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

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

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?


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

12:30-1PM: Lunch

1-2:30PM: Presentation #1, followed by discussion

2:45PM-4:15PM: Presentation #2, followed by discussion

4:30-5:20PM: Synthesis and Summary

6PM: Dinner @ The Zephyr Institute, 560 College Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94025


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

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

Eligibility: This event is by invitation only. Stanford students and Zephyr Undergraduate Fellows, past and present, are eligible. Attendees must commit to arriving on time, attending the entirety of the event, and completing the required readings.



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

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


  • Standard Ticket

    Sale ends: Apr 25, 8:30 PM PDT
  • Stanford Student Ticket

    Sale ends: Apr 25, 8:30 PM PDT



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