Q & R: Who was that author you mentioned?
Here's the Q:
... you mentioned a book you were reading by a French (?) philosopher/theologian that talked about the complicated relationship between collaboration and competition (you are my friend until you are my enemy). At least, this is what I remember…Can you remind me of the name of the author and book?
Here's the R:
I was referring to Rene Girard. It's hard to know what to recommend as a first read, since some find his writing hard to engage with. Since he didn't write a general introduction to or overview of his work, I felt like I was entering a conversation already in progress when I first tried to read him. But I'm glad I stuck with it, as I enjoyed reading his work after the initial hurdle. After a few false starts with some of his other books, I dug in with "Things Hidden" and "I Saw Satan Fall," and then went on to read most of his books (I think I missed 2 or 3).
James Warren has written a helpful popular introduction to Girard's work - "Compassion or Apocalypse." (I thought it was so needed and helpful that I wrote the foreword.) James Alison's "The Joy of Being Wrong" is also a great (more scholarly) overview of Girard, written by a brilliant Catholic priest/theologian who is in many ways Girard's main theological interpreter.
In my book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, I give a one chapter overview of Girard in Chapter 13. In 3 pages (108-110), I try to give "the essential Rene Girard" in its most condensed form.
Girard has often been criticized for being somewhat "totalizing" - they say he sounds like almost everything can be explained by his theory. He replied that this is what a scientist does - tries to develop a theory with maximum explanatory power. Mature readers, I think, will be able to take in the deep explanatory power of Girard's theory without becoming reductionistic in applying it.