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An individual desires an object, not for itself, but because another individual also desires it. This mimetic desire, Rene Girard contends, lies at the source of all human disorder and order. In brilliant readings of Dante, Camus, Nietzsche, Dostoevski, Levi-Strauss, Freud, and others, Girard draws out the thesis of mimetic desire -- and ponders its suppression in the West since Plato: "The historical mutilation of mimesis ... was no mere oversight, no fortuitous 'error.' Real awareness of mimetic desire threatens the flattering delusion we entertain not only about ourselves as individuals but also about the nature and origin of that collective self we call our society."