Beyond Useless Sacrifice – René Girard and Joseph Wresinski – Paul Dumouchel

Violence and the Benevolent Gift – Saturday June 10, 2017

“In mythology, the victim is responsible fr the crimes they are accused of. Very often these are crimes that call into question the foundation of the social order… The modern poor person is considered guilty of the crime he is accused of – in this case, precisely that of being poor. A crime which also calls into question the foundation of the social order simply because it is involuntary – but being involuntary, poverty cannot be a crime.”

Paul Dumouchel sets out to go beyond this useless sacrifice to look at two inextricably linked characteristics of poverty. The first is that poverty is connected to the sacred. When Joseph Wresinski wrote, “The Poor are the Church,” it was just this link between poverty and the sacred that he was drawing attention to.  The second is that poor people are, “Foreign figures.” Joseph Wresinski said of people in poverty, “They are excluded. They are strangers – socially, culturally, religiously.”

Professor Dumouchel shows that these two dimensions of poverty are linked, and that the way people in poverty are excluded depends on the role that the sacred has in a society. In a society where the sacred is hidden because “sacrifices” have been rendered useless, poverty becomes invisible. In this analysis, Dumouchel’s uses to work of René Girard to show that the sacred and exclusion are inseparable because fundamentally the sacred is a mechanism of exclusion and violence.

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