Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World
Cover of the French edition
|Original title||Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde|
|Translators||Stephen Bann, Michael Metteer|
|Publisher||Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World contains a comprehensive overview of Girard's work up to that point, and a reflection on the Judaeo-Christian texts.
Girard's explicates three core mechanisms that govern widespread social interactions: mimesis, the process by which individuals copy one another in escalation, leading to conflict; scapegoating, a process by which collective guilt is transferred onto victims, then purged; and violence.
The book takes the form of a dialogue between Girard and Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort which interrogates and develops Girard's central thesis.
Mimetic theory posits that human behavior is based upon mimesis, and that imitation can engender pointless conflict. Girard notes the productive potential of competition: "It is because of this unprecedented capacity to promote competition within limits that always remain socially, if not individually, acceptable that we have all the amazing achievements of the modern world," but states that competition stifles progress once it becomes an end in itself: "rivals are more apt to forget about whatever objects are the cause of the rivalry and instead become more fascinated with one another."
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World was first published in 1978 by Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle. In 1987, an English translation was published by The Athlone Press in the United Kingdom and Stanford University Press in the United States.
The book became a national bestseller in France, and according to Chris Fleming provoked "intense (and often heated) discussion in the upper echelons of the French academy.
Theorists such as Michel Serres, Paul Ricoeur, and Philippe Sollers were all admirers of the work, and, later, other theorists such as the renowned Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo and the Canadian social and political theorist Charles Taylor expressed - and, indeed, continue to express - more than a token admiration for Girard's project."
Fleming calls Girard's reflection on the Judaeo-Christian texts "very substantial".
- Fleming, Chris (2004). René Girard: Violence and Mimesis. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-7456-2948-2.
- Girard, Rene (1987). Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2215-5.
- Girard, René (1987). Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. Stanford University Press. pp. 7, 26, 307.
- Girard, Réne (2002). Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. iv. ISBN 0-8047-2215-3.