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Contesting Sacrifice

Religion, Nationalism, and Social Thought in France

From the counter-reformation through the twentieth century, the notion of sacrifice has played a key role in French culture and nationalist politics. Ivan Strenski traces the history of sacrificial thought in France, starting from its origins in Roman Catholic theology. Throughout, he highlights not just the dominant discourse on sacrifice but also the many competing conceptions that contested it.

Strenski suggests that the annihilating spirituality rooted in the Catholic model of Eucharistic sacrifice persuaded the judges in the Dreyfus Case to overlook or play down his possible innocence because a scapegoat was needed to expiate the sins of France and save its army from disgrace. Strenski also suggests that the French army’s strategy in World War I, French fascism, and debates over public education and civic morals during the Third Republic all owe much to Catholic theology of sacrifice and Protestant reinterpretations of it. Pointing out that every major theorist of sacrifice is French, including Bataille, Durkheim, Girard, Hubert, and Mauss, Strenski argues that we cannot fully understand their work without first taking into account the deep roots of sacrificial thought in French history.

237 pages | 18 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2002

History: European History

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion

Table of Contents

1. Sacrifice, Religion, and Politics
2. Catholic Politics, French Sacrifice
3. Contesting the National Rites of Sacrifice
4. The Dreyfus "Mystique" and the Conservation of the Sacred
5. Tartuffe, the Protestants, and Republican Sacrifice
6. Durkheim and Social Thought between Rome and Reform


American Academy of Religion: American Academy of Religion Awards for Excellence

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