Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire

Written by: Luke Burgis
Book Summary

The philosopher and theologian Rene Girard discovered that most of our desires are mimetic or imitative and not internal and this imitation usually leaves us feeling unfulfilled.
Rene Girard also saw that humans have a way of protecting themselves in a mimetic crisis: they converge and direct their desires to a single fixed point, a proxy for all of their enemies — a scapegoat.
Discovering and developing thick desires protect us against the cheap, shallow and highly mimetic thin desires.

How I Discovered It

I discovered this book from a recommendation in the Supercharge Your Productivity Slack group where there was a discussion about goal setting going on and how mimetic desires can leave us blind in the goal setting process.

How the Book Changed Me

This book helped me to realize where some of my desires come from (especially desires around money, internet fame, etc.)

Top 3 Quotes
  1. “Girard believed that all true desire—the post-instinctual kind—is metaphysical. People are always in search of something that goes beyond the material world. If someone falls under the influence of a model who mediates the desire for a handbag, it’s not the handbag they are after.”
  2. “Social media platforms thrive on mimesis. Twitter encourages and measures imitation by showing how many times each post has been retweeted. People are more likely to use Facebook the more they are engaged with mimetic models, rivals whose posts they can track and comment on.”
  3. “Thick desires are like diamonds that have been formed deep beneath the surface, nearer to the core of the Earth.”