Wanting | Luke Burgis

Summary of: Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire, and How to Want What You Need
By: Luke Burgis

Transforming Desire

American culture has become more mimetic, leading to rising tensions and stagnation in innovation. Instead of creating new art, we rehash old material. The big four tech companies are engineering our desires, mining our data to tell us what to want. To create a better future, we must shift away from engineering desire to transforming it. This means promoting healthy relationships, particularly with our children, and focusing on thick desires rather than thin desires for status, money, or objects. We should identify our greatest desire and let our lesser desires transform into ways of serving it. We don’t need to renounce all models, just choose the right ones to allow them to transform us.

Final Recap

In conclusion, ‘Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire, and How to Want What You Need’ illustrates the substantial impact of mimesis on our lives and desires, while offering valuable insights on how to break free from its influence. By understanding the role of models in our lives, the importance of practicing empathy, and the dangers of unfulfilling, artificial goals, we can transform our desires in a positive way. By adopting transcendent leadership, working on healthy relationships, and focusing on our most significant, authentic desires, we can attain freedom from manipulative forces and find genuine fulfillment in our pursuits. Let the knowledge gained from this summary empower you to take control of your desires and tread on the path towards a more meaningful, content life.


Prepare to embark on a journey into the realm of desire, uncovering the far-reaching influence of mimetic desire on human behavior. In ‘Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire, and How to Want What You Need’, author Luke Burgis explores the fascinating intricacies of mimesis, a hidden force that drives us to imitate others in our lives. From relationships to social media, to our career choices, mimetic desire shapes who we are and what we want. This summary will guide you through key concepts of the book, showcasing how mimesis creates sameness, rivalry, imitative cycles, and how businesses manipulate our desires. You will also learn how to liberate yourself from mimetic cycles and choose more fulfilling, authentic desires.

The Hidden Force Behind Our Desires

The author, Luke Burgis, shares his experience of being tangled in a web of mimetic desire in his book. He explains that our desires are not spontaneous but mediated by models, causing sameness and intense rivalry. In his case, Tony Hsieh became a powerful model, and the author forgot what drove him to start his company in the first place. Understanding mimesis is the first step in gaining power over it, Burgis says.

The Power of Models

Social media has become the most significant platform for mimesis. It presents us with billions of models accessible in the palm of our hands, dictating our desires and decisions. The key to diminishing their power is by identifying and naming them. Sometimes, mimesis is harmless, like when we choose a drink based on a friend’s preference. However, it can turn us into a pawn of mimesis when we start imitating someone in a mirrored way. Edward Bernays, a 20th-century PR guru, used mimesis to his advantage by asking doctors to recommend bacon and eggs for breakfast. To take control of our desires, we need to identify and name our models, even if it means identifying our mimetic rivals.

Understanding the Influence of Models on Our Desires

The book explores the impact of models on our desires and how their proximity to us can affect our emotions, behavior, and social interactions. Models that exist in Celebristan, a world beyond our reach, are external mediators of desire, and we don’t feel threatened by them. In contrast, those residing in Freshmanistan, our immediate social world, create internal mediators of desire, leading to intense competition and strife. The negative cycle of reflexivity in Freshmanistan distorts our perceptions and creates self-defeating cycles that can be dangerous. The rivalry between East and West Coast rappers in the 1990s is a stark example of how mimetic rivalries can end in tragedy. The book emphasizes that understanding the power and influence of models on our desires is crucial for personal growth and healthy social interactions.

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