Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Thinking with René Girard
Polarized Readings of Rene Girard
Utilizing Girardian Thought to Break a Theological and Philosophical Impasse
René Girard’s work often seems suspect to liberals, because it appears as a totalizing narrative. Such hesitancy with respect to either dismissing or endorsing it follows from the demise of “grand narratives” that brought with them imperialistic and hegemonic tendencies. Yet if a liberal viewpoint does not embrace Girard, it is for different reasons that conservatives are either fully supportive of his thought as promising a return to religious values or hesitant about accepting his theories because they critique a form of violence inherent to any community. Girardian thought, it can be argued, has focused on deconstructing mythological justifications for violent activity at the expense of establishing a fruitful position regarding positive communal formations. The tensions between these juxtaposed liberal and conservative viewpoints, as taken up in this article, illustrate an impasse between deconstructivist-genealogists (representing trends within liberal discourse) and communitarians (representing conservative or orthodox viewpoints)—one that shows up in a variety of contexts today. Highlighting this particular standoff in interpretations of Girard can, nevertheless, yield important insights regarding the ultimate significance of his work.