Item description for Tocqueville: Democracy in America (Library of America) by Alexis De Tocqueville & Olivier Zunz...
Overview An influential study of America's national government, egalitarian ideals, and character offers reflections on the effect of majority rule on the rights of individuals and provides insight into the rewards and responsibilities of a democratic government.
Publishers Description Alexis de Tocqueville, a young aristocratic French lawyer, came to the United States in 1831 to study its penitentiary systems. His nine-month visit and subsequent reading and reflection resulted in Democracy in America (1835A-40), a landmark masterpiece of political observation and analysis. Tocqueville vividly describes the unprecedented social equality he found in America and explores its implications for European society in the emerging modern era. His book provides enduring insight into the political consequences of widespread property ownership, the potential dangers to liberty inherent in majority rule, the importance of civil institutions in an individualistic culture dominated by the pursuit of material self-interest, and the vital role of religion in American life, while prophetically probing the deep differences between the free and slave states. The clear, fluid, and vigorous translation by Arthur Goldhammer is the first to fully capture TocquevilleA's achievements both as an accomplished literary stylist and as a profound political thinker.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 5.25" Height: 8" Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2004
Publisher Library of America
ISBN 1931082545 ISBN13 9781931082549
Availability 0 units.
More About Alexis De Tocqueville & Olivier Zunz
Arthur Goldhammer is the award-winning translator of more than eighty French works in history, literature, art history, classical studies, philosophy, psychology, and social science. Olivier Zunz is Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia, and the author of numerous books including "Why the American Century?" He has also co-edited "The Tocqueville Reader" (Blackwell) and is president of the Tocqueville Society.
Alexis De Tocqueville was born in 1805 and died in 1859.
Reviews - What do customers think about Tocqueville: Democracy in America (Library of America)?
Tocqueville, Democracy In America Aug 16, 2008
As I read this wonderful book I was struck how very intuitive the author was. He outlines what he has observed of our country and then writes what he thinks what the furture holds for us. I was impressed with how he examined not just the body politic of America but its people, values and mores ( I so enjoyed the useage of his words). A remarkable book.
Great History From a Unique Perspective Oct 28, 2007
A greatly informing, entertaining view of the American people....... Their habits, culture, and government as seen through the eyes of a young Frenchman who spent nine months in America in 1831, including a visit to Memphis....Don't be put off by the early date of publication. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the man's spot on observations of certain traits unique to the American character.....Very insightful thoughts into where we as a nation and people have been, and where we are headed as well as warnings of the pitfalls ahead....This guy had an amazing handle on who we are way back in the 1830s.....The "Library of America" production value is second to none. A fine binding...
Classic analysis of American-style democracy May 6, 2007
It's basically impossible for Americans to investigate American-style democracy without a biased perspective, yet a critical examination of the history of our democratic institutions and processes is so helpful in understanding our rights and obligations to our country. Tocqueville's analysis might be old, and the relative influence of various parts of our government might have changed, but it is still useful in bringing an outsider's perspective on why (mid-nineteenth century) American democracy was the hope and envy of the world.
Tocqueville Mar 8, 2007
Surprisingly clear writing of acute observations. An essential book for anyone with an interest in American History.
Essential Reading on Political Philosophy Sep 11, 2006
While I was delighted with Tocqueville's masterpiece per se, it's necessary to emphasize that this particular edition is superb. First, the translation is in good, fluid style; second, it is unabridged, which is essential; and third, because it included the notes and map. I have read abridged editions and found them uninteresting because the analytical digressions were cut off. Please don't be daunted by the great length of this edition; I found it a surprisingly fast read.
It's not terribly original to rave about the excellence of Tocqueville's work; even those who disagree with his worldview find his way of expressing it both stimulating and very useful for solidifying their own opinions. Tocqueville, moreover, is very good at using classical methods of dialectical philosophy to explain why one would expect certain conditions to prevail in the United States, given other circumstances that obtain.
Having just read much of the political philosophy of Plato, plus Bertrand Russell's criticism of it, I would say that a commonly-overlooked merit of Tocqueville's work--particularly Book I--is that it serves as a dialectic alternative to the Platonic tradition of political philosophy. Plato used an ingenious approach of leading questions and deductive responses to argue that society required a firm structure with permanent, ergo ultraconservative, institutions. The object was to preserve high-mindedness and public spiritedness, which for Plato and the great majority of Western political philosophers since him, meant a caste society with equality within each class. Both features, plus the absolute devotion to warfare and martial glory (on the part of the guardians) naturally militated against liberty.
Writers since Plato, such as Filmer, applied variants of this political philosophy to more recent societies, usually relaxing Plato's corollary hostility to new technologies: modern technology tended to facilitate state coercion, and experience with egalitarianism amongst classes--as, for example, in revolutionary battlefields--suggested that it was not essential, or even helpful, for suppressing class struggle. Tocqueville's insight was to apply a dialectic of liberty to the experience of democracies in general and the United States in particular (he distinguishes firmly between the two; France after the July  revolution was, for example, more democratic than before, and the like was true for the UK after the 1832 Reform Act). Oddly, he regards the USA as distinguished mainly by the high degree of EQUALITY he saw there, rather than democracy; he regards the latter as having the far more decisive impact on the formation of social mores, and hence, of living conditions.
I said Tocqueville offers a dialectic alternative to Plato's caste-oligarchy. He is dialectic in the sense that he organizes the book in many short chapters, each proposing a question about the peculiar Usonian national character (e.g., why is American patriotism so captious? Why are American attitudes so conformist?). The succession of questions is not truly dialectic, insofar as they are not, strictly speaking, interrelated, as a Platonic dialogue would be; however, Tocqueville does rely on deductive reasoning to explain what he has observed, and, much the way Socrates was supposed to have deduced the immortality of the soul and its survival into the next life, so Tocqueville makes some startlingly accurate predictions about the future of the United States.
Tocqueville's general view of the USA is startlingly favorable, particularly for a European observer; but it includes much criticism, some of it harsh. In particular, he finds conformity of opinions and the tyranny of the majority almost unendurable; slavery he attacks lightly (France still had slavery in 1835, and the UK began phasing out slavery in 1834; abolition was still a sore point amongst the colonial powers), but his prognosis of race relations is extremely bleak. He never includes the words, "America is great, because it is good" (that appears to have originated with either Gerald Ford in March '76 or with Eisenhower, to whom Ford attributed the remark); it's pretty clear that Tocqueville was not prone to such fatuous simplification. He does, however, regard the problems of democracy in the United States as generally easier to mitigate and live with, than the residual problems of autocracy in Europe. He also regards the emergence of democracy as inevitable.