Desire for Power or the Power of Desire? Mimetic Theory and the Heart of 20th Century Realism
Journal of International Political Theory, vol. 11, no. 1, 2015
17 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2015
Date Written: October 8, 2014
For René Girard, mimetic rivalry is the main cause of violence. Mimetic theory addresses a fundamental problem of international relations theory: the problem of anarchy as it is outlined in basic texts of Realism, also acknowledging the conflicting potential of desire. The paper argues for deepening the discussion between the mimetic theory of the French philosopher, anthropologist, and literary theorist Girard and the tradition of 20th century Realism as exemplified by Hans Morgenthau, who frequently stressed in his concept of “the political” the importance of the human desire for power. For Girard, the problem of conflicting desire is solved by the scapegoat mechanism, the canalization of mimetic violence. Nevertheless, international relations theory reveals that identity is formed prior to the construction of the Other. I argue that Girard’s insights can enrich thinking about the terms Self, Other, and identity, particularly in the 20th century Realist tradition. Ultimately, this leads to the proposition that appreciating Girard’s thoughts helps make implicit claims and assumptions of Realism, particularly regarding violence and sub-state issues, more explicit.
Keywords: Anthropology, Hans Morgenthau, mimetic theory, Realism, René Girard
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