Know Your Enemy: René Girard and the Right, with John Ganz

Know Your Enemy: René Girard and the Right, with John Ganz

Matt and Sam welcome back John Ganz to discuss René Girard, the Stanford polymath whose theory has inspired a devoted following—including Peter Thiel, Girard’s former student.

René Girard in 1990 (Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

Know Your Enemy is a podcast about the American right co-hosted by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell. Read more about it here. You can subscribe to, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and receive bonus content by supporting the podcast on Patreon.

The late René Girard, former Stanford professor of literature and mentor to Peter Thiel, is having something of a moment on the right these days—as Sam Kriss recently put it in a Harper’s essay, Girard’s name is being “dropped on podcasts and shoved into reading lists,” and “Girardianism has become a secret doctrine of a strange new frontier in reactionary thought.” Why might that be the case? To unpack this question, Matt and Sam welcome back John Ganz, whose four-part series on Girard is one of the best primers available. What does Girard have to say about who we are as human beings, why we want what we want, the origins of both violence and social order (and what they have to do with each other), the uniqueness of Christianity, and the nature of secular modernity? What use is all this to the right? And to what uses do they put it?

Also: please pre-order John’s book, When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s—it’s sure to be excellent.

Sources and further reading:

John Ganz’s Unpopular Front series on Girard: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (1976)

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (1999)

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1987)

Sam Kriss, Overwhelming and Collective Murder: The Grand, Gruesome Theories of René Girard, Harper’s (2023)

Scott Cowdell, René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis (2013)

…and don’t forget to subscribe to Know Your Enemy on Patreon for access to all of our bonus episodes!