In mimetic theory, misrecognization refers to the tendency of people or groups caught up in the throes of mimetic desire to have their perception distorted and to misidentify people or things as the cause of their problems, as in the scapegoat mechanism. Girard uses the hard-to-translate French term méconnaissance. It means something like misrecognition, miscognition, or misreading in English. Philosopher and Girard scholar Paul Dumouchel translated it as misknowing.[2] “Misknowing” can sound like an oxymoron—if we know something, how do we “mis”-know something? But in mimetic theory, the relationship between knowing and wanting is precarious. Misrecognition is an important concept in mimetic theory because it represents the relationship between desire and knowledge. The extent to which we want something to be true determines our relationship to the truth. Consider the case of someone who holds a repugnant moral position—for instance, the support of Nazi ideology—whose misrecognition of the issue increases the more he gains true knowledge about the state of affairs. He bends all of that knowledge to his own ends. The phenomenon of misrecognition is at the heart of ideology.

[2] For more on méconnaissance, I highly recommend Dumouchel’s book The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays.