La République et le cochon, de Pierre Birnbaum

2 min

La République et le cochon (The Republic and the Pig), by Pierre Birnbaum

Questioning the symbolism of the shared table in French history, Pierre Birnbaum offers an acerbic look at how the Republic views religious differences and advocates open secularism.

© Seuil

From sociology to history

Pierre Birnbaum's childhood, hidden by a family in the village of Omex during the Vichy regime, played a crucial role in his journey. A law graduate, he first established himself as a sociologist of the sovereign state, with works such as La Logique de l'État (The Logic of the State, 1982).


His breakthrough came at the end of the 1980s with Un mythe politique : la « République juive »  (A political myth: the "Jewish Republic ", 1988) and Les Fous de la République (The Follies of the Republic, 1992), where he returned to his origins to accurately write the history of the Jews of France. This field of research therefore dominates his work. La République et le cochon, which was published in 2014, is part of this lineage.


To the table, citizens!

Since the Enlightenment, France seems to have a passion for pigs. They are everywhere – at our tables, in literature and in politics – and conceal, in a nutshell, a question: do we have to eat the same dishes to be a good citizen?


The fruit of a well-researched and invigorating work, La République et le cochon shows how the issue of meat consumption traverses the ages, crystallising tensions around religion and citizenship.


In it, Pierre Birnbaum invites his reader to abandon a restrictive vision of the nation in favour of a secularism open to “the other”.


An attempt to soothe

In the early 2010s, France was rocked by a series of controversies surrounding halal and kosher foods. The debate culminated in the 2012 presidential election when the far right and some secular associations organised "sausage/wine aperitifs."


This tumultuous context stimulated Pierre Birnbaum to examine the symbolism of the pig in the history of France, in order to offer an original insight on the subject and to soothe community tensions.


The American friend

Pierre Birnbaum’s international aura owes much to his attraction to the United States, to which he devoted his thesis (“The Structuring of Power in the United States” submitted in 1966) and a founding work The Two Houses: The Jews, the State and the Two Republics (2012). The acclaimed work allowed him to teach at Columbia and then New York University for nearly 10 years, and made his thinking resonate across borders.

The Institut français and the project

La République et le cochon, by Pierre Birnbaum has been translated into japanese with the support of the Institut français. 

Through its publication support programmes, the Institut français participates in the dissemination of French language humanities worldwide. Learn more about the publication assistance programmes