced. It follows that, in order to survive, humans adopt the victimage mechanism, which is meant to protect the social group by redirecting violence away from community members. In a nutshell, war is a human invention and has a ritual origin. This is why Girard conceives of the sacrificial mechanism as the real threshold of hominization: “Beyond a certain threshold of mimetic power, animal societies become impossible. This threshold corresponds to the appearance of the victimage mechanism and would thus be the threshold of hominization. [. . .] We can conceive of hominization as a series of steps that allow for the domestication of progressively increasing and intense mimetic effects, separated from one another by crises that would be catastrophic but also generative in that they would trigger the founding mechanism and at each step provide for more rigorous prohibition within the group, and for a more effective ritual canalization toward the outside.”7 In Schmitt’s and Girard’s anthropology, violence is primarily characterized as disorder, chaos, nondiscrimination, that is, ultimately, as the lack of a hierarchical structure able to establish and preside over a differentiation of social roles. As Girard clearly points out, “it is not the differences but the loss of them that gives rise to violence and chaos [. . .]. This loss forces men into a perpetual confrontation, one that strips them of all their distinctive characteristics—in short, of their ‘identities’.”8 In an even clearer way, he writes: “The sacrificial crisis can be defined, therefore, as a crisis of distinctions—that is, a crisis affecting the cultural order. This cultural order is nothing more than a regulated system of distinctions in which the differences among individuals are used to establish their ‘identity’ and their mutual relationships.”9 As a corollary of their view of the connection between violence and politics, Schmitt and Girard10 provide a radical critique of the systematic analysis of war as a political phenomenon carried out by Carl von Clausewitz in his On War. Given its relevance, such an issue would require (and deserve) a separate essay. For my purposes, it is nonetheless useful to sum up briefly the terms of the debate. Schmitt and Girard agree in considering Clausewitz’s conception of war as an invaluable tool for understanding not only modern warfare, but also, more generally, the dynamics of conflict among political actors. Yet, at the same time, both authors argue that the conception at stake is limited in one important

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respect. The two basic tenets advanced in On War can be summarized as follows: (a) due to its nature and propensity, war is the continuation of politics by other means; and (b) absolute war is merely a logical concept; in reality, war can be but actually limited in its aims and means. Due to his rationalist approach, Schmitt and Girard argue, Clausewitz’s account of war ends up being unable to recognize the pervasive role of war in its radicality. According to Schmitt, war as such is a possibility ever present in the political field; consequently, tenet a is false. The analysis should not be focused on the political character of war, as Clausewitz does, but on the polemological character of politics. It is not politics that shapes war, but war that shapes politics. Clausewitz, Schmitt seems to suggest, can be considered an ideal forerunner of the absolute political contraposition: “War is for him [Clausewitz] a mere instrument of politics. This cannot be denied, but its meaning for the understanding of the essence of politics is thereby still not exhausted. To be precise, war, for Clausewitz, is not merely one of many instruments, but the ultima ratio of the friend-and-enemy grouping. War has its own grammar (i.e., special military-technical laws), but politics remains its brain. It does not have its own logic. This can only be derived from the friend-and-enemy concept [. . .].”11 A definitive statement is given in The Theory of the Partisan: “But he remains on the whole the reform-minded regular officer of a regular army of his age, unable to germinate the seed which becomes visible here or to develop it to its full potential” [Schmitt refers to the development of modern warfare, with particular reference to the legal recognition of the guerrilla strategy as a people’s war, and thus, as an essentially political action with revolutionary aims12].13 According to Girard, any mimetic rivalry, and mostly modern conflicts, are doomed to escalate to extremes; consequently, tenet b is false. Between limited war and absolute war there is not a difference in kind, as Clausewitz says, but only a difference of degree. According to Girard, Clausewitz is the first modern theorist of the basic law of social interactions, which consists in the violent nature of the mimetic reciprocity. Clausewitz, Girard goes on, seems to foresee both the great potentialities of this force and the resulting political incapability of restraining it. By equating the “reciprocal action” (Wechselwirkung) theorized by Clausewitz with his concept of “mimetic undifferentiation,” Girard argues that Clausewitz’s theory is the crucial joining link between modern history and mimetism. Yet, because of his inflexible rationalism, Clausewitz ends up contradicting his own seminal idea of an absolute war by reducing and limiting the new type of conflict to modern politics.

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The solution: decision and sacrifice Based on the above considerations, according to both authors any social aggregate identifies with the stabilization of a communitarian order, which is still threatened by a pervasive violence. This permanent state of violence—what both authors conceive of as a “crisis of the undecidable”—must be necessarily overcome. It is at this stage that the opponent—be it the antagonist in Girard’s mimetic rivalry or the alien to the normal situation in Schmitt’s account— becomes a true enemy, whose emergence represents the real ground for the communitarian cohesion. Both authors depict this as an exceptional situation in which the norms and rules in forces are no longer effective, and thus, exceptional measures are required: Social order can be achieved only through a decision, which reveals itself as inevitably violent. The aim of this original decision is to properly identify an other-than-self against which the large-scale violence, which threatens the very existence of the social aggregate at stake, can be canalized. This common opposition to an alien community is what really holds a group together. By deciding, the Schmittian sovereign cuts out14 the social configuration, element or group which appears to alter the general homogeneity of widespread social practices, and is thus regarded as responsible for the partial or total impossibility of reaffirming the effectiveness of law (namely, for the un-normal situation). Similarly, in Girard’s theory, the sacrifice of the scapegoat represents the founding act of every community. The scapegoat is one individual who (or one group that) is singled out and recognized, by the whole community, as the sole guilty party for the outbreak and persistence of unrestrained violence. If we interpret Schmitt’s decision as the sacrifice of a part of the community in order to save the rest of it, the following quote from Girard’s The Violence and the Sacred proves to be an excellent summary of Schmitt’s own view: “[T]here is a common denominator that determines the efficacy of all sacrifices and that becomes increasingly apparent as the institution grows in vigor. This common denominator is internal violence—all the dissensions, rivalries, jealousies, and quarrels within the community that the sacrifices are designed to suppress. The purpose of the sacrifice is to restore harmony to the community, to reinforce the social fabric. Everything else derives from that.”15 In the same vein, Schmitt’s friendship relation is mirrored by Girard’s solidarity “among those who can fight the same enemy together.”16 As soon as social order is restored and everything returns to normality, war/scapegoating as an actual event recedes. But it remains the ever-present structural mechanism that makes social order possible.

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With respect to the general aim of redirecting violence away from community members, the two theories can be compared on the basis of two main aspects: the interactional conception of personal identity and the identification of the enemy/scapegoat. 2.1. The interactional conception of personal identity. In both theories, personal identity is the final and only derived outcome of a socially determined process: Identity is first and foremost about difference, which in its turn originates from identity. Human beings come to determine themselves only in and through their antagonistic relationship to the others. Within this perspective, Schmitt and Girard concur that the original decision is determinant of identity, either political (Schmitt) or cultural (Girard). In particular, the cohesion of the community and (consequently) personal identity are achieved by contrast, that is, through the opposition to, and the negation of, an original reality. To put it otherwise, the self is molded and determined by a more original other-than-self, be it the political enemy or the sacrificial scapegoat. Yet, in both cases, the original other-than-self is but a social construction. Indeed, it is true that the other-thanself is usually determined on the grounds of some physical or behavioral distinctive aspect (which can be said to be in some sense “real”). But what aspects, among others, should be considered as relevant (and why) is obviously a social choice (however unconscious and unreflective it may be). Believing in the otherness of (the one who is believed to be) the other is nothing but a social necessity. In this regard, both theories base the emergence of the other-than-self on a circular logic, according to which the totally similar (the partner) gradually becomes the totally different (the enemy) precisely because of its being similar. Indeed, if it is true that in Schmitt’s theory the other is fought because of its strangeness, it is also true that such diversity is the outcome achieved by means of a previous decision that singles out a given set of features as relevant factors for an identitarian contraposition and cuts away all the others. In short, negation follows from diversity as much as diversity follows from negation. Similarly, in Girard: We imitate the desire of the others because we are similar to them as much as we are similar to the others because we imitate their desires. The more the antagonism develops, the more the mutual opposition that characterizes it becomes a self-sufficient mechanism, which is ultimately independent of the original reasons for the rivalry.17 Finally, Schmitt’s and Girard’s interactional conception of personal identity is also behind the trenchant critique of liberal individualism they provide. The individual uniqueness proclaimed by modern

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subject, they argue, is a dangerous illusion. Personal identity is not a selfgenerating and self-determining process, but a socially constructed outcome.18 2.2. The identification of the enemy/scapegoat. The internal enemies and the scapegoats always belong to (or straightforwardly are) poorly integrated groups. They are marginal and vulnerable outsiders. They represent a social minority, whether this is due to behavioral, physical, cultural or social factors (which, however, turn out to be closely related, especially from the point of view of the persecutors). Schmitt argues that the enemy is “the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien [. . .].”19 Similarly, Girard states that scapegoats are “exterior or marginal individuals, incapable of establishing or sharing the social bonds that link the rest of the habitants.”20 In a word—and this is a capital point—they are (considered as) non-normal with reference to an unproblematic and uncontested state of affairs. Their distinctive mark is “social abnormality; here the average defines the norm. The further one is from normal social status of whatever kind, the greater the risk of persecution.”21 Descriptive nonnormality immediately becomes moral abnormality. Accordingly, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, their diversity ends up being a break in the wall of social wholeness. The enemies/scapegoats are chosen not because of their guilt (as much as this may be the reason advanced by the friends/persecutors), but because of their vulnerability. Such vulnerability is the social consequence of their diversity and the resulting marginalization. They are killed because they are, in a way, “ready to be killed.” There is no risk of revenge: The victims are unable to defend themselves and no one is willing to stick up for them. This is the real reason why violent opposition succeeds as a form of violence that ends all violence. The criterion for establishing whether the identification of the enemy/ scapegoat is successful or not is thus to be viewed in the readiness to kill (and also to be killed, according to Schmitt). Finally, both authors claim that a rational or normative justification for waging war/scapegoating is impossible: Necessity and functionality are the only possible excuses for what is to be done. But excuses, Schmitt and Girard remind us, are by no means justifications. There is no objective moral criterion for discerning between just and unjust violence: Violence is always mutual. Any perceived moral asymmetry is but an illusion, or a deliberate deception: “Men always find it distasteful to admit that the ‘reasons’ on both sides of a dispute are equally valid—which is to say that violence operates without reasons.”22 Schmitt is even more radical: “War [. . .] has no normative

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meaning, but only an existential one, which is the case of a real combat situation with a real enemy. There exists no rational purpose, no norm no matter how true, no program no matter how exemplary, no social ideal no matter how beautiful, no legitimacy nor legality which could justify men in killing each other for this reason. [. . .] Just as little can war be justified by ethical or legal norms. If there really are enemies in the existential sense as meant here, then it is permissible, but only politically permissible, to eliminate and fight them physically.”23 Yet, relevant differences lie in the way Schmitt and Girard conceive of (1) the original decision that identifies the enemy/scapegoat, and (2) the essential dissimilarity between a given community and their enemies/scapegoats. (1) According to Schmitt, decision is a conscious act of a single subject (the sovereign) that aims at restoring social order.24 According to Girard, decision is an unconscious act of a group (the lynch mob) that aims at establishing social order. (2) According to Schmitt, the enemy must be sufficiently different to be even killed without hesitation, but at the same time, sufficiently similar to ensure that the opponents do not seek its extermination. Indeed, since the enemy is the mirror through which we see ourselves, its physical destruction would entail the complete lack of our identity: “Any destruction is a self-destruction.”25 Instead, according to Girard, the enemy must be sufficiently different to be killed without hesitation, and at the same time, sufficiently akin to ensure that the persecutors perceive him as an effective scapegoat (that is, an other-than-self and not merely a stranger). But what about the fact that Schmitt’s enemy appears to be a collective entity that poses a real threat, whereas Girard’s scapegoat appears to be a single and harmless individual? I do not think that this represents a substantial difference (or at least, it is less relevant than it might appear). On the one hand, Schmitt’s theory is not only concerned with enemies as a collective entity (one state or population or nation), but also with “internal enemies,” that is, small minorities, limited opposition groups and even single dissenters. On the other hand, Schmitt’s sovereign decision does not merely confirm the prior existence of an actual enemy, but decides it, that is, selects a given set of features, among others, as relevant factors for an identitarian contraposition. Then, if it is true that enemy cannot be just created out of nothingness, it is also true that it cannot just be found in nature. This means that what is considered as a real threat is always also a “constructed” threat. If we reverse the perspective, the same is true for Girard’s scapegoats. Indeed, on the one hand, he is not only concerned with original scapegoats as individual victims, but also with the transition to large-scale

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functional substitutes, which often lead to large-scale extermination. On the other hand, as stated above, the scapegoat’s social marginality easily becomes political diversity, and thus, an at least potential threat to social cohesiveness. In this regard, the alleged difference between Schmitt and Girard on the point under discussion can be recast by positing that the contraposition between the friends/persecutors and the enemies/scapegoats is based on a different perspective. Schmitt bases the contraposition on a binary relationship and what he calls “a mutual recognition of the recognition.”26 Within a consciously shared condition (the inter-state war), A considers B as an enemy and grants it the right to do the same as much as B considers A as an enemy and grants it the same right (but this is only partially true, as it is not the case of internal enemies and partisans). There is a perfect symmetry: Their respective status as belligerents is and should be the same. Quite the contrary, Girard bases the contraposition on a univocal relationship and a radical unrecognition: within an unconsciously shared condition (the scapegoat mechanism), A considers B as the cause of the social disorder but B does not recognize A as an other or alternative or even sole cause of the very social disorder. There is a substantial asymmetry: Their respective roles are not and cannot be the same. As a proof of the difference at stake, we can use the term “enemies” for both the opponents in Schmitt’s theory, but we cannot do the same with “scapegoats” or “persecutors” in Girard’s account.

The danger: secularization and katéchon Schmitt and Girard agree in considering culture in general and the political domain, in particular, as rooted in religion. Since the sphere of the sacred is the foundation of every social order,27 they argue, then a radical secularization poses the most dangerous and disruptive threat to contemporary societies. In particular, both theorists conceive of secularization as a process of increasing unawareness of the essential and pivotal role of religion in restraining violence, and consequently, allowing the formation of any political community. As a result, the functional substitutes for original violence—the decision in Schmitt, the rite in Girard—lose their power of immunizing the community against the return of unrestrained violence. With regard to this process (and, more often than not, both in an apocalyptic tone), Schmitt blames the motley array of indirect and mediated powers that lead to the neutralization of the political space, whereas Girard gives prominence to the concept of “sacrificial crisis.” Correspondingly,

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while Schmitt’s analysis focuses on the loss of the polemological relevance of the most important political concepts, Girard warns against the recurrent weakening (or in the worst cases, the complete demise) of the process of identification with the ritual mechanism meant to substitute the original murder. Accordingly, both authors put forward an immanent critique of modernity, according to which what could be defined the “modern original sin” consists in disregarding and even repressing (even in the psychoanalytic sense) the set of principles, social practices and institutions that made civilization possible.28 Such a radical critique goes hand in hand with a harsh polemic against any version of anti-Eurocentric relativism. Far from representing just a cultural context among others, Europe is claimed to be really the cradle of civilization, in that the seed of a nonviolent (or better, less violent) future has grown and flourished within its borders. This seed is the state for Schmitt and Christianity for Girard. Yet, they disagree on whether or not such a seed can also be planted outside Europe. Schmitt conceives of the state as an exceptional, epochal and geo-historically situated practice, which can be neither extended nor “exported.” In the Preface to the new edition of The Concept of the Political, published in 1963, he writes: “The age of the state is now coming to an end. Henceforth any commentary is superfluous. [. . .] The state as a model of political unity, the state as the holder of the most extraordinary of all monopolies, the monopoly on the political decision, this brilliant invention conceived by the European formalism and Western rationalism is about to be dethroned.”29 On the contrary, in Girard’s theory, the evangelical revelation— which denounces the innocence of the sacrificial victim, and in doing so, discloses once and for all the scapegoat mechanism hidden in any form of human culture—represents a universal message of redemption. Christianity is the (anti)religion that defuses and neutralizes the destructive potential inherent in all archaic and primitive religions. As hinted above, Schmitt and Girard agree on the fact that violence can be effectively restrained but never totally eliminated. However limited it may be, violence represents the immanent fate and the hidden side of any enacted order. In The Concept of the Political, Schmitt states: “War [. . .] as an ever present possibility is the leading presupposition which determines in a characteristic way human action and thinking and thereby creates a specific political behavior. [. . .] Nothing can escape this logical conclusion of the political.”30 Similarly, in a recent work Girard concludes: “To put it bluntly, we cannot have a perfectly non-sacrificial space.”31 In this regard, Schmitt and Girard offer a different interpretation of the Pauline concept of katéchon.32 Katéchon—literally “that

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what withholds”—refers to something or someone that restrains the Antichrist and prevents him from dominating the world until the parousia (the Second Coming of Christ). Following a well-established patristic tradition, in The Nomos of the Earth Schmitt identifies it with the Roman Empire and the subsequent Respublica Christiana.33 The distinctive character of this Respublica is the relativization of any authority other than the one arising from common membership in the Christian tradition. The force that holds everything together is not a political or personal authority as such, but a cultural order concretely grounded in a spatial localization: “The continuity that bounds medieval international law to the Roman Empire was found not in norms and general ideas, but in the concrete orientation to Rome. This Christian empire was not eternal. It always had its own end and that of the present eon in view. Nevertheless, it was capable of being a historical power. The decisive historical concept of this continuity was that of the restrainer: Katéchon.”34 According to the later Schmitt, only a common membership of a culturally unified political context, like the Respublica Christiana, can lead to an effective limitation of violence. According to Girard’s interpretation, the function of the katéchon is performed by the very victimage mechanism, which resorts to a limited violence (all against one) in order to counteract a greater violence (all against all). Girard highlights the fact that a given force can restrain violence only insofar as it is able to satisfy everyone’s mimetic desire: Everyone must have the object desired by all. This is why Girard considers contemporary consumer society—and the increased availability of all sort of goods it makes possible and promotes—as the most powerful katéchon of our time. Girard thus regards the current decrease of consumption, in his last writings and speeches, as the most dangerous outcome of the present financial crisis. In facing this challenge, “[p]olitical science must seek to defend the order, to brake the collapse of differentiation by the most peaceful means available, with the knowledge that it cannot aim for absolute non-violence (an ambition that would cause the most awful violence). And since we cannot produce a real theory, all we can do is to brake, by strengthening and perpetuating the role of the katéchon.”35 It is worth noting a further common aspect concerning the restraining function of the katéchon: In both theories, the force that causes and intensifies the conflict is, at one and the same time, what limits and restrains it. In this respect, Schmitt argues that the absolute sovereignty of national states, which leads to inter-state wars, is also what prompts the very states to preserve the

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balance of power characterizing the jus publicum Europaeum. In a similar manner, the mimetic desire in Girard’s anthropology is the original element that leads to the escalation of violence, but also what dictates the preservation of the mimetic double as condition of possibility of one’s identity. Thus, both these principles—state sovereignty and mimetism—turn out to be, at the same time, the grounds for conflicts and the solutions to them.

The resolution: respatialization and desacralizations In both theories, a prominent role is assigned to the theorist, who, far from speaking as an objective and impartial outsider, is an integral part of the phenomenon that he investigates. To put it another way, the theoretical account provided by Schmitt and Girard is supposed not only to explain what happens in social reality, but also to (partially) determine it. In particular, the serious risks of a depoliticizing neutralization and of a sacrificial crisis can be avoided, or at least minimized, only through the decisive contribution of the theorist, who actually discloses the basic laws of the social universe and suggests a possible way out of what appears to be a complete deadlock. But here the two paths diverge considerably. Indeed, the assumption of Schmitt’s solution is that the enemy is always a real, existential and concrete threat. In this case, the risk that contemporary societies run is that of disregarding this essential truth, and thus, losing, together with the enemy, their own cohesiveness and identity. Schmitt seems thus to adopt a pessimistic approach: The political realm cannot be redeemed simply because there is no sin to give up. The political field should not be read through the lens of moral analysis and with palingenetic expectancy. The existence of the enemy is a grim reality, like many others. But, unlike the others, it turns out to be central to the political realm. As such, the enmity characterizing the political cannot be eradicated, but only brought under control. Quite the contrary, the assumption behind Girard’s solution is that the scapegoat is never a real, dire and violent threat. In this case, the risk that contemporary societies run is that of believing in this essential deception without having any reliable form of ritual substitution, and thus, losing, together with the victim, their own security and innocence. Girard seems thus to adopt a more ambivalent attitude: The social realm can and should be redeemed since the very existence of a communitarian bond is originally grounded on a deadly deception. The social field can and should be interpreted primarily in the light of the revolutionary

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message disclosed by the evangelical revelation. The scapegoat mechanism is a socially constructed reality, like many others, but perceived and approached as an inescapable fate. As such, it can be not only unmasked but also overcome. But what are the ultimate solutions provided by Schmitt and Girard? In his latest works, Schmitt develops his notion of a new legal order, which he terms nomos, conceived of as the unity of localization and concrete order, “the full immediacy of a legal power not mediated by laws.”36 In this new perspective, Schmitt formulates his theory of the Großraumordnung, a legal project based on a territorial division of the world in large supranational political spaces. The solution offered by Schmitt is thus a replacement of the national states with large political spaces, whose sovereignty is to be viewed in the prohibition of intervention imposed on all forces that are alien to a given geopolitical zone of influence. It is now up to these macroregions, which actually encompass different states, to identify the post-modern enemy. As is well known, the solution envisaged by Schmitt in his post-World War II writings is just the latest of a long line. Indeed, although ever since the first phases of his work he has always been concerned with the problem of political unity, Schmitt over time proposes very different solutions, and not always mutually consistent. This is not the place to consider them in detail and fathom their validity.37 However, it is worth noting that all of them show a common tragic character, according to which the enactment and the context of political order owe their very possibility to a previous, consubstantial and constitutive exclusion carried out violently. There is no universal inclusion without the proportionate exclusion and the saving sacrifices of a given set of people (including the self-sacrifice of the community’s members, ready to die and to kill for it). More generally, Schmitt appears to think that any political order relies on a fundamental set of factual preconditions, whose actual enforcement, in turn, depends on a contextual and epochal contingency beyond human control. This is particularly true for what Schmitt defines as the “age of technology.” According to him, the instrumentality characterizing contemporary societies is unable to produce a decision (and thus, to identify the enemy) since it only provides the most rational means to a given and predetermined end. Likewise, the irreducible ambivalence of the political turns out to be incapable both of creating a new order and constraining its degeneration (the function of the katéchon). Accordingly, late modernity is depicted by Schmitt as an age of long-lasting powerlessness, an endless transition to an unknown destination, a blind halfway between a lost universality and a new concreteness still in the making.38

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According to Girard, the matter is more ambiguous and complex. The revolutionary revelation of the scapegoat’s innocence and the disclosure of the sacrificial mechanism—that the Gospel announces and Girard’s anthropological inquiry intends to systematize in a coherent whole—play a twofold role and achieve conflicting outcomes. They serve at one and the same time as a brake and accelerator. Indeed, on the one hand and in the short term, they contribute to curtail the different forms of scapegoating perpetrated around the world inasmuch as potential killers become aware of the perverse mechanism that operates behind their backs. Yet, on the other hand and at the same time, the revelation of the truth “hidden since the foundation of the world” leaves social actors without a reliable way to eliminate violence from their community since the scapegoat is no longer believed to be the cause of the unrestrained violence that still continues to threaten society. Girard is obviously well aware of this “second level risk” lurking in the process of demystification of the scapegoat mechanism. Yet, he seems to think that the dramatic effects produced by unmasking the texts and deeds of persecution are a lesser evil than those that would occur in a sacrificial system indefinitely protracted: “The tendency to erase the sacred, to eliminate it entirely, prepares the ground for the surreptitious return of the sacred, no longer in transcendent, but in imminent form, in the form of violence and knowledge of violence. The thought that moves away indefinitely from the violent origins is doomed to return to them, but unknowingly, because such a thought is never aware of changing direction.”39 According to Girard, and unlike Schmitt’s conclusion, the solution should not be viewed in a necessary and ever-unstable compromise between a violent power and a restraining force. Rather, we are called on to choose between two radical alternatives: either a sacrificial fate, hallmarked by the negative reciprocity that had led to the mass sacrifices of the last century, or a redeeming conversion, characterized by the positive reciprocity mirrored in an increasing empathy toward the victims of injustices. In the apocalyptic tone of many of his latest works, Girard affirms: “Saying that chaos is near is not incompatible with hope, quite to the contrary. However, hope has to be seen in relation to an alternative that leaves only the choice between total destruction and realization of the Kingdom.”40 There is yet one final point that needs to be considered. Primarily, it does not concern the actual resolutions proposed by Schmitt and Girard, but the possible solutions that may be suggested and adopted in different social contexts to solve different political conflicts. Accordingly, in the final part of the present section,

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I deal with Schmitt and Girard as social critics. To be clear, I am well aware that, mainly with regard to Schmitt, this may seem a hazardous assumption. Yet, I am not saying that Schmitt and Girard are the new masters of the School of suspicion or that their theories as a whole are first and foremost an example of social criticism. I am only suggesting that some of their arguments—sometimes even against the authors themselves, or at least against their own personal choices— should be carefully meditated on, as they represent a salutary and useful warning for any political analysis. Within this perspective, the core tenet of their legacy is to be viewed in a close attention to the victims that a given social order necessarily entails. Both theories intend to unveil the dark side lurking in any pacific state of affairs: History is written by victors, be they the persecutors of a designed sacrificial victim who depict it as the source of all evils or the winners of a war who describe their enemies as inhuman beings. I follow this clue and take this parallel reading further in the final part of my chapter.

Conclusion: the quest for a new nomos between undifferentiation and exclusion Through the parallel reading carried out thus far, I have tried to show how Schmitt and Girard, in different degrees and forms, emphasize and focus their attention on the structural relationship between political stabilization and social exclusion. In a nutshell, according to the decisionist and sacrificial perspectives put forward by these two theorists, there cannot be political stabilization without some form of radical and definitive exclusion. What is more, Schmitt and Girard stress another essential aspect, which is key to understanding what is at stake when we speak of (and aim to) a just and stable society: The various forms of social exclusion that make stabilization possible do not concern only widespread communitarian practices or specific ways of life, but first and foremost, and directly, concrete individuals.41 Bearing this caveat in mind, the lesson we can learn from Schmitt’s and Girard’s analyses, more generally, is that the enactment and the enforcement of a given political order owe their very possibility to a previous, consubstantial and constitutive exclusion carried out violently (in a quite concrete sense). According to Schmitt’s anti-universalist and antihumanitarian viewpoint,42 this is a structural necessity of any human political system. According to Girard’s universalist and humanitarian viewpoint,43 this tragic fate can be (partially) avoided only by means of the saving message

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that lies at the heart of the Christian revelation. In any case, their analyses should lead political theorists to voice (or at least, to pay serious attention to) the claims of those who are excluded, unrecognized and even sacrificed, and to focus primarily on those forms of discrimination whenever we are called on to assess and evaluate a given form of political organization or social order. Namely, this common warning takes on two different forms. The genealogical relationship between norm and normality. One of the most relevant achievements of Schmitt’s political theory is no doubt the identification of a structural dependence of norms on the actual normality that hallmarks a given context. According to this view, legal norms are based on a previous normality, which is the pillar of a determined social order conceived as a consistent and unified whole. Any enacted order thus relies on the legal recognition of a given set of social practices, models and patterns of interaction shared by the great part of a collectivity. If this is so, then a process of normalization is at one and the same time the condition of possibility for, and the necessitated outcome of, the establishment of a political order. This means that the set of social interactions that lie outside the field of normality are necessarily cut out as un-normal and un-normalizable practices. Even the most radically democratic context is, therefore, grounded on a quite conservative approach, which tends to exclude, for functional reasons, any nonconformist way of life. If this is so, an “open-ended society” is but a mere illusion that conceals the violent exclusion of those people who cannot or do not want to adhere to the “normal” way of life that hallmarks a given context. Yet—and this is the second pillar of Schmitt’s unmasking argument—we should not forget that normality is always an artificial achievement. It does not exist in nature or in a would-be objective reality. Normality is always the controversial and open-tocontestation result of a struggle for recognition among competing social actors. In this regard, one of the primary duties of the political theorist is to point out and give voice to those who have lost this struggle. The scapegoat mechanism as culture’s symbolic matrix. Girard argues that the whole history of social and political philosophy shares a sacrificial perspective, according to which there exists a just vengeance (usually attributed to the state) as opposed to an unjust vengeance (usually attributed to individuals). This is evidence that the original violence at the heart of the victimage mechanism has not been rejected, but merely “civilized” and transformed into a form of cultural

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violence (what Johan Galtung has defined as “structural violence”44). Girard seems to suggest that there is no resort to violence, however civilized it may be, that can be said legitimate. Between the harshest and the most civilized form of punishment, there is only a difference of degree, not in kind. In this regard, a striking example of the persistence of violence denounced by Girard is given by the judiciary system: “The system does not suppress vengeance; rather, it effectively limits it to a single act of reprisal, enacted by a sovereign authority specializing in this particular function. The decisions of the judiciary are invariably presented as the final word on vengeance. [. . .] Our penal system operates according to principles of justice that are in no real conflict with the concept of revenge. The same principle is at work in all systems of violent retribution. Either the principle is just, and justice is therefore inherent in the idea of vengeance, or there is no justice to be found anywhere.”45 Within such a perspective, the primary duty of the political theorist is to identify and deconstruct any form of institutionalized violence. Notoriously, we live in time of critical transitions from modern political categories and institutions to new conceptualizations and complex forms of global governance.46 The current (and apparently endless) quest for a new nomos stems primarily from the fact that most of the modern antitheses have lost (or are increasingly losing) their foundations. To rephrase it in more Schmittian and Girardian terms, we face a crisis of undifferentiation concerning once-stable essential contrapositions, such as internal and external, civil and military, private and public, real and virtual, and so on.47 A new political order, able to close these systemic gaps, is thus needed. The ongoing financial crisis has made it even more urgent to enforce an effective and comprehensive global order. Yet, if it is true that hard cases make bad law, it is also hardly deniable, at least from a historical viewpoint, that exceptional circumstances may lead to unfair political solutions. What Schmitt and Girard tell us is that this risk cannot be completely avoided since a degree of exclusion is a structural, and thus, unavoidable side effect of any form of political organization and that disregarding such a risk is the best way to increase it. This should lead us to abandon any illusion about an all-inclusive political order and consequently to bring to light the various processes of exclusion—socioeconomic, racial, geopolitical and so on—that follow from the (even consensual) pursuit of a given political project.48 To put it another way, the way Schmitt and Girard frame the concepts of decision and sacrifice accounts for a substantial change in the way we evaluate the attractiveness and the opportunity of a given political order. The primary question to answer should be

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no longer: Who benefits?, but: Who is excluded, that is, how many people, and in what forms, are cut away as a necessary condition for the enforcement of a regular and definitely stabilized order? In a time of crisis, it is not pleasant to look at the larger picture of the different contexts and spheres of social exclusion, especially if such an exclusion—as Schmitt and Girard demonstrate—is the condition of possibility for our inclusion (or for the inclusion of our privileged lifestyle). But without an explicit recognition of this essential link and the consequences it has for the cohesion of society as a whole, any attempt to properly understand what is a political community (be it national, international or supranational) and how its different parts can be brought together is doomed to fail. And, along with it, any quest for a new nomos.

