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The Scapegoat Paperback – August 1, 1989
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
[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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Girard is a little hard to follow since his first language is French and he tends to construct his sentences on French grammar rules. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Paul Moore
Rene Girard's treatise on the process of scapegoating is fascinating. He traces the roots of scapegoating to ancient human history. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Robert N Welnick
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 19 months ago by Eric Fisk
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 morePublished 20 months ago by Amos Smith
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 morePublished 22 months ago by Jeremy Myers - Writing at RedeemingGod