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The Scapegoat [Kindle Edition]

René Girard , Yvonne Freccero
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Girard, professor of French language, literature, and civilization at Stanford, builds on his notable previous anthropological and literary examinations of myth and ritual in human society. Here he applies his appraisals of Freud and Levi-Strauss to demonstrate how religion functions to keep violence outside society by deflecting it onto a scapegoat whose sacrifice restores the social order. Using a rich variety of resources from Greek to biblical, primitive to modern, he cites the Gospel Passion as a myth with the power to break the evil of collective violence and the corporate murder it conceals. Girard's use of structuralism to analyze biblical texts will stir much discussion, and the book as a whole is bound to be considered provocative by specialists


Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Girard, professor of French language, literature, and civilization at Stanford, builds on his notable previous anthropological and literary examinations of myth and ritual in human society. Here he applies his appraisals of Freud and Levi-Strauss to demonstrate how religion functions to keep violence outside society by deflecting it onto a scapegoat whose sacrifice restores the social order. Using a rich variety of resources from Greek to biblical, primitive to modern, he cites the Gospel Passion as a myth with the power to break the evil of collective violence and the corporate murder it conceals. Girard's use of structuralism to analyze biblical texts will stir much discussion, and the book as a whole is bound to be considered provocative by specialists. Murray L. Wagner, Bethany Theological Seminary, Oakbrook, Ill.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

[Girard's] methods of extrapolating to find cultural history behind myths, and of reading hidden verification through silence, are worthy enrichments of the critic's arsenal.

(John Yoder Religion and Literature)

Product Details

  • File Size: 400 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0801839173
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (January 8, 1989)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003TO5LF8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,174 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
(12)
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and important book December 28, 2000
Format:Paperback
This is seminal book of Girard's. In his investigation of myth he uncovers what he calls the scapegoat-mechanism, the tendency of society to collectively transfer guilt onto a sacrificial victim.
An introductory chapter on fourteenth century European anti-semitism leads into a discussion of various myths from around the world, all "texts of persecution." Girard's thesis, that basically all founding myths feature the sacrifice of an innocent victim, proceeds in good structuralist fashion: these tendencies are an innate part of human nature.
But he doesn't stop there. Taking a somewhat eschatological stance, midway through the book he continues to tackle what he calls the ultimate uncovering of the scapegoat mechanism: the death of Christ. His argument is, roughly, that Christ in his words and deeds, and finally in his self-sacrifice, demonstrates how he understands this inborn but not irredeemable human characteristic. The rest of human history thus unfolds towards a greater understanding (and Girard's work is part of this) of the irrationality of sacrifice--slowly we start to fulfill the promise of our humanity, and work towards a society in which no sacrifice will have to be made.
The most gripping chapter for me is that on Peter's betrayal. This is a truly remarkable reading of the wellknown biblical narrative, a reading that simultaneously redeems Peter (somewhat) and condemns all of humanity. Jesus, the ultimate innocent victim, understood this, as does Girard: if Peter fails, we all fail.
Since I am not a student of myth I feel I can't comment on Girard's reading of myths, most of which I hadn't heard of before, but it certainly sounds convincing. Especially his reading of the bible makes this book worthwhile to students of language, literature, social sciences, and morality.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rough Path Through an Extraordinary Landscape. March 18, 2002
Format:Audio Cassette
Rene Girard proposes to change how we think about religion and history. To do so, he takes us through history, mythology, and the New Testament, pointing out facts we may not have noticed about group violence and how it justifies itself, and the way Jesus "subverts the dominant paradigm," as they say. Like a geologist pointing to a piece of land we have walked across since childhood, and explaining Plate Tectonics and the volcanic origins of familiar landmarks, the ground seems to shift under our feet as we look at familiar facts from these new points of view.
No doubt Girard gets carried away, and tries to explain too much. Simplicity is the curse of great intellects -- Marx thought love of money was the root of all motivation, Freud over-emphasized sex, and Ernest Becker proposed to explain all human neurosis in terms of fear of death. Similarly, Girard claims: "All human language, and other cultural institutions, in fact, originated in collective murder." All?
Perhaps Girard is mocking the positivists with his method. He gives a paltry handful of examples, links them together in the most tenuous way, and tells us he's "proven" the enormous sweep of his claims. I sympathize with the minimilist approach from an artistic standpoint, but I'm going to have to think through the data for a while to see if it really fits. Based on what I know of Chinese history, for example, I think the theory Girard gives in this book may have definite explanatory value. Last emperors of prior dynasties are usually depicted as villains, and the founders of new dynasties, who generally have blood on their hands, are justified, as part of Girard's theory predicts. But I doubt even his full theory will fit everything.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling insights into religioius & social practices December 11, 2008
Format:Paperback
This is an ambitious work. Girard tries simultaneously to demystify religious rituals and myths, take down some of the political correctness in ethnological study, and provide hope for freedom from collective violence through the message of the Gospels. I appreciate his deep insight into reading the 'texts' of myth and ritual through cultural and psychological imperatives. Society is stabilised by controlled violence, it can't be denied. He does tend to over-apply his theory, though, and makes it seem as though he believes that the entire world of religious thought and practice is rooted in collective violence, which is simplistic. Also, his readings of the Gospels, while perceptive and challenging, seem to lack a wider theological insight.
This is the book that the 'God Delusion' should have been and wasn't. Read it and be continually looking at your own life for the scapegoats you and your social groups use.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best introduction to Girard's work November 12, 2009
Format:Paperback
Girard takes a different starting point than his other books, a mid-fourteenth century "text of persecution," to unravel his theory of myths and then to show how biblical texts demythologize the mythical viewpoint; roughly, one-half theory of myth and one-half biblical commentary. This is the book by Girard that I would recommend as best for an introduction. I think that it gives the best entry into his work as a scientific anthropology and then makes the transition to many of his most important biblical insights.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the Scapegoat, Girard further expounds on his thesis developed in Violence and the Sacred that religion, culture, and violence are inextricably linked. In the Scapegoat Girard demonstrates how underlying all myths are stories of persecution and collective violence. We were not able to unlock these texts until recently because we have successfully learned to interpret historic persecution texts, deciphering truth from lie. When the same structural analysis is used to looks at myths, as is used to interpret historic persecutions texts, we come across a startling revelation. Taken further, Girard shows how collective persecution and what he called the mimetic theory of desire are related to Christianity and the ground shattering event - Jesus' death and resurrection. This is a must read for historians, anthropologist, theologians, and any lay person who wants to better understand Christianity's importance to the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
very good condition
Published 4 days ago by Zaharoyla Alexandri
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
I liked that this book is comprehensive and thorough. It changed my theology and the way I view violence, religion, and mythology. Highly recommended.
Published 1 month ago by Eric Fisk
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a powerful book that gets at the core of violence in our...
This is a powerful book that gets at the core of violence in our society. There are many whacking at the branches of evil, but few chopping at the root. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amos Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than Girard's earlier books, but still difficult to read
As I continue to research and write about the violence of God in the Old Testament, a reader of my blog told me to read Girard. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeremy Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Mimesis, monsters and myths
I highly recommend all of René Girard's work. His theory of Mimesis and the Scapegoat Mechanism must become fundamental to our understanding of humanity.
Published 5 months ago by John Ruffin
4.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking work but...
This is an interesting work and the first Girard book I've read. I am more familiar with Kenneth Burke's scapegoating mechanism. Read more
Published 13 months ago by LBC
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for thinking deeply!
The Scapegoat is not light reading. I have to think deeply to appreciate what Girard has put together in his anthropology and in his books, including The Scapegoat. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Dennis Drews
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