Notes *

I am very grateful to Antonio Cerella, Mariano Croce and Virginio Marzocchi for their critical reading of this chapter. I received valuable and very helpful comments that have certainly improved the original version of my work.

1 Cf. Carl Schmitt, Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947–1951 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1991), 313. 2 While, as far as I know, in Schmitt’s last writings and interviews, there is no reference to Girard’s theory, Schmitt’s works are often quoted and discussed by the French anthropologist. Girard reads Schmitt primarily as the thinker of crisis par excellence, a crisis regarded more as an essential element of any social theory than as a diagnosis of the current state of Western civilization. By rejecting structural anthropology, Girard writes that it “suppresses, for the exclusive benefits of social order, those states of disorder and crisis to which human sciences has to give way, if they are to become truly scientific—as Carl Schmitt, the great political scientist, has clearly pointed out. This is exactly what Mimetic Theory strives to do, although obviously this attempt does not take the direction suggested by Schmitt,” cf. René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. J. G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 10. In the same text, by emphasizing the relevance of Schmitt’s concept of social order for all human sciences, Girard states that it is precisely the crisis that reveals who is in charge, who has the power to decide. Yet, it is only in his recent Battling to the End that Girard engages in a detailed critique of the impossibility of restraining violence through legal means as theorized by Schmitt (see note 43 below). As to the secondary literature, little has been written on the theoretical similarities between Schmitt and Girard. To my knowledge: Wolfgang Palaver, “A Girardian Reading of Schmitt’s Political Theology,” Telos 93 (1992): 43–68; Gary L. Ulmen, “Anthropological Theology/Theological Anthropology: Reply to Palaver,”

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Telos 93 (1992): 69–80; David Pan, “Enemies, Scapegoats and Sacrifice: A Note on Palaver and Ulmen,” Telos 93 (1992): 81–88; Wolfgang Palaver, “Order out of Chaos in the Theories of Carl Schmitt and René Girard,” Synthesis 1 (1995): 87–106; Maria Stella Barberi, “Feindschaft zu welchem Zweck? Die mimetische Theorie durch Carl Schmitt denken,” in Bernhard Dieckmann (ed.), Das Opfer—aktuelle Kontroversen: Religionspolitischer Diskurs im Kontext der mimetischen Theorie (Münster: LIT, 2001), 121–140; Ruth Groh, “Zum Problem der Entscheidung bei Carl Schmitt und René Girard,” ibid., 157–180; Wolfgang Palaver, “Enmity and Political Identity: Friend-Enemy-Patterns and Religion,” Jnanadeepa—Pune Journal of Religious Studies 8 (2005): 35–49; Wolfgang Palaver, “Krieg und Politik. Clausewitz und Schmitt im Lichte der mimetischen Theorie Girards,” in Antoine Guggenheim (ed.), La relation franco-allemande depuis 1945. Colloque international final de la Chaire René Girard (2008–2009) (Paris: Lethielleux, 2010), 189–204. A few remarks on the similarities between Schmitt’s concept of war and Girard’s concept of sacrifice are in Mondher Kilani, Guerre et sacrifice: La violence extrême (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2006), chapters 3 and 4. “The fundamental theological dogma of the evilness of the world and man leads, just as does the distinction of friend and enemy, to a categorization of men, a ‘distancing,’ and makes impossible the undifferentiated optimism of a universal conception of man”; cf. Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 65. “The real idea of original sin is that human beings are all equally guilty of mimetic desire and scapegoating”; cf. René Girard, A Theater of Envy: William Shakespeare, trans. J. G. Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 325. See Arnold Gehlen, Man: His Nature and Place in the World, trans. C. McMillan and K. Pillemer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988). On the close connections between philosophical anthropology and the peculiar version of legal institutionalism put forward by Schmitt, see Mariano Croce and Andrea Salvatore, The Legal Theory of Carl Schmitt (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013), 39–43. See René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2003), Chapter 3. Girard, Things Hidden, 95–96. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (London and New York: Continuum, 2005), 54. Ibid., 51–52. For Schmitt, see mainly The Theory of the Partisan: A Commentary/Remark on the Concept of the Political, trans. A. C. Goodson (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2004). For Girard, see Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010).

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11 Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 34. 12 In a nutshell, according to Clausewitz, the modern partisan is an irregular fighter within an unaltered system of political regularity: the partisan decides the relation of total contraposition to the enemy, but the enemy is decided by the state. Instead, according to Schmitt, contemporary partisan is an irregular fighter, but also and foremost, an irregular and revolutionary political actor: The partisan decides not only the relation of total contraposition to the enemy, but also the indeterminate, deterritorialized, and thus, absolute and total character of it. Within this perspective, in a later work, Schmitt defines Clausewitz as “a political theorist in the true sense of the word,” capable of correctly identifying the enemy in a concrete historical context (the reference is to the French army on the eve of the battle of Leipzig, 1813): see Carl Schmitt, “Clausewitz als politischer Denker. Bemerkungen und Hinweise,” Der Staat 6 (1967): 479–502. 13 Schmitt, The Theory of the Partisan, 32. 14 This term effectively conveys the meaning of the German ent-scheidet, deriving from the Latin de-caedit and then de-cidit: Etymologically it means to cut the throat of a victim, as Girard himself highlights: “[T]he Latin word decidere means etymologically to divide by the sacrificial knife, to cut the throat of a victim.” Cf. Girard, Things Hidden, 238. 15 Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 8. 16 Girard, A Theater of Envy, 186. 17 “According to the evidence, primitive warfare takes place among proximate, neighbouring groups, which is to say among men who cannot be distinguished objectively in terms of race, language, or cultural habits. There is no real difference between the external enemy and the internal friend.” Cf. Girard, Things Hidden, 85–86. “Who can I generally recognize as my enemy? Apparently only one who can call me into question. By recognizing him as an enemy, I recognize that he can call me into question. But who can really call me into question? Only myself. Or my brother. So the other is my brother. The other turns out to be my brother, and my brother turns out to be my enemy. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Thus begins the history of humankind. Thus looks the father of all things. This is the dialectical tension that drives the history of the world, and the history of the world is not over yet. [. . .]The enemy is our own question embodied.” Carl Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus: Erfahrungen der Zeit 1945/47 (Köln: Greven, 1950), 89–90. 18 According to Girard, romantic ideology cultivates the myth of an autonomously desiring subject by claiming that human desires are essentially spontaneous and unmediated. Romantic subject rejects God and sanctifies any object that can provide him the certainty of his own uniqueness and its ontological self-sufficiency. Similarly, Schmitt defines political romanticism as “subjectivized occasionalism,” a definition that brings together the personal powerlessness and the social ineffectiveness of the

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free subject. Political romanticism represents the latest stage of the process of secularization, in which the individual becomes the ultimate reality and the genius takes the place of God as the Creator. See Carl Schmitt, Political Romanticism, trans. G. Oakes (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1986). In this regard, another common aspect that should deserve more attention is the interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a meta-dramatic account of the early symptoms of the crisis of the revenge system (Girard, A Theater of Envy, Chapter 30) and modern rationalism; cf. Carl Schmitt, Hamlet or Hecuba: The Intrusion of the Time into the Play, trans. D. Pan and J. R. Rust (New York: Telos Press, 2009). Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 27. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 12. René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 18. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 48. Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 48–49 (translation partially revised). Needless to say, the nature and consequences of the deciding act at stake depends on the one who is actually the sovereign. As a matter of fact, Schmitt’s identification of the sovereign changes over time. For present purposes it is worth noting that at times the sovereign is depicted as a collective subject (the parliament, the people), other times as a single person (the Reich President, the Leader). For a critical account of such a basic shift, see the convincing periodization proposed in Hasso Hofmann, Legitimität gegen Legalität: Der Weg der politischen Philosophie Carl Schmitts (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2002). See also Sandrine Baume, Carl Schmitt, penseur de l’État: Genèse d’une doctrine (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2008); Carlo Galli, Genealogia della politica: Carl Schmitt e la crisi del pensiero politico moderno (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2010); George Schwab, The Challenge of Exception: An Introduction to the Political Ideas of Carl Schmitt between 1921 and 1936 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989). Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus, 90. Even more clearly in another text: “How could I not love my enemy, since I was the one to create it? And what if, after a careful examination of conscience, I were forced to admit that he completes me, as long as I realize him as my enemy? The annihilation of the enemy is the attempt (the pretension) of a creatio ex nihilo, the attempt to create a new world on a tabula rasa. Who wants to destroy me is not my enemy, but my satanic persecutor.” Cf. Schmitt, Glossarium, 190. Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus, 89. Suffice it to mention what Schmitt writes about the relation between politics and theology: “All significant concepts of the modem theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.” Cf. Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

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2005), 36. In the same vein, Girard ultimately states “religion is the hearth of every social system, the true origin and original form of all institutions, the universal basis of human culture.” Cf. Girard, I See Satan, 89. See, respectively, Schmitt, Glossarium, and Political Theology II: The Myth of the Closure of any Political Theology, trans. M. Hoelzl and G. Ward (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008); René Girard, Celui par qui le scandale arrive : Entretiens avec Maria Stella Barberi (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 2001), and Battling to the End. For a critical assessment, see Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis (Notre Dame, IN : University of Notre Dame Press, 2013); Daniel McLoughlin, “Crisis, Modernity, Authority: Carl Schmitt on Order and the State,” The Australian Feminist Law Journal 31 (2009): 135–152. Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen: Text von 1932 mit einem Vorwort und drei Corollarien (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1963), 10. Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 34–36, emphasis added. René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 17. “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. But the one who restrains is to do so only for the present, until he is removed from the scene” (2 Thessalonians 2:6–7). Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Press, 2003), 56–66. Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth, 59. Girard, I See Satan, 149. Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth, 73. See note 24 above. On the tragic character of Schmitt’s thinking, see Andrea Salvatore, “The Tragic Theory of Carl Schmitt,” Telos 161 (2012): 181–187. René Girard, La violence et le sacré (Paris: Grasset, 1972), 445. I quote directly from the French original edition as the quoted passage has been inexplicably omitted in the English translation. Girard, Battling to the End, 119. A striking example of this “concreteness” is provided by Bauman’s better known dualism between the “tourists” and the “vagabonds.” See Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). “The concept of humanity is an especially useful ideological instrument of imperialist expansion, and in its ethical-humanitarian form it is a specific vehicle of economic imperialism. Here one is reminded of a somewhat modified expression of Proudhon’s: whoever invokes humanity wants to cheat. To confiscate the word humanity, to invoke and monopolize such a term probably has certain incalculable

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effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most extreme inhumanity.” Cf. Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, 54. In Girard’s view, the polemological approach that hallmarks Schmitt’s friend-enemy opposition is a clear example of a political theory rooted in the sacrificial mechanism without being aware of it (as well as, in Schmitt’s view, the universalist/humanitarian intentions behind the nonviolent solution suggested by Girard could be interpreted as a way to outlaw any other solution as inhuman). This criticism lies at the heart of a paragraph tellingly titled “The End of Rules,” contained in Girard’s recent book Battling to the End. In the quoted paragraph, Girard provides an in-depth interpretation of Schmitt’s latest works and positions. According to this reading, Schmitt clearly anticipated many developments of contemporary warfare (above all, the ideology of humanitarian interventions and the resurgence of terrorism as a strategy of insurgency), which have to be referred to the ineffectiveness of any legal regulation of armed conflict. Yet, instead of firmly rejecting the mimetic logic of this unrestrained violence, Girard argues, Schmitt aims to find a new nomos that can be able to constrain armed conflicts. In considering Schmitt’s theory, Girard observes that the legal construction of designated enemies “is the strength but also the limitation of this line of thought. It is true that it points out the danger of pacifism: to outlaw war is paradoxically to allow it to spread everywhere. Pacifism fans the fire of warmongering. However, Carl Schmitt’s legal voluntarism has proven vain because the aftermath of World War II has shown that the escalation to extremes has been relentless. His cause is lost. Indeed, such voluntarism is in contradiction with Schmitt’s commitment to Nazism, and was thus a rear-guard position” (Girard, Battling to the End, 65). According to Girard, Schmitt seems to be completely unaware that his attempt to restraining violence through legally coercive means leads to an escalation to extreme of the very violence, which is thus merely delayed. Then he concludes: “Schmitt saw this major problem with respect to the end of wars, and he tried to resolve it as a jurist. This is exactly like the doctor who believes too much in medicine. War cannot be treated like an epidemic. [. . .] it is a little like the idea of establishing a social contract when everyone is fighting. The social contract is obviously false because it is when it is needed that it cannot be made” (Ibid., 65). See Johan Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996). Girard, Violence and the Sacred, 16. For an overview and analysis of this ongoing process, see Mariano Croce and Andrea Salvatore, Undoing Ties: Political Philosophy at the Waning of the State (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015). For a critical approach to the ongoing transition from the founding concepts of modernity to new paradigms of social reality, with particular reference to the

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antitheses taken into account, see Ulrich Beck, Cosmopolitan Vision (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006); Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (London and New York: Allen Lane, 2005); Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013). 48 As to the relationship between contemporary political programs and political exclusion, see, among others, Phillip Cole, Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000); Leonard C. Feldman, Citizens without Shelter: Homelessness, Democracy, and Political Exclusion (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Ronaldo Munck, Globalization and Social Exclusion: A Transformationalist Perspective (Boulder, CO : Kumarian Press, 2004).

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Mimesis and Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason Paul Dumouchel

In Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, fused groups (groupes en fusion) occupy a central place. Fused groups destroy, or as Sartre says, “eliminate” (liquident) “series” or the “serial structure” that, according to him, is simultaneously the most simple, the most common and most general form of sociality. Fused groups correspond to violent revolutionary moments that are at the origin of new social and political forms of organizations. Borrowing a usage of the term that comes from André Malraux’s novel L’espoir, Sartre refers to such moment as “The Apocalypse,” episodes in which the existing social order collapses under the pressure of violence and which give rise to a different regime of social interactions.1 Sartre’s descriptions of these events—for a fused group according to him is not a “thing,” it has no “being,” but is pure praxis, and thus, only exists as an event—resemble, or remind us of Girard’s descriptions of the mimetic crisis.2 Furthermore, like the crisis, these moments are generative of all complex social and political institutions. The Critique, unlike Mimetic Theory, does not pretend to provide a general theory of culture, however one of its aims is to offer a transcendental deduction of basic forms of political organization and of the associated types of societies. Anything that rises above the baseline level of serial structures requires the violent destructive moment of a fused group and bears witness to the action of such groups in history. Hence, not only is it the case that the descriptions of fused groups found in the Critique of Dialectical Reason are at times surprisingly close to the first presentations of the sacrificial crisis and its resolution, which we find, more than ten years later in Girard’s Violence and the Sacred, but also these groups play in Sartre’s work a role that is somewhat analogous to that of mimetic crisis in Girard’s theory of culture. It is true that, at that time, Sartre was a Marxist, or at least a Marxist sympathizer, who considered Marxism to be the “unsurpassable philosophy of 171

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our time,” and therefore, we should not be surprised that violence, at least in the form of class conflicts, is quite central to his intellectual enterprise. However, in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, classes are rather latecomers; they are complex social constructs, a mixture of “pledged groups” and series. Their conflict reflects the more fundamental, elemental violence that fuses series into groups, a violence whose ultimate foundation is scarcity. The fact that goods and resources are insufficient to fulfill the desires or needs of all, according to Sartre, makes us all (potential) enemies of each other since it creates a situation in which anyone can be considered as superfluous.3 Thus, it is not Marxism that explains the importance of violence in the Critique, rather one of the book’s goals is to provide a philosophical foundation to the violence of class conflict, which according to Sartre, Marxism analyzes, but does not completely understand. If violence is as central to Sartre’s understanding of human life as to Girard, it is however evaluated in a radically different way. According to Sartre, fused groups are moments of intense emotions, and often of great historical significance, that put an end to our reciprocal alienation. These episodes of violence are rare moments in which the convergence of social life and freedom takes place. For Girard, a mimetic crisis is a terrible disaster that threatens to completely destroy all social life, which communities only escape in extremis through a selfregulating mechanism of violence that the agents do not understand. Violence is evil and should be condemned, and according to Girard, most societies were well aware of that danger and of the need to domesticate violence. To the opposite, Sartre views fused groups as moments of “trans-lucidity” in which agents are perfectly one with each other, moments that should be celebrated. Their characteristic violence is not to be condemned because it is precisely what allows the fusion of estranged others into one and the same group. That Girard closely read and studied Sartre the novelist, play writer and philosopher is well known. He wrote important articles on various aspects of Sartre’s literary work,4 and in chapter 4 of Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Girard at the beginning of his analysis of the coquette refers to and finds support in the analyses of love, sadism and masochism of Being and Nothingness. However, to my knowledge, there are in Girard’s work little or no references to Sartre the political activist and none whatsoever to the Critique of Dialectical Reason. This raises a few questions. First, since we know that Girard read the Critique soon after it was published,5 what influence, if any, did Sartre’s reflection have on Girard’s understanding of violence? Second, given the proximity in their descriptions of violence and the historical importance both recognize to violent

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episodes, mimetic crises or fused groups, how can we account for the radical difference in their evaluation of violence? What are the reasons of that difference? How can we explain both the differences and the proximity between these two approaches to human violence? In the remainder of this chapter, I try to answer the first question by answering the second. That is to say, in view of the differences and similitude between Girard’s Mimetic Theory and Sartre’s analysis of human sociality in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, I argue that it is unlikely that Sartre had much, or even any, influence on Girard’s understanding of violence or on his conception of the mimetic crisis. The proximity between the two authors’ descriptions of violent and contagious phenomena reveals a common descriptive acuity, but they consider violence from so very different points of view that any important influence of Sartre on Girard seems to be ruled out. A closer analysis brings out the underlying conceptual differences that explain why they reach such widely different conclusions concerning the “value” of violence. In spite of the fact that he aims at a higher level of abstraction required by his goal of offering a transcendental deduction of basic forms of social and political organizations, Sartre actually remains prisoner of the modern world. His analyses, as we will see, are captive of forms of social interactions that are typical of modern individualist societies. Interestingly, in the first volume of the Critique, at least, history only intervenes as a repository from which Sartre selects examples, like the fall of the Bastille, which he views as illustrative of some fundamental aspect of human sociality. History in consequence does not exist as history, but only as a collection of illustrious actions or of representative events.6 For Girard, to the opposite, history is made of real changes. It is a pathway of transformations that could have been different. It does not follow a preordained development, but it is nonetheless not condemned to meaninglessness because of its contingency.

The project Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason is a notoriously difficult book. Nearly 900 pages of tightly printed, highly abstract often obscure prose, in breathtakingly long paragraphs, that is at times, written in a quite idiosyncratic jargon. Furthermore, the work is unfinished; those 894 pages correspond to only the first volume of the Critique, entitled “Théorie des ensembles pratiques.” Though

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a second volume was posthumously published, it was assembled from various manuscripts by the editor and remains unfinished.7 Why was the Critique, never finished? Did Sartre think he had failed or did he abandon the book for some other reason? What exactly was his original project? In the remainder of this chapter, I do not attempt to answer the two first questions, but it may help to answer the last question that the first part of the Critique is preceded by a much shorter work.8 Questions de méthode, Sartre tells us, is a work of circumstances9 that should logically come after the Critique that seeks to provide its theoretical foundation. He decided nonetheless to retain the order in which the two works were originally written. The goal of that shorter work is clear; in it, Sartre criticizes mainstream Marxist historical analyses and literary criticism, accusing them of being excessively reductionist. These Marxist analyses, argues Sartre, tend to reduce the actions of groups or of individuals to the mere expression of class conflicts or of a contradiction between means of production and relations of production. Sartre agrees that, in a sense, these analyses are not entirely wrong; however, according to him, they fail in two closely related ways. First, at the descriptive level, they miss the essential, which is human freedom. Though Flaubert, for example, certainly was a representative individual of his social class, whose intellectual and creative horizon was limited by his social milieu and family history, both as a writer and in his life he expresses these determinations in a specific way that has marked history. To fail to see this is to miss a fundamental aspect of human life. A Marxist critique, in this case a literary critique, will only be successful to the extent that it succeeds in holding together these two objectives: explaining the determination of history while maintaining the space for Flaubert’s creative freedom to have real incidence in history.10 This first mistake is linked to a fundamental philosophical failure. If dialectical materialism is the history of human liberation, then it has to be a history of freedom. Otherwise, it reduces the actions of individuals and groups to mere moments that have no meaning for those who act; it becomes, says Sartre, unintelligible. History, as described by historical dialectical materialism only makes sense to the extent that human freedom remains the engine of a history that has both a meaning and a direction. The Critique of Dialectical Reason, then, should be understood in relation to the objective of making possible the understanding of history as both determined and as the expression of individual freedom. Its goal is to explicate the conditions of possibility of such a history and of such an understanding of history, and these conditions must be the same in both cases. For given that dialectical

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materialism is a form of materialism, the conditions of possibility of this understanding of history, argues Sartre, cannot be purely abstract or epistemic conditions as was case in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. They must be “material” conditions of possibility. They must lay in human action, in human praxis, and the understanding of history and action they make possible must in some way be inseparable from human praxis itself, and hence, simultaneously constitute the conditions of possibility of that history. Dialectical reason considers that human praxis is at the origin of all understanding of the world, and thus, constitutes a form of knowledge that coincides with human praxis. The fact is, however, that human praxis, according to Sartre, is essentially solitary, and that the praxis of one inevitably, but contingently rather than necessarily, enters into conflict with the praxis of another; contingently, because it is scarcity, a contingent characteristic of our universe, that forces praxis to rise against one another. Thus, the Critique of Dialectical Reason does not abandon the ontology of Being and Nothingness. Rather it replaces the “idealist” language of consciousness with the “materialist” term of praxis, but human beings remain characterized by their absolute freedom and human praxis is understood as a negation of a negation. For as people act in response to a lack—lack of air, space, food or drink—that is in response to a situation that constitutes a negation of the individual’s life, the action that aims to compensate this lack is the negation of that negation. In consequence, as Raymond Aron rightly points out, Sartre’s concept of dialectic does not take dialogue, or the relation between two individuals, as its model, but the individual understanding the world through her or his own project.11 To put it otherwise, according to Sartre, the dialectical relation is primarily that of the solitary individual facing the world.12 Through his or her praxis each individual totalizes his or her experience. It is not entirely clear what he the term to “totalize” exactly means, but in this case, a good enough approximation seems to be: that through our praxis our experience appears as (is made into?) a unified coherent meaningful whole. This totalizing of our experience is, for Sartre, the paradigm of dialectical reason, to which he refers as the “trans-lucidity” of individual experience. In consequence, the dialectical understanding of any social phenomena entails a totalizing of totalizings, a way of totalizing the various totalized experiences that make up the social phenomena. Further, this totalizing cannot remain a purely intellectual operation, but must correspond to a form of praxis. The question, therefore, is how is this totalizing of totalizings possible? How does it make sense? Such is the problem.

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It is clear that the dialectical understanding of history simply carries this difficulty one level higher and will present itself as a totalizing of totalizings of totalizings. This suggests why the first volume of the Critique does not yet deal with history and why the second volume, L’intelligibilité de l’histoire, was expected to proceed very normally from the results of the Théorie des ensembles pratiques.

Human relations and series As mentioned earlier, fused groups always correspond in Sartre’s presentation to episodes in which an existing serial structure is destroyed and replaced by a different form of social interaction. These episodes, in all the examples that he gives, are episodes of violence in which the series crumbles under the pressure of the “Apocalypse.” This nonetheless does not mean, insists Sartre, that series precede groups. It does not make sense, according to him, to ask which came first or which is more basic, for the order of the Critique is not genealogical, but aims at revealing the conditions of possibility of various forms of sociality, not at chronologically deriving one from the other. In spite of the uncertainty concerning the relation between groups and series, it is clear that in Sartre’s transcendental deduction, fused groups precede both logically and chronologically all other types of groups, that is, pledged groups, organized groups, institutionalized groups or collectives as well as hybrid social objects like social classes that contain both an organized group and a series. In consequence, fused groups are at the origin of all more complex forms of social organization. Sartre’s point in insisting that fused groups should not be seen as chronologically prior to series is that this “origin” that they constitute should not be banished to the past. It is at all times accessible, and whenever the conditions are right, a series may collapse under the pressure of violence giving rise to a fused group. There is thus a strong resemblance with Girard’s idea of the mimetic crisis. The crisis is also at the origin, and this origin is repeatedly accessible in the sense that such violent crises constitute a permanent threat. Any society can, whenever the circumstances are right, return to this original chaos of violence out of which a new social order will be born. Furthermore, whether it is in the descriptions of the crisis found in Violence and the Sacred13 or in the various myths that Girard analyzes throughout his work, the mimetic crisis is always presented as taking place within an already existing social order. Girard’s repeated claim is that the crisis is at the origin of all of human culture, but in all of his descriptions of the

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crisis—apart, perhaps, from the very abstract one which is found at the beginning of Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World 14—it always corresponds to the breakdown of an existing social order. Like fused groups, the crisis should not primarily be conceived as a chronologically ancient origin, but as the violent matrix out of which complex forms of social organization emerge, and as an event that takes place in a context characterized by minimal forms of sociality. Pushing the comparison one step further we could say that series play in relation to fused groups a somewhat similar role to what mimesis, viewed as the simplest form of interpersonal relations, plays in relation to the crisis in Girard. To some extent, this is correct, but series in Sartre are not really what comes first, before series enter the stage, we find human relations: the relation of reciprocity and the relation to the third (le tiers), or if you prefer, triadic relations. Sartre says that these relations “are not in themselves social (though they condition in a sense all sociality and are conditioned by sociality in their historical content).”15 What are these “human relations” and why does Sartre tell us that they are not in themselves social? According to Sartre, triadic relations are what make possible dyadic relations, though this third party need not be human and can, for example, be an object that is exchanged. Sartre’s point is that totalizing two relations into a relation of reciprocity is only possible from the “point of view” of or through a third party.16 As an example of the human relation of reciprocity and of the relation to the third, he gives that of observing from one’s window two persons who though they are situated close to each other remain ignorant of each other’s presence because, in this case, the wall of a property separates them. This observation reveals between them, says Sartre, a fundamental, immediate and permanent possibility of a reciprocal discovery, this reciprocity, should it become established, would exclude me the observer, but their present, actual reciprocal ignorance, argues Sartre, only exists in relation to a third party, who is neither one of them as ignoring the other. To the extent that they are ignorant of each other’s existence, they are also ignorant of the fact that they ignore each other. Therefore, their reciprocal ignorance does not exist for them, but only for and through a third party. This third party could however be either or both of them as they become aware of each other. Sartre’s point is apparently that any relation of reciprocity requires a kind of meta-level, which allows the agents to recognize each other as both different and equal. As I observe them, says Sartre, they are revealed to me as different—one is a roadman the second is a gardener—as Other, both to me and to each other, and he adds that each one’s praxis robs me, the observer, of an

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aspect of the world which is exclusively revealed to each in relation to his own goal and labor.17 In view of this description, it seems pretty clear why relations of reciprocity and the relation to the third, according to Sartre, are not in themselves social. What Sartre defines as human relations of reciprocity need not actually exist as such—that it does not exist is clearly the case for the gardener and the roadman who are unaware of each other’s existence—that is probably what he meant when he said that these relations are “conditioned by sociality in their historical content.” Only contingent historical accidents will determine if and how they will meet. The relation of reciprocity is made “possible”—not only in the sense of “becomes real,” but also in the sense of existing as a “possible relation”—through a third party who is excluded from the relation and who, says Sartre, is “robbed” of some aspect of reality by the praxis of those who through him or her enter into that relation of reciprocity. Note that this exclusion is also true when the “third party” is one or both of the agents involved in the relation, so that in our relation to others the process that relates us simultaneously excludes us from the relation. This surprising structure in which a third party makes possible relations among others from which he or she is excluded and which deprives or robs him or her of some aspect of reality conditions all sociality, Sartre tells us.18 The difference with Girard could hardly be more striking. What is first for Sartre is each one’s solitude, the absence of relation between agents. The third party who relates the agents does not actually put them in relation, but merely makes such a relation possible, and is himself or herself excluded from that relation should it arise. To the opposite for Girard, the relation is first, mimesis entails that we always are already in relation and this relation is real, though I may be unaware that it exists and determines me. According to Girard, we are fundamentally always in relation with each other. According to Sartre, we are fundamentally solitary and through a third party we are “put in relation” with each other, but this “being put in relation” does not correspond to real relation between the two agents. It is in relation to this conception of “human relations” that the two basic forms of sociality, series and groups, must be understood. Series reflect this structure, while fused groups, as we will see, transcend it. What the serial structure of sociality means may be suggested by using the same example Sartre does, a number of persons waiting at a bus stop. These individuals are related to each other through the shared goal of getting on the next bus, or rather through the bus itself, says Sartre, but as they stand there waiting they neither talk, nor

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pay attention to each other. Their relation is purely external. Simultaneously they internalize this reciprocal exteriority, in the sense that for each one the other is simply Other, a different person who has his or her own goals, thoughts and preoccupations, and I reciprocally only exist for them as another person who is also waiting for the bus. In this case, we all are the same, says Sartre, to the extent that we are other, that is to say, we are all the same in that for each one all others are simply others, other persons waiting for the same bus. What creates this “social relation” between us is the bus for which we are waiting and it (or rather scarcity, understood as the fact that the bus is of limited dimensions and that there is a long time between one bus and the following) is also what constitutes us as obstacles for each other, as rivals who may prevent one another—me or you—from getting on the next bus since, because of you, it may be full before I can climb on the bus. In consequence, others in their otherness determine my behavior. They bring me to “freely choose” to act in such a way that I will be most likely to get on the next bus and I, in return, determine them similarly. This reciprocal otherness reveals itself as each one’s helplessness (impuissance) as being condemned to wait and to hope that the next bus will not already be carrying too many passengers. This last point constitutes the central characteristic of serial structures according to Sartre. I experience my relation to the other as my own powerlessness (impuissance) by being myself another for the other. Sartre illustrates this with the example of a worker on the labor market who accepts a lower wage than he or she otherwise would for fear that other workers will accept this lower wage, and in doing so, seals his or her own powerlessness by being that other he or she fears. The powerlessness that each one experiences individually becomes the inability of all to obtain better wages. This serial structure constitutes, according to Sartre, the most common form of social interaction. Note that in both examples, neither the persons waiting for the bus, nor the workers interact directly. They may of course interact—people waiting at a bus stop sometimes do talk to each other—but even if they do, these exchanges change nothing to the serial structure of their social relation; these direct interactions leave the serial structure intact. As was already the case in Sartre’s analysis of human relations, of reciprocity and to the third, there is a sense in which “series” do not correspond to a real relation between agents. A third party, here the bus, puts members of the series in relation, but their “being in relation” through the bus does not constitute for them a relation between them. Each one lives this serial structure as an absence

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of relation with the other. This is radically different from what is the case with Girard, for whom through mimesis individuals are always already in relation with one another. They may live this relation as an absence of relation, but their experience should not be taken at face value. According to Girard, this misrepresentation should be explained by the real relation that exists between them. Sartre to the contrary takes the individual experience as an unquestionable starting point, whose phenomenology needs to be properly described, but that yields the absolute truth about human consciousness and praxis. We may disagree with Sartre’s choice of experiences or with his conception of what fundamental human relations are, but the methodological point is that, unlike Girard, he did not feel that we need to go behind or beyond the first person’s experience in order to explain it; all we need, according to him, is to properly describe the phenomenology of this experience.

