René Girard's (1923–2015) mimetic theory and Georges Bataille's (1897–1962) theory of the sacred both describe an unwitting pull to violence fueled by an aspect of desire. This violence cannot be denied but may be channeled through ritual, resulting in social cohesion or utter catastrophe. Their theories also illustrate the contagious flow of affective violence between individuals, quickly infecting the whole. Girard describes a violent contagion that threatens physical annihilation, while Bataille's more vital contagion illustrates the dissolution of self into other. Both come to the same result—collective cohesion. However, for all the similarities, the essential mechanisms “end up with profoundly different visions of the dynamics sustaining the social bond and, indeed, of society's whole affective economy.”1 For Girard, the operative community requires distinct individuals specific in their identities. A lack of distinctions between individuals—a state he calls undifferentiation—leads to a struggle for identity, conflict, and violence. Unity comes...

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