Democracy in America

( 12 )

Overview

No other book is as pervasively woven into the fabric of American public life and culture as Democracy in America. Tocqueville's study of nineteenth-century America is cited often and everywhere: from presidential addresses to high-school speeches, from the editorial pages of national newspapers to local radio broadcasts, from high-school and college classrooms to Sunday sermons. This Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1835 and 1840 English translations of Tocqueville's two volumes by his friend Henry Reeve....
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Democracy in America

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Overview

No other book is as pervasively woven into the fabric of American public life and culture as Democracy in America. Tocqueville's study of nineteenth-century America is cited often and everywhere: from presidential addresses to high-school speeches, from the editorial pages of national newspapers to local radio broadcasts, from high-school and college classrooms to Sunday sermons. This Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1835 and 1840 English translations of Tocqueville's two volumes by his friend Henry Reeve. It allows today's readers to experience the book as Tocqueville's contemporaries did. It is accompanied by a full-scale introduction addressing Democracy in America's canonical place in American life and by essential explanatory annotations.

"Backgrounds" includes related letters from Tocqueville to Ernest de Chabrol, Henry Reeve, and John Quincy Adams, among others, in which he shares impressions of his nine-and-a-half-month journey through the United States. A collection of nine European and American reviews-including those by Sainte-Beuve. Pellegrino Rossi, John C. Spencer, and John Stuart Mill-allows readers to assess Democracy in America's contemporary reception. Recent interpretations by David Riesman, Max Lerner, Robert Nisbet, James T. Schleifer, Catherine Zuckert, Sheldon S. Wolin, Edward C. Banfield, Daniel T. Rodgers, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Sean Wilentz, Henry Steele Commager, James T. Kloppenberg, and Tamara M. Teale explore Tocqueville's influence on American political thought and on democracy's legacy. A Selected Bibliography is also included.

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

New York Review of Books - Gordon S. Wood
"The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century."
The New Criterion - Roger Kimball
"The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville."
Wall Street Journal - Thomas Pavel
"If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought."
Times Literary Supplement - Robert P. George
"Democracy in America will continue to be read with profit as long as the United States survives as a republic and, indeed, as long as democracy endures. It deserves faithful translators, careful expositors and insightful commentators. In Mansfield and Winthrop it has found them."
Newsweek - Robert J. Samuelson
"[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible."
The New Yorker - Adam Gopnik
"This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find."
Choice
"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
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
New York Review of Books
The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century.

— Gordon S. Wood

Choice

"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
The New Criterion
The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville.

— Roger Kimball

Wall Street Journal
If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought.

— Thomas Pavel

Times Literary Supplement

"An instructive account. . .of the historical sources of The Old Regime."
Newsweek
[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible.

— Robert J. Samuelson

The New Yorker
This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find.

— Adam Gopnik

From the Publisher
"No better study of a nation's institutions and culture than Tocqueville's Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer; none perhaps as good."
The New York Times

Praise for the work of Joseph Epstein:

"Epstein is one of the premier contemporary American essayists...What is so remarkable about Epstein as an essay writer is that he'll begin a discussion at some personal place...and end up in another place relevant to us all. He enjoys making language work, not making it jump through hoops for show." —Booklist

"Joseph Epstein is an essayist in the brilliant tradition of Charles Lamb. He moves so effortlessly from the amusingly personal to the broadly philosophical that it takes a moment before you realize how far out into the intellectual cosmos you've been taken."
—Tom Wolfe

"Joseph Epstein's essays no more need his identifying byline than Van Gogh's paintings need his signature. Epstein's style—call it learned whimsy—is unmistakable; for Epstein addicts, indispensable."
—George Will

"Joseph Epstein is the liveliest, most erudite and engaging essayist we have." —James Atlas

"If Epstein's ultimate ancestor is Montaigne, his more immediate master is Mencken. Like Mencken, he has fashioned a style that successfully combines elegance and even bookishness with street-smart colloquial directness. And there is nothing remote or aloof about him."
—John Gross, Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226805368
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Series: Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 722
  • Sales rank: 213,016
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (French: 29 July 1805 - 16 April 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals, as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States, and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830-1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849-1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.

He argued that the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals. Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government, but was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.

