Democracy in America (The Audio Classics Series)

Overview

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French nobleman and an astute political scientist, came to the United States to evaluate the meaning and actual functioning of democracy. Democracy in America is the classic treatise on the American way of life that he wrote as a result of his visit.

Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of the majority rule -- which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of the aristocracy. He analyzes the ...

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Overview

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French nobleman and an astute political scientist, came to the United States to evaluate the meaning and actual functioning of democracy. Democracy in America is the classic treatise on the American way of life that he wrote as a result of his visit.

Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of the majority rule -- which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of the aristocracy. He analyzes the influence of political parties and the press on the government and the effect of democracy on the social, political, and economic life of the American people. He also offers some startling predictions about world politics, which history has borne out. So brilliant and penetrating are his comments and criticisms, they have vital meaning today for all who are interested in democracy.

Out of Alexis de Toqueville's travels through the U.S. in the 1830's came an insightful study of a young democracy and its institutions.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
<:st> Political philosophers Mansfield (government, Harvard U.) and Winthrop (constitutional government, Harvard U.) present a new translation<-->only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840<-->aiming to restore the nuances of Tocqueville's language. Tocqueville himself was not satisfied with the 19th-century translation; the other, prepared in the late 1960s (Harper & Row), is cited in This translation is based on a recent critical French edition (Editions Gallimard, 1992). Mansfield and Winthrop provide a substantial introduction placing the work and its author in historical and philosophical context, as well as annotations elucidating references that are no longer familiar to readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Caleb Crain
Thanks to [Tocqueville's] prescience, a new edition of ''Democracy in America'' is always timely.
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780938935124
  • Publisher: Knowledge Products
  • Publication date: 5/1/1987
  • Series: The Audio Classics Series
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: 2 Cassettes
  • Product dimensions: 4.37 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Physical Configuration
of North America


North America divided into two vast regions, one sloping toward the pole, the other toward the equator. Mississippi valley and its geology. The Atlantic coast and the foundation of the English colonies. Contrast between North and South America at the time of discovery. North American forests and prairies. Nomadic native tribes and their appearance, mores, and languages. Traces of an unknown people.

North America has striking geographical features which can be appreciated at first glance.

Land and water, mountains and valleys, seem to have been separated with systematic method, and the simple majesty of this design stands out amid the confusion and immense variety of the scene.

The continent is divided into two vast and almost equal regions.

One region is bounded by the North Pole and the great oceans to east and west, while to the south it stretches down in an irregular triangle to the Great Lakes of Canada.

The second starts where the other ends and covers the rest of the continent.

One region slopes gently toward the pole, the other toward the equator.

The lands to the north of the first region slope so imperceptibly that they may almost be described as plains, and there are no high mountains or deep valleys in the whole of this vast level expanse.

Chance seems to trace the serpentine courses of the streams; great rivers mingle, separate, and meet again; they get lost in a thousand marshes, meandering continually through the watery labyrinth they have formed, and only after innumerable detours do they finally reach the Arctic sea.The Great Lakes, which bring this region to an end, are not framed, as are most lakes in the Old World, by hills or rocks; their banks are level, hardly rising more than a few feet above the water. So each is like a huge cup filled to the brim. The slightest change of global structure would tilt their waters to the pole or to the tropics.

The second region is broken up more and is better suited as a permanent home for man. Two mountain chains run right across it; the Alleghenies parallel to the Atlantic, and the Rockies to the Pacific.

The area between these two mountain chains is 1,341,649 square miles, or about six times that of France.

But the whole of this vast territory is a single valley sloping down from the smooth summits of the Alleghenies and stretching up to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, with no obstacles in the way.

An immense river flows along the bottom of this valley, and all the waters falling on the mountains on every side drain into it.

Formerly the French called it the St. Louis River, in memory of their distant fatherland, and the Indians in their grandiloquent tongue named it the Father of Waters, the Mississippi.

The Mississippi rises in the borderland between our two regions, not far from the highest point in the plain which links them.

Another river which rises nearby flows down into the polar seas. The Mississippi itself sometimes seems in doubt which way to go; it twists backward several times, and only after slowing down in lakes and marshes seems finally to make up its mind and meander on toward the south.

Sometimes gently flowing along the clay bed which nature has carved out for it, and sometimes swollen by storms; the Mississippi waters some twenty-five hundred square miles.

Thirteen hundred and sixty-four miles above its mouth, the river already has a mean depth of fifteen feet, and ships of three hundred tons can go over four hundred and fifty miles up it.

Fifty-seven large navigable rivers flow into it. Among the tributaries of the Mississippi are one river thirteen hundred leagues long, another of nine hundred leagues," another of six hundred, another of five hundred; there are four other rivers of two hundred leagues, not to mention the innumerable small stream on every side which augment its flood.

