Mimetic Politics

Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics

Roberto Farneti
SERIES EDITOR William A. Johnsen
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/j.ctt14bs0rm
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  • Book Info
    Mimetic Politics
    Book Description:

    War, violence, and the disruption of social orders are critical areas of focus in mimetic theory, and a mimetic perspective applied to the study of politics illuminates social processes and phenomena over and beyond typical explanations offered by mainstream political science. Unlike traditional political science ontology, the mimetic perspective highlights neither individuals nor groups, but "doubles," or "mimetic twins." According to this perspective, in order to grasp the fundamental rationales of political processes, we need to concentrate on the distinctive propensity of either individuals or groups to engage in mimetic contests resulting from their unreflective disposition to imitate each other's desire. This disposition has been strikingly described by the French-American anthropologist Rene Girard: "Once his basic needs are satisfied (indeed sometimes even before), man is subject to intense desires, though he may not know precisely for what." Via mimetic theory, Farneti highlights phenomena that political scientists have consistently failed to notice, such as reciprocal imitation as the fundamental cause of human discord, the mechanisms of spontaneous polarization in human conflicts (i.e., the emergence of dyads or "doubles"), and the strange and ever-growing resemblance of the mimetic rivals, which is precisely what pushes them to annihilate each other.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-445-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    In 1985 New York artist Jenny Holzer rented a Times Square billboard normally reserved for commercial use. She illuminated it with six words—“Protect me from what I want.” The phrase—which Holzer describes as “an all-purpose admonition to self and others”—encapsulates perfectly the ambivalence about commodity culture felt by many during the 1980s.¹

    The gigantic billboard in Times Square attracted the attention of Slavoj Žižek, who argued that the truism pointed “towards the fact that in today’s patriarchal society, woman’s desire is radically alienated, that she desires what men expect her to desire, that she desires to be...

  4. CHAPTER 1 A New (Mimetic) Paradigm for Our Postsacrificial Times
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book contends that the analyses and predictions of political science are biased by a series ofanthropologicalpresuppositions. The book follows a clue from René Girard, that “we have entered an era in which anthropology will become a more suitable tool than political science.”¹ The book, though, doesn’t aim to replace political science—its methods and mores—with anthropology. Rather, the purpose of the book is to provide the study of politics with a different perspective, and see whether thenewfield of interest that may result from this change in perspective could be more sensitive and perceptive to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Mimetic Context of the “New Wars”
    (pp. 27-48)

    According to a widely accepted view the principal characteristic of twenty-first-century international relations is “nonpolarity.” New conflicts and emergencies are explained by appealing to the collapse of bipolarity and the attendant mobilization of multiple actors: “a world dominated not by one or two or even several states but rather by dozens of actors possessing and exercising various kinds of power.”¹ Deterritorialized warfare (e.g., civil conflicts and insurgencies that spill across national boundaries, blurring the distinction between “internal” and “external” in international relations) is seen as an “aggressive response to the depolarization of the post–Cold War period,” now made chronic...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Cleavage Lines in Global Politics
    (pp. 49-72)

    This chapter revisits the “heuristic value of the left-right dichotomy” for understanding global politics and brings mimetic theory to bear on left and right as “mimetic opposites.” The chapter explores the impact of the mimetic antagonism illustrated in chapter 2 on the political discourse and processes of Western democracies. It argues that the Israeli-Palestinian schism reverberates at the global level and affects both the democratic processes of Western nations and the political orientation of what Alain Noël and Jean-Philippe Thérien call the “world public sphere.” So this chapter explores the spilling-over ofrealconflicts into the political discourse and processes...

  7. CHAPTER 4 A Mimetic Perspective on Conflict Resolution
    (pp. 73-98)

    When democratic politics fails to do its job correctly (that is, to embed social conflicts in normal democratic procedures), mimetic confrontations may exceed the bounds of a normal democratic contest and escalate into explosive crises. International actors obey the same logic: when they operate in contexts in which democratic norms of conflict resolution are absent, they may resort to war to settle their disputes.

    Current theories of international justice and conflict resolution rest on the assumption (supported by the late John Rawls) that peoples of genuinely democratic and liberal societies “have nothing to go to war about.” This chapter seeks...

  8. CHAPTER 5 A Political Theology of the Empty Tomb
    (pp. 99-120)

    The distinguishing features of mimetic politics—reciprocal imitation as the cause of human discord, spontaneous polarization, and the ever-growing resemblance of the rivals—emerge typically at the crossroad between religion and politics. The forces of religion and politics have most resoundingly clashed in the twentieth century, and the emergence of religious terrorism in recent years has strengthened dynamics of polarization at the global level.

    This chapter acknowledges the limits of Girard’s theory and offers a new perspective on the current reemergence ofreligiousconflicts. It engages critically in particular with one aspect of Girard’s theory, his understanding of the “Kingdom...

  9. EPILOGUE. A Genealogy of “Planetary Reciprocity”
    (pp. 121-138)

    My aim in this book was not to propose a general theory of globalization from a mimetic standpoint, or to repair, or depart from, existing variants of mimetic theory. Other writers (notably Giuseppe Fornari) have tried to restructure mimetic theory from within, to show that its theoretical potential is held back by its confinement within the bounds of the Girardian scholastic. My goal was different, for I have tried to use the mimetic approach less as a comprehensive and eponymous theory than as a particular perspective on things.

    What I saw from this remarkable viewpoint, as I pointed out in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 139-162)
  11. References
    (pp. 163-172)
  12. Index
    (pp. 173-177)