Fused groups Fused groups correspond to the moment when this serial structure of social relations is destroyed, eliminated through the common praxis of a shared project. In series the praxis of each individual remains external to that of the other. Following the example used above, we are all waiting for the bus for different reasons: You are going to work; I am going shopping; another one has a train to catch and so on. . . . To put it differently, in the series there is no totalizing of totalizings, each one’s praxis totalizes his or her own experience, but these different practices and outlooks on the world are not brought together and totalized. This is what fused groups will do, but in a very special way, simultaneously destroying the preexisting serial structure. Fused groups appear in situations of conflict in relation to other groups. Though Sartre does not rule out that the situation in which such a group arises may not be one of violence, in all the examples that he uses it is the danger and violence of a conflict with another group, a structured or institutionalized group, that brings about the transformation of the series into a fused group. In such situations, the danger that commonly threatens us, our shared project to survive and to repeal the enemy makes us all the same. Sartre is aware that such external menace can, in some cases, lead to a serial structure in which each one tries to survive at the expense of the other, but in the main example, he chooses that possibility is excluded because of the intention of the enemy. The fear that leads

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to the creation of a fused group that will ultimately assault and take the Bastille in Paris is that the king’s soldiers want to exterminate every inhabitant of the “quartier Saint-Antoine.” This intention makes the serial structure impossible and transforms the helplessness of all that results from each one trying to deflect on another the violence that threatens him or her, into “strength in numbers,” into finding their survival in coming together. However, the elimination of seriality involves more than this mere negative condition. As I run away from the enemy to join others who like me are trying to resist and to regroup, I see others who are also joining. As a third party, that is, from a reflexive point of view, I recognize these others (and all others) as the same, as doing the same thing as me. We all share a common praxis, which is to resist and to fight back. While in the series, others present themselves as others, here all others are the same and are recognized as others—“here comes another one”—inasmuch as they are the same. He or she is another one of us because he or she is the same, the same as me as I am the same as all the others. As biological beings we remain distinct—I am not you coming in from a different direction— but as third parties, we are all the same and totalize our common practice not only in the same way, but we also together, as one. This totalizing corresponds to the action of what Sartre calls the “regulatory third” (le tiers régulateur). As we run away from the police,19 someone shouts “behind the car” or “let’s split; you go to the left; we’ll go here” and this is what happens. This regulatory third, the one who shouts, can be anyone and it will not always be the same person. It can, at different times, be you, another or me. The point is that it does not matter. In such circumstances, no one obeys anyone, though we all act in the way that is suggested by the regulatory third. Rather, the regulatory third expresses my thoughts and that of all others; through the regulatory third, we are all the same not only in thought, but also in praxis. The regulatory third expresses the shape that we all give together to the common praxis of the fused group. In the fused group, all separation disappears, and we all become one in the common action. Thus, fused groups destroy the preexisting serial structure and replace it by a situation in which we are all “fused” into one. In the fused group, we all become the same and the emergence of the regulatory third reveals that we are all of “one mind,” that there are no others anymore. The fact is that in Sartre’s Critique, one never meets the other as an Other, as a different person. Either the other is other as in a serial structure, but then we never meet, we remain external to each other and there can be no real relation between us, or as in the fused group, the

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other disappears; we all become one and the same. The other is never met as such. Inasmuch as he or she is other, he or she remains completely foreign to me. It seems that there is no possible relation between us. The Sartrian phenomenology of fused groups cries out for a mimetic explanation. The regulatory third appears as an excellent description, from the first person’s point of view, of the situation in which all members of a violent crowd become violent doubles, imitating each other in a similar manner, and channeling their violence against a common enemy. In this common praxis, all members of the group become the same and the only other left aside is the enemy against whom all exercise their shared violence. In the fused group and in the experience of the regulatory third, we find something that is very close to the experience of the doubles, except that members of the fused groups are already united against a common enemy, rather than engaged in a conflict of each against each other as is the case in the mimetic crisis. They already are united against a common enemy and violence at this stage, at least, does threaten to divide them.

Terror and the pledged group Fused groups, however, have no being and that is their greatest weakness. They are only action, an event, a common praxis that exists under the shadow of the enemy, while the action lasts. The threat of destruction that the presence of an enemy represents is what makes the group exist, what brings about the elimination of the serial structure. However, the serial structure, because it corresponds to the basic structure of human sociality, is never far away and can return as soon as the enemy withdraws or moves away. As the distance from the enemy grows and our common fear abates, all are tempted to become others again, and so to speak, “to let others deal with it.” Others can mount guard or watch out for the return of the enemy. The fact that we are tired and won the first battle can be enough to allow the fused group to dissolve, to fall back into a serial structure, out of excessive confidence. So that if the enemy, present here at our door may destroy the fused group by exterminating all of its members, the absence of the enemy can also destroy the fused group, letting it revert to a serial structure as the pressure and danger of immediate destruction and violence progressively recedes in the distance. How can the fleeting existence of the fused group become permanent, and how can this merging of all into one and the same gain distinctions and structure?

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It is clear, Sartre argues, that the group, in order to survive to fight another day, must differentiate itself, complexify the structure of the regulatory third and gain permanence. Some will become scouts who observe the movements of the enemy, others will stay behind as a reserve force, other others will dig trenches or built fortifications and so on. . . . In order for that to happen, all must be convinced of the complete commitment of each to his or her task. However, the perfect transparency of the experience of the regulator third cannot be maintained here. The organization of the group inevitably separates us. The success of our shared praxis requires that some go to one place to do one thing, while others will go somewhere else and do something different. Sartre defines this necessary division of the fused group as the “contradictory structures of the surviving group,”20 and these contradictory structures fuel suspicion that reflects the permanent danger for the group of reversing into a serial structure. I fear that another may decide to abandon his or her task, or perhaps, even cross over to the enemy, and this danger threatens me not only through the actions of the others. I also am in danger of becoming an other, of giving up and of betraying our common cause. Sartre’s answer to this difficulty is the “pledge,” by which each and every member of the group pledges his or her complete dedication to the common objective, pledges in other words, says Sartre, to remain the same and under any circumstances not to become another. The pledge is a practical invention by which we determine the future, by which each one determines his or her own future freedom, renouncing the option of becoming different. The pledge binds the group together. However, the pledge is not mere words, but essentially praxis. By my pledge, I give to others absolute right over me, over my life, as I gain, from their pledge absolute right over their life, should I or should they renege on our shared commitment to be true to the group. The pledge as an idea is inseparable from terror as a practice, for terror is what holds the group together, replacing the danger of the enemy who is withdrawing and moving away by the violence that the group united can exercise against its own members. Sartre has rediscovered the social contract, and like Hobbes, he is convinced that: “Covenants being but words, and breath, have no force to oblige, contain, constrain or protect any man, but what it has from the publique Sword.”21 In Sartre’s analysis, however, the role of the state is not, as it classically is among social contract theorists, to protect its citizens from the violence they may exercise against each other and from violence that may come from an external enemy. Rather, here, violence, terror, is the means by which the state

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protects itself from disaggregation in a situation characterized by suspicion where the enemy is retreating. As the external danger is reduced and disappearing, only violence can keep the fused group from reverting to a serial structure, either the violence of the enemy or the violence of all, of the group united, exercised against those who betrayed, or are thought to have betrayed, or who are weak, or lukewarm or who hesitate. This violence of the group against its own members, according to Sartre, is necessary in order to prevent the emerging political order from reverting to a serial structure of powerlessness. From pledged groups are born all more complex forms of political organization, organized groups, states, parties and institutions. For the terror of the pledged group is one side of a coin whose other side is fraternity. Terror and fraternity are, according to Sartre, two aspects of the same reality. Through terror, the group acts on itself to maintain the bond of fraternity that unites its member. The intelligibility of the pledge, he argues, “comes from the fact that it is a rediscovery and affirmation of violence as the diffuse structure of the fused group and that it reflexively transforms into it the statutory structure of common relations.”22 Hence, in Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique, violence is politics, just as in Girard, violence is the sacred. In both authors, the original violent institution stabilizes violence as the “statutory structure of common relations.” In other words, for both authors, the original violent experience plays a central role in determining the basic rules of the new social order. Further, for both of them, this original institution will then progressively give rise to all more complex forms of social organizations. The main difference between the two authors is revealed in the necessary moment of the pledge in Sartre’s analysis. This strange version of the social contract operates, according to Sartre, a reflexive transformation of violence as the diffuse structure of the fused groups into the statutory structure of common relations. The intelligibility of the pledge, Sartre tells us, comes from this reflexivity, in the sense that the pledge brings to reflexive consciousness the fundamental structure of the violence of the fused group. The idea of the pledge reveals that, for Sartre, those who are violent always remain in control of the violence which they exercise. Of course, violent agents can be destroyed by the violence of those who oppose them, in fact, that fear is precisely what will guide the “statutory structures of common relations” of the pledge group, but the violent never lose the control of their own violence. To the opposite in Girard, when all participants in the crisis become perfect doubles of violence, they “lose it,” they “completely lose it,” and it is because they lose it that they are saved in spite of themselves. In consequence, if the Sacred transforms

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some aspects of the diffuse structure of the violence of the crisis into the statutory structure of common relations, into rituals and prohibitions, it does not do so reflexively, but through misrecognition (méconnaissance). The doubles are not in control of their violence because, fundamentally, no one of us ever really is in control of his or her violence. It is not only that violence often corresponds to an experience of losing control, but mainly that, for Girard, we are unaware of the mimetic motivations that move us to violence, unaware of the real causes of the conflict in which we enter, and Girard’s first recommendation is that we should not trust our immediate experience on this. For Sartre, to the opposite, the shared experience of common violence reproduces, perhaps, even at a higher more intense level, the “trans-lucidity” that is characteristic of the first person’s “dialectical” relation to the word. This glorification of violence is made possible because Sartre never doubts the difference between good and bad violence. The violence of the fused group trying to protect itself from the enemy or from falling back into a serial structure is always good and kept separate from the bad violence of those who are tempted to abandon the group or to betray their pledge. Yet, this “weakness” that threatens each and everyone is, in Sartre conceptual scheme, but the result of scarcity that divides and separates us all; that is to say, the consequence of the contingent structure of the universe that is responsible for human violence. At that level of description it seems, therefore, that there is no reason to make a distinction between good and bad violence, and certainly none to take the existing distinction between the two types of violence at face value. The fact is that, in the Critique, Sartre does not explicitly make that difference, while the whole work is predicated on it. Sartre takes it for granted that quite evidently the violence of the oppressed masses, of the working class or of the colonized is justified, while that of their enemies is not. In other words, he uses this difference, it structures the whole book, but he never analyses it or reflects on it. In a remarkable passage of the Critique, Sartre describes the collective murder of a traitor, or of one who is suspected of treason, as a bloody sacrifice that brings together the pledged group, as a ritual that reinforces its pledge and recreates the bond of fraternity among the murderers.23 However, what Sartre does not see is that it is also violence that threatens the group from the inside. What makes Sartre so similar and close to Girard is that he understands the unifying power of violence, the fact that violence can unite. What makes him so different is that he fails to understand that violence also divides. The reason why he fails to do so, in spite of the fact that it is so evident, is because he never doubts the distinction

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between good and bad violence, and therefore, remains convinced that the violence that divides is radically different from the violence that unites. This, I think, is the main difference between Girard and Sartre. Unlike Girard, Sartre never asked the questions: How does the distinction between good and bad violence arise? How is violence made different from itself? How is it divided into illegitimate violence and legitimate force? Sartre was always convinced that the distinction was evident and that he was on the right side. Why? Perhaps because Sartre never managed to question the first person’s point of view, which he thought could yield absolute certainty on the world as long as its phenomenology was described properly.

Notes 1 André Malraux, L’espoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1937). The second section of the first part of the novel is entitled “Exercice de l’apocalypse.” 2 At least, to the descriptions of the crisis that we find in René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 143–168. 3 For a criticism of the role of scarcity in the generation of conflicts, see Paul Dumouchel, “The Ambivalence of Scarcity,” in Id., The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2014), 3–96. 4 See, for example, René Girard, “Bastards and Antihero in Sartre,” in Id., Mimesis and Theory, Essays in Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005 (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2008), 134–159, originally published in French as “A propos de Jean-Paul Sartre rupture et creation littéraire,” in Georges Poulet (ed.), Les chemins actuels de la critique (Paris: Union Générale d’Éditions, 1968), 333–350. 5 According to Benoît Chantre, there is documentary proof of this: A signed, annotated and dated copy of Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique in Girard’s library shows that he read and annotated his copy of the book soon after it was published in 1960. 6 It is true that the second volume of the critique was supposed to deal with the issue of history, but it remained incomplete and the unfinished manuscript was only published posthumously. Accordingly, I do not discuss it here. 7 Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, vol. 2 : L’intelligibilité de l’histoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1985). 8 Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique théorie des ensembles pratiques, précédé de Questions de méthode (Paris: Gallimard, [1960] 1985), 921. Questions de méthode ranges from pages 19 to 132, while the text of the Critique itself starts at 134 and ends at 894.

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9 Originally published in 1957. 10 The example of Flaubert is from Sartre. That choice is no accident since at that time he was working on his three volumes criticism of Flaubert, which precisely tried to provide a “materialist” analysis that nonetheless made room for the author’s freedom. See Jean-Paul Sartre, L’idiot de la famille: Gustave Flaubert de 1821 à 1857 (Paris: Gallimard, 1971–1972), 3 volumes. 11 Raymond Aron, Histoire et dialectique de la violence (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 36. 12 Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, 194: “Toute la dialectique historique repose sur la praxis individuelle en tant que celle-ci est déjà dialectique” [emphasis in the original]. 13 See Girard, Violence and the Sacred, especially chapters 2, “The Sacrificial Crisis,” and 6, “From Mimetic Desire to the Monstrous Doubles.” 14 René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 26. 15 Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, 308: “[. . .] la relation humaine de réciprocité et du rapport au tiers, qui en eux-mêmes ne sont pas sociaux (quoi qu’ils conditionnent toute socialité en un sens et qu’ils soient conditionnés par la socialité dans leur contenu historique)” [emphasis in the original]. 16 It may be objected that an object does not have any “point of view.” What Sartre means is that joint human praxis toward an exchanged object is what allows the third party’s point of view on the relation to appear, and thus, the relation to become reciprocal, something that would not be possible if the object was not there and the relation was “direct.” 17 Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, 216. 18 See note 15 above. 19 Sartre indifferently switches, sometimes within the same paragraph, from the French revolution to what seem to be souvenirs of political demonstrations to which he participated. This carelessness is of no incidence on the argument, and clearly reveals the type of experience he had in mind. 20 Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, 513–518: “Structures contradictoires du groupe survivant.” 21 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Hammondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968), 231. 22 See Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, 530: “L’intelligibilité du serment vient de qu’il est redécouverte et affirmation de la violence comme structure diffuse du groupe en fusion et de ce qu’il la transforme réflexivement en structures statutaires des relations communes.” 23 Ibid., 536–537.

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The Sacred and the Secular: René Girard and Gianni Vattimo on Modernity and Violence Pierpaolo Antonello

In his long intellectual career, René Girard has made little use of his anthropological insights to interpret contemporary social and political reality, or to express a systematic rethinking of modernity and post-modernity in light of the theoretical premises put forward in key texts such as Violence and the Sacred (1972), Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World (1978) or The Scapegoat (1982). On the one hand, he preferred not to get caught in the kind of “light” thinking typical of many public intellectuals (particularly in his native France); on the other, his deepest interests have always centered on the analysis of mythical cultures as well as in the revelatory perspicacity of the Bible vis-à-vis the sacred violence of natural religions, which have led him in the later part of his career to write books such as Job, the Victim of His People (1985), I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (1999) and Sacrifice (2003). However, in the last fifteen years, Girard has found himself inevitably prompted and questioned by various academics and public interlocutors to express a more systematic understanding of modernity from the point of view of Mimetic Theory as well as of the role of violence (and religious violence, in particular) in our “post-secular” world. This led him to engage in a series of dialogues that prompted a wide interest and a growing bibliography.1 The dialogue with the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo, both in its direct and indirect form,2 is of particular interest from a philosophical and theoretical standpoint. Given its particular thematic focus and its contrasting and converging views, this dialogue allows us to unpack a wide range of issues and questions in relation to modernity, the role of Christianity with respect to the overarching historical process that we define as “secularization” as well as the various facets taken by violence in the contemporary world. The dialogue between Girard and Vattimo is also a useful way to reassess their different theoretical positions in a productive reciprocal cross-questioning and 189

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intellectual cross-fertilization. On the one hand, Vattimo “forces” Girard to confront and discuss a series of issues linked to the exhaustion of the traditional sacred and the emergence of what could be defined, broadly speaking, as Western modernity and contemporary secularized society; on the other hand, Girard “pushes” Vattimo to a more ontologically and historically based platform of discussion, particularly in reference to the former’s anthropological understanding of cultural and institutional formation. As a matter of fact, Girard and his Mimetic Theory could be used both to extend and complicate Vattimo’s ideas, and as a meta-critical tool to reveal some of the aporetic moments in Vattimo’s perspective. Moreover, Girard expresses his concerns regarding any philosophical perspective, including Vattimo’s, in which both the foundational role of violence and its “excessive” character are under-theorized, particularly regarding any diagnostic understanding of the impact of desacralization in the contemporary world, and the positive “restraining” role played by both religious and secular institutions.

God is dead, long live God! A unifying philosophical issue that encompasses both authors, and a common cornerstone on which they built their perspectives, is “the death of God” in its philosophical and anthropological sense, which both Girard and Vattimo trace back to Nietzsche. The event (or advent) of the “death of God” is the fundamental theoretical premise for the whole of their shared discourse on the relation between Christianity and modernization. For both thinkers, the “death of God” is to be understood as the exit from the sacred of natural religions; a “historical exit” that was brought about essentially through the Judeo-Christian tradition, and in particular, thanks to Christ’s incarnation and revelation. From Vattimo’s point of view, the death of God proclaimed by Nietzsche should be understood in the Christian sense of the incarnation, as kénosis, that is, the weakening of the transcendental potency of the divine and its metaphysical essence, which historically has produced the progressive destructuring and draining away of all the ontological truths that have characterized the history and thought of humankind. According to Vattimo, the Christian God, incarnating himself and dying, put an end to the transcendental order, to the absolute and metaphysical potency of Being as understood by classical philosophy. Incarnation is seen by Vattimo as “a movement of continuing dissolution, abasement,

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dismantling, weakening.”3 Hence, for Vattimo, secularization “comprises all the forms of dissolution of the sacred characteristic of the modern process of civilization. It is the mode in which the weakening of Being realizes itself as the kénosis of God, which is the kernel of the history of salvation. Secularization shall no longer be conceived of as abandonment of religion but as the paradoxical realization of Being’s religious vocation.”4 For Vattimo, secularization then “is not a societal process, one catalyzed by religious wars, the rise of the secular state, the needs of capitalism, and the corrosive effects of the scientific and industrial revolutions. Instead, it is the Judeo-Christian tradition itself that unleashed secularization, as the manifestation of its most central commitments and world outlook.”5 Secularization is not a break with Christianity, but on the contrary, it is an “application, enrichment, and specification” of the Christian origins of our Western civilization.6 This is not totally new since this argument has been sustained by other thinkers such as Max Weber and Marcel Gauchet, and in the theological circles, by Thomas Altizer.7 Moving from an anthropological perspective, as Girard does, the demise proclaimed by Nietzsche (with an intuition which the German thinker did not fully articulate philosophically, but which Girard discerns as subtext) refers rather to the recollection of the real death of an innocent victim. According to Girard, Nietzsche was essentially a religious thinker.8 His philosophy is not antireligious, but anti-Christian.9 Nietzsche—who has proclaimed, through the madman of aphorism no. 125 of The Gay Science, the “death of God”—opposes the old religious ideal (exemplified by Christ, the Crucified One) with a new religious ideal (symbolized by Dionysus). In his polemic against Christianity, Nietzsche was able to discern the real anthropological kernel of religion: its sacrificial and victimary origins. “Nietzsche clearly saw that pagan mythology, like pagan ritual, centres on the killing of victims or on their expulsion.”10 In Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, Girard argues that all human culture has a systemic origin based on the sacrifice, spontaneous at first, but later institutionalized, of innocent victims, who served as “pharmacological” agents to resolve the crises into which archaic societies periodically plunged—victims who, on account of their “curative” powers, were divinized (hence, the symbolic ambivalence of all the archaic divinities, at once wicked and beneficial). However, out of this systemic, social, and ritualistic-symbolic basis, which lasted for millennia, the Judeo-Christian tradition arose, and gradually unveiled the mechanism that underlay the human order: the persecution of innocent victims, who are expelled, scapegoated, victimized most intensely at moments of crisis,

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whether natural, social, political, or systemic in general. Christ’s persecution and death is both the repetition and the cognitive, ethical, social, theological unveiling of this mechanism, which for millennia has been at the base of human sociability and institutions. For Girard, the Christian Gospel was the hermeneutic key that made it possible, in history, to reinterpret both mythology and the Hebrew scriptures as the gradual coming to historical awareness of the violent and persecutory matrix of the social and cultural order, turning the victimary mechanism at the base of natural religion upside-down. Vattimo grasped the relevance of Girard’s anthropological intuition, putting it at the service of his own idea of the historical and progressive kénosis of Being. Although he has been explicitly critical of Girard’s scientific methodology and language, he bent Girard’s perspectives through integration within a general Nietzschean and Heideggerian theoretical matrix. In Heideggerian terms, Vattimo maintains, secularization as the weakening of Being is similar to the desacralizing work of the Paraclete proposed by Girard through the rejection of victimization and scapegoating introduced by the Judeo-Christian scriptures. As Santiago Zabala summarizes in The Future of Religion: “Whereas Heidegger intuitively felt Christianity to be part of the problem and sought different answers, Vattimo not only sees in the secularizing work of the Christian gospel something to be embraced but also proposes a philosophy of weakening based especially in the Christian concept of the kenotic (self-emptying) love as found in Philippians 2:5–11.”11 Vattimo claimed that Girard failed to formulate a diagnostic reading of modernity and post-modernity based on his theoretical presuppositions: “Girard [. . .] does not seek to extend his thesis into a genuine theory of secularization as the authentic destiny of Christianity.”12 It is true that, in general, Girard has avoided a systematic reflection on these issues, providing only cursory— albeit insightful—comments, while privileging a general critique rather than composing a more descriptive or normative argument. However, it is quite clear and consequential from his general interpretation of the historical effects of the Biblical tradition, that for Girard, Christianity is not simply a “religion” in the strict sense of the term, but a principle that deconstructs all archaic religions and must temporarily clothe itself as an institutional “religion” too, so as to be able to enter into dialogue with the historicity of religions: like a Trojan horse, it penetrates the age-old citadel of the mentalities instituted by the natural religions and empties it from inside, adopting the language and symbolism of the religions, but completely reversing their meaning, demystifying all the violence on which

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the walls of the citadel of the sacred had been erected in human millennial history. Christianity represents the moment at which it is revealed to humankind that it can free itself from the need to resort to scapegoats and their immolation as a system for ending conflicts and crises within communities. And that entails becoming aware of the innocence of all those victims sacrificed to that end, and of the substantial arbitrariness and injustice of their persecution. Hence, the rupture of the sacrificial circle accomplished by the Judeo-Christian revelation (in Girard’s terms) or the kénosis of God through the incarnation (in Vattimo’s) launched a historical development that culminates in the present age. It is precisely this death of God—Christ’s death—which Christianity has posited as foundational and revelatory, and which the Western cultural tradition has introjected and metabolized with all its consequences that lie at the basis of the cultural processes that we now call “secularization”—in a historical progression that has been contested and intermittent (modern history is still full of violence, victims, unjust persecutions), and has met strong resistances and inertias of a socio-anthropological kind.

Secularization and resacralization In this historical ambivalence, we can situate one of the theoretical disagreements between Girard and Vattimo. Vattimo is not interested in giving a purely descriptive account of this historical trajectory and development, but in the elaboration of a system of thought which, by integrating the Judeo-Christian tradition and vocation into a post-metaphysical, antifoundational philosophical perspective, would actively and positively contribute to the process of deconstruction of all those (residual) metaphysical claims which still aim at defining in “natural,” fixed terms, what humanity is, including all those “scientific,” ontological “truths” that thinkers like Girard still resort to.13 For Vattimo, these are contingent products of history, and above all, ideological superstructures that have been used as coercive impositions on the part of those who, over the course of history, have held economic, political or symbolic power. As Giuseppe Stellardi commented on this score, it is this “keen attention to the practicalities of contemporary social life, specifically in its political and even juridical dimensions,”14 that brings the theoretical problem of the substantial “strength” of weak thought. What seems to be implicit in Vattimo’s perspective is, first of all, a form of “perspectival narcissism,” considering that post-modernity

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and the hermeneutic tradition in which Vattimo is inscribed would be understood as the end point, the theoretical fulfilment of secularization, hence of incarnation and the kenotic process of Being. Vattimo, in fact, sees the hermeneutic philosophical tradition (Nietzsche, Gadamer, Heidegger, Derrida), to which he himself belongs, as part of the “history of revelation,” registering the linkage between “nihilist ontology and the kénosis of God,” and showing that the interpretive freedom that we have acquired over the course of our cultural history is itself a sign of the process of weakening of Being begun by the Christian revelation. In this understanding, nihilism becomes the end point of this historical process: “Nihilism is the philosophical articulation of secularization. Hermeneutics is the most contemporary expression of philosophical nihilism. Without both nihilism and secularization the West cannot become what it is fated to become.”15 After the end of metaphysics, Being could no longer be conceived as presence but simply as event (in linguistic and interpretative terms), while the death of God would allow for a metaphorical proliferation and liberation (since language is no longer dominated by a single metaphysical semantic field).16 Hence, according to Vattimo, we are inscribed in the history of the effects of Christianity, which find its secularized fulfilment in the “modernliberal-socialist-democratic thought.”17 Pluralism and the post-modern “linguistic turn” would also correspond to the “the age of interpretation,” or Joachim of Fiore’s “age of spirit,” which marked the full realization of the Christian message of the event of incarnation and creation.18 Vattimo’s substantial relativism and “weak” perspective, then, paradoxically comprises a teleological reading of history. The historical trajectory he outlines is essentially linear and progressive, without relapses—sociopolitical regressions or reactionary contractions. For Vattimo, secularization is, in fact, a “destiny” or a “destination” of the West.19 The destiny of Christianity is to dissolve all the ontological and alethic structures that humans have violently imposed on other humans, and all those coercive agencies that have limited, and continue to limit, individual freedom. The way will, then, be opened to a community of love based on the sharing of principles that will be negotiated on the basis of intersubjective agreement. For Vattimo, this is essentially “the Kingdom of God.” Although this dynamic could be interpreted by Girard as a desirable outcome, he sees secularization as a far more ambivalent process than does Vattimo. The antinomic structure of the sacred is clearly visible in the way Girard interprets both secularization and the role of violence in contemporary reality. In general, for Girard, secularization could be described as a historical process that was put

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into rapid motion by the desacralizing force of Christian revelation. However, this also implies all those forms of resacralization that are not only visible, but a constitutive part of the historical dynamic of modernity and post-modernity. As a matter of fact, Girard already proposed a surreptitious theory of modernity in his first book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel, through the lens of the European modern novel. In his account, the metaphysical desire and the Dostoyevskian “Man from the Underground,” dominate the nihilistic landscape of the horizontal displacement of the divine.20 As Scott Cowdell aptly rephrases it, by adopting a Nietzchean perspective, “Girard sees secular modernity in the West as functionally religious” in the sense that, under the spell of Nietzsche’s polarization, if the “Christian God is definitely in decline [. . .] this is chiefly because the preferred deity of secular modernity is Dionysus, who is worshiped in various (often unacknowledged) guises.”21 This is the kernel of Girard’s anthropological and theological reading of the relationship between Christianity and modernity. Nietzsche perfectly understood that the freedom granted by Christianity had to result in embracing its opposite pole: the Dionysiac. The kind of description provided by Girard concerns, on the one hand, the microlevel of individual psychopathology, and on the other, the macrolevel of the escalation of historical violence in its various modern forms. Secularization does not comprise only a fulfilment of the deep-seated vocation of Christianity, but also the mobilization of metaphysical desire, which may lead to a process of “neopaganization,” as it were, where immanent, substitutive forms of divinity (including increasing self-divinization), are produced as well as the wide-spread contemporary phenomenon of fetishism of commodity as incorporating “splinters” of metaphysical desire. Modernity, in fact, for Girard, is the expression of the widespread dominance of metaphysical desire, and of mythical thinking, at both micro- and macrolevels. For Girard, individual freedom—which for Vattimo could be seen as the expression of the process of secularization in the Western context—is limited by the consequences of our attempt at self-divinization and search for a radical autonomy that cannot be achieved because of our mimetic tendency, and the interdividual fabric of our personality. “Modernity, according to Girard, is a shift from hierarchy to 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.”22 Modernity heightens mimetic dynamics as “Men become Gods in the eyes of each other.”23

