Monday, September 13, 2021


People and things worthy or unworthy of imitation.

Positive Mimesis

I’ve been enjoying the show The Food That Built Americaespecially Season 2 (The White Castle/Nathan’s hot dog episode is a personal favorite, as are all the ones about McDonald’s vs. Burger King). It is produced by the amazing Lucky 8 out of New York City. Each episode is a case study in mimetic rivalry. You not only learn a fascinating part of our nation’s history and get a striking depiction of the risks that entrepreneurs take to bring their vision to reality; you also see at least some of the “generative” powers of mimetic rivalry when it is applied to the economic domain. In other words, the positive side of competition: spurring important innovations out of necessity.

Negative Mimesis

My friend Jimmy Soni has a book coming out in February called The Founders, about Peter Thiel and the other PayPal co-founders—the so-called PayPal mafia. I recommend it because I know the extent of Jimmy’s serious research over the course of six years. I cannot say the same for Max Chafkin’s book “The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power.” It is exactly what it sounds like: an agenda-driven, scapegoatified Hot Take about Peter in the form of a book that could’ve easily been a tweet.

But books that generate mimetic energy and make scapegoats sell; I suppose no publisher with a bottom line can reasonably expect to be anti-mimetic enough to not fan the flames when there are enough readers out who desire that angle to sell a million copies. Still, it’s sad.

What I’m Reading

I’m reading a book called The Uncontrollability of the World by Hartmut Rosa. From the back cover: “The driving cultural force of that form of life we call ‘modern’ is the desire to make the world controllable. Yet it is only in encountering the uncontrollable that we really experience the world—only then d we feel touched moved, and alive.” This has everything to do with the attempt at controlling, or engineering, desires, and how we as a society go about living in a mimetic world where the temptation is strong to tame desires. But “a world that is fully known, in which everything has been planned and mastered, would be a dead world.”


Have a beautiful week.

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