Vengeance and the Gift

Contribution to The Palgrave Handbook of Mimetic Theory and Religion


The threat of vengeance is the ever-present backdrop to the mimetic theory of religion. In an old Vedic ritual, the sacrificers of a sheep beseech its ovine kin not to avenge it. René Girard suggests that such allusions to the danger of vengeance obliquely designate the type of action for which sacrifice is a substitute...

Lulubo warrior charging (Sudan)

Scapegoat Kings

Foreword to Kings of Disaster


Who is the king of this disaster? That is the question the Lulubo ask whenever a calamity of some kind strikes the village. It could be an invasion of locusts, an outbreak of contagious disease, or a string of attacks on livestock by lions or leopards. Whatever the nature of the misfortune, people want to know who is responsible. The "king" of the disaster is the individual who will be blamed...

Desired Possessions

Karl Polany, René Girard, and the Critique of the Market Economy

Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture


"The most radical critique of liberal capitalism ever": that is how Louis Dumont describes The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi's classic work on the rise of the market system. Yet Polanyi's approach is ultimately less radical than René Girard's...


Freud and Jung

Mimetic Rivals



What drove Freud and Jung apart was the same thing that had drawn them together: Jung’s worshipful emulation of the master, which concealed a fateful urge to take his place. Jung would have liked to be the father of psychoanalysis himself. Freud had thwarted him by getting there first...

Freud, Judge of Sigmund

Narcissism and the Varieties of Self-Love in Rousseau

Revue du MAUSS


The keystone of Freud's social theory is an improbably asocial individual: the leader. Freud confronts the same logical paradoxes in building his system as the author of The Social Contract and Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques...