Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

by Luke Burgis
Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

by Luke Burgis


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* Financial Times Business Book of the Month * Next Big Idea Club Nominee * One of Bloomberg's "52 New Books That Top Business Leaders Are Recommending" * Aleo Review of Books 2022 Book of the Year *

A groundbreaking exploration of why we want what we want, and a toolkit for freeing ourselves from chasing unfulfilling desires.

Gravity affects every aspect of our physical being, but there’s a psychological force just as powerful—yet almost nobody has heard of it. It’s responsible for bringing groups of people together and pulling them apart, making certain goals attractive to some and not to others, and fueling cycles of anxiety and conflict. In Wanting, Luke Burgis draws on the work of French polymath René Girard to bring this hidden force to light and reveals how it shapes our lives and societies.

According to Girard, humans don’t desire anything independently. Human desire is mimetic—we imitate what other people want. This affects the way we choose partners, friends, careers, clothes, and vacation destinations. Mimetic desire is responsible for the formation of our very identities. It explains the enduring relevancy of Shakespeare’s plays, why Peter Thiel decided to be the first investor in Facebook, and why our world is growing more divided as it becomes more connected.

Wanting also shows that conflict does not arise because of our differences—it comes from our sameness. Because we learn to want what other people want, we often end up competing for the same things. Ignoring our large similarities, we cling to our perceived differences.

Drawing on his experience as an entrepreneur, teacher, and student of classical philosophy and theology, Burgis shares tactics that help turn blind wanting into intentional wanting--not by trying to rid ourselves of desire, but by desiring differently. It’s possible to be more in control of the things we want, to achieve more independence from trends and bubbles, and to find more meaning in our work and lives.

The future will be shaped by our desires. Wanting shows us how to desire a better one.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250262486
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 181,428
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

LUKE BURGIS has founded and led multiple companies. He’s currently entrepreneur-in-residence and director of programs at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the Catholic University of America, where he also teaches business and develops new education initiatives. He's also the founder and director of Fourth Wall Ventures, an incubator for people and companies that contribute to the formation of a healthy human ecology. He graduated from NYU Stern School of Business and later from a pontifical university in Rome, where he studied theology. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Claire.

Table of Contents

Note to Reader xv

Prologue: Unexpected Relief xxi

Introduction: Social Gravity 1

Part I The Power of Mimetic Desire

1 Hidden Models-Romantic Lies, Infant Truth 19

Secrets Babies Keep 23

The Martini Is a Gateway Drug 28

Torches of Freedom 29

Mimetic Games 35

Models That Move Markets 40

2 Distorted Reality-We're All Freshmen Again 44

Two Kinds of Models 46

Celebristan 48

Freshmanistan 51

Distortion 1: The Misappropriation of Wonder 53

Distortion 2: The Cult of Experts 54

Distortion 3: Reflexivity 58

Social Mediation 64

3 Social Contagion-Cycles of Desire 66

Lamborghini versus Ferrari 68

Memes and Mimetic Theory 75

The Flywheel Effect 77

The Creative Cycle 78

The Destructive Cycle 83

Hierarchical Values 92

The Collapse of Desire 97

4 The Invention of Blame-An Underrated Social Discovery 99

Sacred Violence 100

The Danger of Purity 102

Saving People from Themselves 104

The Path of Least Resistance 111

The Dancing Mania of 1518 114

Safety in Judgment 116

The Joy of Hate Watching 118

The Scapegoat Wins 122

Self-Awareness, Self-Hatred 126

Signs of Contradiction 129

Part II The Transformation of Desire

5 Anti-Mimetic-Feeding the People, Not the System 135

Moving Goalposts 136

Mimetic Systems 138

Being Watched and Rated 139

The Tra-La-La and the Chichi 142

The One Less Traveled By 144

Modeling a New Mindset 146

6 Disruptive Empathy- Breaking Through Thin Desires 150

The Problem with Sympathy 155

Thick Desires 157

Shaking the Dust 158

Fulfillment Stories 161

Motivational Patterns 165

7 Transcendent Leadership-How Great Leaders Inspire and Shape Desire 169

Immanent Desire 171

Transcendent Desire 172

Skill 1: Shift Gravity 174

Skill 2: The Speed of Truth 177

Skill 3: Discernment 179

Skill 4: Sit Quietly in a Room 181

Skill 5: Filter Feedback 183

8 The Mimetic Future-What We Will Want Tomorrow 187

Cultural Quicksand 190

Instruments versus Relationships 194

Engineering Desire 195

Transforming Desire 200

Pivotal Spaces 202

The Three Inventions 207

Single Greatest Desire 210

Afterword 215

Acknowledgments 215

Appendix A Glossary 221

Appendix B Mimetic Theory Reading List 227

Appendix C Motivational Themes 229

Notes and Sources 235

Index 265

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