Mimesis, the foundation of a society









A society is a coexistence of people sharing services, values, institutions and a culture. Being born in a society or choosing to live in a new one requires an implicit agreement, better known as the Social Contract. The latter is the guarantee of the vivre-ensemble or the living together through the daily interactions.

On a deeper level, people are a number of persons; a number of many minds and desires. Far from being peaceful by nature, people will naturally become competitive. The paradox of wanting to be alone and dealing with others is what Immanuel Kant named “The Unsociable sociability” which is, according to him, the core motivation for the evolution of a society. Therefore competition is essential in the dynamic of a society.  To understand this paradox, some questions need to be asked:

What is the real cause of competition? How come do we always want to compete in one way or another?

The answer is mimesis. But before analyzing it, one needs to understand that the driving force of any action is desire. Hegel noted that the real underlying desire, the desire behind all desires, is the desire of recognition. In other words, no one wishes to be invisible. So whatever one desires to achieve (to buy, to possess, to try etc.) targets the recognition of others for the achievement. This idea explains why there are ranking positions in the professional world, in schools, in sports and in social media. That being said, any achievement will eventually attract from others the desire to be imitated.

Mimesis means imitation and its root is to be found in the desire of recognition. To put it simply, one desires what the other one does or has. Let’s say my neighbour bought a beautiful car and got all the attention and the recognition desired; this will motivate me to do something bigger, maybe buying a more beautiful car to get my neighbour’s recognition first than others’. The “I want what the other has” explains why people in relationships are desired. It explains jealousy and envy. It explains why the fashion industry hires celebrities to wear their clothes.

Mimesis draws a triangle relationship between the subject and the object of desire through the object’s owner. The aim is recognition. Even the ones who live against the mainstream want somehow to be recognized as the “the ones against the mainstream”.  This will lead us to ask a different question: