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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 1, Issue 2, 2013

Special Issue on René Girard

Stephen L. Gardner
Pages 234-254
DOI: 10.5840/jrv20131214

Modernity as Revelation

The notion of apocalypse is the unifying architecture of Rene Girard’s theory of history. The terrible paradox that motivates Girard is the inner affinity between Apocalypse and Enlightenment, progress and the disintegration of stable order, revelation and violence. In this essay, I look at three dimensions of Girard’s vision of the “end of history”: The first is the rise of “victimology” and its idioms in Western culture (and now their globalization) since the end of World War II, signaling the collapse of Western ethics through their own truth. The second is Girard’s image of the end of history in terms of the “return of the archaic,” a relapse into the chaos of the evolutionary beginnings of the human at the summit of cultural achievement. As moral distinctions crumble, the polarities of political life become more brittle and violent. And the last is to indicate (however sketchily) Girard’s relation to a modern tradition of apocalyptic thought that includes Pascal and Rousseau, Marx and Sartre, and Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. As with his recent appropriation of Carl von Clausewitz, he aims both to finish and to finish off this tradition by bringing it back to its Christian underpinnings.

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