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Journal Article


Arppe T. Distinktion 2009; 10(2): 31-58.


(Copyright © 2009, Informa - Taylor and Francis Group)






The article deals with two famous attempts to analyse the relationship between affective violence and the sacred, namely those made by René Girard and Georges Bataille. Despite the apparent similarities of the problems (religious sacrifice as the affective foundation of community and the primordial role of violence therein) Girard and Bataille end up with profoundly different visions of society's entire affective economy. For Girard, religious sacrifice is a mechanism of projection and of repression by means of which the society channels its own unmotivated violence to one arbitrarily chosen individual (a classical functionalist approach); for Bataille, sacrifice is a means of sharing the experience of death which constitutes the repulsive core of the human community (a more phenomenological approach). The article shows that these differences can be traced back to two different (theoretical) sources. The first one is Durkheim's theory of the sacred, particularly his vision of the ‘collective turmoil’ as the origin of society and his interpretation of the ‘ambivalence of the sacred’. The second one is Alexandre Kojève's anthropological interpretation of Hegel, especially his theory of human desire, which has clearly influenced both theorists although they both criticise it (albeit in different fashions). What Girard and Bataille seem to propose us, are two different and even opposing models regarding both the conceptualisation of human ‘desire’ and the theoretical/methodological approach we should adopt when dealing with it.


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