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The figure of the Underground Man, in particular, is the expression of the modern individual who elects resentment as his or her driving force, and who is haunted by the voice of the crowd which takes the form of “plural somnambulism, fusion of desires, mimetic gigantism, dissolution of the self.”24 Both the neurotic and the psychotic conditions are based on interdividual dynamics, with delirious subjects no longer able to distinguish themselves from the models of their desire. In this regard, for Girard, psychosis is the result of mythical thinking, which persists when we remain wedded to noninterdividual thinking, exhibiting our “metaphysical hubris” in trying to find a stabilizing element within the self25 this would result in ontological sickness and underground psychology. As Coldwell rephrases it: Secularization would entail a negative aspect in “the impossibility of our tolerating God as one-competing-individual-too-many in the modern Western project of self creation. Rivalry secularizes, as constraining prohibitions and the God underwriting them are set aside. Hence modernity and secularization can be understood as two dimension of disembedding the Western individual from constraint, which is in reality our submission to even greater constraint from the unacknowledged play of mimetic forces.”26 While the Underground Man, according to Girard, would be the expression of super-humanism that drags him into a force field of disruptive pathologies, Vattimo would see him as a historical evidence of a progressive emancipation of the individual. It is intrinsic to the freedom of the modern individual not only to take the place of God or to try to become God, but also to be free to choose death (hence, Vattimo’s political and ethical support of euthanasia).27 For Girard, modernity is dominated by the compulsive search for self-destruction, which could be understood in Freudian terms, but which Girard sees as the Nietzschean way to side for Dionysus against Christ. In this sense, what Vattimo sees as the fulfilment of Christianity (and the kénosis of God) is, for Girard, its diabolic perversion. At the macrohistorical level, we need also to take into account different phases in the process of secularization; which means different forms by which the “divine” is dislocated, or rather diluted into the social, secular fabric, and therefore, resemanticized. Following Nietzsche’s claim that “God is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadows will be shown,”28 Vattimo himself is aware that the kenotic degradation of Being does not lead necessarily to its disappearance once and for all, but to a continuous dislocation, to a migration toward substitutive metaphysical forms, which maintain the descriptive vocabulary and the conceptual and social matrix

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of religion: “A religion is revealed that is entirely other and yet inseparable from the old,” as Girard writes in Sacrifice.29 In fact, “a secularized culture is not a culture that has simply left behind the religious contents of its tradition; it is one that continues to live them as traces, as models that are hidden and disfigured but nonetheless profoundly present.”30 The transformed “religion” typically colonizes the structures and legacies of the old, “which generates a perennial unease for Christianity”31: “new wine in old wineskins,” as the Gospels phrase it (Mt 9:14–17; Mk 2:18–22; Lk 5:33–39). Vattimo acknowledges the ongoing process of (re)mythization in our postmodern era. In “Myth and the fate of secularization” he quotes Claude LéviStrauss, who, in Anthopologie structurale, noted “nothing resembles mythic thought today more than political ideology.”32 In contemporary society, the latter has in a certain sense replaced the former, and this testifies to the surreptitious religious undercurrent and generative matrix of political and ideological expressions. Similarly, for Girard, ideologies are intellectual, social, political and economic forms of propaganda, that is, mythical justification to legitimize unjust persecution, the mythical arguments that cloak mechanisms of collective persecutions based on resentment (like class resentment in the case of the French or Soviet revolution).33 For Girard, there is, in fact, an intrinsic matrix that structures any modern myth and has to do with the subterranean forms that religion would take in this process of weakening or dislocation. Our mythmaking tendency always has to do with the sacred in the broad sense of the term. Contrary to Girard, however, this “liberation of the plurality of myths” is for Vattimo an emancipatory event.34 Modernity and post-modernity also cannot be simply described in terms of progressive “pluralization,”35 to adopt Vattimo’s perspective, but also by “pluritemporalities.” There are different degrees in the process of secularization, where forms of “regressions” should also be taken into account, when ressentiment can be “charged up” again to take its initial anthropological form of vengeance, or of reciprocal, mimetic violence. In Nietzschean terms, according to Girard, “Ressentiment is the manner in which the spirit of vengeance survives the impact of Christianity.”36 The emergence of resentment would coincide with the transition from a premodern, religiously hierarchically ordered society to a modern, economically-oriented, egalitarian society. According to Girard, “Nietzsche’s mistake was that he considered ressentiment [. . .] as the essence of Christianity, while it is the outcome of the unfinished impact of Christianity on world history.”37 In fact, Nietzsche detected ressentiment not only in Christian

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morality, but also in its modern offshoots: humanism, socialism, democracy and the affluent society. In this sense, religious fundamentalism is permeated by a form of ideological and personal resentment toward both modernity and secularization, and it is indeed a mimetic answer to globalization and what is perceived as the pervasive secularizing of Christianity.38

The end of violence? There is a second element, in the Vattimo-Girard dialogue, which focuses the kind of meta-critique that Mimetic Theory put forward to Vattimo’s “weak thought,” and that is the discussion of the historical role and function of violence. By working against any new foundational narrative, one of the characterizing points of Vattimo’s intellectual, political and ethical project is the reduction of violence, seen as the fulfilment of Christianity as the kénosis of Being. Vattimo, in particular, equates violence with “metaphysical being”39: Violence, for him, would be the product of the many ideological and metaphysically grounded “isms,” which are pervasive in the history of modernity. Therefore, “given the dissolution of metaphysics, it seems to me that the only supreme principle to be propounded, both in ethics and in law, is the reduction of violence.” This perspective is then translated by Vattimo in political terms by stating that a “nihilistic, nonmetaphysical left” would not be based on equality, “but on the reduction of violence.”40 From a political standpoint, hermeneutics amounts to “a non-authoritarian society, which tries to root any practical ‘certainty’ on informed consent and public debate.”41 In this sense, “the end of metaphysics has its genuine political parallel in the strengthening of democracy.”42 However, violence is a category that cannot be easily conceptualized from a philosophical standpoint; it represents a point of anthropological “externality,” as it were, that may let philosophical reasoning slip into an aporetic framework of analysis. As mentioned, in Vattimo’s perspective on modernity and secularization there is an evident political dimension, labeled under the sign of emancipation, which somehow operates as a centrifugal force in his philosophical stance. As in the case of many other issues and concepts tackled by Vattimo in his book, violence has an ambiguous status that is far from being clearly conceptualized. It is not surprising that many commentators have noticed the aporetic structure of Vattimo’s argument in reference to the role of violence in his thought. Stephen White argues that a commitment against violence is not

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necessarily a “rational conviction” that is linearly derived from a postfoundational philosophy, but reflects instead the “deepest commitment” that one may hold due to the prefigurations and understandings acquired in a particular historical context.43 Peter Jonkers also explains how much Vattimo’s philosophy still bears a dualistic imprint—“an oppositional way of thinking”—“a dualism of strong versus weak, violent versus non-violent, established objectivism versus nihilistic openness” precisely characteristic of the metaphysical tradition that Vattimo wishes to move away from.44 A similar critique was also put forward by Stellardi, who argues that: The reduction of violence is [. . .] an external aim that seems to acquire a somewhat special status. If this ideal can certainly be described as ‘widely shared’, how can it be justifiably generalized as a regulatory principle, without being endowed simultaneously with some sort of foundational value? But, if this is the case, doesn’t that contradict the fundamental tenet of weak thought? Together, freedom and the reduction of violence constitute the minimum set of contextual determinants required to make the theory work as a political pro-position; but, in doing so, don’t they simultaneously undermine it?45

For Girard, violence also implies a foundational element, being the origins from which humankind has evolved. In this sense, for Vattimo, there would be the problem of defining the contours and the historical action of nonmetaphysical violence, violence that cannot be traced back to metaphysical presuppositions; in particular, prelinguistic and presymbolic violence, which is, in fact, at the core of Girard’s generative anthropology.46 Furthermore, there is the problem of the foundational role of the victim, from which the whole Girardian understanding of Christianity and its history emerges, and that Vattimo never dwells on. Vattimo makes an explicit connection between the violence of the victimary mechanism of the natural sacred and the violence of metaphysics. How he makes this connection is not obvious. “As a ‘bridge’ between these two understandings of violence, Vattimo refers to the ‘metaphysical’ characteristics of God such as ‘omnipotence’, ‘absoluteness’ and his ‘transcendence.’ ”47 As Depoortere underscores, “Vattimo’s post-modern Christianity also remains tributary to a conception of transcendence as violent. Because he cannot imagine a nonviolent transcendence, every form of transcendence has to be secularized.”48 The kénosis of God as the precondition for the diminution of violence means that Vattimo sees God still as the God of the sacred, the archaic violent God, and not the Christian God of forgiveness, grace and caritas. For Girard, on the contrary, violence is fully immanent, for it is a product of mimetic human interaction,

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which is projected for cognitive and systemic reasons onto the transcendental realm.49 In this respect, the terms of discussion need to be reversed, for transcendence, in Girardian terms, could be understood as the product of immanence. In Girard’s account of the origins of religion and culture, it is the immanence of the victim that produces its transcendental power (as a result of its victimization and subsequent transfer of divinization). However, in anthropological terms, it is this transcendence that creates and constitutes the human, and which provides the “pull” for its evolutionary quantum leap. What eventually Christ does produces not a deconstruction of transcendence, but of mythical, violent structures and categories attached to its early formation. He brings to light that violence is a product of mimetic human interactions and cannot be attributed to God. God’s violence is, in fact, a myth, in the proper sense of the term: it is attached to the mythic mentality. Moreover, Girard cannot but oppose Vattimo’s radical nihilistic perspective because “modern atheism” as the inevitable endpoint of Christianity, according to Vattimo, “is incapable of bringing the victimary mechanism to light; its empty scepticism about all religion constitutes a new method of keeping these mechanisms invisible which favour their perpetuation.”50

Apocalypse and the katéchon Much in the same way as metaphysical desire, violence is not simply deconstructed by secularization, but is also mobilized, because the victimary urges of humans and societies no longer find the limits and the control of the old sacred. In this sense, Girard denies Gauchet’s thesis that secular modernity represents an inexorable disenchantment because the archaic sacred is so obviously resurgent for instance in the sacrificial use of “martyrs” by Islam extremists.51 According to Girard, “real vengeance is back among us in the shape of nuclear and other absolute weapons, reducing our planet to the size of a global primitive village, terrified once again by the possibility of unlimited bloodfeud.”52 Contrary to Vattimo, Girard then sets brackets around his “faith” that the history of revelation has simply a “progressive,” linear path, voicing his own apprehension that sooner or later there may occur historical convulsions for which he adopts both the terms “tragedy” and “apocalypse.”53 The latter is meant in the double sense it bears for the modern reader: apocalypse as “revelation” and

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as the “violent end of time.” Christianity is creatively liberating, but in this liberation there is also space for a negative creativity, diabolic and destructive. The twentieth century is testimony of how collective violence has erupted into a globalized (dis)proportion: “When sacrifice disappears, all that remains is mimetic rivalry, and it escalates to extremes. In a way, the Passion leads to the hydrogen bomb.”54 In voicing his apocalyptic concerns in his late theorization, Girard seems to embrace a sort of prophetic dimension that needs to be unpacked from a historical standpoint. If the sacrificial mechanism cannot function any longer because its absolute injustice and arbitrariness have been revealed, this has not produced a rush to self-destruction, but to a dialectic between diabolic and destructive forces and more positive and creative ones. After the Christian Revelation, in fact, modern society finds itself in a new experimental phase in which history becomes a laboratory for finding new mechanisms of equilibrium and stability, when symbolic and actual scapegoating are becoming less and less effective in conferring authority on the social structures and practices that historically contained violence. What seems to accelerate with modernity is, on the one hand, the creative dimension of humankind, and its propensity to seek to overcome limits, taboos and restrictions, relying for this purpose on merely technical capabilities; on the other, the demystification and loss of the symbolic structures of containment, accentuating modern humanity’s propensity to become caught up in its own self-generated tendency to extremes. Hence, the ambivalence attributed by Girard to modernity: It represents, for him, an everlasting “liminal space,” in which the potential for both human creativity and cataclysmic and terminal violence is increasing. This perception of a hidden ambivalence sets him at odds, for instance, with Steven Pinker’s thesis of a simple de facto correlation between the spread of education, increased reasoning abilities, the enlargement of moral horizons, the opening up of circles of cooperation and so on—and the statistical lessening of the sum of human acts of violence over historical time,55 which positively resonate with Vattimo’s more optimistic vision of the development of human sociability and democratic impulses. For Girard, given our capacity to regress to archaic patterns of violence, the dynamics of progress and abyss are subtler and starker. Modern individualism, civil rights, international and democratic institutions as well as globalization, are all factors that, according to Vattimo, prove how the incarnation and the Christian kenotic process has expanded, eroding the stronghold of the sacred mentality in the modern world while accelerating its secularization. However, as

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already noted, they also connote a historical phase in which humankind is no longer protected by the false transcendence of the sacred, by the rigid mechanisms of a mentality formed by the pharmacological use of systemic violence. Hence, humankind needs to resort to different “containment” structures able to delay the apocalyptic event. These are based on secularized forms of transcendence, or false transcendence (for instance, the ideology of the democratic state, technology, mass-media spectacle, the commodification of individual relations, etc.). Such “creative reconfigurations” have been conceptualized under the umbrella of what St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, defined as the katéchon, a term that indicates the powers or the social mechanisms that restrain history in its accelerating drift toward sacrificial crisis holding human violence in check. The katéchon comprises all those forces “stemming from the inertia of the powers of this world,” including political and ecclesiastical structures, which represent “the peace which the world gives” as opposed to “the peace of God which passes all understanding.”56 The katéchon, as much as the sacred, contains its own violence, in the two senses of the term: It keeps violence at bay, but it is enmeshed with sacrificial practices and mechanisms. While Vattimo would see the katéchon as a system of coercible structures that should be criticized and dismantled in order to fulfil the Christian vocation, which may well produce a form of “ethical anarchism,” based on “love and the rules of the traffic,” for Girard, the katéchon represents a social, political and organizational instrument that is necessary to preserve.57

Nonviolence or good violence? Although a discussion on the katéchon was never part of Vattimo’s interests, and it was discussed by Girard only cursorily, it seems a useful category to understand some of the points of contention between the two thinkers in respect of the effects of the desacralization of the modern world. A point of discussion could arise, for instance, in terms of the politics that their divergent perspectives on the function of the katéchon and its intrinsic violent component may entail. In spite of his professed Catholic belief on the side of Girard, and the nihilistic leftist thinking that Vattimo is proposing, both thinkers are not full-fledged pacifist or nonviolence advocates. For different reasons, both see violence as a legitimate political instrument. According to Girard, institutions stem from the sacred matrix, and retain some of the structural and operational mechanism of the

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sacred. This would include what has been defined as “structural” or “systemic” violence, and which has to do, in Paul Farmer’s words, with those “social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way [. . .]. The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people. [. . .] neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency.”58 This position is shared by thinkers, such as Slavoj Žižek, for whom Western democracy, in spite its concern with any form of private, individual violence, renders us “insensitive to the most brutal forms of violence [i.e., structural violence]—often, paradoxically, in the very form of humanitarian sympathy with the victims.”59 However, the political reasons motivating Girard’s position are not linked to any form of ideological awareness or revolutionary perspectives. As he has admitted several times, he is a defender of “law and order,” with its intrinsic content of “structural violence,” for the simple reason that they are katéchetic instruments which work against any “excess of violence.” This is stated polemically in contrast to many (leftist) intellectuals who have reluctantly acknowledged the fact that “ideologies with the great power to fascinate the modern mind are also responsible for the greatest massacre in human history.”60 As Girard puts it: A science of politics must try to defend order, to slow down the process of undifferentiation through the most peaceful means possible, while recognizing that it can aspire to absolute non-violence only at the price of unleashing the greatest possible violence. And since a true theory cannot be devised, the best one can do is to delay, to take the side of katéchon and try to strengthen its influence. [. . .] Katéchon holds back violence, which is to say what is left once Satan has been cheated, duped. It must be admitted that, in order to prevent violence, we cannot do without a certain amount of violence. We are therefore obliged to think in terms of least possible violence. But, as a practical matter, it’s difficult to say how little the least violence would have to be.61

From a theoretical standpoint, Girard’s position inevitably stems from a rigorous and consequential understanding of his generative anthropology and his interpretation of the Scriptures, while Vattimo’s seems more problematic and in contradiction with his philosophical premises. In spite of the fact that he claims that “[a] nihilistic, nonmetaphysical left cannot longer base the claims it makes on equality; instead, the reduction of violence has to provide the basis,”62 Vattimo argues that some historical instances of political violence were justified on the

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ground of self-defense of society. Also, from a historical standpoint, Jason Lindsey notes that: “Vattimo would like to distinguish between some uses of violence for political objectives, for instance the French revolution, and other political uses of violence that are unacceptable because of their metaphysical claims.”63 According to Vattimo, then, “the left has to get over its ‘obligatory’ pacifism. There are no just wars [. . .]. But there are legitimate uses of force.”64 This “legitimization” or the “self-defensive” nature of war, however, has been problematized by Girard in Battling to the End, in which he discusses the mimetic nature of war and its potential “escalation to the extremes.”65 He also highlights the importance of Clausewitz’s intuition that “the idea of war originates with the defense,”66 as it entails a history of reciprocal, mimetic, conflicts and altercations. We cannot isolate an act of war as such: “mimetic theory, as it is corroborated here by reciprocal action, obliges us to see history on a larger scale as involving very long alternations.”67

Globalization and eschatology There is another relevant point of contention in the dialogue between Vattimo and Girard, which has to do with the ambivalent consequences of globalization, as one of the off-shoots of consumer society and economic liberalism. The discussion is not related to a critical diagnostic analysis related to the current state of affairs, but it is rather projected on an eschatological dimension. If there is a direct link between Christianity and secularization, what Vattimo seems to foresee, from a cultural and sociopolitical standpoint, is a surreptitious “Christianization of the world.” In fact, “the very idea of cultural pluralism exists, and developed within, a specific culture, the Western one.”68 On that basis, the Western Christian world might be seen, in Vattimo’s words, as recuperating “its universalizing function without any colonial, imperialist, or Eurocentric implications . . . by stressing its missionary implication as hospitality, and as the religious foundation (paradoxical as this might be) of the laity.”69 Vattimo also sees the techno-economic progress through a post-modern, eschatological positive light: Our civilization, which we have reached through mechanical and computer technology, political democracy, social pluralism, and the availability of goods necessary to ensure survival, offer us the chance to realize the kingdom of spirit understood as lightening and poeticization of the real.70

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However, on the one hand, Vattimo is aware that “other” cultures may tend “to see the very secularity of the political as a threat of their authenticity, and therefore, take it less as a condition of liberty than as a negative limitation that must be overcome.”71 On the other hand, the vehicles through which this is achieved in historical terms—the spread of capitalism with its intrinsic sacrificial logic, the technologization of culture and economy with its dehumanizing functioning, the imposition of often far from democratic institutions—might be seen as not very “hospitable” or “charitable,” but actually imperialistic and violent. Very similarly, Girard has rejected a straightforward condemnation of market society, because of the intrinsic ambivalence of the historical process or desacralization, but also because of its katéchontic power. Borrowing the reflections put forward by Paul Dumouchel and Jean-Pierre Dupuy in L’enfer des choses, in Evolution and Conversion and The One by Whom Scandal Comes, Girard makes reference to the consumer society, and the liberal economic order as forms of katéchon, because “it satisfies human wants” and diffuses “mimetic rivalry.”72 The market, with its mass production of desirable goods, “takes on the katéchon function, restraining mimetic rivalry by allowing people to have the same objects of desire by purchasing replicas of them.”73 Indeed, the consumer society is a sophisticated mechanism that restrains class resentment by circulating symbolic objects through the social scale, by letting people have access to splinters of metaphysical desire. However, as already mentioned, the katéchon contains “residual” sacrificial violence, which is also the case for the liberal market society. The idea of the sacrificial dimension of the cold economic logic of neoliberalism and its “anonymous victimization” has been pointed out by some of the most authoritative readers of Girard, such as the French philosopher of science Michel Serres, and the Italian essayist and intellectual Roberto Calasso.74 Erich Kitzmuller, in this regard, writes, “market society is a mutant of sacrificial order which mobilizes mimetic energy into technopathical expansion and contains violence inside the market.”75 In reference to the anthropological and political shape taken by contemporary globalized society seen through an eschatological light, Wolfgang Palaver, one of the most attentive readers of Girard in the theological circles, has been recently trying to discuss these issues by reading Girard’s perspective through Carl Schmitt’s political interpretation of the katéchon, describing globalization as a “dangerous state of affairs.” According to a Girardian interpretation of Schmitt, “without the protection of the political divisions provided by the pagan sacred,

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human beings need to follow the rules of the Kingdom of God to prevent the unleashing of planetary violence.”76 Schmitt, in fact, saw a “unified world as the reign of the Antichrist, a Kingdom of Satan [. . .] The reign of the Antichrist would be a unified and centralized world without war, politics, states, or Grossraume. [. . .] Following medieval Christianity, Schmitt hoped for a katéchon to prevent the satanic unification of the world.”77 This may be achieved through the intrinsic logic of the free market society, which is the constitution of a globalized order, where the centralized logic is the economic one, where limits, borders and barriers are lifted only to mobilize and perfect global economic transactions. This would be seen by Girard as a scenario in which all possible differences are removed, throwing humankind in a dangerous state of global undifferentiation. “To some extent a pluralistic world resembles anarchic chaos,” Palaver argues. “In this specific sense, however, anarchy is not a threat but a remedy. It has fulfilled the role of the katéchon. It is nihilism rather than anarchy that must be contained.”78 According to Schmitt, in fact: “anarchic chaos is better than nihilistic centralization. One can recognize the katéchon by the fact that he does not strive for world-unity.”79 In this sense, the katéchetic dimension of the free market economy would be equated to the Satanic, as it were, because it would inevitably produce a world unity under the signs of utilitarism and economic calculation. Clearly, this perspective moves in the opposite direction from Vattimo’s understanding of contemporary society and its destiny. Through his Heideggerian lens, in After Christianity, Vattimo makes reference to the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, which “focuses on the Christian duty to wait for the parousia without mistaking the Antichrist in its multiple forms for the Messiah. These multiple forms may be traced back to the claim that the parousia cannot be identified with an ‘objective’ historical event, a fact placed at a determinable instant of time.”80 Vattimo underscores that there is a history of the Anti-Christ, which amounts to the misunderstanding of “the authenticity of the Christian message [. . .], and that runs parallel to the history of the metaphysical forgetting of Being.”81 This misunderstanding is intrinsic to all those (katéchontic) forces, including the Church, which are still insisting in the belief in objective realities and truths, and therefore, act in Anti-Christian terms.82 With a perfect inversion, compatible with their opposite political polarizations, Schmitt sees the diabolic where Vattimo sees the salvific. Girard, with his apocalyptic understanding of modernity, would side with Schmitt’s cautionary tale, but his final judgment seems somehow suspended, because of the intrinsic

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complexity and ambivalence of these historical processes, running over the fine line between Progress and Abyss. Consequently, Cowdell aptly argues on this score that Girard is not polarizable from a political standpoint: “He is a conservative in his pragmatic sense of society’s need for law, order, and religiously motivated disciplines [. . .]. Yet he is progressive in the hermeneutic of suspicion with which he confronts today’s several sacred cows: the state, the global market, ideology, and militarism. This position may also have something to do with his genuine perplexity on being faced by the apocalyptic future that he predicts.”83

Notes 1 See, for instance, René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London and New York: Continuum, 2007); René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010); Gianni Vattimo and René Girard, Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue, ed. P. Antonello, trans. W. McCuaig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). 2 The reference goes to Vattimo’s sustained attempt to inscribe Girard in his own theoretical map, see Gianni Vattimo, Beyond Interpretation: The Meaning of Hermeneutics for Philosophy, trans. D. Webb (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1997). See also Id., Belief, trans. L. D’Isanto and D. Webb (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999); Id., After Christianity, trans. L. D’Isanto (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). 3 Frederik Depoortere, “ Gianni Vattimo and René Girard on the Uniqueness of Christianity,” The Heythrop Journal 50, no. 5 (2009): 878. 4 Vattimo, After Christianity, 24. 5 Eduardo Mendieta, “Secularization as a Post-Metaphysical Religious Vocation: Gianni Vattimo’s Post-Secular Faith,” in Silvia Benso and Brian Schroeder (eds), Between Nihilism and Politics: The Hermeneutics of Gianni Vattimo (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010), 150. 6 Vattimo, After Christianity, 65. 7 Cf. Marcel Gauchet, The Disenchantment of the World, trans. O. Burge (Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1999); Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966). 8 This idea is shared by Paul Valadier, Jésus-Christ ou Dionysos, La foi chrétienne en confrontation avec Nietzsche (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1979). For a comparative discussion, see Depoortere, “Gianni Vattimo and René Girard,” 882ff.

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9 René Girard, “‘Dionysus versus the Crucified,” MLN 99, no. 4, (1984): 816–835. 10 Girard, “Dionysus,” 819. For a Girardian rereading of Nietzsche, see Giuseppe Fornari, A God Torn to Pieces: The Nietzsche Case (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2013). 11 Santiago Zabala, “Introduction: A Religion Without Theists or Atheists,” in Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo, The Future of Religion (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 18. 12 Vattimo, Beyond Interpretation, 51. 13 See Vattimo and Girard, Christianity, 34–35. 14 Giuseppe Stellardi, “Pensiero debole, Nihilism and Ethics, or How Strong is Weakness?” in Pierpaolo Antonello and Florian Mussgnug (eds), Postmodern Impegno: Ethics and Commitment in Contemporary Italian Culture (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009), 83. 15 Mendieta, “Secularization,” 150. 16 Vattimo, Beyond Interpretation, 54. 17 Gianni Vattimo and Piergiorgio Paterlini, Not Being God: A Collaborative Autobiography, trans. W. McCuaig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 152. 18 Vattimo, After Christianity, 23–39. Cf. also Gianni Vattimo, “The Trace of the Trace,” in Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo (eds), Religion (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1999), 84–85. 19 Gianni Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation: Ethics, Politics and Law, trans. W. McCuaig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 32–33. Although he claimed that “A metaphysical and evolutionistic idea of history,” and in general, “[a] philosophy of history cannot be recuperated today,” in Nihilism and Emancipation, Vattimo confessed his “weakened Hegelianism” (88). The passage quoted is in Gianni Vattimo, “Myth and the Fate of Secularization,” Anthropology and Aesthetics 9 (1985): 30. For a discussion of Vattimo’s weak Hegelianism, see Giovanni Giorgio, Il pensiero di Gianni Vattimo: L’emancipazione dalla metafisica tra dialettica ed ermeneutica (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2006). 20 On this, see our introduction in Pierpaolo Antonello and Heather Webb, Mimesis, Desire, and the Novel: René Girard and Literary Criticism (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2015): xxviiff. 21 Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis (Notre Dame, IN : University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 12. 22 Cowdell, René Girard, 117. 23 René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965), 53. 24 Jean-Michel Oughourlian, The Puppet of Desire: The Psychology of Hysteria, Possession, and Hypnosis, trans. E. Webb (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1996), 228.

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25 René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 403. See also Cowdell, René Girard, 29. 26 Cowdell, René Girard, 46–47. 27 Vattimo and Girard, Christianity, 45–46. 28 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), 167. 29 René Girard, Sacrifice, trans. M. Pattillo and D. Dawson (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2011). 30 Vattimo, “Myth and the Fate of Secularization,” 34. 31 Cowdell, René Girard, 10. 32 Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie structurale (Paris: Plon, 1958), 231. See also Vattimo, “Myth and the Fate of Secularization,” 29. 33 René Girard, To Double Business Bound: Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 228. 34 Vattimo, Beyond Interpretation, 54. 35 Frederik Depoortere, Christ in Postmodern Philosophy: Gianni Vattimo, René Girard and Slavoj Žižek (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2008), 32. 36 Girard, “Dionysus Versus the Crucified,” 825. 37 Depoortere, “Gianni Vattimo and René Girard,” 885–886. 38 Cf. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 238. 39 Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation, 11. 40 Ibid., 98; see also 150. 41 Gianni Vattimo, “Le ragioni etico-politiche dell’ermeneutica,” in Elisabetta Ambrosi (ed.), Il bello del relativismo: Quel che resta della filosofia nel XXI secolo (Venezia: Marsilio, 2005), 82. 42 Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation, 83. 43 Stephen K. White, “Violence, Weak Ontology, and Late-Modernity,” Political Theory 37, no. 6 (2009): 808–816. 44 Peter Jonkers, “In the World, but Not of the World. The Prospects of Christianity in the Modern World,” Bijdragen: International Journal in Philosophy and Theology 61, no. 4 (2000): 382. 45 Stellardi, Pensiero debole, 92. 46 For this discussion, see Depoortere, Christ in Postmodern Philosophy, 18. 47 Matthew Edward Harris, “Metaphysics, Violence and the ‘Natural Sacred’ in Gianni Vattimo’s Philosophy,” Humanicus 8 (2012): 10. Cf. Vattimo, Belief, 39. 48 Depoortere, “Gianni Vattimo and René Girard,” 887. 49 In spite of the fact that Vattimo moves from the premises of Girard’s theorization, he has shown no interest in exploring interpersonal violence found at the micro level in

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society; therefore, he was unable to fully conceptualize the manifestations of mimetic violence. Girard, Things Hidden, 184. See also René Girard. Gewalt und Religion: Gespräche mit Wolfgang Palaver (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2010): 60; Andrew Mckenna, Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction (Urbana, IL : University of Illinois Press, 1992): 138–139; and Cowdell, René Girard, 114–115. For a discussion on this, see Girard, Gewalt und Religion, 65, as well as Cowdell, René Girard, 148. Girard, “Dionysus,” 825–826. Vattimo and Girard, Christianity, 37. Girard, Battling to the End, 198. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (New York: Viking Books, 2011), 260. René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. J. G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001), 186. For a general discussion, see Michael Kirwan, Girard and Theology (London: Bloomsbury, 2009), 96–99. Albeit crucial for a mimetic understanding of modernity, Girard has not provided a systematic reflection of the katéchon, which is the prerogative of some of his commentators. In Evolution and Conversion, Girard, however, provides a list of examples of restraining forces in modern times—like democratic ideology and judicial institutions, enhanced technological capabilities, mass media, market society and the objectification of individual relationships. This analysis was further developed by Scott Cowdell in René Girard and Secular Modernity. Cowdell also explores the role of the modern nation-state as one of the key examples of the katéchon, in line with Dietrich Bonhoffer, who identified the katéchonic function of state power to establish and maintain order, to be understood as a necessary expedient: “the founders of Western political thought strove for maximizing individualism and the minimizing of disorder—in effect for the optimal management of mimesis” (Cowdell, 122). Cowdell also offers the examples of “civil religions”—from anticlericalism in France, to the official role for the church in England—as well of “political religions, i.e., those dogmatic ideologies, personality cults, nation state hatred which characterized the 20th century, in their fascist or communist versions” (Cowdell 123). However, these could be better characterized as explicit and straightforward forms of sacrificial politics, as attempts to reinstate the power of the sacred, for they were based on the explicit forms of persecution and expulsion (like in Nazi ideology and politics). Paul E. Farmer et al., “Structural Violence and Clinical Medicine,” PLoS Medicine 3, no. 10 (2006): 1686–1691. Slavoj Žižek, Violence (London: Profile Books, 2008), 174.

