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René Girard: Prophet of the Post-9/11 Age?

A colloquium for Stanford students and Zephyr Fellows on Rene Girard's "Battling to the End" in light of contemporary geopolitics.

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René Girard: Prophet of the Post-9/11 Age?
René Girard: Prophet of the Post-9/11 Age?

Time & Location

Apr 27, 2024, 12:30 PM – 8:00 PM PDT

Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301, USA

About the Event

After the Cold War, many American policymakers and political theorists championed a Hegelian vision of history, which was famously articulated by Francis Fukuyama in 1992's The End of History and the Last Man. Over the subsequent decade, America's economic prosperity and planetary political and cultural power seemed to confirm the quasi-dialectical necessity of liberal democracy's victory over its ideological alternatives.

But in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, René Girard would argue that one of Hegel's contemporaries, the Prussian military strategist Carl von Clauswitz, offered a more convincing--and frightening--account of modernity in his posthumous 1832 treatise On War. Extrapolating from Clausewitz's interpretation of the Napoleonic Wars, Girard would suggest in Battling to the End, his last book, that rather than acting as a regulated political means of spreading democracy around the globe, war in the 21st century was becoming an end in itself, with the potential for uncontrollable, apocalyptic escalation.

If anything, Girard's Clausewitzian insights into the accelerating, tit-for-tat dynamics of modern warfare look even more prescient today than they did fifteen years ago. Given recent and current events, how should we evaluate Girard's pessimism about the ability of politics to contain violence in the contemporary world? Is the only remaining choice today that between apocalyptic destruction and Christian conversion, as Girard believed? And what does that conversion look like, on both the macro scale of world affairs and the micro scale of individual lives?


Location: Sheraton Palo Alto, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

  • 12:30 PM Lunch
  • 1:00-2:15 PM The Personal Battle Against Violent Escalation. Is mimesis unavoidable? If so, how does the individual best channel it? Luke Burgis, Gil Bailie
  • 2:30-3:45 PM The Global Battle Against Violent Escalation: Regensberg, Reason and Violence. Can rational discourse suffice for maintaining peace? Is Christianity, even Catholicism, necessary according to Girard? Is he right? Peter Robinson, Russell Berman
  • 4:00-6:00 PM Documentary film screening, followed by Q&A--details to follow for participants
  • 6:30 PM Dinner at The Zephyr Institute, 560 College Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306


Gil Baile is the founder of The Cornerstone Forum and Fellow of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Russell Berman is the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University

Luke Burgis is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the Catholic University of America and Assistant Clinical Professor of Practice

Trevor Merrill is a novelist living in Los Angeles and author of Minor Indignities 

Peter Robinson is the Murdoch Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Hoover Institution 

Eligibility: Stanford students and Zephyr Undergraduate Fellows, past and present, are eligible. Attendees are expected to attend the entirety of the event and complete the required readings.



  • René Girard, On War and Apocalypse (article)
  • René Girard, Battling to the End, Ch. 8: "The Pope and the Emperor" (to be provided to registrants)

Recommended but not required: René Girard, Battling to the End in its entirety

Colloquium Fee: (includes 2 meals and seminar materials)

Regular Fee: $100  

Student Fee: $10

image: Kim Carpenter, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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