Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life


There’s a seductive force that leads entrepreneurs to battle for the approval of Shark Tank judges; that makes 1% of books account for 80% of total book sales; and that helped Peter Thiel make the first outside investment in Facebook. It turns out that why we passionately pursue some things and don’t care about others is more complicated than we ever realized—and its story has never been told, until now.


What do you want

A groundbreaking exploration of why we want what we want, and a toolkit for freeing ourselves from chasing unfulfilling desires

As an undergraduate studying philosophy at Stanford, Peter Thiel met French polymath René Girard and was introduced to his theory of “mimetic desire”—the idea that most human wanting comes from imitating the desires of others. Each of us is surrounded by people who generate, shape, and manipulate our desires at every turn.

The consequences of mimetic desire are startling. Because people learn to want what other people want, they are easily drawn into rivalries and conflict. But mimetic desire does not have to be in control. We are free to choose. And those who understand mimetic desire have a tremendous advantage over those who don’t—they can use it for good or for ill.

Drawing on his experience as an entrepreneur and teacher with a background in classical philosophy, Luke Burgis shows how to counteract the mimetic forces of the market by turning blind wanting into intentional wanting—not by trying to rid ourselves of desire, but by desiring differently. Burgis shows how to achieve more independence from trends and bubbles, how to feel more in control of the things we want, and ultimately how to find more meaning in our work and life by grounding them in desires that will never fade away.


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Who It's For


Luke Burgis’ WANTING is a brilliant exploration of the hidden and powerful dynamics of desire operating in our age of social media memes, commercial rivalry, and rising partisan scapegoating and violence. By helping us understand the destructive power of mimetic desire he offers a way to extricate ourselves and our communities from its harmful grip to form a more human, empathetic, and value-based world that seeks to build up people rather than products. It’s a call to discernment and a deeper fulfillment that lights a path beyond the darkness of our current world.

Stephen Hanselman

New York Times bestselling co-author of LIVES OF THE STOICS and THE DAILY STOIC

This book makes a startling case that many of our goals are merely reflections of what we think others want. It’s a spellbinding read, and it will leave you rethinking your own motivations for months and maybe even years later.

Adam Grant

New York Times bestselling author of THINK AGAIN and ORIGINALS, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

Luke Burgis has written a stunning, even revolutionary book. He writes about our inner desires—who and what we want—and the very origins of our desires. Wanting is a rare book that captures and enchants one’s mind while simultaneously providing practical tips for improving our business success and fundamental happiness. If you are curious what makes humans tick, why people become models for you and others, and why rivalry is such a powerful force, you want to read Wanting. It is revelatory.

Andrew N. Meltzoff

Co-Director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Science at the University of Washington

“Mimetic desire” is one of the big ideas discussed most frequently in public intellectual circles, and also in Silicon Valley. But what exactly is mimetic desire and why is it so important? Luke Burgis has produced the go-to book on this topic, and everyone with mimetic desire—in other words everyone—should want to read it.

Tyler Cowen

New York Times bestselling author of The Great Stagnation

In an era obsessed with the next new thing, it’s both shocking and relieving to learn that there is ultimately nothing new under the sun. Luke Burgis, channeling and building on René Girard, shows us that imitation isn’t merely the sincerest form of flattery; it’s the closest to true innovation any of us will ever get. So copy me, please, and read this book.

Douglas Rushkoff

New York Times bestselling author of TEAM HUMAN

One of the secrets to happiness is learning how to balance what we have with what we want. In WANTING, Luke Burgis masterfully shows us how to understand and manage our desires, and thus achieve more meaning and purpose in our lives and work

Arthur C. Brooks

Professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School

Is societal desire and your own desire driven by unconscious mimicking of models? Wanting, Luke Burgis’s deep exploration of the human psyche takes you on a personal and historical journey through the lens of desire. Reading this book, you just might find that your past choices veered toward unconscious decision making. And, your view of history will become richer. This book is a personal journey worth taking.

Julie Wainwright

Founder & CEO of The RealReal

Luke Burgis brings a new and distinctive voice to illuminate the forces at work in our world and in our lives, drawing on the work of French theorist René Girard—one of the great thinkers of our times—in a conversational, engaging, and utterly practical way. Burgis unveils the power of mimetic desire both in society and in his own entrepreneurial odyssey. By the end, he helps you see the role that it plays in your own life.

Cynthia Haven

Author of Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard

Mimetic desire is a bit like the force from Star Wars—it’s everywhere, it binds everything, and yet it’s hidden in plain sight. Luke Burgis’s book at last gives us a clear, concise, and thought-provoking look at this phenomenon. It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that this book will change how you look at everything, and it’s a testament to the rigor of the research and the quality of the prose that Burgis manages to write about the subject in depth but without losing us to airy generalizations or reckless philosophizing. This is a must-read, can’t-put-down book.

Jimmy Soni

Co-author of the award-winning A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

In his book Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life, Luke Burgis manages to do what is often impossible—he makes a complex and nuanced theory accessible to everyone by relating it to lived experiences with practical takeaways like a list of valuable tactics the reader can use and put into practice immediately. I highly recommend this brilliant look at a fascinating theory of what really drives human desire.

James P. O’Shaughnessy

Chairman of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management and author of What Works on Wall Street

The Author

Luke Burgis

Luke has co-created and led four companies in wellness, consumer products, and technology. He’s currently Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of Programs at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship where he also teaches business at The Catholic University of America. Luke has helped form and serves on the board of several new K-12 education initiatives and writes and speaks regularly about the education of desire. He studied business at NYU Stern and philosophy and theology at a pontifical university in Rome. He’s Managing Partner of Fourth Wall Ventures, an incubator that he started to build, train, and invest in people and companies that contribute to a healthy human ecology. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Claire.


Press Inquiries & Contact Information

General: grady (at) lukeburgis.com
Press/Media/Podcasts: m (at) lukeburgis.com
Speaking inquiries: The Lavin Agency
Literary: Jim Levine—Jlevine (at) lgrliterary.com