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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
Author's Introduction
Part One
1. Origin of the Anglo-Americans (II)
2. Democratic Social Condition (III)
3. The Sovereignty of the People in America (IV)
4. Local Government (V)
5. Decentralization in America—Its Effects (V)
6. Judicial Power in the United States, and Its Influence on Political Society (VI)
7. Aspects of the Federal Constitution (VIII)
8. Political Parties (IX, X)
9. Liberty of the Press in the United States (XI)
10. Political Associations in the United States (XII)
11. Advantages of Democracy in the United States (XIV)
12. Unlimited Power of the Majority in the United States and Its Consequences (XV)
13. Causes Which Mitigate the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States (XVI)
14. Causes Which Tend to Maintain Democracy (XVII)
15. Future Prospects of the United States (XVIII)
Part Two: Book I - Influence of Democracy Upon the Action of Intellect in the United States
16. Philosophical Method of the Americans (I, II)
17. Influence of Democracy on Religion (V, VI)
18. Equality Suggests to the Americans the Idea of the Indefinite Perfectibility of Man (VIII)
19. The Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude and No Taste for Science, Literature, or Art (IX)
20. Why the Americans Are More Addicted to Practical than to Theoretical Science (X)
21. In What Spirit the Americans Cultivate the Arts (XI)
22. Literary Characteristics of Democratic Times (XIII)
23. Of Some Sources of Poetry Amongst Democratic Nations (XVII)
24. Why American Writers and Orators Often Use an Inflated Style (XVIII)
25. Some Characteristics of Historians in Democratic Times (XX)
Book II - Influence of Democracy on the Feelings of the Americans
26. Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality than of Liberty (I)
27. Of Individualism in Democratic Countries (II)
28. That the Americans Combat the Effects of Individualism by Free Institutions (IV)
29. Of the Use Which the Americans Make of Public Associations in Civil Life (V)
30. Of the Relation Between Public Associations and the Newspapers (VI)
31. Relation of Civil to Political Associations (VII)
32. Of the Taste for Physical Well-Being in America (XI)
33. What Causes Almost All Americans to Follow Industrial Callings (XIX)
34. How an Aristocracy May Be Created by Manufactures (XX)
Book III - Influence of Democracy on Manners Properly So Called
35. How Democracy Renders the Habitual Intercourse of the Americans Simple and Easy (II)
36. Why the Americans Show So Little Sensitiveness in Their Own Country, and Are So Sensitive in Europe (III)
37. Influence of Democracy on Wages (VII)
38. Influence of Democracy on the Family (VIII)
39. Young Women in a Democracy (IX, X)
40. How Equality of Condition Contributes to Maintain Good Morals in America (XI)
41. How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes (XII)
42. How the Principle of Equality Naturally Divides the Americans into a Multitude of Small Private Circles (XIII)
43. Some Reflections on American Manners (XIV)
44. Why the National Vanity of the Americans Is More Restless and Captious than that of the English (XVI)
45. How the Aspect of Society in the United States Is at Once Excited and Monotonous (XVII)
46. Why So Many Ambitious Men and So Little Lofty Ambition Are to Be Found in the United States (XIX)
47. The Trade of Place-Hunting in Certain Democratic Countries (XX)
48. Why Great Revolutions Will Become More Rare (XXI)
49. Why Democratic Nations Are Naturally Desirous of Peace, and Democratic Armies of War (XXII)
50. Causes Which Render Democratic Armies Weaker than Other Armies at the Outset of a Campaign, and More Formidable in Protracted Warfare (XXIV)
51. Some Considerations on War in Democratic Communities (XXVI)
Book IV - Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society
52. Equality Naturally Gives Men a Taste for Free Institutions (I)
53. That the Opinions of Democratic Nations About Government Are Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Power (II)
54. That the Sentiments of Democratic Nations Accord with Their Opinions in Leading Them to Concentrate Political Power (III)
55. Of Certain Peculiar and Accidental Causes, Which Either Lead a People to Complete the Centralization of Government, or Which Divert Them from It (IV)
56. What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear (VI)
57. General Survey of the Subject (VIII)

