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Triangular desire

Posted November. 07, 2015 10:23,   


It is not rare to see the controversy over “hoarding” and “manipulating the ranking of bestselling books” in publication market. Publishers believe that higher place in the ranking that is given by even an expedient could further boost its sales. The publishing world says that the title to be called a “bestselling book” rather than an advertisement gives stronger motivation for Korean readers to purchase the book. When best-selling products sell more, we call it the theory of social evidence in social psychology.

"Following what others do" is particularly evident in Korea. Imitating others’ preference and desire, however, is one of the features of modern society. That’s why TV commercials prod consumers` desire to buy products by showing a rice cooker that Kim Soo-hyeon uses and beer that Jun Ji-hyun drinks. René Girard (1923-2015), French philosopher who died in the U.S. on Wednesday, formulated the structure of human being’s desire into the theory of “triangular desire.”

Having embarked on his career in literary criticism, Girard is recognized as “new Darwin in humanities” as he had been well-versed in philosophy, history, anthropology and the science of religion. Although he had lived in the U.S. for more than a half century, he became a regular member of Académie Française that is highly respected by French people as the "40 immortals" in 2005. His analysis on novels concluded, “What we want is, in fact, nothing but what we copied other’s desire.” For instance, the desire of Emma from “Madame Bovary” that longs for upper classes is not naturally formed but copied from a leading character in a cheap novel that she had read during her adolescence.

In many cases, the coercion by parents who push their kids to become a doctor or a lawyer regardless of their aptitude derives from “mimetic desire.” The triangular desire can be dreadful in that people are not aware of the fact that they live their lives mimicking others. Girard says that the mankind competes each other to mimic other’s desire and creates collective stress such as jealousy and animosity that is relieved in a wrong manner by using socially marginalized people as scapegoats. Peeping into the desire of others through social network service has become a daily routine. Now, we need to practice not to be swayed by the desire that “seems to be mine, but is not mine, still looks like mine” just like a line of a popular song.