March 5, 2010

girard on mimetic rivalry

“If the appropriative gesture of an individual named A is rooted in the imitation of an individual named B, it means that A and B must reach together for one and the same object.  They become rivals for that object.  If the tendency to imitate appropriation is present on both sides, imitative rivalry must tend to become reciprocal; it must be subject to the back and forth reinforcement that communication theorists call a positive feedback.  In other words, the individual who first acts as a model will experience an increase in his own appropriative urge when he finds himself thwarted by his imitator…” (Rene Girard, “Mimesis and violence: Perspectives in Cultural Criticism,” in The Girard Reader, 9)

Objects are not limited to physical items like money or cars, they can include more intangible objects like self-confidence, popularity, social standing.

Glossary Definition:

“Strictly speaking, if a model is a person in our immediate life setting (parent, authority figure, peer), then he or she is always potentially a rival.  Likewise, a rival in this same immediate setting is always basically a model, although this may not be apparent to the subject.  The model-rival is associated with an object of desire which the subject wants to obtain, but the important thing is not as much the object as the defeat of the model-rival.  Continually putting oneself in situations of rivalry may be exhilarating if one is winning, but losing may lead to extreme depression.  The situation becomes crisis if the person is entrapped in a model-obstacle relationship.” James G. Williams, The Girard Reader, 291)

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