As noted before, the founding event of civilization, for Girard was the sacrifice of the scapegoat. In this way, he is distinguished from Freud, for whom the founding event of civilization is the corporate murder of a primal father. For Girard, individuals respond to both societal disaster and lack of internal differentiation, by differentiating themselves from a scapegoat, on whom the spurious guilt of imagined sins is laid, as they ritually sacrifice the victim, as successive generations commemorate the sacrifice of this victim in the form of rituals, religious or otherwise.
More interesting for our purposes, however, is Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire. He articulates a distinction between external and internal mediation. Desire, he argues, is naturally generated by imitation, and this imitation is initiated by certain agents known as mediators. For example, a celebrity is an agent that acts as a mediator for the desire of consumers for a certain kind of soft drink. This is an example of external mediation, since it carries with it no risk of rivalry. However, consider the case of a woman who is the mediator of desire of men. This would constitute the risk of internal mediation, as there is a very high potential for rivalry between the men competing for her attention and affection, and the other women competing for these same men.
In some cases, there is something which Girard refers to as metaphysical desire. Metaphysical desire is a form of internal mediation in which agents desire, not a product mediated by an agent, but instead, want to be the agent him- or herself. The consumer wants to be the mediator himself, rather than consuming the product mediated by the mediator. This leads to obsession with wanting to be the mediator, and is inherently conducive to obsessive resentment, envy, and even hatred.
Our culture’s obsession with physical beauty and sexual prowess is very highly conducive to such poor mental health. Sexual permissiveness, as noted before, frees agents from being mediators of powerful, mass metaphysical desire. The agents are “free to” become such mediators of metaphysical desire, but this means that the vast majority of society, who do not conform to the unrealistic and impossible standards of a supermodel or the sexual prowess of a porn star, are made to feel horrible about themselves and given unrealistic standards about what constitutes ordinary beauty or sexual prowess.
The consequences of the rejection of the ideal of modesty thus produces a sexualized Hobbesian war of all against all. Sexual prowess and physical beauty become the marks of social dominance, and individuals fiercely compete with one another for dominance in this regard, propelled and torn apart continually by their insecurities, obsessively comparing themselves with others that they see on TV and magazines, with past lovers of their mates, who were “free” to engage in intercourse with whomever they please, and with as many individuals as they please. Freedom to flaunt one’s sexuality and all reasonable standards of modesty thus eliminates freedom from this sort of continual insecurity. It is ironic that Felix Guattari.
It is ironic, though perhaps unsurprising, that the leftist activist and psychoanalyst, Felix Guattari, well-known for his numerous sexual conquests, condemned “love” and family as capitalistic. It is hard to imagine anything more distinctly consumeristic or Darwinistic as the aforementioned war of all against all which a culture of sexual permissiveness leads to. It is unrestrained sexuality which is “capitalistic” in the sense which Felix Guattari condemned. Love is profoundly “anti-capitalist” (that is to say, anti-consumerist, since a free market does not necessarily presuppose a consumeristic culture).