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60 Girard, To Double Business, 228. 61 René Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, trans. M. B. DeBevoise (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2014), 98. 62 Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation, 98. 63 Jason Royce Lindsey, “Vattimo’s Renunciation of Violence,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16, no. 1 (2013): 102. 64 Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation, 111. 65 Girard, Battling to the End, 7. 66 Ibid., 16. 67 Ibid., 17. 68 Vattimo, After Christianity, 96. 69 Ibid., 101. 70 Ibid., 54. 71 Ibid., 95. 72 Girard, The One by Whom Scandal Comes, 101. 73 Cowdell, René Girard, 131. 74 See Michel Serres, Atlas (Paris: Julliard, 1997): 229–235; Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch, trans. W. Weaver and S. Sartarelli (Cambridge, MA : Belknap Press, 1996), 185. For this discussion, see Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 213–215. 75 Erich Kitzmuller, “Economy as Victimizing Mechanism,” Contagion 2 (1995): 36. 76 Wolfgang Palaver, “Carl Schmitt’s ‘Apocalyptic’ Resistance against Global Civil War,” in Robert Hamerton-Kelly (ed.), Politics and Apocalypse (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2007), 84. 77 Ibid., 85. 78 Ibid. 79 Carl Schmitt, Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947–1951 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot), 165. 80 Vattimo, After Christianity, 131. 81 Ibid., 132. 82 Ibid., 133. For a discussion, see Matthias Riedl, “The Permanence of the Eschatological: Reflections on Gianni Vattimo’s Hermeneutical Age,” in Péter Losonczi and Aakash Singh (eds), Discoursing the Post-Secular: Essays on the Habermasian Post-Secular Turn (Berlin: LIT, 2010), 11–26. 83 Cowdell, René Girard, 13.

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The Myth of Origin: Archaeology and History in the Work of Agamben and Girard Antonio Cerella

[. . .] every manifestation of the sacred is important: every rite, every myth, every belief or divine figure reflects the experience of the sacred and hence implies the notions of being, of meaning, and of truth [. . .] In short, the “sacred” is an element in the structure of the consciousness and not a stage in the history of consciousness. —Mircea Eliade1 The historian who disdains the “picturesque surface of history,” pretending to become a dowser of “deeper historical currents,” forgets that history is what happens to the individual of flesh and blood at a given time and at a given place. —Nicolás Gómez Dávila2

Introduction: an ambiguous polarity The “theorem” of the duality of religion has been famously formulated by Émile Durkheim. In his Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), he writes: “[. . .] all known religious beliefs display a common feature: They presuppose a classification of the real or ideal things that men conceive of into two classes— two opposite genera—that are widely designated by two distinct terms, which the words profane and sacred translate fairly well. The division of the world into two domains, one containing all that is sacred and the other all that is profane— such is the distinctive trait of religious thought.”3 Although these realms are, according to Durkheim, “two forms of life that are mutually exclusive,” they are also endowed with the ambiguous characteristic to transmute into one another 213

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because “sacredness is highly contagious, and it spreads from the totemic being to everything that directly or remotely has to do with it.”4 The ambiguity of the sacred, therefore, would be the result of its all-pervasive tendency to penetrate into the profane world, “invading all that passes within [its] reach.”5 For the French sociologist, the solution to the riddle of the ambivalence of the sacred lies in the religious mentality of primitive humans. Because there are no things ontologically sacred, sacredness has to be attached, superadded to objects. It would be the result of primitive imagination that, sacralizing the world, gains the impression “of reassurance and dependence that are created in consciousness through the workings of society.”6 If objects “take on religious significance that is not intrinsic to them but is conferred on them from outside,” this is because “contagion is not a kind of secondary process by which sacredness propagates, once acquired, but is instead the very process by which sacredness is acquired.”7 Durkheim, in other words, explains the tendency to sacralization as the result of those religious forces that are nothing but “transfigured collective forces, that is, moral forces; they are made of ideas and feelings that the spectacle of society awakens in us.”8 Accordingly, religious imagination would tend to sacralize the world in order to strengthen its own social cosmos. Sacred contagion is the means by which social life makes the secular world significant, transforming it into a network of sacred correspondences. As is well known, this theory of religion has been criticized, among others, by Lévi-Strauss. According to the French anthropologist, the aporia in the Durkheimian discourse lies in the paradoxical consideration of the “primacy of the social over the intellect”: “it is when Durkheim claims to derive categories and abstract ideas from the social order that, in trying to explain this order, he finds at his disposal no more than sentiments, effective values, or vague ideas such as contagion or contamination.”9 If it is true that the “social” shaped human’s intellective capacity, how and where did society first emerge? On what schemata and categories was it established? In effect, for Lévi-Strauss, human’s intellective categories are precisely what is “utilized by the social order in its formation.”10 In this way, Lévi-Strauss traces the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane back to those binary oppositions (night and day, right and left, nature and culture, etc.) that characterize human’s cognitive apparatus.11 The sacred and the profane are nothing but the by-product of the so-called differential thought that finds in the rift between continuity and discontinuity its ontological anchoring: “the passage from nature to culture [is based] on the emergence of a logic

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operating by means of binary oppositions and coinciding with the first manifestations of symbolism.”12 A few years earlier, in his Traité d’histoire des religions (1949) Mircea Eliade had discussed the same “riddle of the sacred.” Rather than inscribing the ambiguity of this concept to the sphere of the social (as in Durkheim) or to the human mind (as in Lévi-Strauss), he had preferred to explore its morphology and structure through the analysis of “the modalities of the sacred” that are disclosed in the hierophanic manifestations.13 For, since “every manifestation of the sacred takes place in some historical situation,” sacredness is a liminal event open to two worlds: “because it is a hierophany, it reveals some modality of the sacred; because it is an historical incident, it reveals some attitude man has had toward the sacred.”14 According to Eliade, therefore, at the origin of the divide between the sacred and the profane, there would be this dialectic of hierophanies capable of revealing the infinite in the finite, sacredness in history: “The dialectic of hierophany implies a more or less clear choice, a singling-out. A thing becomes sacred in so far as it embodies (that is, reveals) something other than itself.”15 This dialectic, in other words, possesses a paradoxical character because the universal is revealed only when it is historicized just as the sacred becomes “real” only if it profanes itself: “The thing that becomes sacred is still separated in regard to itself, for it only becomes a hierophany at the moment of stopping to be a mere profane something, at the moment of acquiring a new ‘dimension’ of sacredness [. . .] The fact that a hierophany is always an historical event [. . .] does not lessen its universal quality.”16 The ambivalence of the sacred, then, would lie in this tension—at the intersection—between humans and world, religion and history, immanence and transcendence: sacredness is the “mystic short-circuit” in which this dual experience takes form. These three “images of the sacred” (Durkheimian, Lévi-Straussian and Eliadian) constitute as many scientific paradigms that lead, in turn, to three different methodological, epistemological and ontological fields. Durkheim’s pan-sociologism establishes the homo sociologicus as its own social ontology, whereas Lévi-Strauss and Eliade anchor their discourses on the homo gnoseologicus and the homo religiosus, respectively. For Durkheim, it is the “social” that lays the foundations of the “science of man”; for Lévi-Strauss, it is the cognitive apparatus that establishes this origin, whereas for Eliade, this Archimedean point rests on the structure of the religious consciousness. Once ontologically anchored, these discourses can only flow into as many logical and

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methodological practices. For Durkheim, it is the positive and chronological time to act as a background to his quest for a beginning. For this reason, he must trace the origin of the religious phenomenon back to its simplest and originary social forms (which he thought he had discovered in the aboriginal Australian people of Aranda). For Lévi-Strauss, instead, it is the human cognitive apparatus that plays this function. If dichotomous thinking were an originary phenomenon, this would explain its constant re-elaboration from the pensée sauvage to Aristotle, from Hegel to Bergson. Accordingly, Lévi-Strauss’s structural anthropology is nothing but the methodological precipitate of such an ontological conception.17 Finally, if for Eliade, the sacred is a manifestation of universal history and of the a-historical consciousness of humans, this cannot but suggest a spatial analysis. For, as universal and constant, a hierophany has no time but only space and localization, namely, place. For this reason, Eliade’s comparative history put forward a synchronic survey of the various modalities of the sacred. Yet, despite the differences just outlined, the three scholars share the same “cognitive gesture”: That is, they try to anchor their investigations onto a “myth of origin.” Whether it is the “social,” the “cognitive” or the “religious,” Durkheim, Strauss and Eliade need to postulate a primal point in order to develop their analysis. However, to search for an origin means to posit the essence of things, anchoring them to an ontological plane that is always historically determined. As Michael Foucault has argued: [t]his search assumes the existence of immobile forms that precede the external world of accident and succession. This search is directed to “that which was already there,” the “very same” of an image of a primordial truth fully adequate to its nature, and it necessitates the removal of every mask to ultimately disclose an original identity.18

It is precisely against this essentialization of history that René Girard and Giorgio Agamben have developed their research. Their “archaeologies of the sacred” attempt, in fact, to evade the ontological anchoring through a demystification of the Origin. In this chapter, therefore, I try to show that Girard and Agamben offer two similar and yet alternative ways of doing philosophy and anthropology: that is, to search for the nature of humankind and its history without predetermining their essence. Although different in style and philosophical breath, these two authors are in divergent and “tacit” agreement on the nature of the sacred and the analysis of the signs that it has imprinted in the development

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of the Western cultural and political order. Like two parallel lines of thought that can never meet, the analyses of Girard and Agamben are the positive and the negative of a philosophical photograph that tries to capture the infinite historical process in its foundational, paradigmatic moments.

The quest for origin, or toward an archaeology of the sacred Drawing on Foucault, in his work Signatura rerum, Agamben has defined in this way the purpose and practice of philosophical archaeology: [. . .] we may call “archaeology” that practice which in any historical investigation has to do not with origins but with the moment of a phenomenon’s arising and must therefore engage anew the sources and tradition. It cannot confront tradition without deconstructing the paradigms, techniques, and practices through which tradition regulates the forms of transmission, conditions access to sources, and in the final analysis determines the very status of the knowing subject. The moment of arising is objective and subjective at the same time and is indeed situated on a threshold of undecidability between object and subject. It is never the emergence of the fact without at the same time being the emergence of the knowing subject itself: the operation on the origin is at the same time an operation on the subject.19

Archaeology too, therefore, according to Agamben, searches for an origin, an archē; yet, this threshold is not a “center,” an absolute generative event but rather the evocation of a plan de clivage or Entstehung. This means that history cannot be “frozen” into a beginning since the origin is not merely a chronological substance or event “but a field of bipolar historical currents stretched between anthropogenesis and history, between the moment of arising and becoming, between an archi-past and the present.”20 Archaeology, therefore, does not seek the essence of historical phenomena, hypostatizing them into a subject (ego cogito) or an object (the historical “fact”) but tries, through a regression, “to go back to the point where the dichotomy between conscious and unconscious, historiography and history (and, more generally, between all the binary oppositions defining the logic of our culture), was produced.”21 In this way, it would be possible to avoid the question of absolute Origin that, as such, is unknowable. It is usual, in fact, to project on this sort of “primordial chaos” the historical attributes of the singularities produced by the “originary scission.” Following this logic, there would have been a “prelaw” defined a contrariis,

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precisely through the absence of the historical features taken from the sacred and secular law; just as there would have been a prehuman or homo non sapiens that had not yet developed his or her own intelligence and brain volume. This methodological gesture casts the shadow of the present on the past, thus anchoring the origin to an “immutable ontology” of the human and of the knowing subject. As Girard put it, referring to evolutionary theorists: “As soon as they start discussing human culture, they seem to assume that the modern individual is the prototype of the primitive human being that produces and transmits culture.”22 In the historico-conceptual field, this methodological lacuna was already highlighted by Carl Schmitt, who complained about the (ab)use and arbitrary repositioning of concepts outside of their central domains (Zentralgebieten): All essential concepts are not normative but existential. If the center of intellectual life has shifted in the last four centuries, so have all concepts and words. It is thus necessary to bear in mind the ambiguity of every concept and word. The greatest and most egregious misunderstandings (from which, of course, many impostors make their living) can be explained by the erroneous transfer of a concept at home in one domain (e.g., only in the metaphysical, the moral, or the economic) to other domains of intellectual life.23

The attempt to seize an origin, then, rests on this fallacy by which the “after” becomes the archetype of the “before,” its distinctive sign. The typical gesture that stems from this logic is to superimpose our own epistemologico-conceptual plane on the past, so that the origin cannot but coincide with the end, with what it has become. Wittgenstein’s criticism of Newtonian mechanics in his Tractatus can also be read in this fashion. If the typical attempt of physicists is to superpose a conceptual network on a world, which is, in turn, built conceptually, then the result cannot but be arbitrary “because I could have applied with equal success a net” made of different meshes. For, “[t]o the different networks correspond different systems of describing the world. Mechanics determine a form of description by saying: All propositions in the description of the world must be obtained in a given way from a number of given propositions—the mechanical axioms.”24 In this way, we do not learn anything about the world (and its origin) but a lot about the logical image we use in order to describe it. Girard’s Mimetic Theory, too, searches for an origin. However this archē, just as in Agamben’s archaeological conception, is not a single event historically determined. As Girard put it: “In the process of the emergence of cultural

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elements, one also needs to stress that there is no absolute beginning. The process is extremely complex and progressive.”25 The beginning, for him, is a contingent threshold that splitting the human from the animal kingdom preserves them in their continuity: “it should be possible [. . .] to think through the process of hominization in a truly radical way, that is, by beginning with animal nature itself and by making no use of anything that has been falsely claimed to be specifically human.”26 In the Girardian conception, in fact, the beginning explains the historical process as much as the process explains the beginning. Indeed, it was the power of mimesis that broke the chains of the animal world, thus overlaying the book of History on the tabula rasa of Nature: [. . .] the intensification of mimetic rivalry, which is already very much in evidence at the level of primates, destroyed the dominance patterns and gave rise to progressively more elaborate and humanized forms of culture through the intermediary of the surrogate victim. At the point when mimetic conflict becomes sufficiently intense to prohibit the direct solutions that give rise to the forms of animal sociality, the first “crisis” or series of crises would then occur as the mechanism that produces the differentiated, symbolic, and human forms of culture [. . .] it must have been the increasing power of imitation that initiated the process of hominization. [. . .] Beyond a certain threshold of mimetic power, animal societies become impossible. This threshold corresponds to the appearance of the victimage mechanism and would thus be the threshold of hominization.27

The origin is, therefore, this point of no return that coincides with the founding sacrifice, with killing as ordinative ritual, with death as the first Goddess and inspiring Muse. In fact, it is with sacrifice and thanks to sacrifice that the animal-man is transformed into a victim, that is, into a symbol. According to Girard, this means that only the murder of the “Other,” unconscious but wanted, unnecessary but sought, was able to generate identity and difference, totality and particularity, inclusion and exclusion, an inside and an outside: The only thing “lacking” on animal rites is the sacrificial immolation, and the only thing an animal needs to become human is the surrogate victim. [. . .] Because of the victim, in so far as it seems to emerge from it, for the first time there can be something like an inside and an outside, a before and an after, a community and the sacred . . . the victim appears to be simultaneously good and evil, peaceable and violent, a life that brings death and a death that guarantees life. Every possible significant element seems to have its outline in the sacred and at the same time to be transcended by it. In this sense the victim does seem to constitute a universal signifier.28

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Expiatory sacrifice is the porta Inferi that allows the transition from nature to history, from animalitas to humanitas; the passage, in Heideggerian terms, from the nonopen to the open-of-the-world. As the founding and revealing act of the sacred and violent nature of humankind, murder would have broken the “existential dizziness” of humans; and the corpse would be the Ur-symbol, the “means of creating a new degree of attention, the first non-instinctual attention.”29 No wonder, then, that the theorem of the ambiguity of the sacred finds in Girard’s work a radically new theoretical status and solution. The duality and ambiguity that characterize this concept are, in fact, traced to its two-faced nature, to its being both pharmakos-poison and pharmakos-remedy, both a cause (problem) and effect (resolution) of an originary crisis: The word “sacrifice”—sacri-fice—means making sacred, producing the sacred. What sacrifices the victims is the blow delivered by the sacrificer, the violence that kills the victim, annihilating it and placing it above everything else by making it in some sense immortal. Sacrifice takes place when sacred violence takes charge of the victim; it is the death that produces life, just as life produces death, in the uninterrupted circle of eternal recurrence common to all great theological views that are grafted on sacrificial practices.30

In Girard’s thought, then, “the beginning” is an event, or rather, a series of events that emerge from historical contingency, and that ended up shaping the new bios of humans. The random natural event creates culture and the symbolic forms through which humans equip themselves with a meaning, that is, with a History. Murder is, in other words, absolute immanence that generates the transcendence of the new symbolic species Homo sapiens. Chance gives rise to historical necessity because, once set in motion, humans’ sacrificial power, according to Girard, cannot be stopped but only diverted, channeled toward surreptitious forms: “humanity results from sacrifice; we are thus children of religion . . . [and] original sin is vengeance, never-ending vengeance.”31 In sum, according to Girard’s “scientific theodicy,” it was the randomness of violent mimesis, imponderable as an axe-stroke thrown from the indefinite, which, intensified, opened humans to the world, assigning them to their own sacrificial destiny. The genealogical structure of the Agambian narrative is, in many ways, very similar to that of Girard. Since his first major work on the subject, Homo Sacer (1995), in his research on the mysterious ambiguity of the sacred, he had also questioned the specificity of this category: “if homo sacer was truly the victim of a death sentence or an archaic sacrifice, why is it not fas [licit] to put him to death in the prescribed forms of execution? What, then, is the life of homo sacer, if it is

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situated at the intersection of a capacity to be killed and yet not sacrificed, outside both human and divine law?”32 In other words, why does this figure represent a zone of indistinction, a mobile threshold between life and death, inclusive-exclusion and exclusionary-inclusion? Unlike Girard however—who sees in the ambiguity of saceritas a kind of universal mechanism that must remain fluid, open, and therefore, beyond good and evil, human and divine law, to be effective, since it would generate both—Agamben is convinced that this form of the exception hides a fundamental yet different paradigm. This dispositive would be located at the heart of Western thought, and if deconstructed, it “may allow us to uncover an originary political structure that is located in a zone prior to the distinction between sacred and profane, religious and juridical.”33 Indeed, for him, not only politics would be based on the logic of the exception, but also the whole of Western ontology would be based on this mechanism of exclusionary-inclusion: [. . .] it may be that only if we are able to decipher the political meaning of pure Being will we be able to master the bare life that expresses our subjection to political power, just as it may be, inversely, that only if we understand the theoretical implications of bare life will we be able to solve the enigma of ontology.34

In order to track down this “ontological origin,” in his numerous genealogies, Agamben has tried to show how the various dimensions of being and humanity can all be traced back to an exceptionalist and hypostatic logic. In his archaeology of the oath, for example, he has shown that if we analyze carefully this “most ancient thing,” we “have to do with a sphere of language that stands before law and religion and that the oath represents precisely the threshold by means of which language enters into law and religio.”35 In other words, there would be a prereligious and precategorical limit against which we collide every time we try to trace the origin of the oath, and which takes us from the political to the juridical, and from there to the religious, up to a sort of “indistinct primordial chaos.” As we shall see, according to Agamben, behind this “indistinction” would lie the secret of Western ontology. The conclusions drawn by the Italian philosopher are, regarding language, different from those of the French anthropologist. As we have seen, for Girard, language must presuppose sacrifice as its originary matrix. Murder is the architrace that entrusts language to the livings. The “sacrificial scream” is their first word that, once uttered, through repetition and reinforcement, gives life to

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language: “In order to have symbolical power you must have an origin of it, and to me that is the scapegoat mechanism. [. . .] It is the first moment in which something stands for something else. It is the ur-symbol.”36 Language, therefore, would not be born from and for communication but from an act of desperation. For Agamben, too, language presupposes and suggests, as it were, the nature of humans. Yet, this nature would not be determined by the sacred, understood as an originary sacrifice, but rather by an ethics of life. For him, the essence of language cannot be enclosed in the relationship between meaning and significant, sign and referent. This cognitive aspect of language, although important, would hide a more originary form of expression in which humans would be called to their own being, or to invent themselves ethically: [t]he specificity of human language with respect to animal language cannot reside solely in the peculiarity of the instrument, which later analyses could find—and, in fact, continually do find—in this or that animal language. It consists, rather, no less decisively in the fact that, uniquely among living things, man is not limited to acquiring language as one capacity among others that he is given but has made of it his specific potentiality; he has, that is to say put his very nature at stake in language. [. . .] the oath express the demand, decisive in every sense for the speaking animal, to put its nature at stake in language and to bind together in an ethical and political connection words, things, and actions. Only by this means was it possible for something like a history, distinct from nature and, nevertheless, inseparably intertwined with it, to be produced.37

The structure of the oath, then, reveals its original gesture that does not consist in merely binding together individual and society, private and public, but rather in the establishment of a “subjectum” on which to place the order of things and discourse. Language would be the mark of an ethical foundation: To become speaking beings, humans must make room for the logos, must open themselves on themselves and to the challenge of the world, continually binding things and words together not to lose them. Language, therefore, for Agamben, would be the short-circuit that allows the creation of this generative relationship between humans and the world: The decisive element that confers on human language its peculiar virtue is not in the tool itself but in the place it leaves to the speaker, in the fact that it prepares within itself a hollowed-out form that the speaker must always assume in order to speak—that is to say, in the ethical relation that is established between the speaker and his language. The human being is that living being that, in order to speak, must say “I,” must “take the word,” assume it and make it his own.38

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This means that language, as it has been pointed out, should not be considered a mere instrument, but rather as a sort of “anthropogenetic Big Bang.” Language is a “natural artifice” that permits the advent, and deployment in the world, of the “discourse on man;” it permits to order and to fragment this epical narration with the power of logos. Indeed, only language can allow both the exception and the rule, the inclusive divisions, thus overwriting the book of history on that of nature. It is possible . . . that the mechanism of the exception is constitutionally connected to the event of language that coincides with anthropogenesis . . . language’s happening excludes and separates from itself the non-linguistic and, in the same gesture, includes and captures it as that to which it is always already related. The ex-ceptio, the inclusive exclusion of the real from the logos and in the logos is, therefore, the originary structure of the event of language.39

As we can easily note,Agamben’s analysis, although developed following trajectories, categories, and figures very similar to those of Girard, reaches quite different conclusions. Yet, despite these obvious differences, it is still possible to trace a strong complementarity in their narratives. In primis, both Girard and Agamben are, in fact, convinced that there has been a sort of “anthropogenetic Big Bang” that created the cultural-historical process (for Girard this point “X” coincides with the founding murder, while for Agamben, with the advent of language). They both think that this “primordial explosion” has left its marks on culture, which it originally ignited; on language, and especially, on the political domain. In their archaeologies, in fact, they have tried to trace this origin, not presupposing it, but rather seeking its signs among the remains and ruins that it has left in the history of humankind: from ritual to sacrifice, from glory to political myths, from acclamation to the exception. In short, anthropogenesis, for both Girard and for Agamben, represents a watershed that must have left traces of its ambiguous passage in language as well as in thought, in the political structure as well as in that of the exception. As Agamben points out: The anthropogenetic event coincides . . . with the chasm between life and language, between the living being and the speaking being; but, because of this, the becoming human of humans implies the incessant experience of this division and, together, the equally and incessantly new historical rearticulating of what was divided. The mystery of man is not the metaphysical one of the conjunction between the living being and language (or reason, or soul), but the more practical and political one of their separation.40

But how is it, then, possible to trace the signs of this original division? And what is the logical status of this archaeology of the sacred if, as we have seen, the “real”

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origin is somehow inaccessible? How can we methodologically approach the archaeology of the origin and of the exception? In other words, what is the theoretical significance of this search for the traces left by this symbolic primordial explosion? To answer these crucial questions, it is necessary to compare Girard’s and Agamben’s ontological assumptions, and to flesh out more clearly the structure of their archaeological method, the epistemological problems they present and the different historical visions that emanate from their thought.

Marks of the sacred: history, politics and ontology As we have seen, both Girard and Agamben offer two genetico-genealogical approaches to understanding the ambiguity that characterizes the domain of the sacred and the myths of origin. Unlike many other scholars, for the two thinkers the origin cannot and should not be thought of as a fixed point, a fundamental ontology, a Satz vom Grund, a principium rationis, but rather as the generative event of ontology. The ambivalence and duality that characterize Western civilization would arise, however, from this originary event. And just as a cultural Big Bang, the origin is not frozen in time, but continues to produce its effects on the present: The “oldest history” . . . that archaeology seeks to reach cannot be localized within chronology, in a remote past, nor can it be localized beyond this within a meta-historical atemporal structure [. . .] it represents a present and operative tendency within historical languages, which conditions and makes intelligible their development in time. It is an archē, but, as for Foucault and Nietzsche, it is an archē that is not pushed diachronically into the past, but assures the synchronic comprehensibility and coherence of the system.41

It is precisely because the origin is paradoxically still present that one can investigate its mutations, influences and distortions. Although Girard has never explicitly laid down the methodological framework of his conceptual apparatus, he, too, believes, like Agamben, that the origin is still “perceivable” because having generated culture is then partially preserved into it. Indeed, the French anthropologist argues that mythical narratives and archaic rituals would hide and reproduce the same structure of the mimetic mechanism. These marks should be considered as real “symbolic fossils.” More important, even institutions would retain the memory of their sacrificial foundation:

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How do we conceive the ritual origin of political power? The origin of such a power was by means of “sacred monarchy,” which we should also view as a modification, minute in the beginning, of ritual sacrifice. [. . .] How can one define . . . the paradox of organizations or institutions that are very real but rooted in a transcendence that is unreal and yet effective? [. . .] The . . . emperors draw their authority from the sacrificial power that emanates from the deity whose name they bear, the first Caesar, who was assassinated by numerous murders. So like every sacred monarchy, the empire is based on upon collective victim who is divinized. There is something about this so striking, so impressive, that it is impossible to see it as a pure and simple coincidence.42

The Origin is, therefore, a sort of scar under the skin that cannot completely heal, but that constantly resurfaces, leaving new signs. Political institutions are marked by it even when, over time, they present an “impoverished” and secularized substance. In his theological genealogy of economy and government, Agamben has likewise shown how the same, ancient dispositive can evolve morphologically, without substantially changing its strength and operability: As a matter of fact, the modern State inherits both aspects of the theological machine of the government of the world, and it presents itself as both providenceState and destiny-State. Through the distinction between legislative or sovereign power and executive or governmental power, the modern State acquires the double structure of the governmental machine. At each turn, it wears the regal clothes of providence, which legislates in a transcendent and universal way, but lets the creatures it looks after be free, and the sinister and ministerial clothes of fate, which carries out in detail the providential dictates and confines the reluctant individuals within the implacable connection between the immanent causes and between the effects that their very nature has contributed to determining. The providential-economical paradigm is, in this sense, the paradigm of democratic power, just as the theological-political is the paradigm of absolutism. [. . .] The economic-governmental vocation of contemporary democracies is not something that has happened accidentally, but is a constitutive part of the theological legacy of which they are the depositaries.43

Archaeology, in short, for both Girard and Agamben, is a “science of signs,” an inquiry into the signatures left by the Origin on the living body of history and power. No wonder, then, that the French anthropologist and the Italian philosopher both refer to the work of Carlo Ginzburg to justify their method.44 For, it was the Italian historian who powerfully reconstructed the so-called “evidential method” as paradigm not only of judicial and criminal sciences, but

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also of the humanities. According to his interpretation, in the details, even the most minute and seemingly irrelevant, would be hidden the secret clue, often left unconsciously, that could help us track down the originary relationship between an act and its author (be it the attribution of a painting or the responsibility for a crime). Just as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes,“[t]he art connoisseur resembles the detective who discovers the perpetrator of a crime (or the artist behind a painting) on the basis of evidence that is imperceptible to most people.”45 The same logic could be applied by those scholars who want to penetrate deep historical connections. Girard openly embraces this method, and in fact, explicitly writes, “in a crime one is dealing with the same type of evidence that I am dealing in my work.”46 Agamben is even more convinced of the similarity between his own “paradigmology” and the method described by Ginzburg: “the clue represents the exemplary case of a signature that puts an insignificant or nondescript object in effective relation to an event ([. . .] a crime . . . a traumatic event) or to subjects (the victim, the murderer, the author of a painting).”47 It would be this interplay of references between present (permanence) and past (origin), act and author, external and stylistic data, that the “evidential method” tries to reassemble, and which represents the “moved mover” of this science of signatures. At this conceptual level, then, it is necessary to expose some of the epistemological lacunae common to the archaeologies and investigations of these two scholars. In fact, in my view, both Agamben’s “paradigmology” and Girard’s “sacrificiology” present unresolved problems. Although both rest on the so-called “evidential paradigm,” they are not able to clarify the logical and epistemological nexus that ties together action, act and intentionality. According to the paradigm illustrated by Ginzburg, in fact, the clue may refer to its source and origin because the subject of an action—be it a painting, an ancient book or a crime—is an agent endowed with intentionality.48 A criminal, a painter or a writer, as agents endowed with intentionality, can leave “traces,” knowingly or unknowingly, through which it might be possible to track down the origin of their gestures, their meanings and authorship.49 But in Agamben’s and Girard’s analyses, the intentionality of the agent, with an epistemological leap far from obvious, is ascribed to groups, historical periods, dispositifs, and in the case of the Italian philosopher, even to the realm of ontology. The problem here lies in wanting to trace the signs of ontology or of collective mechanisms (such as Girard’s mimetic cycle) and then attribute an alleged intentionality to processes which, by definition, from a “secular” perspective, are nothing but a “finite

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segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer meaning and significance.”50 In this sense, some fundamental questions remain unanswered: What is, for example, the relationship between ontology and concrete historical agents, collective mechanisms and individual actions? As a matter of fact, ontology, paradigms, mimetic mechanisms, do not leave any “sign,” but are rather elites, artists, people—“the blood of the vanquished”—to mark and be marked by history, and to bear the signs of their origin. At this level, then, Girard’s and Agamben’s analyses collide with a classical epistemological problem: methodological individualism. And although Girard has tried to defend himself, with difficulty, from this type of attack, his conception of the problem is not entirely correct.51 Methodological individualism, in fact, does not postulate, as he believes, a trans-historical and eternal individual but rather a historicized individuality because, unlike human aggregates and “collective concepts” (the State, society, ontology, history), it understand the individual as the only agency endowed with intentio. In short, that which appears confused in the analyses of Girard and Agamben is the distinction, subtle but fundamental, between real foundation and heuristic foundation of knowledge.52 The paradigms with which the Italian philosopher operates as well as the mechanisms of the sacred elaborated by the French anthropologist cannot replace or constitute, neither intensively nor extensively, historical reality, but are rather conceptual constructions that may help our interpretation and exploration of history. Indeed, the paradigmatic case—when it is “suspended” as a historical particularity—becomes something other and beyond itself (para) precisely because is transformed into a heuristic instrument. It does not produce history, but may help us to make sense of it. It is not a coincidence that Carlo Ginzburg, at a certain point, has prefigured the inapplicability of the “Morellian or evidential method” to historical aggregates and social groups, and has, therefore, developed a morphological approach. “Suddenly I realized”—he writes—“that in the course of the years-long research on the Sabbath I was using much more a morphological than historical method. . . . I used morphology as a probe, to explore a layer that was unattainable to the usual instruments of historical knowledge.”53 At one point, in sum, Ginzburg has felt the need to distinguish the real basis of a historical process from the heuristic one, thus using the formal analogies that he had discovered in his various investigations as a tool for a more in-depth historical and substantial reconstruction: “In my view, classification should constitute a preliminary stage, which aims at

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reconstructing a series of phenomena that I would like to analyze historically.”54 And it is not by chance, then, that he links his own method to Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale. The connection, then, and the confusion between real and heuristic foundation, morphology and history are, therefore, present in both Girard’s and Agamben’s genealogical reconstructions or diachronies. It is, in fact, unclear in their work what moves or sets in motion (agent) the process of transition of the various historical epochs. For Girard, for example, the historic course would hide a sort of universal matrix, or mechanism, that presents itself continuously and unconsciously (up to the Revelation) in new guises. Substances that fill these historical forms—the Greek world, Romanitas, Christianitas—would all be alternative expressions of the same mechanism-dispositif; and their uniqueness, evolution and historical peculiarities are not even taken into serious account. In Agamben’s work, to the contrary, it is precisely this historical uniqueness (Western onto-politics) to be the focus of his theological genealogies; however, the historical trajectories and the genealogical layer of these paths, as it were, are left blank, empty, as if behind the movement and evolution of the Western world there was a sort of “ontological malfunctioning”: The Aristotelian ontological dispositive, which has guaranteed for almost two millennia Western politics and life, can no longer function as historical a priori, to the extent to which anthropogenesis, that it tried to encapsulate in the articulation between language and world, does no longer reflect itself into it. Reaching its extreme point of secularization, the projection of ontology (and theology) on history seems to become impossible.55

In sum, Girard’s and Agamben’s reconstructions seem to invoke, perhaps unwittingly or without being aware of it, a sort of functional explanation. Used by biologists in order to make sense of collective processes and dynamics, this approach posits the possibility of analyzing collective actions without referring to an intentional agency. “It consists in explaining characteristics of an organism by reference to certain ends or purposes which the characteristics are said to serve . . . the ends are not assumed here to be consciously or subconsciously pursued by the organism in question. Thus, for the phenomenon of mimicry, the explanation is sometimes offered that it serves the purpose of protecting the animals endowed with it from detection by its pursuers and thus tends to preserve the species.”56 In their genealogies, both Agamben and Girard closely follow the logic exposed above and think their explorations as a precipitate of

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the ontological problem of order (of things, and of the becoming human of humans, for Agamben; of the containment of violence and the survival of the species, for Girard). And this once again brings us back to the beginning and it at the same time, to the end; that is, to the problem of origin. If the history of humankind has been marked by its origin, that once initiated, exploded, as it were, was then erected as ontology on the evolution of the humans, how can we explore—historically and conceptually—the relationship between this beginning and concrete agents, the historical a priori and its development, case and necessity? Arguably, this complex issue remains unanswered in the work of Girard and Agamben. Moreover, both the Italian philosopher and the French anthropologist at times seem indeed to go as far as to suggest that ontology literally produces history.57 In his last volume of the Homo Sacer project, Agamben deeply engages with this complex problematic, tracing what he calls an “archaeology of ontology.” It is, therefore, crucial to cite a long and dense passage because of its relevance to my argument: [F]irst philosophy is not a set of conceptual formulations that, although complex and sophisticated, do not overcome [escono] the limits of a doctrine: each time, it opens and defines the space of human’s action and knowledge, of what humans can do, know and say. Ontology is fraught [gravida] with the historical destiny of the Occident not because being is responsible of an inexplicable and metahistorical magic power but, on the contrary, because ontology is the originary place of the articulation between language and world, which preserves in itself the memory of anthropogenesis, of the moment in which this articulation has been produced. Accordingly, to each mutation of ontology corresponds a mutation not of the “destiny” but of the plexus of possibility that the articulation between language and world has opened up as “history” to the living beings [viventi] of the Homo sapiens species. [. . .] Anthropogenesis, the becoming human of humans, is not, in fact, an event that has been accomplished once and for all in the past; instead, it is an event that does not cease to happen, a process still unfolding in which human beings are always in the act of becoming human or of remaining (or becoming) inhumane. First philosophy is the memory and repetition of this event. In this sense, it enshrines [custodisce] the historical a priori of the Homo sapiens and it is this historical a priori that the archaeological investigation constantly tries to trace back.58

As clearly emerges from this passage, Agamben maintains that a “universal” process (anthropogenesis) has produced our species (Homo sapiens) when

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humans have put their very nature at stake in language so binding “together in an ethical and political connection words, things, and actions.”59 As we have seen, this “origin” cannot be traced back to a specific time in history. However, according to Agamben, this “event” has “crystallized” into an ontological dispositive; that is, Aristotle’s metaphysics. This anthropogenetic event, then, exemplifies the articulation between language and world that represents the core of Aristotle’s ontology (simplifying, “Being is said in many ways”). This archē would be “the originary place of the articulation between language and world, which preserves in itself the memory of anthropogenesis, of the moment in which that articulation has been produced”60 (see Figure 1). For Agamben, therefore, ontology would represent the space and memory of this construction of meaning that disclosed itself to humans—and they “named”— as “history.” It would establish the boundaries of sense that, from the originary event, have impacted in the history of philosophy, culture and the political institutions of Western civilization. However, over time the echoes/traces of this first “anthropogenetic Big Bang,” embedded in Western ontology, would become more and more feeble; even though they are still operating (see Figure 2). This means that the “ontological dispositive” (a sort of ontological “archi-trace”), which has separated being into dichotomic categories (essence and existence, bare life and natural life, zoè and bios, Being and beings, subject and object, sacred and profane, etc.), is still working (in a “dis-functional” way) and its disclosure becomes more and more difficult (if not impossible). This is the reason why “archaeology”—the “practice which in any historical investigation has to do not with origins but with the moment of a phenomenon’s arising and must, therefore, engage anew the sources and tradition”—must confront tradition in order to deconstruct “the paradigms, techniques, and practices through which tradition regulates the forms of transmission, conditions access to sources, and in the final analysis determines the very status of the knowing subject.”61 In other words, archaeology has to trace back the historical a priori that are “concealed” in some critical (“paradigmatic”) historical junctures in order to access the ontological dispositive that, in turn, had influenced Western thought and politics (Figure 2). Even though he seems to undertake a different path, in his work Agamben is arguably reproducing the same aporias of René Girard’s anthropology of the sacred. For instance, what is the epistemological status of the nexus between “history” and the “ontology” that determines it? Is this path-dependent relation exclusively top-down (ontology>history) or there is a historical possibility to

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Figure 1. The event.

Figure 2. Anthropogenesis and archaeology.

“feedback” the ontological dispositive? And if so, how does this relation work? This problematique is unclear in Agamben’s, and I would argue, Girard’s work. Moreover, we might legitimately ask why and how ontology is subject to mutation. Why has this relation taken the current “secularized/Rescendent” form

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(a Seinsverlassenheit, in Heideggerian terms), becoming inaccessible? What account for this specific (and not other) historico-ontological configuration? In short, what does explain the course, movement and specificity of the history of Western civilization? Evidently, Agamben is unclear on this point, while Girard would, perhaps, explain this “movement” as a sort of oscillation or casual variation determined by the contingency of sacred. Agamben’s and Girard’s work seem to be both operating with a conceptual, transcendental and quasi-deterministic dispositif or mechanism that excludes retroactive access to ontology and, precisely, to that form-of-life that produced it, that is, the human being. “Pure thought” cannot have housed, and in turn, determined the limits (although, flexible) of language and the world, just as sacrifice and mimesis are unable to fully explain the variety of historical periods, characterized by different ontologies, centers of power and resistance, and all those unexpressed, removed, suffocated or silenced potentialities that have shaped the course of humanity. While for Agamben, the whole of history appears as a sort of emanation of, and relation to, the Western philosophical ontology; for Girard, all thought is an enactment of sacrifice, of the sacrificial and immanent history of the human becoming. Agamben’s “archaeology of ontology” is thus devoid of a concrete understanding of the “ontology of history” as much as Girard’s “history of the sacred” is unable to conceive a proper “history of ontology.” Both their analyses, in the end, appear to deprive the becoming of its full potential: Agamben transforms history into “logical images” (paradigms, which are ideal-typical abstractions and not, as he believes, concrete historical a priori) that can no longer revive the historical course, thus forgetting the dialectical relationship that links imaginalis and imaginary, collective constructions and individual actions. On the contrary, Girard overlooks the intimate relationship that exists between humans and their self-interpretation, ontology and history, imagination and representation; that is, that the human being is, above all, an ens representans. In a sense, then, their work depicts a sort of chiaroscuro of the magnificent Western philosophical fresco. And yet, the intellectual colors they have used to trace the contours are not iridescent enough to give birth to the whole majestic picture. It is necessary, therefore, to rethink, and with more force, the relation between agent and action, collective and individual structures of meaning, history and its representation, facts and their interpretation. Agamben’s and Girard’s genealogies, despite clear limitations and idiosyncratic epistemologies, certainly represent a good starting point to demystify the idea of Origin. Yet, to go in search of the

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significance of what Max Weber has called “the meaningless infinity of the world,” it is necessary to abandon every form of emanationism, from “above” as well as from “below.” For today, like never before, history seems to have become a sea of meaning expanding at the waning of the ontological sun.

Notes 1 Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries. Vol. 1, trans. W. R. Trask (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), xiii. 2 Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Tra poche parole (Milano: Adelphi, 2007), 119. 3 Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. K. E. Fields (New York: Free Press, 1995), 34. 4 Ibid., 321, 224. 5 Ibid., 322. 6 Ibid., 328. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid., 327. 9 Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism, trans. R. Needham (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969), 170. 10 Ibid. 11 Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, trans. C. Jacobson and B. Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 206–231. 12 Lévi-Strauss, Totemism, 175. 13 Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. R. Sheed (Lincoln, NB and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 5. 14 Ibid., 2. 15 Ibid., 13. 16 Ibid., 5 and 13. 17 “If, as we believe to be the case, the unconscious activity of the mind consists in imposing forms upon content, and if these forms are fundamentally the same for all minds—ancient and modern, primitive and civilized (as the study of symbolic function, expressed in language, so strikingly indicates)—it is necessary and sufficient to grasp the unconscious structure underlying each institution and each custom in order to obtain a principle of interpretation valid for other institutions and other customs, provided, of course, that the analysis is carried far enough.” Cf. Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, 21. 18 Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, trans. R. Hurley (New York: New Press, 1998), 370.

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19 Giorgio Agamben, The Signature of All Things: On Method, trans. L. D’Isanto and K. Attell (New York: Zone Books, 2009), 89. 20 Ibid., 110. 21 Ibid., 98. 22 René Girard, Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (London: Continuum, 2008), 98. 23 Carl Schmitt, “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations,” trans. Matthias Konzett and John P. McCormick, in The Concept of the Political, ed. George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1932] 2007), 85. 24 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge, [1921] 2001), 6.341, 82. 25 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 97. 26 René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), 94. 27 Ibid., 94–95, emphasis added. 28 Ibid., 102, emphasis added. 29 Ibid., 99. 30 Ibid., 226, emphasis added. 31 René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2010), ix, 21. 32 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. D. HellerRoazen (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1998), 73. 33 Ibid., 74. 34 Ibid., 182. 35 Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath, trans. A. Kotsko (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2011), 13, 28. 36 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 104, 107. 37 Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 68–69, emphasis in original. 38 Ibid., 71. 39 Giorgio Agamben, L’uso dei corpi (Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 2014), 334, my translation. 40 Ibid., 265. 41 Agamben, The Signature of All Things, 92. 42 René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. J. G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 92, 97–99. 43 Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government, trans. Lorenzo Chiesa (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2011), 142–143, emphasis added. 44 Cf. Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 182–185; Agamben, The Signature of All Things, 68–70.

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45 Cf. Carlo Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, trans. J. and A. C. Tedeschi (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 97–98. 46 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 183. 47 Agamben, The Signature of All Things, 70. 48 This type of explanations is called “teleological.” See Carl G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim “Studies in the Logic of Explanation,” Philosophy of Science 15, no. 2 (April 1948): 135–175. 49 It is important to note that intention does not pertain to the traces left but to the purpose of an agent. The relationship between sign and signifier requires an agent with intentionality that pursues a goal, even though some of his/her actions are not “conscious.” As Pavel A. Florenskij has powerfully argued: “When we hear a noise over the wall by which we distinguish a certain articulation, we deduce that there are people talking. By the same token, we also affirm the conscious and finalized articulation of sounds. On the contrary, the ‘denial’ of the human origin of sounds is based on the idea of their being not finalized, or at least unwitting. Could those sounds come from a human being without having a purpose? Sure, but then they would lose their purely human character, thus becoming—despite coming from a human being—sounds of nature. Just like when, at the beginning of the 19th century, Boucher de Perthes unearthed fragments of flint in the quarry of Moulin-Quignon, and the discussion that ensued about it in science consisted in determining if they were the work of humans or only fortuitous fragments. What does all this mean? If they were the work of humans, they were intentionally built with a purpose; moreover: if they were built with a purpose, they had a specific use, meaning that human beings lived there, in the quarry of Moulin-Quignon.” Pavel A. Florenskij, Il simbolo e la forma: Scritti di filosofia della scienza (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2007), 129, my translation. 50 Max Weber, Methodology of Social Sciences, trans. E. A. Shils and H. A. Finch (Glencoe, IL : Free Press, 1949), 81. 51 Girard, Evolution and Conversion, 98. 52 Cf. Max Weber, “Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences,” in Hans H. Bruun and Sam Whimster (eds), Collected Methodological Writings, trans. H. H. Bruun (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 151–152. 53 Carlo Ginzburg, Miti emblemi spie: Morfologia e storia (Torino: Einaudi, 1986), xiv, my translation. 54 Ibid., xv. 55 Agamben, L’uso dei corpi, 177, my translation. 56 Cf. Hempel and Oppenheim “Studies in the Logic of Explanation,” 144. 57 See Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory, 140–141: “[The] ‘gnostic’ structure, which the theological oikonomia has transmitted to modern governmentality, reaches its

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apex in the paradigm of the government of the world that the great Western powers (in particular, the United States) try today to put into practice on both a local and a global scale. Independently of whether what is at stake is the breakup of preexisting constitutional forms or the imposition, through military occupation, of so-called democratic constitutional models on peoples for whom these models turn out to be unworkable, the basic point is that a country—and even the entire world—is being governed by remaining completely extraneous to it. The tourist, which is the radical reincarnation of the Christian peregrinus in terra, is the planetary figure of this irreducible extraneousness with regard to the world. In this sense, he is a figure whose ‘political’ meaning is consubstantial with the prevailing governmental paradigm, just as the peregrinus was the figure that corresponded to the providential paradigm. In other words, the pilgrim and the tourist are the collateral effects of the same ‘economy’ (in its theological and secularized versions).” Girard is even stronger on this point as he believes that it is possible “to proceed back beyond Western civilization itself and point straight to the real motor of the revelatory yet menacing dynamic that animates the whole of this civilization.” Cf. Girard, Things Hidden, 138. Agamben, L’uso dei corpi, 151, my translation. Agamben, The Sacrament of Language, 69. Ibid. Agamben, The Signature of All Things, 89.

11

The Age of Panic: On Mimetic Post-modernity Emanuele Antonelli

Le destin c’est simplement la forme accélérée du temps. —Jean Giraudoux1 When, lo, as they reached the mountain’s side, A wondrous portal opened wide, As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed; And the piper advanced and the children followed, And when all were in to the very last, The door in the mountain side shut fast. —Robert Browning2 De te fabula narratur. —Horace, Satires, I, 1, 69.

Introduction Modernity takes its name from the Latin word modus, which means “limit.” In the scholastic jargon used by Spinoza, for instance, modus is the determined and limited—as far as bodies are concerned, in the sense of being defined in time and space—manifestation of the one, infinite and unlimited substance. In Romance languages today, modus is also the root word to mean fashion, as in French, la mode, and in Italian, la moda. Therefore, we can say that the word modernity describes the feeling of an era on the edge, alla moda. For this reason, the notion of post-modernity could be criticized: We might say that it is absurd to use the prefix post, which means after, in association with the word modernity since the very essence of modernity is to be on the edge, always in search of 237

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something new, of something up to date; in other words, in search of what is post. Yet, to be modern, we still have to have a sense of being at the limit, or on the edge; we might claim that “post-modernity” is a useful concept since it describes an age that, on the contrary, is precisely characterized by the radical loss of every sense of the limit, of every modus. This, at least, is the feeling we get from the diagnoses of the present-day developed by Peter Sloterdijk, Roberto Esposito, Marc Augé or Hartmut Rosa. Can the experience of post-modernity that these analyses want to convey be interpreted through a Girardian framework? Will such an analysis add anything to our comprehension? Is it possible to frame post-modernity through Girardian lenses and concepts?3 The aim of this chapter is to show that our age, as it is described by the scholars mentioned above, can be interpreted as the result of a long-term process of crisis; more specifically, I argue that the age we are currently living in is—in Girardian terms—a full-fledged crisis of undifferentiation, and it is through this lens that it must be understood. To support this thesis, I first discuss some of the most relevant or typical experiences analysed by the aforementioned authors: the experiences of contagion, corrosion and acceleration. I relate these experiences to three tightly intertwined and well-known features of our time: respectively, the paradigmatic disappearance of referentiality, the alteration of our inner experience of time, and the growing sense of alienation with respect to collective phenomena. I, then, show that the Girardian paradigm, if properly sustained by post-modern philosophies, is the fittest structure through which to interpret the anamnesis of our current crisis. In order to give readers some context for the discussion of these issues, I take into account the works of three authors that—having also directly or indirectly dealt with Girard’s ideas—provide invaluable analytical tools. First, I discuss Gianni Vattimo’s work, and the rightfulness of his “farewell to truth,”4 which can be considered as one of the most consequential post-modern philosophies. I do this, also, in order to clear out any possible misunderstanding as to the appropriateness of Girardian concepts to deal with post-modernity and vice versa. Second, in order to further analyze the notion and the problem of acceleration, I explore the work on the fundamental features of our experience of time as developed by Bernard Stiegler.5 Finally, I focus on the work of JeanPierre Dupuy, a philosopher and logician who has collaborated with Girard for more than three decades, and who provides a valuable account of the logique des phénomènes collectifs6 that resonates with Girard’s analysis of the victimage mechanism, adding to it a further heuristic potential. Dupuy’s work offers a

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platform from which to summarize the ideas explored in the previous sections. Furthermore, I argue that his ideas provide us with the tools to discuss another crucial feature that emerges from the analyses of the current crisis of undifferentiation: the experience of “panic.”

A brief survey on the experiences of post-modernity In their works, Peter Sloterdijk and Roberto Esposito have both focused on the notion and the experience of “contagion”; their analyses led them to elaborate a theory of modernity that deals with the semantic constellation of “exposure” and “immunity.”7 Esposito himself has put forward a theory of late-modernity seen as an unplanned auto-immunitarian catastrophe.8 Analogously, the American sociologist Richard Sennett has described the dystopic features of the age of “new capitalism,” in which life has been transformed into a sequence of unrelated and fragmented episodes experienced at a growing speed, as being “corrosive.”9 Along similar lines, Marc Augé10 and Hartmut Rosa11 have identified the main specificity of, respectively, surmodernité and late-modernity, in the experience of “acceleration.” To these “symptoms,” we might add two other relevant experiences of our age: (1) the almost paradigmatic loss of every sense of (ultimate) referentiality, which characterized post-modernity, and especially, post-modernism; and (2) the growing sense of alienation with respect to social and political phenomena that, nevertheless, are created by us, such as the current never-ending and out-of-control global economic crisis. All these anamneses are characterized by a common feature: They all describe the feeling of aggression and “abduction,” or “etheromatism,” as being essential for the understanding of the post-modern experience; they all claim that this distinction is a consequence of the process of weakening of a certain kind of borders. We can find in Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology of visqueux (slime) a wonderful description of this experience.12 According to Sartre, slime is a condition in which the object overwhelms consciousness, seizing it; it is a condition in which the autos feels like its integrity and indemnity were at risk. From this perspective, contagion is what we fear when the other assaults and erodes our weakened borders. In truth, acceleration can be a proper description of this fragmentation of our experience that, as I argue further in the text, results from the decay of the temporal structure of the consciousness. In this situation, it is not time itself—if

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anything of the sort exists—that goes faster; on the contrary, it is the structure of our temporal existence, that is, our inner temporal extension, which becomes weaker and shorter. The loss of referentiality itself, even when presented as a sort of bold epistemological claim, hints at the weakening of the very essence of the modi of the substance; it could be referred to as the blurring of the border between res extensa and res cogitans, in other words, between facts and interpretations. All of these notions, then, share a common understanding of the disappearance of referentiality, which is seen as a corruptio modi; therefore, even if many seek to dismiss it,13 inasmuch as it intimately and etymologically resonates with the catastrophe of the modus, the notion of post-modernity may be worth saving, not to be complacent, but to deepen its heuristic potential. The symptomatologies I have rapidly surveyed virtually converge toward a common ideal type; that is, each analysis focuses on a different feature of the originary scenario described by Girard. Indeed, we have only to imagine taking part in a lynching, like those analyzed by the French anthropologist, to experience the biting feeling of exposure to otherness, the swinging self-perception, the furious acceleration in the experience of time, the growing sense of alienation with respect to collective phenomena, and finally, the disappearance of referentiality. These are all symptoms that fit Girard’s description of a crisis of undifferentiation (or sacrificial crisis). Even though Girard forged it to describe an “archaic” condition, it does seem appropriate to apply this notion to our present times. But there is also a more profound reason to argue for its use. According to Girard, the Passion of the Christ is considered to be the origin of a process of deconstruction that has unveiled the sacred mechanism of the constitution of social objects, such as rites, taboos, but also borders, political and judiciary institutions, and limits in general.14 The device that made this possible is precisely the growing sense of the ultimately violent, arbitrary, and therefore, illegitimate status of limits, and modi, in general.15 However, trying to achieve a more just, free and autonomous condition, this process has also dismantled the differential structures that contained human violence and mimetism. By weakening the borders that use to keep violence and mimetism in check, it made them “immoderate.”16 This is the reason why we have to face the fact that we are living in a post-modus age. I now turn my attention to the most paradigmatic feature of post-modernity, the “crisis of referentiality,” in order to show how it fits within the Girardian framework, which in turn, is essential to reinterpret and understand the deepest characteristics of post-modernism.

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The loss of referentiality: Vattimo and Girard To begin with, it is worth reconsidering a central problematic addressed by most of the critics of post-modern philosophies and that is crucial to properly understand our times: The general and almost paradigmatic refusal of every sense of referentiality.17 I claim that in order to save this philosophical idea from a hasty rejection, we should reverse the usual interpretation proposed by most of its critics. In the wake of the analyses summed up above, I try to explore the loss of referentiality not only as an epistemological claim about the relation between knowledge and reality, but also as a very precise description of a singular and specific experience. “No facts, only interpretations” is a wonderful way to address the sense of bewilderment that we might experience as part of a mob. It may seem counterintuitive, but to fully understand this hypothesis, we should try to undergo a complete and radical change of perspective. Try to imagine the following scenario: We get stuck in a crowd moving faster and faster, maybe even running; those in the frontline, if any, may have some cognizance of the situation, but in the midst of the throng, we only have access to our neighbors’ interpretations. No pragmatically falsifiable or adequate account of any relevant fact is at our disposal; moreover, even if we were in possession of these facts, by being pushed and pulled by the others, we could not manage to act on them; no one could assert himself or herself against the mass. Let us now do a short detour in order to clarify this point, and see to what extent it may be of relevance to my argument. Girardians base their interpretation of religion, in general, and of Christianity, in particular, on a single and fundamental hermeneutic option: The Bible is a piece of anthropological knowledge about how human beings interact, and more specifically, about how they achieve social agreements. According to these readings, archaic myths are narratives that misrecognize the spectacular events that have brought about agreement in communities torn apart by endogenous violence. When such an agreement has been achieved, the swirling experience of chaos would slow down and order be “taken for granted” again. The Bible, in other words, would have revealed the mimetic and automatic logic of these events, thus teaching us how not to fall prey to them again. The most essential tenet of such readings is to realize that we are a part of the mob; we are inside the throng and share responsibilities for the violence (which, for this reason, is recognized as endogenous). In other words, we are taking part in the action: We are always in

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it. The fact that we do not immediately realize this is not an objection because, according to Girard, neither did the persecutors who later would have transformed their stories into myths of origin. Vattimo had already read Girard’s Mimetic Theory when he started to recast his thoughts on post-modernity and secularization.18 It is possible, therefore, to find in his works a sort of Girardian intuition, or intention. In his engagement with Girard,19 Vattimo focuses on an ingenious interpretation of the realist and positivist idea that “truth is what we agree upon,” which also resonates with Girard’s main insights, even more than he himself realized. When Vattimo argues for the “self-consumption of truth in charity,”20 he inverts the common-sense relationship between truth and agreement: We do not agree on truth when we find it somewhere out there. On the contrary, we call “true” something we agree on. This logical inversion will be at the centre of my hermeneutical investigation. The aim of Vattimo’s argument is to examine whether or not we can do without relying on something that lies beyond our common and mutual understanding, that is, on an external—from the perspective of the agents— reference, be it transcendent or immanent. By doing so, we might argue that Vattimo has emphasized how the refusal of referentiality—that has characterized post-modernism—is mostly about the need to trace a difference between the agreement determined by the mimetic mechanism and the one determined by caritas. The agreement determined by mimesis is not “free,” and furthermore, according to Girard, eventually tends to rely on made-up interpretations that are presented as unquestionable facts (and that usually also tend to be against some specific person, or groups).21 The agreement determined by caritas, instead, inasmuch as it is led by a kenotic attitude, refuses every self-transcendent solution and aims at restoring peace, freeing and emancipating everyone involved (with no exceptions).22 In short, if every agreement imposed by an exogenous reference of whatever kind, before which we are obliged to “interrupt our questioning”23 (or to use a more established philosophical jargon, to accept some indisputable heteronomy), incites us to coalize against someone, this means that there may be a danger in the concept of referentiality itself: Whenever such an exogeneity comes about, there might be room for doubt. The loss of ultimate references is the result of this attitude; there are no facts that may legitimate a difference between human beings that are not also a matter of conscious agreement and, therefore, of interpretation; there is nothing like an

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outside behind which we may hide, and to which we could delegate the final decision about how, and at whose expense, to agree; there is no fundamentum inconcussum to be used as a knife to decide,24 or to be brandished like an axe, no external fulcrum on which to rely. The work of weakening borders driven by such an understanding—that, according to both Vattimo and Girard, has been happening ever since the Gospels entered our tradition25—was meant to bring about freedom, but also left us without most of the references that once solidly stood between us, moderating our mimetism and the resulting tendency to violence.26 As a consequence, post-modernity is the moment in which the project of modernity, the quest for autonomy, discovers the unpredicted corresponding risk: the tragic abyss of chaos. In other words, trying to free itself from any heteronomic agreement and exogenous difference, modernity finds itself on the edge of self-referentiality, which implies, as we shall see in Dupuy’s work, that it is always on the brink of falling again into violent automatisms (from the vantage point of the system) and “heteromatisms” (from that of the individual). As we shall see further in the text, we experience post-modernity both as remedy from heteronomy and as poison for autonomy because we have not yet understood the essentially pharmacological nature of self-referentiality. To escape this risk, Girard argues in favor of the truthfulness of the Revelation as a new benchmark; there is no relative truth about the victim, he claims, and this ought to be our new point of reference. As far as Vattimo’s claim goes, the tenet “no facts, only interpretations” is to be interpreted as a description of what the bewildered individual may experience by being a part of a mob when no direction seems to make sense, but also as a suggestion that the “mimetic interdividual,” caught in a self-referential collective phenomenon, should keep in mind in order to avoid (taking part in) any kind of exclusion or victimization. It is, at the same time, a positive piece of description referring to a frightening experience of disorientation and an ethically demanding pragmatic option; the only step we have to take in order to understand its profound philosophical potential is to realize that we are that bewildered individual; we are the individuals that should keep that in mind. Indeed, it, too, leaves us with an unresolved problem; for example, to escape panic, we cannot just pull ourselves out of the herd, we need to consciously agree on something, but how do we agree? Charity, eventually, is both Girard and Vattimo’s answer to the crisis, but unless we want to wait for grace to descend on us, to be enforced and applied, charity also needs agreement. Therein lies a vicious circle, which is one of the figures of selfreferentiality, the inner logic of Girard’s originary scenario.

