#BookClub: Wanting, The Power of Mimetic Desire In Everyday Life by Luke Burgis

Aping is instinctive to human beings; and ironically, it makes them vulnerable.
Wanting, The Power of Mimetic Desire In Everyday Life by Luke Burgis
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A cult of people wanted their heads shaved and arms tattooed in a particular way because their then popular actor did it in the 2008-movie “Ghajini.” Later, it became known some boys were paid “to ape” how the actor looked in that movie. Some “paid apes” could create a sensation throughout the country. Humans don’t desire anything independently, our desire is mimetic. People imitate what other people want.

The things we want matter far more than we know. We deceive ourselves by thinking that our desires are independent; and deny the consequences that our desires have for other people and theirs on us. The author gives insights into the psychology of human desire; why we want the things that we want, and the influence that people we admire or hate has on that desire.

A powerful psychological force nobody notices is responsible for driving passions to form extreme opinions and bringing groups of people together or pulling them apart, making certain goals attractive to some, hated by others; constantly fueling cycles of anxiety and conflict.

Interesting diagrams show that conflict does not arise because of our differences – it comes from our effort to achieve sameness. Because we learn to want what other people want, we often end up competing for the same things, ignoring our similarities; we cling to our perceived differences.

The Buddha believed desire is the reason for pain and suffering in the world. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains Arjuna to tame desire by consciously redirecting attention and stripping the desire off of its attraction by cognitive reframing. In this book, the author gives tools for testing desires, and teaches tactics “to live as if you have a responsibility for what other people want.”

From the Book

“An idea that challenges commonly held assumptions can feel threatening – and that’s all the more reason to look more closely at it: to understand why.”


“Our choice is between living an unintentionally mimetic life or doing the hard work of cultivating thick desires.”


“An unbelieved truth is often more dangerous than a lie. The lie in this case is the idea that I want things entirely on my own, uninfluenced by others, that I’m the sovereign king of deciding what is wantable and what is not. The truth is that my desires are derivative, mediated by others, and that I’m part of an ecology of desire that is bigger than I can fully understand.”


“The problem with desire is that because we don’t understand it, it leads us into dangerous territory. Our desires are confused, and we’re easy prey for manipulation and mob thinking…. but we can practice being anti-mimetic, or self-aware with our desire and the ways it can be influenced.


“LIVE AS IF YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT…. The transformation of desire happens when we become less concerned about the fulfillment of our own desires and more concerned about the fulfillment of others. We find, paradoxically, that it is the very pathway to fulfilling our own.”


“The destructive mimetic cycle works when people are convinced of the absolute primacy of their own desires. They’re even willing to sacrifice others in order to fulfill them. But in the positive cycle of desire, people respect the desires of others as they would their own.”


“The simplest definition of love is wanting what’s good for another. Italians have a way of saying “I love you” that is particularly instructive: Ti voglio bene, they say. It means “I want your good.”

About the author: Ashok Jainani
Ashok Jainani
(MA, MBA) is an independent market strategist and investment professional on devising multi-asset class market strategies and also advises on branding and corporate strategy. He uses proprietary trading tools in formulation of investment strategies using macro-economics, fundamental and technical analysis. He is also involved with a large social infrastructure project. He has wide academic knowledge in behavioral psychology, economics and financial markets and professional wisdom acquired over 29 years working in various capacities with well-known institutions, including UTI, SHCIL, The Economic Times and Mumbai-based stock brokerages heading research and market strategy. His periodic reports have been accessed by US Federal Reserve, has been interviewed by business channels and his views and articles have appeared in local and foreign media. He led an analyst team at a Mumbai brokerage to win ET-NOW StarmineThomsonReuters Awards and ZEE Business Awards 2009. A guest faculty at leading management institutes, he is widely travelled and visited several factories across diverse industries. Authored book titled Market Myths; MacMillan Publishers India (May 2011).Author can be reached at [email protected]

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