Conceptualising a non-violent practice to mimetic, rivalrous, violence
“If the fundamental reason for violence were in objects, then good social, economic, and political organization of the world would suffice to eliminate violence: as soon as you say that the true reason is not in objects, that they are merely pretexts, does it not make us despair a little?” asked Dumouchel (2014, p.156). To answer this question, this paper argues, violence should be conceptualized as a mimetic phenomenon, whose best, or rather, worst expression is rivalry. From the early 1990s, despite scholars’ growing interest in rivalries (Azar, 1990; Kriesberg, 1993; Burton, 1990; Goertz and Diehl, 1993), they seem to have failed their main goal: ending the atypical violence of intractability of rivalries, such as the case of Northern Ireland and the Palestinian territories. This paper argues that past approaches have been unable to transcend intractable violence because of their flawed explanation of violence and, thus, rivalry. Rivalry is not scarcity-based, nor violence rooted in objects. Therefore, this paper offers an alternative theoretical framework based on the concept of mimetic violence and mimetic rivalry. It is based on an interdisciplinary approach informed by Agamben’s Theory of Signature (2009), Leon Festinger’s Theory of Social Comparison (1954), and René Girard’s Theory of Mimetic Desire (2003). Mimetic violence has no origin. It emerges out of a complex relational process, characterized by mimetic emulation, high negative reciprocity, and competition by comparison. Eventually, in its worst expression, rivalry, it leads resentful actors to sleep-walking into a locked-in relationship of mistrust, enmity, and identity polarization. The question, then, becomes: how can we envision a nonviolent mimetic practice able to deconstruct and disrupt mimetic violence and rivalry?