Wanting Nothing: imitation and production in
the economy of desire



Desire is examined here with a view to informing a theological response to capitalism. The notion of mimetic desire offered by René Girard is used as a starting point, Girard's ideas being brought into critical engagement with, first, other intersubjective accounts, namely those offered by Alexandre Kojève and by psychoanalysis in its Freudian and Lacanian variants; and then the account of desire as productive becoming offered by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in which the link to capitalism is explicit. It is suggested that both mimetic desire and its productive counterpart can be understood as asserting the priority of desire itself over both subject and object. The possibilities for framing a coherent theological account of desire which is both mimetic and productive are then assessed with reference to Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas and Augustine, noting that accepting a metaphysics of participation makes plausible a productive desire which is nonetheless coded as a mimesis of the divine precedent. Such a conclusion brings into relief the inevitable difficulty of reconciling Christian and capitalist economies of desire.