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Technology and mimesis: Stiegler and Girard On the basis of the intuition that acceleration is not something happening outside of us, but in our innermost experience, I now focus on the problem of the experience of time in general. In order to properly approach this topic, I briefly introduce the work of a disciple of Jacques Derrida and prominent figure of French Critical Theory, who can help us understand to what extent the notion of acceleration, as a specific experience of time, is relevant for a Girardian analysis of post-modernity. Bernard Stiegler has never explicitly engaged with Girard’s work, but he devoted his attention to a number of problems that intertwine with Mimetic Theory, such as the notion of pharmakon,27 and also, the problem of (neo-) gregarism.28 In order to spell out his understanding of the problem of time, it is worth recalling the Platonic myth of Prometheus and his hasty brother Epimetheus, which is central to his analysis. The end of the myth is well known: As a punishment ordered by Zeus for stealing the fire of Hephaestus, the titan “was bound to the hill of Caucasus, a place of large prospect, where an Eagle fed on his liver, devoured in the day, as much as was repaired in the night.”29 Plato’s Protagoras (320d–323a) recounts the complete narrative. So the story goes: The titan was bound to the rock to be punished for his tremendous transgression carried out for the sake of humankind in order to find a remedy, a pharmakon, for Epimetheus’s error. While liberally distributing to every animal a comparable set of abilities, the thoughtless brother—who, contrary to Prometheus, thinks only after having acted—ran out of dynameis, leaving humans without their fair share. Then came Prometheus, who, in order to help them out, gave humankind the divine secret of fire, tekhne. By molding them into one perfect image, this myth narrates both a sort of primeval acquaintance with technology and the anxiety produced by the ability to look ahead of oneself. Hobbes’s passage, quoted above, continues like this, “So that man, which looks too far before him, in the care of future time, has his heart all the day long gnawed on [. . .]; and has no repose, nor pause of his anxiety, but in sleep.”30 Somehow counterintuitively, Prometheus, the one who gave us technology, is, contrary to his brother, also epimethès, experienced; he is the one who remembers his experiences and learns from them, thus becoming promethès, prudent, “forethoughtful.” The myth indicates that Prometheus, whose acquaintance with technology is constitutive, thinks before acting because he has mastered the instrumental rationality that goes along with technology; he can think in means-to-an-end terms, and for formal extension, also in terms of

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cause and effect. Accordingly, the prudent Prometheus is impelled to worry in advance while trying to “anticipate” the future. This extension of the temporal horizon of the consciousness is precisely how anxiety originates, and—as the myth puts it—the very possibility that humans anticipate their future will make them gnaw their own liver.31 Stiegler has worked for a long time on the figure of Prometheus,32 focusing on the role of technology in the internal constitution of time consciousness. In his engagement with Husserl’s phenomenology of time, Stiegler recognizes in technical objects and technology in general, what he calls—corresponding to Husserl’s analysis of intentionality—“tertiary retentions.”33 Inspired by Derrida’s reflection on the problem of writing, Stiegler argues that tertiary retentions are the conditions of possibility of the human overcoming of retentional finitude. A tertiary retention—technology, in general, and writing, in particular—is always an externalized memory. With this notion, Stiegler refers to everything outside our mind on—or in—which memory can be fixed. Not to mention writing, every technical object is an externalized memory as it brings with itself at least the memory of the procedure around which it was built. According to Stiegler, nearly everything that pertains to human beings, every object, everything Hegel would count as “objective Spirit,” and language itself, is an externalized memory, or tertiary retention. As the myth shows, by offering technology to humankind, Prometheus gave us the chance to reduce (but not to solve) the flaws of our limited memory, and therefore, to extend our temporal consciousness. In fact, as Paul Ricoeur puts it, intentionality is the result of a twofold process: (1) the intertwining of retentions that gives us the possibility to retain the just-gone; and (2) the symmetrical entwining of protentions that gives us the possibility to stretch to the not-yet, that is, the ability to anticipate the future.34 Stiegler’s intuition is that by extending and strengthening our memory, our relation to tertiary retentions also extends our symmetrical and formal capacity to anticipate the future. Unfortunately, if memory (and imagination) offers to us the substance of our past, protentions only offer a formal aboutness or directedness of mind (or states of mind) to the future. This is what Prometheus did to humankind, he offered us a pharmakon, a poisoned gift; by stretching out our flawed memory, our retentional finitude, he also threw us into melancholy, which is precisely that special mood or state of mind of suspension and indeterminacy caused by our formal faculty of anticipation, the capacity for being-about-the-future. Since this is a mere formal dynameis, to avoid falling prey to the anxiety that Hobbes sensed in the myth of

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Prometheus, we spend much energy trying to fill it with content. I would, therefore, argue, in order to clarify the importance of this insight for my argument, that mimesis might have been a useful evolutionary tool to tackle this problem. If we extend the spectrum of the notion of mimesis beyond Girard’s own legitimate interests, we could address the problem of consciousness and realize that intentionality at large, and not only will or desire, may be mimetic; mimesis may be what allows us to fill the emptiness or open-endedness of our protentions, and to give content to our formal ability to anticipate the future. If we maintain that not only desire, but also intentionality in general is mimetic, then, this means that all our noemas, all our poles of attention, all our expectations, are selected through imitation. Mimesis is not only what guides our desire; it is the mechanism through which we proceed by our always-intersubjective intentions. Mimesis helps us to identify what it is to be caught up in our senses; it defines, in a very special manner, what we are to pay attention to, what we are to expect and consider. This approach makes the “referentiality issue”35 all the more crucial. Reality, as such, is not questioned by this argument; nevertheless, we have to put it in brackets and ask whether the fact that we tend to see pretty much the same things—which is a common-sense prejudice that is hard to doubt—depends “exclusively” on the fact that there is something in common to see, and not on the fact that we are mimetically driven to bring about the same things. Once again, does the matter of agreement come logically and ontologically before the agreement? Or, is it quite the opposite? According to Mimetic Theory, we do not desire the same things because things are intrinsically desirable; we desire the same objects because we imitate our models’ desires. In the same way, we should take into account the possibility that we do not agree on a description of reality because we all see the same facts, but we see the same facts, pretty much alike, because we are mimetically wired to influence each other’s aboutness or directedness of mind to things. In this sense, agreement may come before truth, which, on the contrary, cannot exist without agreement;36 and mimesis and agreement always get in the way of a proper analysis of truth. In fact, if agreement is the only “proof ” of truth (since at least somebody has to recognize our argument as valid for it to be considered as real and not as a dream), but it actually comes before and often independently of truth itself, what kind of proof is it? To clarify this issue, I now discuss a “Romanesque example” taken from Girard’s canon in which this dynamic is very well exemplified. In Stendhal’s Le rouge et le noir,37 two gentlemen, Mr. de Renal and Mr. Valenod, imitate each

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other and eventually converge on the not-very-noticeable Julien. A non-Girardian reader may think that the two gentlemen were interested in him because of his talents, but Girard put forward a better interpretation. Thanks to Girard’s insight we realize that it is because the two gentlemen’s attention converged on Julien that his talents began to be noticeable, and therefore, useful. Julien, as a real being, was of course already there, but as a noema, as a pole of attention, and as an object of desire, he was created by mimesis. Girard explicates Stendhal’s narrative and “Romanesque intuition” by showing that it is because they are always about what they think their mediator is about, that both the gentlemen finally converge on Julien; anyone else could have been in that spot; if he had presented different peculiarities, the two gentlemen would have built a different structure of interests onto him. In other words, it is not the brightness of Julien’s talents that drives the agreement, the convergence; indeed, it is the mimeticallydriven aboutness that brings both the gentlemen to “illuminate” Julien’s talents, which, once under the spotlight eventually shine.38 Even if it has a different emotional Stimmung, this story shows the same logic that, according to Girard, brings about collective lynchings. It is not the guilt of the culprit that turns him into a victim but the fact of being mimetically chosen as a victim that turns him into the culprit. This inversion that is leading our study may be considered as the Copernican Revolution that lies at the heart of our Verwindung39 of metaphysics, and that will help us understand the role of the logic of self-referentiality. One of the most important lessons we can learn from a conjoint reading of Mimetic Theory and post-modern philosophies is that mimetic intentionalities may converge on pretty much anything; when mimesis is involved, intentions and emotions will be driven on random objects and references.40 As we shall see in the last section of this chapter, the more profound the crisis of undifferentiation, the more intense the self-referentiality and the more unpredictable the reference points, or equilibria;41 also, and paradoxically, the more violent the struggle to attain them—whatever they may be—and the greater the effort to cover the process of their emergence.

Differentiation and individuation Girard claims that there is no other way but charity and imitatio Christi to shy away from these risks. Inspired by this observation, we may be tempted to ask

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whether there is any other way to escape the mimetic pre-individual background that will eventually lead everyone to face the risks of being involved in a selfreferential collective phenomenon. Stiegler’s work on the myth of Prometheus is of the utmost interest for my argument because it also points toward a very promising alternative solution to this problem. According to the myth, thanks to our relation to tertiary retentions we gained the formal dynameis to worry about the future, to anticipate it; that is, to extend our protentions. Yet, as we have seen in the previous sections, in Plato’s Protagoras it is also said, in a mythical form, that humankind has been somehow constituted by its relation with tertiary retentions, especially technology.42 According to Stiegler, what is at stake in this relation is the process of individuation (a notion he borrows from Gilbert Simondon).43 A process of individuation is what makes a human being unrepeatable, unique and singular. Stiegler’s account of this notion maintains that the process of individuation can happen only through a proper relation with both the social and technical environment;44 we become individuated by participating, in our own unrepeatable way, in the evolution of our environment. To put it in classical hermeneutic terms, the process of individuation consists of using the language not only in a standardized way, repeating clichés,45 but also by inventing metaphors, poetizing, interacting in a creative way with our own environment. This issue may seem to blatantly contradict the essential insights of Mimetic Theory, and the claim raised above: How would it be possible for a “mimetic interdividual”46 to be in any way singular, unrepeatable, if by definition, everything they do and see is mimetically driven by a model? Once again, Mimetic Theory has much to gain from a clear confrontation with postmodernism. The diverse legacies of deconstruction may, as a matter of fact, help us overcome this seemingly insurmountable aporia of Mimetic Theory. Our assumption is that each life can be considered a network of mimeticallydriven experiences. Yet, it is phenomenologically indisputable that these experiences are eventually recorded in memories, some of which are then externalized. Once externalized, a memory can be reactivated. The more “ortothetic”47 the tertiary retention is, the easier the reactivation, even by those who did not create it in the first place. For example, anyone can read a book and learn to remember Plato’s thoughts as if they were their own; but it is harder to exactly reactivate the memories or the emotions of a painting by Kandinsky. For those who create their own externalized memories and deal with them (and with others’, too), the individuation process moves on following a norm of

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individuation that is the product of the process itself. Plato, for instance, started by imitating Socrates’s dialogues, and then, working on his memories, recalling the old dialogues he had assisted, arranging anamnestically his relation to the available hypomnémata, and writing and rereading his own externalized thoughts, he eventually found his own singular consistency.48 In this regard, my claim is that the process of individuation, briefly summarized here, may offer the chance to reduce our own protentions’ indeterminacy, and therefore, the essentially pre-individual preponderance of mimesis. Let us clarify this assertion. If mimesis is a response to the indeterminacy of our protentions (and of intentionality in general), whenever this problem is addressed in any other way, the room for mimetically-driven directions may be reduced. Somehow, to sum up all the suggestions and references considered so far, when building myself as a text, or narrative, I am asked for some internal consistency. In other words, retentions in general—and tertiary retentions as the constitutive condition of possibility for memory—may be what helps or induces us to follow our own path, our norm, instead of following those who are around us. If I write down my experiences, my thoughts, my desires, my interests taken broadly, or just fix them on the objects that surround me, I will be more or less constantly recollecting my own singular, unrepeatable path. Somehow, I will feel induced to act, desire, and even select sections of reality that are consistent with my-externalized-self-as-a-mediator49—a self that nonetheless is the complex result of both mimetic drives and, little by little, the norm that is being born along with me.50 We could find a useful reference to deepen the comprehension of this approach in the notion of “reflective authenticity” elaborated by Alessandro Ferrara.51 An individual consciousness is the ever-more-resilient result of a sequence of identifications with different models, and types of models,52 which we encounter in a lifetime. The less flawed the memory, the more extended the temporal dimension of each consciousness, and the more urgent the need for consistency with our own path, or trace. This issue is of crucial importance in this context. Although he was not completely aware of the role of the phonograph,53 it was when listening to a record,54 which is a tertiary retention, an externalized memory of the execution of a piece of music, that Edmund Husserl “discovered” that intentionality itself is temporal—an intertwining of retention, present perception and protention. Even if he did not elaborate on it, Girard has also analyzed tertiary retentions such as literary texts. More important, those who began to focus on the vérité romanesque, and those who began to listen to the voix méconnue du réel,55

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were working with texts as well. Shakespeare, Cervantes, Flaubert, Stendhal, Dostoyevsky and Proust, but also the “authors of the Bible,” were all writers, and often, autobiographers, and therefore, individuals with a very special relation to writing in general; they were all accustomed to externalize their thoughts and reflect on them. Working on their mind’s consistency, they may have come to understand their own mimetic drives as patent deviations from their singular norms, all the more clear to them because they were written, externalized, and therefore, able to be reactivated. These cases show that the process of individuation, the rare result of a proper relation to tertiary retentions, is a plausible and promising way to deal with mimetic drives. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Tertiary retentions, in themselves, are not a solution. Everything is a matter of relationship. According to Stiegler, problems arise when the externalized memories are produced by a few and reactivated by the many. The relation to technology is, in fact, “pharmacological,” which means that technology can be both a remedy and a poison. As a remedy, it supports the individuation process, as a poison, it may corrupt it. As such, it is easy to understand the reason why a pharmakon can become a pharmakos, a scapegoat. Once he reduced writing to the general category of technology, and following Derrida’s Plato’s Pharmacy,56 Stiegler applies the concept of pharmakon to technology and to tertiary retentions in general. As Derrida put it, technology, as well as writing, can be both good and bad to the constitution of an individuated citizen. This is because writing can help as an externalized memory to overcome our retentional finitude, but it can also ruin the individuation process by substituting the “dead” literal synthesis of a text for the “living” activity of the consciousness. When this happens, writing induces a reduction, instead of an increase, of the chances for everyone to participate in the social and technical context in their own unrepeatable way.57 Derrida recalls the considerations of Thamus with regard to Theut’s offer, but we do not need to refer to any mythical image to understand this risk; it is clear in our own experience. For instance, the acquaintance with smartphone’s applications such as Maps can offer invaluable help and broaden the horizon of our possibilities, but can also impinge stunningly on our sense of direction. We can also mention the effect of the autocorrect function of word processors and mobile softwares on people’s ability to spell. Stiegler is convinced that philosophy was born to deal with the catastrophe Athens was facing after the introduction of writing, when all the young Athenians were becoming dependent on the hypomnémata of the logographoi (the written

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speeches produced by the sophists). Athens’s youth were being disindividuated by the sudden offer of inert syntheses. For him, we are now facing similar dangers, worsened by the spectacular pace of technological innovations; that is why Stiegler has worked on a renewal of philosophical reflection of the effects of technological change on the processes of current individuation, and above all, on those technologies deeply concerned with memory (such as the Internet and the digital technology of information in general). On the one hand, his theory is valuable in that it provides the possibility to analyze mimesis in the proper process of individuation and not only in “victimage” resolutions.58 On the other hand, this insight allows us to shed light on those moments when the process of individuation falls short; that is, when the preponderance of mimesis over intentionality reasserts itself. Unsurprisingly, Stiegler calls this effect “neo-gregarism.”59 In short, we may say that even if we have been learning for a long time how to deal with mimesis, by being exposed to the deindividuating effects of technological innovation, we can never let our guard down against gregarism. As Alessandro Ferrara has aptly summarized, using his notion of reflective authenticity, “the bedrock on which the waters of a river flow [. . .] changes [. . .] rarely.”60 This is true for culture in general and works with individual identities, but it also depends on the material of the bedrock over which the river flows. Stiegler suggests that, as far as the individual is concerned, the consistency of this material—for example, the wax tablet of his or her memory—is influenced by its relation to technology. The more shallow or soft the bedrock is, the less stable and consistent the flow. This piece of “fundamental anthropology” can help us to integrate Girard’s toolbox.

Undifferentiation and panic: Dupuy and Girard As we have seen, the common interpretation of modernity as a long quest for autonomy fits with Girard’s implicit philosophy of history; the progressive weakening of all the supposedly heteronomous boundaries represents in itself the great achievement of modernity. However, when we realize, thanks to Girard’s contribution, that those limits, boundaries and metaphysical structures were also used to contain violence, we can appreciate the nature of the problem. At this conceptual level, then, it is worth engaging with Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s work. After a full decade of research dedicated to the convergences and analogies

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among Girard’s Mimetic Theory, cybernetics and the sciences of complexity,61 Dupuy has suggested a rereading of Girard’s main thesis about the victimage mechanism that has the great advantage of purging this dynamics of the preponderant role of violence, thus making it independent of any Stimmung. His main concepts (the notion of endogenous fixed point, or polarization, as a description of the endogenously created attractor on which a system finds an equilibrium) are briefly outlined by Dupuy in his Introduction aux sciences sociales.62 According to Dupuy, in order to properly, and we could even say postmetaphysically, understand mass phenomena, we have to analyze the mass in terms of mimetic desire—a notion that sums up and replaces the Freudian terms of contagion, libido and narcissism. Following Girard’s basic insights, the figure of the leader is considered a member of the mass like all the others, and exactly like all the others, he mimetically desires. The one and only difference is that he ends up desiring himself because he imitates the others’ desire that randomly converge on him, thus giving way to a self-reinforcing mimetic mechanism. The relevant point here is that he desires himself because others desire him, and not the other way around, as Freud would put it. It is only après coup, a posteriori, when the subject of the perspective has been defined by the internal dynamics of the system, that everybody will be led to consider him a cause and not an effect. Dupuy’s inversion, which has accompanied us throughout this study, goes much further than simply offering a very solid general account of the process of creation of social systems and their origin. By formalizing the logic of selfreferentiality—no external reference is needed to produce an ordered mass, no exogenous preexisting, exceptional human is necessary to establish an equilibrium—he transcends any need for an external fundamentum inconcussum, and as such, his approach can be considered fully post-metaphysical. Freud’s conceptualization of the “leader” is, in this regard, what Dupuy would call an “endogenous fixed point” because it is created as a fixed point, as an equilibrium and as a cornerstone, by the structure, and not the other way round. Even if the structure, that is, the mass, depends on, is represented by and is organized around him, the leader is still created by the mass; just as Mr. de Renal and Mr. Valenod, in Stendhal’s novel Le rouge et le noir, created the salience of Julien, over which they then would fight; just as we “create,” by reciprocally driving our mimetic intentionalities, what we agree on, and accordingly, consider as reality, or truth. The logic of self-referentiality lies at the very heart of every relevant phenomenon that involves mimetic subjects capable of representations. This is somehow what

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modernity has tried to establish because self-referentiality means to be free from any external bond; however, and at the same time, this is also what archaic religions have averted because this logic fosters a deeply unstable situation. In fact, there is also something more Dupuy’s conceptualization can offer to this analysis. While introducing the notion of the endogenous fixed point as the key to understand the logique des phénomènes collectifs, Dupuy also put forward a very extensive interpretation of Girard’s notion of mimesis that complements the argument of this chapter. The notion of endogenous fixed point can be applied to a much wider set of social phenomena that deal with neither violence nor desire. When Dupuy abstracts the notion of endogenous fixed point from the notion of scapegoat, he essentially transforms, ceteris paribus, Girard’s scenario of “all against one body,” to one of “all about one res.”63 Any other determining feature of these points (exteriority, transcendence, inaccessibility), or events (the feeling of exposure to contagion, the alienation toward a social phenomenon that we create, the feeling of acceleration and the loss of referentiality) would remain unaffected. In La panique,64 Dupuy also shows that there is only one difference that actually distinguishes panic from an ordered mass. If the leader of a crowd vanishes, the mob itself becomes the fixed point of the structure. The mass will then take itself as a reference point, entailing a self-referential mechanism that will throw the mob into chaos; this is what panic essentially is. In other words, the external mediation offered by the leader, or by the self-representation implied in the notion of culture, holds the system steady, it actually differs selfreferentiality, but inasmuch as it creates an external bond, it will eventually become unbearable for a modern ethos. If applied to modernity, these insights suggest that in search for autonomy, freedom and emancipation, modern agents have been deconstructing all metaphysical exogenous instances. Whenever the fixed point is recognized as endogenous, that is, as arbitrarily elected or differentiated (by deferral),65 it will vanish; however, if the agents are not able to bear the infinite responsibility that such a situation requires, this will throw the system back into the maze of self-referentiality. Following Dupuy’s reading of Heinz von Foerster’s seminal work, those who mimetically—von Foerster speaks of “triviality”66—animate a self-referential system, experience a complete alienation with respect to the collective phenomenon that nevertheless they are contributing to create. The result is a collective automaton, a machina, which is created and animated by those who are inside it, but it is completely out of their control.

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According to Stiegler, since its origin, and especially throughout modernity, philosophy tried to work on the constitution of autonomous individuals, that is, individuated subjects. And for a long time, it appeared to be on the right path. Because of the parallel blossoming of the conditions of possibility of the processes of individuation, gradually revealed and shepherded by philosophy, the risks of secularization and of the progressive weakening of metaphysical differential structures were somehow contained. When the pace of technological innovation started to accelerate, the thin and fragile equilibrium that gave modernity the impression of being able to master the process, began to crumble. Nonetheless, this process could not be stopped; we cannot go back to supposedly solid but more and more clearly arbitrary references. To reach a better understanding of post-modernity, these two perspectives must be considered together. By taking into account Stiegler’s insights, we can, in fact, put together a Girardian theory of (post-)modernity. The latter describes modernity as a low-gear crisis of undifferentiation produced by the slow but unstoppable falling apart of all the sacrificially-informed institutions and fixed points that used to moderate violence, and to impose a modus on it, to contain it. In this regard, such a theory would define a straight temporal line.67 Stiegler’s approach to the long-term process of hominization adds to the analysis both a cyclical dimension of crisis by neo-gregarism and new processes of individuation due to technological innovation. Stiegler individuates a cyclic process according to which, at first, a technological innovation acts like a poison by disindividuating members of the community. Then, little by little, the innovation is recognized and integrated, giving rise to new possible paths of individuation,68 that is, new possible conditions of responsible agreement that do not depend on misrecognized endogenous fixed points. This insight suggests that, in our times of savage technological innovation, we are facing a sort of perfect storm; a crisis of neo-gregarism that meets the lowgear religious crisis of modernity at large, that is, a deepened mimetic crisis, produced by the failure of the processes of individuation, taking place in an ever-more weakened differential structure. In other words, as shown in the previous sections, the process of weakening sacrificially-informed institutions, the kénosis of the supposedly exogenous fixed point, the never-ending questioning of every agreement, are all nothing but particular manifestations of the immanent sense of Western history, which is a quest for autonomy. The stunning pace of technological innovation disrupted this quest, disindividuating individuals more than ever, while making of every single one of

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us a cog of an emerging machina. In this regard, post-modernity should be understood as the era where the risk of missing the target of freedom and autonomy, and ending up in panic, the pure chaos of self-referentiality, reaches its furthest point.

Conclusions I have maintained that post-modernity, faithful to its etymological meaning, is an age characterized by a catastrophe of modus. Contagion, corrosion, acceleration—terms that recur in many authoritative “symptomatologies” of our times—are names of experiences that deal with the decay of borders and limits, and as such, confirm the adequacy of the notion. Following this intuition, I have argued that we shall pay more attention to post-modernism and interpret its most famous tenet—“no facts, only interpretations”—both as a description of a particular experience, and as a pragmatic option to avoid any automatic and violent agreement; not as a bizarre claim uttered in order to épater les bourgeois. To understand it, we just need to appreciate one daunting thing, which is the central intuition of modernity: de nobis fabula narratur [about us is the story told]. Intuitively, according to Girard’s Mimetic Theory, everything that opposes differentiation—which includes being against sacrifice and violence—eventually may bring about a crisis of undifferentiation. Having shown that Vattimo’s farewell to truth is best comprehended as an attempt to reveal the risks implied in the vicious relation between truth, agreement and mimesis, I have claimed that, in trying to avoid mimetically-driven agreement based on exogenous references, modernity extended the region where freedom and autonomy are possible, and deepened the risk of a crisis of undifferentiation, which is nothing but a name for self-referentiality. By drawing on the work of Bernard Stiegler, I, then, pointed out that the unstable equilibrium that led modernity to conceive its plan of autonomy was somehow granted by the growing possibilities of individuation offered by a proper—and philosophical—relation to tertiary retentions in general. Yet, in this very same relation, there also lay a second risk of undifferentiation: the everaccelerating pace of technological innovation. Along with the paradigmatic loss of referentiality, this is the most characteristic feature of our age, and it can produce a poisonous effect by disindividuating us, and fostering neo-gregarism.

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By engaging with the work of Jean-Pierre Dupuy and his main source, Heinz von Foerster, I eventually identified a possible outcome of modernity; instead of opening the way for freedom and autonomy, self-referentiality (as both an ethically demanding pragmatic option and a specific historic condition) and neo-gregarism (the effect of hasty technological innovation on a mimeticallywired human consciousness less than ever accustomed to philosophical epimeleia) combine together to throw our age into panic, a collectively-animated automaton completely out of our control, and as such, post-modern. Vattimo, Stiegler and Dupuy are fundamental to understanding that this crisis—as a mimetic all-about-one and not a violent all-against-one—still represents one of the figures of Girard’s mechanism, and as such, may literally drive us anywhere, even down the hill. Overcoming post-modernity means escaping panic; that is, learning to deal with self-referentiality as a pharmakon. Unfortunately, we still do not know how to do this without resorting to one of the numerous figures of sacrificial violence. One thing is for sure: Denial will not help.

Notes 1 Jean Giraudoux, La guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu (Paris: Hatier, 2015), 14. 2 Robert Browning, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” London Quarterly Review 117 ([1849] January–April 1866): 55. 3 In this work, I use the expressions “post-modernity” and “post-modern” to identify the age, and “post-modernism” or “post-modern philosophy” when referring to specific philosophies and philosophers such as Gianni Vattimo, Jacques Derrida, and others. 4 See Gianni Vattimo, A Farewell to Truth, trans. Luca D’Isanto (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). 5 In his influential trilogy Technics and Time, Stiegler has developed an in-depth analysis of the interrelation between technics and our inner experience of time. Moreover, he has worked out a very comprehensive interpretation of the notion of pharmakon that, in many respects, echoes and supports Girard’s insights. See Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimeteus, trans. R. Beardsworth and G. Collins (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1998). 6 Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Introduction aux sciences sociales: Logique des phénomènes collectifs (Paris: Ellipses, 1992). 7 The Sphären trilogy focuses on the notion of immunity; see Peter Sloterdijk, Bubbles. Spheres I, trans. W. Hoban (Los Angeles, CA : Semiotext[e], 2011); Id., Globes. Spheres 2, trans. W. Hoban (Los Angeles, CA : Semiotext[e], 2014).

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8 See Roberto Esposito, Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life, trans. Z. Hanafi (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011). 9 Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000). 10 Marc Augé, Où est passé l’avenir? (Paris: Seuil, 2011). 11 Hartmut Rosa, Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of LateModern Temporality (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2010); Id., Beschleunigung. Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2005). 12 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (New York: Washington Square Press, 1984), 609: “There is a possibility that the in-itself might absorb the per-itself. [. . .] Slime is the revenge of the in-itself.” 13 See, for example, Mario De Caro and Maurizio Ferraris (eds), Bentornata realtà: il nuovo realismo in discussione (Torino: Einaudi, 2012). 14 Girard has discussed these issues in a number of works; see his Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, trans. S. Bann and M. Metteer (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1987), in particular, Book I. Antoine Garapon, Bien juger: Essai sur le rituel judiciaire (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1997) extends Girard’s intuitions and applies them to the analysis of the judiciary system. I have further elaborated them in Emanuele Antonelli, La mimesi e la traccia: Contributi per un’ontologia dell’attualità (Milano: Mimesis, 2013), Part I and Part III , to which I refer here. 15 This is how we could interpret, for example, the work of Arash Abizadeh on the archetype of all limits; see his “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion: No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders,” Political Theory 36, no. 1 (2008): 37–65. 16 It is essential to understand the logic of Girard’s argument: According to Mimetic Theory, the differential structures that keep in check violence and mimetism are a by-product of the sacrificial mechanism. As such, they share its essentially violent logic—this is how Girard interprets the Gospel verse: Satan drives out Satan (Matthew 12—26). The sacred contains violence: It keeps it in check, but also brings violence within itself. If a sacrifice is the smallest possible amount of violence used to prevent a worst explosion of violence, then, to refuse all sacrifices means to accept the risk that sooner or later the worst could happen. The bottom line is that risks tend to get bigger when we forget about them. 17 The legitimacy of this perspective is still nowadays negated by the so-called New-realism trend, which is increasingly gaining international attention. See Maurizio Ferraris, Documentality: Why It Is Necessary to Leave Traces, trans. R. Davies (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2012). 18 For a quasi-autobiographical account, see Gianni Vattimo, Belief, trans. Luca D’Isanto (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 1999). 19 Gianni Vattimo and René Girard, Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue, trans. W. McCuaig (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2010).

