The Ideology of Victimism

By: David Gordon

Luke Burgis’s Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2021) is a popular exposition of the theories of the great French thinker René Girard. The book includes a passage that is of great value in understanding contemporary politics. “Obviously, the defense of victims is a good thing. At the same time, it brings new dangers. In the same way that scapegoating rituals in archaic religions were entirely practical—that is, they were used to achieve practical ends—so too can the defense of victims be used for practical purposes, James G. Williams, in his foreword to one of Girard’s most well-known works, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, attempted to sum up Girard’s thinking on this point. ‘Victimism uses the ideology of concern for victims to gain political or economic or spiritual power.’ he wrote. ‘One claims victim status as a way of gaining advantage or justifying one’s behavior.’ Victims now have the power to make new scapegoats of their own choosing. An open and honest memory is needed to prevent that power from becoming tyrannical” (pp. 128–29).

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