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February 19, 2016



See also "Proof that universities are not businesses" here:

Luis Enrique

I often think this about the concept of marginal productivity - not a very original thought! - that it is probably more often negative than appreciated. I imagine it's pretty easy to take the helm of an august institution and accelerate its depreciation.


"Oxford is one of the world’s best universities not because it is remarkably well-managed, but because of its history."

One thing that occasional strikes me is how *in*flexible such universities are compared to 'younger' institutions (post-60s unis and the ex-polys). The formation of the 'Russell Group' wasn't such an 'Ivy League' of the best as an attempt to 'brand' a wannabe-cartel.


"In all these cases, what’s going on is a form of exploitation."

But depressing as it is, scapegoating vulnerable groups in necessary for human survival and arguably "moral":


"But the most historically common form of spontaneous order is that of a human community tacitly agreeing to vent all of its violent frustration upon a defenceless subgroup. Girard’s work consisted of exposing the secret violent origins of almost all human institutions. Our enthusiasm for our institutions must be brought face-to-face with their origins."

"If desire is, through the mechanism of mimesis, so inexorably geared towards violence, how has society survived at all? Certainly Hobbes’s theory of the transition from the state of nature into civil society does not provide an adequate reply; Spinoza gave powerful arguments against the idea that civil society brings an end to the violent condition of rivalry that defines the state of nature."

"Girard discovered the answer. Society has survived because it has developed a mechanism for concentrating violence on a limited number of victims. This he called the “scapegoating mechanism”. In fact the scapegoating mechanism exploits the very mimetic mechanisms that render it necessary for society’s survival. People who fall into violent, obsessive desire quickly lose their grip on reality. It is easy to convince them that the source of their frustration – their inability to satisfy their mimetic desires without running into violent conflict – is the fault of some group of scapegoats. It is important for the scapegoats to be a disenfranchised minority, so that the violence of society can be turned upon them without fear that they will be avenged. Here, again, Girard’s theory renders unsurprising that which economists and political scientists are at a loss to explain: for instance how the favoured ‘cure’ for economic depression is to visit structural violence upon low-paid immigrants, racial minorities, the homeless, the unemployed and the disabled."

Girard understood that, other than the desire for basic necessities, human desire is almost entirely mimetic. One person wants X because somebody else – a mimetic model – wants X. It is entirely irrelevant that there is as much and as good outside the scope of the model’s desire. What the desiring subject wants is what the model wants, not something else equivalent in terms of utility.

It is not hard to see that this leads inevitably to violence. Desires of different subjects are determined to fix upon the same rivalrous goods. Worse, there is a mechanism that exacerbates desires past the point where reasonable agreement remains an option. Your desire for X causes me to want X. My desire for X then leads you to want X even more. My desire is in turn strengthened, until the positive feedback mechanism brings both of our desires into the category of obsession: the greatest engine of unrestrained violence in human culture.

"The inevitable convergence of human desires on rivalrous goods explains the prevalence of what economists call ‘shortages’. Economists explain shortages by the failure of prices to adjust to the point where supply equals demand. But their explanations assume that human desires are fixed. Girard shows that, on the contrary, desires increase exponentially in intensity, until shortage is converted into violent, obsessive rivalry. "


Wow... a French philosopher predicted the origins of the Tory party.... is there is hope for harmony and understanding in the EU after all!


"Wow... a French philosopher predicted the origins of the Tory party.... is there is hope for harmony and understanding in the EU after all!"

To be clear, I am merely stating that view. I do not agree with it!

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