The Idea of France by Pierre Birnbaum

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A thoughtful new analysis of the importance of history in understanding national identity

Modern France-born in the fire of revolution-was founded on dreams of unity, of a society of equal and like individuals working together. Today, ethnic and religious groups assert their essential autonomy, and France is home to an astonishing variety of opinions and allegiances. Most commentators see today's multiethnic France as a new entity, something contrary to the accomplishments of the Revolution-but Pierre Birnbaum believes otherwise.

In this major work, France's leading political theorist shows that the clashing identities of different groups did not disappear in 1789, but, rather, persisted in a quieter way. He shows how today's debates over Arab immigrants and the National Front mirror eighteenth-century arguments between republicans and Catholics, state and Church. The result is a brilliantly argued examination of how the French have over two centuries invented and reinvented their nation and their national identity.

About Pierre Birnbaum

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Pierre Birnbaum is Professor of Politics and Philosophy at the University of Paris I (the Sorbonne). He is the author of numerous books, several of which have been translated into English, including Jewish Destinies (H&W, 2000).
Published September 1, 2001 by Hill and Wang. 352 pages
Genres: History, Travel. Non-fiction

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An account of modern French politics and society, from the distinguished Sorbonne philosopher Birnbaum (Jewish Destinies, 2000).

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$32.00.) In his introduction to The Idea of France (originally La France imaginée), Pierre Birnbaum writes, "On the one hand, [France] has seen its soul as residing in a privileged relationship with Reason, and its deep personality expressed in an unquestioning adherence to the ideas of the Enl...

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