I highly suggest consuming the full piece here (14 min. read time)
“Girard presents a model of human conflict that is Shakespearean, not Marxist. That is, he thinks that people are not engaged in class struggle, in which proletarians unite against the bourgeoisie; instead, people reserve horror and resentment for people most like themselves.” — Dan Wang
“The closer we are to other people—Girard means this in multiple dimensions—the more intensely that mimetic contagion will spread. Alternatively, competition is fiercer the more that competitors resemble each other. When we’re not so different from people around us, it’s irresistible to become obsessed about beating others.” — Dan Wang
Dan believes René Girard’s predictions of where a mimetic crisis would run the most rampant is on American college campuses. Why?
- Almost everyone starts undergrad in the same way: graduate high school at 18, nobody really has a clear sense of which career path they’ll take, and most people join clubs, sports teams, greek life, etc. to figure it out.
- “The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.” — Dan Wang
“The lack of external mediation explains why objects of desire on campus can be seen to have such high worth. And why certain leadership positions on campus are heavily fought over, even though they don’t seem to have much influence.” — Dan Wang
“…when I attended a German university, students told me that German 18-year-olds don’t usually go directly to university after high school. Instead, they take a year off to travel, work, or volunteer. These experiences create difference and maturity, thus better inoculating people against mimetic contagion.” — Dan Wang
“America’s greatest feature is that it allows people to embrace mimesis or free themselves from it. Society allows people of both types to thrive. It’s not like in other countries, where people are forced to socialize in certain ways or find it too easy to extricate themselves from society.” — Dan Wang
“Meanwhile, those who are susceptible to mimesis can be excellent learners too. They’re better able to pick up social cues than anyone else, and they have a greater capacity to please. Mimetic ability manifests in “conscientiousness,” such a popular trait these days. They have a clearer sense of who successful models are, and they have the greatest eagerness to learn from them.” — Dan Wang
“…the key to success is to be aware of one’s tendencies, either to be very mimetic or not at all…It’s possible that the greatest amount of learning comes as a result of fluctuating between these extremes.” — Dan Wang
My two cents: Yeesh, what an interesting article. I first came across René Girard and his summarized thoughts on mimetic theory in last week’s curation here. I fully agree with the last quote above. Awareness is the most important aspect. This piece was recommended by a thoughtful friend and subscriber. If you come across any valuable pieces of content, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email or add the link to our subreddit here.
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