All desire is a desire for being


René Girard eludes easy categories, bridging the fields of literary criticism, anthropology, sociology, history, religion and theology. Influencing such writers as J. M. Coetzee and Milan Kundera, his insight into contagious violence looks ever more prophetic and relevant seven years after his death. In many ways he is the thinker for our modern world of social media and herd behaviour. Cynthia L. Haven has created an approachable anthology of his work, addressing Girard’s thoughts on the nature of desire, human imitation and rivalry, the causes of conflict and violence, the deep structure of religion and cultural subjects like opera and theatre. Girard spoke to his times in language that was engaging, accessible and often controversial. A long-time friend and colleague, Haven shines a spotlight on his role as a public intellectual and profound theorist, inviting a new generation to his corpus.

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SKU: 9780241543238 Category: Tags: , , , , , Publisher/imprint : Penguin Classics
Page count : 352
Published on 29th June, 2023


A new selection of foundational works from the influential philosopher who developed the theory of mimetic desire

Why do humans have such a remarkable capacity for conflict? From ancient foundational myths to the modern era, the visionary thinker Rene Girard identified the constant, competing desires at the heart of our existence – desires that we copy from others, igniting a contagious violence. This remarkable and accessible new selection of Girard’s work shows him as a writer for our times, as he ranges over human imitation and rivalry, herd behaviour, scapegoating and how our violent longings play out in stories, from Shakespeare to religion.

‘The explosion of social media, the resurgence of populism, and the increasing virulence of reciprocal violence all suggest that the contemporary world is becoming more and more recognizably “Girardian” in its behaviour’ The New York Review of Books

Edited with an Introduction by Cynthia L. Haven

Additional information

Weight 0.24 kg
Dimensions 19.6 × 12.8 × 2.6 cm