The valley watered by the Mississippi seems created for it alone; it dispenses good and evil at will like a local god. Near the river nature displays an inexhaustible fertility; the further you go from its banks, the sparser the vegetation and the poorer becomes the soil, and everything wilts or dies. Nowhere have the great convulsions of the world left more evident traces than in the valley of the Mississippi. The aspect of the whole countryside bears witness to the waters' work. Its sterility as well as its abundance is their work. Deep layers of fertile soil accumulated under the primeval ocean and had time to level out. On the right bank of the river there are huge plains as level as a rolled lawn. But nearer the mountains the land becomes more and more uneven and sterile; the soil is punctured in a thousand places by primitive rocks sticking out here and there like the bones of a skeleton when sinews and flesh have perished. The surface of the earth is covered with granitic sand and irregularly shaped stones, through which a few plants just manage to force their way; it looks like a fertile field covered by the ruins of some vast structure. Analysis of this sand and these rocks easily demonstrates that they are exactly like those on the bare and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. No doubt the rains which washed all the soil down to the bottom of the valley, in the end brought portions of the rocks too; they were rolled down the neighboring slopes, and after they had been dashed one against another, were scattered at the base of the mountains from which they had fallen. (See Appendix I, A.)

All things considered, the valley of the Mississippi is the most magnificent habitation ever prepared by God for man, and yet one may say that it is still only a vast wilderness.

On the eastern slopes of the Alleghenies, between the mountains and the Atlantic, there is a long strip of rock and sand which seems to have been left behind by the retreating ocean. This strip is only forty-eight leagues broad on the average, but three hundred and ninety leagues long. The soil in this part of the American continent can be cultivated only with difficulty. The vegetation is scanty and uniform.

It was on that inhospital shore that the first efforts of human...

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Table of Contents

Introduction
The Point of Departure and Its Importance for the Future of the Anglo-Americans 26
The Social State of the Anglo-Americans 45
The Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America 54
The Necessity of Studying What Happens within the Particular States before Discussing the Government of the Union 57
The Judicial Power in the United States and Its Influence on Political Society 99
The Federal Constitution 113
How It Can Be Strictly Said That in the United States It Is the People That Govern 177
Parties in the United States 178
Liberty of the Press in the United States 185
The Government of Democracy in America 202
What Are the Real Advantages That American Society Derives from Democratic Government 241
The Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects 257
What Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States 273
Principal Causes That Tend to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States 289
Some Considerations on the Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States 331
The Philosophic Method of the Americans 11
The Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples 16
How, in the United States, Religion Is Able to Make Use of Democratic Instincts 27
The Progress of Catholicism in the United States 35
How Equality Suggests to Americans the Idea of the Indefinite Perfectibility of Man 39
Why the Americans Are More Devoted to the Practice of the Sciences Than to Their Theory 46
The Industry of Literature 66
Why the Study of Greek and Latin Literature Is Especially Useful in Democratic Societies 67
Some Particular Tendencies of Historians in Democratic Times 89
Why Democratic Peoples Show a More Ardent and More Lasting Love for Equality Than for Liberty 101
Individualism in Democratic Countries 105
How the Americans Combat Individualism by Free Institutions 109
The Use That the Americans Make of the Association in Civil Life 113
The Relationship between Associations and Newspapers 118
Relationships between Civil and Political Associations 122
How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Doctrine of Interest Rightly Understood 127
How the Americans Apply the Doctrine of Interest Rightly Understood in Matters of Religion 131
The Taste for Material Well-Being in America 134
The Particular Effects That the Love of Material Pleasures Produces in Democratic Times 137
Why Certain Americans Display Such an Intense Spiritualism 140
Why the Americans Prove to Be So Uneasy in the Midst of Their Well-Being 142
How Religious Beliefs Sometimes Turn the Soul of Americans toward Spiritual Pleasures 149
How, in Times of Equality and of Skepticism, It Is Important to Place the Goal of Human Actions at a Greater Distance 155
Why, among the Americans, All Honest Occupations Are Considered Honorable 158
What Makes Almost All Americans Lean toward Industrial Occupations 160
How Aristocracy May Emerge from Industry 164
How Moral Habits Become Milder as Conditions Become More Equal 171
Influence of Democracy on the Family 200
The Education of Young Women in the United States 206
How the Young Woman Reappears in the Features of the Wife 209
How Equality of Conditions Contributes to the Maintenance of Good Morals in America 212
How the Americans Understand the Equality of Man and Woman 219
How the Aspect of Society, in the United States, Is at Once Agitated and Monotonous 236
On Honor in the United States and in Democratic Societies 238
Why There Are So Many Ambitious Men and So Few Great Ambitions in the United States 250
Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare 258
Equality Naturally Gives to Men the Taste for Free Institutions 295
That the Ideas of Democratic Peoples Regarding Government Are Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Powers 297
That the Sentiments of Democratic Peoples Accord with Their Ideas in Leading Them to Concentrate Power 300
What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear 322
Continuation of the Preceding Chapters 328
General View of the Subject 336
Notes 341
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