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2003

    Astute observer of America

    De Tocqueville was simply of one of the great social scientists writing about America and Democracy. From reading the book I deduced that De Tocqueville was a social scientist before Marx! He compares European culture and government with the fledgling culture and democracy he observes in America. He is very much impressed with what he sees taking place in America in the 1830's and hopes it will spread to Europe. He at first believed that America's prosperity was simply due to geography and their distance from powerful neighbors, he abandons this idea after his visit to America. He comes to realize that the West is not being peopled 'by new European immigrants to America, but by Americans who he believes have no adversity to taking risks'. De Tocqueville comes to see that Americans are the most broadly educated and politically advanced people in the world and one of the reasons for the success of our form of government. He also foretells America's industrial preeminence and strength through the unfettered spread of ideas and human industry. De Tocqueville also saw the insidious damage that the institution of slavery was causing the country and predicted some 30 years before the Civil War that slavery would probable cause the states to fragment from the union. He also the emergence of stronger states rights over the power of the federal government. He held fast to his belief that the greatest danger to democracy was the trend toward the concentration of power by the federal government. He predicted wrongly that the union would probably break up into 2 or 3 countries because of regional interests and differences. This idea is the only one about America that he gets wrong. Despite some of his misgivings, De Tocqueville, saw that democracy is an 'inescapable development' of the modern world. The arguments in the 'Federalist Papers' were greater than most people realized. He saw a social revolution coming that continues throughout the world today. De Tocqueville realizes at the very beginning of the 'industrial revolution' how industry, centralization and democracy strengthened each other and moved forward together. I am convinced that De Tocqueville is still the preeminent observer of America but is also the father of social science. A must read for anyone interested in American history, political philosophy or the social sciences.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Remains Current Even Today

    Interesting and well written of a perspective on the U.S. in the 19th century; de Tocqueville examines our form of democracy, political associations and the races at that time.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2003

    Borinnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggg

    As a Junior in High School I can't begin to tell you how boring and difficult to read is this book. Could'nt Mr.Heffner have found a more to the point approach for those of us who HAVE to read this book?

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    Awesome! Insightful! Prophetic!

    This abridged version of the classic was so good that I got the full version which is over twice as long. However, this version does present the ideas well. The translation uses a bit outdated English but the positive side of that is that it reminds you when it was written, i.e. about 1840. It not only predicts current day problems but seems to point to the coming Civil War, the Mexican War and the trouble between labor and big business. Actually so many of the warnings have come to pass that I found myself wondering if we still have a republic.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2008

    Fantastic detail, interesting opinions and predictions, BUT A MISERABLE READ

    Alexis De Tocqueville paints an amazingly detailed and accurate picture of the early stages of America's political,social, and economic status. HOWEVER, as this is an ABRIDGED version, I'm sure that this version could've been much much much much more Ad Hoc. As a junior in high school reading this for the summer, I can tell you that this book is a horrifyingly boring read, not just because of its length and difficulty, but because its seemingly irrelevant detail which is given. If you're a history buff, you will MAYBE love this book. In my honest opinion, this book is best read in excerpts.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2001

    Tocqueville: Human Nature in American Democracy

    Toqueville's work unquestionably will last for as long as human nature remains the same. Certainly, it is diverting to read accounts about the topography and anachronistically idiosyncratic habits of the inhabitants of America over a century ago; the fundamental value of his work, however, lies in his understanding of human nature that does not change throughout time. More than most (if not all) writers on the American polity, he perceives how certain tendencies of human nature are revealed in the particular society founded upon practical wisdom, personal responsibility, self-reliance, and faith. Many of his disquisitions on these tendencies that could be accentuated in American democracy are now more thought-provoking than ever. One prominent example is his intuitive grasp of a challenge to Americans. He shows famously how they are practical and intent upon getting things done by combining in 'societies.' A problem could occur if ever the citizens in general become selfish and much less self-reliant: 'individualism' could arise. He articulates a bleak portrait of a society in which none care to take personal responsibility, but are willing to sacrifice freedom for temporary security. This is disquieting for modern society, and it would be well were more people to read his work and learn from it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2014

    Timeless

    De Toqueville's observations detailing just who the Americans are, remains valid to this day. His writings do not confirm the pretentious belief in American Exceptionalism rather, they expose the subtle differences in how we view individualism and the State and the belief system in continental Europe.

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