Peter Thiel: Social Contract vs Scapegoating

if you go to the anthropological
myth of the Enlightenment it’s the myth
of the social contract so what happens
when everybody is that everybody’s
else’s throat what the Enlightenment
says is everybody in the middle of the
crisis sits down and has a nice legal
chat and draws up a social contract and
that’s maybe maybe that’s the founding
myth the central lie of the
Enlightenment if you will and what
Girard says something very different
must have happened and when everybody’s
at everybody’s throat the violence
doesn’t just resolve itself and maybe it
gets channeled against a a specific
scapegoat where the war of all against
all becomes a war can of all against one
and then somehow gets resolved but in a
in a very violent way and so I think you
know what what Girard and Schmidt or
Machiavelli or you know the
judeo-christian inspiration all have in
common is this idea that human nature is
problematic its violent it’s um you know
it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s not
straightforward at all what what you do
with this on it’s not sort of simply
utopian or where we can say that
everybody’s not fundamentally good where
someone like Gerard and Schmidt very
much disagree is that Gerard believes
that once you describe this it has this
dissolving effect so scapegoating
violence only works if you don’t
understand what you’re doing and so if
we say well we have we have a crisis in
our village and we’re gonna have a
so that everybody can you know get out
all their negative energy and you know
will target this one elderly woman that
only works if you don’t think of it as a
fake psychosocial thing right once you
think of it in those terms it stops to
work and so there’s sort of a there is
the sense of late modernity where this
unraveling has been for Girard an
ambiguous thing
it’s both a bad thing because they’re
these cultural institutions that were
the only way we had ever had of working
and they’re there unraveling

but it’s also inevitable we can’t
somehow put the genie back into the


Mimetic Desire: A Valuable Theory

You don’t have to believe in everything Peter Thiel says to take interest in René Girard’s mimetic theory, which argues that what we desire what we percieve others desire.

Mimetic Desire in Children

If 3 three-year-olds are in a room full of toys and one child grabs a toy, which toy do the other 2 children want?

The Answer: the toy the first child grabbed.

Why: They want it because the first child wants it.

This obviously leads to conflict, so there must be something more going on.

Girard’s answer is that we unconsciously redirect our conflicts to an external scapegoat, who distracts us from our immediate conflicts.


About René Girard: