This is the first of several posts that discuss mimesis and its impact on our lives. Mimesis is the process of imitation. It comes from the Ancient Greek term mīmēsis and originally referred to making works of art that matched models of beauty, truth, and goodness. Plato drove the shift towards mimesis being discussed in the literary realm. Both terms use mimesis to portray aspects in the natural world.
Great article Stacey! The Financial Times sent me your way, which in my world is the highest form of praise
Hi Stacey, thank you for writing this! Very thought provoking.
I can say without any doubt that as a former "scapegoat" myself, your thoughts are particularly helpful. (I worked in Big 4 audit, was the Group Head's favored employee (hired directly by him), this dynamic slowly led to intense rivalry / deliberate sabotaging / nasty treatment from middle managers and even certain partners who desired the Group Head's admiration, eventually I didn't want to put up with the toxic culture anymore and left.)
In particular, I like how you married the concepts of mimetic desire and the act of investing itself. Thiel combines mimesis and business differently (e.g., extreme competition leads to businesses just copying one another, buying the same CAPEX, trying to hire the same 'star' employees, going after the same markets, etc.). But I never really thought of the fact that investment management is itself a business and, as such, exhibits the same tendencies.
This reminds me of Bill Ackman and Mohnish Pabrai being Buffett/Munger fanboys, going to Berkshire annual meetings and asking very specific questions about how they ran their initial partnerships, etc. (footage of their questions can be found on YouTube.) Their desire is very real and palpable. Interestingly, in answering their questions, it's almost as if Buffett/Munger find their desire repulsive/perverse. I could be misreading them...
As I was reading your article, it also occurred to me that one could identify mimesis in relationships of high cooperation (i.e., student-mentor). You point out Girard's belief that mimetic desire contributes to progress in modern technology and science. I'd be curious to know how this sort of cooperation doesn't end up in violence / scapegoating.
It would also be interesting to test the hypothesis that high cooperation is predictive of violence/scapegoating. Perhaps it's too difficult to place any quantitative value on such a relationship, so you're left with more of an intuitive sense that this is true.
Ok I'll shut up now.
(Btw I'm a big fan of Jonathan. IMHO he is much smarter than anyone gives him credit for, his insights are very well-informed, and he is truly one of the great investment analysts around. And here I am ironically confessing my mimetic desire...)
Great article. It’s really good... but the stock market commentary doesn’t make sense (to me)..