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20 Vattimo, A Farewell to Truth, 133. 21 See, for example, Girard’s interpretation of the myth of Œdipous, whose guilt is unanimously taken for granted in order to restore agreement and salvation, even though the accusations against him are patently false. See René Girard, Œdipous Unbound: Selected Writings on Rivalry and Desire (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2004). 22 This is Vattimo’s interpretation of the Gospel verse: “the truth will set you free.” See Vattimo, A Farewell to Truth, 79. This is also the essential focus of Vattimo’s interest in his Nihilism and Emancipation: Ethics, Politics, and Law, trans. W. McCuaig (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). 23 Gianni Vattimo, “Etica della provenienza,” Micromega—Almanacco di Filosofia ’97, 79. 24 The etymological dictionary reminds us that “to decide” comes from the Latin word de-caedere, which originally meant “to cut,” in the sense of a sacrificial procedure. 25 I have further discussed this interpretation of secularization in my work, La mimesi e la traccia, 163–192. 26 Girard maintains that rites, taboos, manners, caste-like statuses, institutions and so on are all part of this group of references; Vattimo, in turn, prefers referring to metaphysical constructs. 27 On the notion of pharmakon, see Bernard Stiegler, “Questions de pharmacologie générale: Il n’y a pas de simple pharmakon,” Psychotropes 13, no. 3/4 (2007): 27–54, which epitomizes Stiegler’s work. Since September 2010, Stiegler has organized and hosted a school of philosophy, in the French province, whose name (and site URL ) is pharmakon.fr: Ecole de philosophie d’Epineuil-le-Fleuriel. 28 See Bernard Stiegler, Mécréance et discrédit, I: La décadence des démocraties industrielles (Paris: Galilée, 2004). 29 For reasons that will become clear later, I am quoting from Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. R. Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 76–77. 30 As Hobbes sensed, this myth is in many ways connected to the theme of time: he called the liver of Prometheus, from where every single day melancholy flows out, “the Titan’s clock.” Melancholy (from Greek melas kholie: a black bile coming out of the wounded organ), which indicates a feeling of suspension, emptiness, indeterminacy, dramatically mirrors the Baroque spirit conveyed by Dürer’s immortal engraving. 31 Hobbes discusses this myth while dealing with the theme of the origin of religion. As Dumouchel has convincingly shown, Girard’s solution of this issue shares a common logic with Hobbes’s way out of the state of nature. See Paul Dumouchel, “Hobbes: La course à la souveraineté,” Stanford French Review 10 (1986): 153–176. 32 See Stiegler, Technics and Time. 33 As Ricoeur has noted, “the two great discoveries of Husserlian phenomenology of time are first the description of retention and protention; and second the distinction

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between retention and recollection (or between primary and secondary memory).” Cf. Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Vol. 3, trans. K. Blamey and D. Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 25. See ibid., Section 1, Ch. 2.1., Husserl’s “Lessons.” Girard is aware of this problem; see, for example, Wolfgang Palaver, René Girard’s Mimetic Theory, trans. G. Borrud (East Lansing, MI : Michigan State University Press, 2013), 267. Sometimes Girard seems to forget an essential pragmatic feature of truth: to exist, truth has to be said and, then, to be agreed on. See René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press: 1976), 113–138. This is also an example of the heuristic potential of Mimetic Theory as far as the problem of creativity is concerned. Mimesis gives way to novelty and innovation, as long as it creates the conditions of possibility for something (or someone) to determine meanings. Verwindung der Metaphysik is an Heideggerian expression that hints both at a process of torsion, winden, and at the process of recovery, of healing from a long sickness, that nevertheless will leave its mark. See Thorsten Gubatz, Heidegger, Gadamer und die Turiner Schule: Die Verwindung der Metaphysik im Spannungsfeld zwischen Glaube und Philosophie (Würzburg: Ergon, 2009). This might be the reason why a prominent figure of the Turin school of hermeneutics focused on the work of Mikhail Bachtin as an attempt to build a “hermeneutic of the two,” that is, a methodology of agreement that does not have to rely on a third, reference point. See Roberto Salizzoni, Michail Bachtin autore ed eroe (Torino: Trauben, 2003). See Dupuy, Introduction aux sciences sociales, 103–211. Unlike the myth Plato narrates in the Phaedrus, in which the gift of writing is offered to an already existing humankind, in the Protagoras, Prometheus offers fire before humankind is insufflated with life. This means that human beings have always already been constituted in relation to technology, which therefore, is not merely an instrument, or a tool, nor something new to deal with. Gilbert Simondon, L’individuation psychique et collective (Paris: Aubier, 1989). According to Stiegler, technology is a “supplement” to our living memory, in the sense suggested by Derrida. Technology is not only a kind of support to our memory, but it actually creates the conditions of its possibility, without which we would be living in a very short present continuous. For a short and clear introduction, see Bernard Stiegler, Philosopher par accident (Paris: Galilée, 2004). This is precisely what happens when we do not interact properly with technology. A cliché, or stereotype, is, originally, a printing process to save time in composing texts. In common language, this technological process has come to mean “common

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phrase.” When we exclusively talk in clichés, we are not participating in the individuation of our milieu and of ourselves. See Girard, Things Hidden, Book III . According to its etymology, ortothetic refers to the level of correctness and adequacy of the repetition offered by the tertiary retention; for instance, phonetic writing is more ortothetic than ideography, but digital information technologies, such as cameras, are all the more so. Note that this process can result from any appropriate relation to every kind of technology, but the more ortothetic the retention, the more effective the process. See Bernard Stiegler, Pour une nouvelle critique de l’économie politique (Paris: Galilée, 2009), in which he interprets Marx’s analysis of the proletariat’s alienation in terms of individuation and disindividuation. In negativo this could count as a philosophical explanation of Sennett’s diagnosis recalled in the first section of this chapter: a life that is increasingly liberated from its constant commerce with reliable and persistent things, spaces, and people—the life in the age of new capitalism, when people change their things, houses, atmospheres and people as fast as they change clothes—will be phenomenologically experienced as being fragmented. For a discussion of this process, see Luigi Pareyson, Estetica: Teoria della formatività (Milano: Bompiani, 1988). Alessandro Ferrara, Reflective Authenticity: Rethinking the Project of Modernity (London: Routledge, 1998). Note that the models that we meet along these paths are of the same type of those that, according to Girard, might become external mediators. See Francesca Dell’Orto, “Schematizzare il tempo: Motivazione e costituzione del mondo intersoggettivo,” Tropos: Rivista di ermeneutica e critica filosofica, 5, no. 2 (2012): 157–173, 168. Husserl analyzes a Zeitobjekt, such as a melody and recognizes the temporal extension of intentionality, that is, our ability to keep in mind the note just-passed, the present one, and the one yet to come because he is listening to a recording. Only a record could allow him to understand that the differences he felt in the structure of the melody were not to be ascribed to the performers’ interpretation, but exclusively to his own consciousness, precisely because a record is always identical to itself. See René Girard, La voix méconnue du réel (Paris: Grasset, 2002). See Jacques Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy,” in Id., Dissemination, trans. B. Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 63–172. Bernard Stiegler develops this argument in a detailed discussion of the problems raised by the growing diffusion of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that is, the growing inability to pay critical attention, to “attend,” to be present to

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ourselves over a long time, and caring for something). See Bernard Stiegler, Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, trans. S. Barker (Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press, 2010). I have argued elsewhere that we may consider the body of the victim itself, or the pile of stones left by the stoning, as a sort of Ur-trace, a tertiary retention that will support the “collective individuation” of a community, providing the metaphysical limits of the ethnos; see Emanuele Antonelli, La creatività degli eventi: René Girard e Jacques Derrida (Torino: L’Harmattan, 2011). Stiegler deals with this issue in his two-volume series Mécreance et discrédit (Paris, Galilée, 2004 and 2006). Neo-gregarism is what comes along when singular consistencies give way to common clichés and prêt-à-penser, ready-to-think concepts. Ferrara, Reflective Authenticity, 1. In the late seventies, Dupuy inaugurated a fertile branch of French sciences humaines by dealing with the paradigm of self-organization. See Paul Dumouchel and Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Colloque de Cerisy: l’Auto-organisation. De la physique au politique (Paris: Seuil, 1983); and more recently, the Colloque de Cerisy: Figures de l’auto-transcendance. Pour une société de l’Ouroboros, held in June 2014. Dupuy, Introduction aux sciences sociales, 27–49, where he engages with Freud’s Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse. This res might be a person, an idea, a direction, a “solution” or whatever other noema, including “reality.” Jean-Pierre Dupuy, La panique (Paris: Les Empecheurs de penser en rond, 2003). If we give credit to this deconstruction of the “centered mass,” we may start realizing that the post-modern motto points to what happened when the endogenous fixed point of modernity was recognized as such (nonexogenous) and, therefore, relativized. Heinz von Foerster, Observing Systems (Seaside, CA : Intersystems Publications, 1984), 160, 162, 171, 201–202, 209. See Karl Löwith, Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the Philosophy of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949). To mention only some of the most relevant examples, we could include among such cycles the impact of writing on both the tyranny and the birth of philosophy in Athens; the Gutenberg printing press that made the Reformation possible, but also the modern scientific and the digital information technology revolutions.

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Index Abel, 5, 8n14, 49, 51, 165n17, Agamben, Giorgio, 2, 6, 7n5, 129, 136, 138–140, 143n29–30, 143n33, 213, 215–219, 221–233, 234n19, 234n32, 234n35, 234n37, 234n39, 234n41, 234n43, 235n44, 235n47, 235n55, 236n57–59, 236n61 alienation, 172, 238–240, 253, 260n48 Altizer, Thomas, 191, 207n7 anamnesis, 238 Anthropologie structurale (Claude LéviStrauss), 197 Antichrist, 156, 206 Antigone (Sophocles), 12, 23n19 anti-Semitism, 116 Antonello, Pierpaolo, 8n11, 44n36, 91n2, 143n26, 167n31, 207n1, 208n14, 234n22 Aquinas, Thomas, 27–42, 43n4, 43n30, 44n42; notion of charity, 38–40; notion of grace, 30, 36–37, 43n28; notion of justice, 27–28, 32–42, 44n39; notion of prophecy, 27–31, 36–42; on law, 33–40, 44n42 archaeological method, 129, 140, 216–233 Aristotle, 9–21, 22n14–15, 23n16, 23n23, 23n25–26, 23n31, 24n33–38, 25n42, 25n51, 26n51, 91n5, 94–95n22, 146, 216, 230 Aron, Raymond, 175, 187n12 Augé, Marc, 238–239, 257n10 Augustine of Hippo, 72, 93n12, 104n77, 132–133, 135, 142n16 autonomy, paradigm of, 73–74, 89, 92n7, 93n10, 94n18, 105n97, 195, 243, 251, 253–256 Badiou, Alain, 107, 136 Baron, Hans, 47, 64n8 Battling to the End (René Girard), 66n54, 95n23, 100n49, 105n92, 110, 124n5, 124n8, 125n22, 125n26, 125n28, 135, 141n1, 143n39, 165n2, 164n10, 167n28,

168n43, 204, 207n1, 210n54, 211n65, 234n31 Being and Nothingness (Jean-Paul Sartre), 171, 175, 257n12 Bergson, Henri, 216 Berlin, Isaiah, 47, 58, 65n10, 66n52 Bernays, Jacob, 12, 22n15 Bible, the; Girard’s interpretation of, 5, 31, 38, 44n41, 46–47, 49, 51, 55, 85, 112, 127, 129, 137, 189, 192, 197, 203, 241, 243, 250, 257n16; New Testament, 28–29, 39–40, 111, 134–135, 159, 258n22; Old Testament, 27–29, 39–40; Tanakh, 44n41 binary oppositions, 214–215, 217 biocultural evolution, 78–80, 83, 88, 96n29 biopolitics, 4 Bock, Gisela, 47, 65n9 Borgia, Cesare, 54 Browning, Robert, 237, 256n2 Bywater, Ingram, 17, 25n42–43 Cain, 5, 8n14, 51, 165n17 Calasso, Roberto, 205, 211n74 Capitolinus, Marcus Manlius, 57 Caracalla, Antoninus, 53 Cassirer, Ernst, 46, 64n7 Castelvetro, Lodovico, 13–15, 19, 23n32, 25n43 Caucasus, 244 Cavanaugh, William T., 129, 133–135, 141n6, 142n17, 142n19 Cervantes, Miguel de, 250 Césaire, Aimé, 7, 8n17 Chabod, Federico, 46, 64n7 Christian revelation, 27–28, 30, 35, 37, 40, 51, 142n18, 193–195, 200–201; Girard’s interpretation of the, 31, 38, 41, 49, 85, 108–111, 115, 129, 136–137, 155, 158–161, 190, 228, 243 Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 51, 54 Clausewitz, Carl von, 59, 63, 11, 127, 135–136, 148–149, 165n12, 204

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264

Index

community of mind, 84–87, 89, 103n74 Conan Doyle, Arthur, 226 Coriolanus, Gaius Marcius, 55–56 Corneille, Pierre, 13, 15–16, 19, 24n33–34 cosmopolitanism, 86–87, 90, 94n17 Cowdell, Scott, 167n28, 195, 207, 208n21–22, 209n25–26, 209n31, 210n50–51, 210n57, 211n73, 211n83 Cresphontes (Euripides), 12, 23n20 Critique of Dialectical Reason (Jean-Paul Sartre), 171–174 Critique of Pure Reason (Immanuel Kant), 93n14, 175 Croce, Benedetto, 45–46, 64n4, 66n6 Cuban missile crisis, 134, 138 Cyrus (the Great), 50, 57 death of God; Vattimo’s interpretation of the, 190–193; Girard’s interpretation of the, 191–197 Deceit, Desire and the Novel (René Girard), 65n12, 91n4, 95n26, 124n8, 140, 142n15, 172, 195, 208n23, 259n37 Del Lucchese, Filippo, 61, 66n35, 67n59 Depoortere, Frederik, 199, 207n3, 207n8, 209n35, 209n37 Derrida, Jacques, 107, 123n2, 129, 194, 208n18, 244, 250, 256n3, 259n44, 260n56 desacralization, 190, 202, 205 Descartes, René, 72 Detienne, Marcel, 128, 141n4 Dionysus, 191, 195–196, 208n9–10 Discourse on Inequality (Jean-Jacques Rousseau), 71 Discourses on Livy (Niccolò Machiavelli), 47–48, 50, 53–57, 61, 64n2, 65n20, 65n23, 66n33, 66n36, 66n39, 66n42, 66n46, 66n53 disenchantment, 200, 207n7 Domenach, Jean-Marie, 129–130, 140, 142n7, 143n36 Donald, Merlin, 69, 71, 75, 78–85, 88, 91n1, 92n10, 96n29, 99n42–47, 100n50–53, 101n54–63, 103n76, 104n84 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich, 132, 137, 195, 250 duality of religion, 213, 220 Dumouchel, Paul, 8n8, 142n7, 186n3, 205, 258n31, 261n61

Dupuy, Jean-Pierre, 117, 125n30, 205, 238, 251–253, 250n41, 261n61–62 Durkheim, Émile, 93n10, 100n53, 213–216, 233n3 dynameis, 244–245, 248 ego cogito, 217 Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Émile Durkheim), 213, 233n3 Eliade, Mircea, 1, 7n1, 213, 215–216, 233n1 Else, Gerald F., 17, 23n15 end of metaphysics, 194, 198 Epimetheus, 244 episodic culture, 79–81, 100n51 Esposito, Roberto, 238–239, 257n8 Ethics (Baruch Spinoza), 111–112, 124n12 Euripides, 23n20–21 evidential method, 225–227 exogenous reference, 242, 253, 255 external mediation, 90, 253 Fanon, Frantz, 131, 142n12 Farmer, Paul, 203, 210n58 Ferdinand II of Aragon, 54 Ferrara, Alessandro, 249, 251, 260n51, 261n60 Finkielkraut, Alain, 116–117, 125n29 Flaubert, Gustave, 174, 187n10, 250 Foerster, Heinz von, 253, 256, 261n66 Foucault, Michel, 6, 216–217, 224, 234n18 Freud, Sigmund, 10, 25n50, 127, 130, 141, 196, 252, 261n62 Freytag, Gustav, 11, 22n13 Fuhrmann, Manfred, 17, 25n45 functional explanation, 228 fundamentalism, 6, 62, 198 fundamentum inconcussum, 243, 252 fused groups, 171–173, 176–178, 180–182, 184 Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 194 Galtung, Johan, 162, 168n44 Gans, Eric, 115, 125n25 Gauchet, Marcel, 191, 200, 207n7 Gehlen, Arnold, 147, 164n4 Ginzburg, Carlo, 225, 227, 235n45, 235n53 Girard, René; interpretation of the apocalypse, 70, 85, 111–113, 122, 136–139, 200; mimetic anthropology,

Index 69–71, 73–76, 78, 80, 83, 87–90, 103n74, 204; mimetic theory, 6–7, 69, 71, 74–76, 82, 92n9, 108–109, 111, 114–115, 122, 124n8, 127–130, 134, 138, 163n2, 171, 173, 189–190, 198, 204, 218, 242, 244, 246–248, 252, 255, 257n16, 259n38; notion of charity, 38, 40, 242, 243, 247; notion of conversion, 88–90, 111–112, 124n8, 132, 159; notion of grace, 136, 199; notion of justice, 27–28, 32, 34, 38, 85, 104n88; on technology, 5, 63, 88, 202; view of human nature, 69–76, 83, 88, 146 Giraudoux, Jean, 237, 256n1 globalization, 3, 6–7, 86, 167n41, 198, 201, 204–205 Gómez Dávila, Nicolás, 1, 7n3, 213, 233n2 Grote, Jim, 45, 64n3 Guicciardini, Francesco, 54 Habermas, Jürgen, 6, 8n16, 103n76 Hamerton-Kelly, Robert, 136–137, 142n23, 143n34, 211n76 Hannibal, 53 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 103n76, 127, 130–132, 142n10, 216, 245; masterslave dialectic, 130–131; notion of ‘Spirit’, 130, 245; notion of ‘recognition’ (Anerkennung), 130–131 Heidegger, Martin, 192, 194, 220, 232, 259n39; notion of Seinsverlassenheit, 232 Helle (unknown), 13, 23n22 Hephaestus, 244 heteronomy, 93n15, 242–243 hierophany, 215–216 historical a priori, 228–230, 232 History of Florence (Niccolò Machiavelli), 59 Hitler, Adolf, 59, 116 Hobbes, Thomas, 2, 5, 7n6, 8n15, 63, 72, 93n16, 128, 132–136, 183, 187n21, 244–245, 258n29–31 Hölderlin, Friedrich, 127 Holocaust, 115 hominization, 73, 79 –83, 98n40, 100n51, 102n67, 148, 219, 254 Homo sacer (Giorgio Agamben), 7n5, 129, 136, 139, 220, 229, 234n32

265

Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), 21n12, 22n12, 51, 237 horror, 1, 17, 19 Houellebecq, Michel, 1, 7n2 Husserl, Edmund, 245, 249, 258n33, 260n54 hypomnémata, 249–250 imitatio Christi, 247 imitation, 11, 21, 22n15, 48, 74–77, 79, 86, 95n25, 95n28, 97n35, 100n51, 105n98, 131, 219, 246 individualism, doctrine of, 75, 82, 85, 90, 93n16, 105n97, 151, 201, 210n57; methodological individualism, 78, 83, 92n10, 96n29, 227 individuation, 247–251, 254–255, 260n45, 260n48, 261n58 intentionality, 226, 235n49, 245–246, 249, 251, 260n54 internal mediation, 70, 86, 91n4, 91n5, 94n17, 195 inter-subjectivity, 69, 71, 74–77, 83, 88, 94n17, 151, 195–196, 243, 248 Iphigenia (Euripides), 13, 23n21 I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (René Girard), 28, 30, 42n2, 104n77, 105n90, 163n2, 189, 210n56, 234n42 Joachim of Fiore, 194 Job, the Victim of His People (René Girard), 189 Jonkers, Peter, 199, 209n44 Kahn, Paul W., 2, 7n4, 8n8 Kandinsky, Wassily, 248 Kant, Immanuel, 72, 83, 93n14–17, 94n18, 175 katéchon, 83, 85, 104n79, 134, 139, 142n18, 154–156, 158, 200, 202–203, 205–206, 210n57 katharsis, 12, 22n15, 23n15 kénosis, 190–194, 198–199, 154 Kitzmuller, Erich, 205, 211n75 Kojève, Alexandre, 130, 142n11 late-modernity, 239 Le rouge et le noir (Stendhal), 246, 252 Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes), 2–3, 7n6, 8n15, 133–134, 187n21, 258n29

266

Index

Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 10, 197, 209n32, 214–216, 232n9–12, 232n17 liberalism, 72, 204–205 Lindsey, Jason R., 204, 211n63 Locke, John, 72, 93n16 logographoi, 250 logos, 222–223 Lucas, Donald W., 17, 23n38 Luther, Martin, 135

Napoléon Bonaparte, 59 Newtonian mechanics, 218 Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 10, 94n18, 103n76, 127, 190–192, 194–197, 208n10, 209n28, 224 nihilism, 129, 194–195, 199–200, 203, 206 noema, 246–247, 261n63 nomos, 156, 158, 160, 162–163, 168n43 Numa Pompilius, 54, 57

Machiavelli, Niccolò, 45–64, 65n Mack, Burton L., 140, 143n34 Madison, James, 64, 67n60 Malraux, André, 171, 186n1 martyrdom, 3 Marx, Karl, 46, 94n18, 127, 141, 260n48 marxism, 71, 73, 171–172 materialism, dialectical, 174–175 Maximinus Thrax (Maximinus I), 53 méconnaissance (misrecognition), 69, 74, 84, 87, 89, 91n2, 185 memory, internal (biological), 80; external (technological), 80–81, 245, 248–251 metabasis, 13–20, 24n38 mimesis, 9–12, 18–22, 49, 77, 81–82, 89, 97n35, 100n51, 101n54, 101n62, 101n64, 127, 147, 171, 177–178, 180, 210n57, 219–220, 232, 242, 244, 246–247, 249, 251, 253, 255, 259n38; acquisitive, 22; and contagion, 9, 38, 77, 90, 127, 214, 238–239, 252–253, 255; mimetic cycle, 28, 31, 38, 123n3, 226, 261n68; mimetic desire, 47, 60, 130, 156–157, 164n3, 252 mimetic culture, 79–81, 100n48 modernity, crisis of, 2, 59, 63; Girard’s interpretation of, 86, 155, 189–192, 195–196, 198, 200–201, 206, 210n57; as historical category, 47, 103n76, 132, 135; Schmitt’s interpretation of, 155, 158, 206; Stiegler’s interpretation of, 254; Vattimo’s interpretation of, 192, 198, 243 Moles, John, 17, 25n40, 25n43 Montmollin, Daniel de, 17, 24n38 Morphology of the Folktale (Vladimir J. Propp), 228 Moses, 50, 57 Mouffe, Chantal, 60, 66n55

Oedipus, 14, 38, 49, 258n21 On the Prescription against Heretics (Tertullian), 27, 42n1 ontology, Agamben’s notion of, 218, 221, 224, 226–232; Girard’s notion of, 218, 221, 224, 226–227; Sartre’s notion of, 175; social, 215; Vattimo’s notion of, 194 Orco, Remirro de, 54 Palaver, Wolfgang, 66n45, 128, 134–135, 141n2, 142n21, 163–164n2, 205–206, 211n76, 259n35 parousia, 156, 206 Pascal, Blaise, 30–31, 115, 125n26 Paul, Saint, 29–30, 136–139, 167, 202–203 Perception-Action Model (PAM ), 77 peripeteia, 13–14 pharmakon, 61, 110, 123, 129, 244–245, 250, 256, 258n27 Pinker, Steven, 92n7, 97n32, 201, 210n55 plan de clivage, 217 Plato, 9–10, 20, 82, 91n5, 107, 129, 244, 248–249, 259n42 Plato’s Pharmacy (Jacques Derrida), 250, 260n56 pluralization, 197 Pocock, John, 47, 65n9 polarization, 195, 206, 252 political theology, 6, 41–42, 132–136, 138, 140, 163n2 post-modernity, 189, 192–193, 195, 197, 237–244, 254–256 post-secular societies, 8n16, 141n4, 189, 207n5, 211n82 Prometheus, 244–246, 248, 258n30, 259n42 Propp, Vladimir Jakovlevič, 228 Protagoras (Plato), 244, 248, 259n42 Proust, Marcel, 132, 250

Index referentiality, 238–243, 246–247 Remus, 45, 49 resacralization, 193, 195 res cogitans, 240 res extensa, 240 ressentiment, 197 Ricoeur, Paul, 245, 258n33 Romulus, 45, 49–51, 57 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 71, 92n8, 93n11, 93n16, 94n18; notion of human nature, 71, 146–147 Russian-doll model of empathy, 77–78, 97n36 sacred, and profane, 213–215, 221, 230; ambiguity of, 128, 137, 214–215, 220–221, 224; contagion, 214; violence, 4–5, 55, 69, 81, 83–85, 87, 89, 105n93, 137, 159, 189, 220 sacrifice, 1–6, 8n8, 26n57, 32, 34–36, 40, 48–49, 55–58, 62–63, 83–86, 88, 101n62, 102n67, 102n73, 128–129, 132–133, 135, 137, 150, 158–159, 161–162, 164n2, 185, 191, 193, 201, 219–223, 225, 232, 255, 257n16; and immolation, 3–4, 193, 219; politics of, 2–6 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 132, 171–181, 183–186, 187n10, 187n12, 187n15–21, 239–240, 257n12 Sasso, Gennaro, 46, 57, 64n7, 65n47 Savonarola, Girolamo, 52 scapegoat, 6, 51, 55–57, 60, 62–63, 98n40, 250, 253; scapegoat mechanism, 4, 27, 47–49, 55, 59, 73–74, 91n2, 108–110, 114–117, 122, 123–124n3, 128–129, 134, 136, 150–155, 157–159, 161, 164n3, 191–193, 201, 222 Schmitt, Carl, 2–6, 8n7, 8n10, 8n14, 128, 132–136, 142n20, 145–163, 163n1, 163n2, 164n2–3, 164n5, 164n10, 165n11–13, 165n17–18, 166n18–19, 166n23–27, 167n28–30, 167n33–43, 167n36, 167n38, 168n42–43, 205–206, 211n79, 218, 234n23; friend-enemy distinction, 134, 168n43; view of human nature, 146–147 Scipio Africanus, 56–57 Scott, Peter, 129, 141n6 Second Coming, 116, 156

267

secularization theory, 127, 154, 165–166n18, 189, 191–198, 200–201, 204, 228, 254, 258n25 self-divinization, 195 self-immolation, 1, 3–4 self-referentiality, 243, 247, 252–253, 255–256 self-transcendence, 107–111, 113–114, 117, 123 Sennett, Richard, 239, 257n9, 260n49 Serres, Michel, 124n4, 211n74, 205 Severus, Septimius, 53–54 Shakespeare, William, 139, 250 Shaw, George Bernard, 13, 23n24 Skinner, Quentin, 47, 53, 65n9, 66n34 Simondon, Gilbert, 248, 259n43 Sloterdijk, Peter, 238–239, 256n7 social contract theory, 2, 71–72, 134, 136, 168n43, 183–184 Socrates, 249 Söffing, Werner, 17, 25n46 Sophocles, 23n19 sovereignty, 2–6, 72, 128–129, 133–134, 156–158 Spinoza, Baruch, 107, 111–114, 117–118, 120, 122–123, 124n12, 124n15, 124n17, 125n24, 125n31, 125n34, 237; theory of democracy, 111–114; doctrine of law, 112–113 Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle), 246–247, 250, 252 Stiegler, Bernard, 238, 244–245, 248, 250–251, 254–256, 258n27–28, 259n44, 260n48, 260n57, 261n59; on technology, 244–245, 250–251, 259n44–45, 260n48 Stinton, Thomas C. W., 17, 25n41, 26n51 Strauss, Leo, 46, 64n5 Summa theologiae (Thomas Aquinas), 30, 40, 43n4 Teichmüller, Gustav, 17, 24n38 terror, 9, 11–13, 15, 19, 21, 24n35, 53–54, 56–57, 59, 182–184; war on, 62 terrorism, 59, 117, 131, 135, 168 tertiary retention, 245, 248–250, 255, 260n47, 261n58 Tertullian, 27, 42n1, 104n77 Thamus, 250

268

Index

The Art of War (Niccolò Machiavelli), 61 The City of God (Augustine), 93n12, 132–133, 135, 142n16 The Concept of the Political (Carl Schmitt), 134, 155, 164n3, 165n11, 166n19, 166n23, 167n30, 168n42 The Eumenides (Aeschylus), 128 The Gay Science (Friedrich Nietzsche), 191, 209n28 The Prince (Niccolò Machiavelli), 46, 49–50, 52–53, 55, 57, 60–61, 65n15, 66n32, 66n49 The Scapegoat (René Girard), 102n71, 102n73, 166n21, 189 The Social Contract (Jean-Jacques Rousseau), 71, 92n8 The Theory of the Partisan (Carl Schmitt), 149, 164n10, 165n13 Theseus, 50, 57 theoretic culture, 80, 82, 85 Theut, 250 Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World (René Girard), 9, 21n1, 44n41, 65n13, 95n24, 164n6, 177, 187n14, 189, 191, 209n25, 234n26, 257n14 Thyestes, 13 time consciousness, 245 Torquatus, Titus Manlius, 57 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (Baruch Spinoza), 111–113, 124n15, 124n17–18 Tracy, David, 130, 142n9 tragedy, 11, 22n15, 41, 113, 200; Aristotle’s theory of, 13–15, 17–20, 26n51, 26n57; Greek, 23n19–22, 25n41, 25n50, 26n51, 26n57, 128; violence in, 12–13, 16, 21, 24n35 Traité d’histoire des religions (Mircea Eliade), 215 undifferentiation, 48, 109, 122, 133–134, 149, 160, 162, 195, 203, 206, 238–240, 247, 251, 254–255 Vahlen, Johannes, 17, 24n38 Valori, Francesco, 56 Vattimo, Gianni, 6, 47, 189–206, 207n1–2, 207n4, 207n6, 208n12–13, 208n16–19, 209n27, 209n30, 209n32, 209n34,

209n39, 209n41–42, 209n47, 209n49, 210n53, 211n62, 211n64, 211n68, 211n80, 211n82, 238, 241–243, 255–256, 256n3–4, 257n18–19, 258n20, 258n22–23, 258n26 vengeance, 5, 28, 32, 35, 41, 84, 161–162, 197, 200, 220; and reciprocity, 74, 76, 83, 85–87, 94n17, 95n24, 95n25, 98n40, 102n70, 117, 122, 124n8, 149, 159, 177–179 victimage mechanism, 4, 12, 18, 28, 31, 34, 38, 44n41, 44n43, 49, 69–70, 73–74, 84–85, 87, 91n3, 100n49, 102n67, 102n70, 102n73, 103n74, 104n81, 105n94, 108–110, 114–118, 120–123, 128, 141, 147–148, 152–153, 155–157, 159–161, 165n14, 191–193, 199–200, 203, 205, 219–220, 238, 243, 247, 251–252 Violence and the Sacred (René Girard), 10, 18, 21n4, 25n49, 25n50, 32, 34, 41, 43n12, 45n45, 65n14, 67n59, 91n3, 98n29, 102n74, 103n75, 128, 140, 141n3, 150, 164n8, 165n15, 166n20, 166n22, 168n45, 171, 186n2, 187n13, 189 Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro), 51 Viroli, Maurizio, 47, 57–58, 65n9, 65n10, 66n47, 66n51 Vries, Hent de, 8n16, 103n76, 129, 141n4–5 Waal, Frans de, 69, 75–78, 83–84, 90n1, 92n10, 96n31, 97n31, 97n35–37, 98n38–41, 99n42, 101n66, 102n68 warfare, 59, 59, 128, 135–136, 148–149, 165n17, 168n43 Weber, Max, 191, 233, 235n50, 233n52 White, Stephen A., 18, 25n47 White, Stephen K., 198, 209n43 Williams, Rowan, 135, 140, 142n22, 143n37 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 218, 234n24 Wydra, Harald, 7n4, 45, 55, 64n3, 65n12, 66n37, 66n40 Yeh, Emily T., 3, 8n9 Zeus, 244 Žižek, Slavoj, 103n76, 136, 141n6, 203, 210n59