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

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

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."
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

From the Paperback edition.

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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061127922
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/29/2006
  • Series: Harper Perennial Modern Classics Series
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 604,240
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author


Harvey C. Mansfield is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. Political philosopher and author, he is acknowledged as a leading translator of Machiavelli.

Delba Winthrop is a Lecturer in Extension and administrator of the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications.

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Read an Excerpt


Democracy in America



By Alexis de Tocqueville


University of Chicago Press



Copyright © 2003


University of Chicago
All right reserved.


ISBN: 0-226-80536-0





Chapter One


On the Use That the Americans Make of
Association in Civil Life

I do not wish to speak of those political associations with the aid of
which men seek to defend themselves against the despotic action of a
majority or against the encroachments of royal power. I have already
treated this subject elsewhere. It is clear that if each citizen, as he
becomes individually weaker and consequently more incapable in isolation
of preserving his freedom, does not learn the art of uniting with those
like him to defend it, tyranny will necessarily grow with equality.

Here it is a question only of the associations that are formed in civil
life and which have an object that is in no way political.

The political associations that exist in the United States form only a
detail in the midst of the immense picture that the sum of associations
presents there.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not
only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take
part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave,
futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small;
Americansuse associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build
inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the
antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.
Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a
sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere
that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France
and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an
association in the United States.

In America I encountered sorts of associations of which, I confess, I had
no idea, and I often admired the infinite art with which the inhabitants
of the United States managed to fix a common goal to the efforts of many
men and to get them to advance to it freely.

I have since traveled through England, from which the Americans took some
of their laws and many of their usages, and it appeared to me that there
they were very far from making as constant and as skilled a use of
association.

It often happens that the English execute very great things in isolation,
whereas there is scarcely an undertaking so small that Americans do not
unite for it. It is evident that the former consider association as a
powerful means of action; but the latter seem to see in it the sole means
they have of acting.

Thus the most democratic country on earth is found to be, above all, the
one where men in our day have most perfected the art of pursuing the
object of their common desires in common and have applied this new science
to the most objects. Does this result from an accident or could it be that
there in fact exists a necessary relation between associations and
equality?

Aristocratic societies always include within them, in the midst of a
multitude of individuals who can do nothing by themselves, a few very
powerful and very wealthy citizens; each of these can execute great
undertakings by himself.

In aristocratic societies men have no need to unite to act because they
are kept very much together.

Each wealthy and powerful citizen in them forms as it were the head of a
permanent and obligatory association that is composed of all those he
holds in dependence to him, whom he makes cooperate in the execution of
his designs.

In democratic peoples, on the contrary, all citizens are independent and
weak; they can do almost nothing by themselves, and none of them can
oblige those like themselves to lend them their cooperation. They
therefore all fall into impotence if they do not learn to aid each other
freely.

If men who live in democratic countries had neither the right nor the
taste to unite in political goals, their independence would run great
risks, but they could preserve their wealth and their enlightenment for a
long time; whereas if they did not acquire the practice of associating
with each other in ordinary life, civilization itself would be in peril. A
people among whom particular persons lost the power of doing great things
in isolation, without acquiring the ability to produce them in common,
would soon return to barbarism.

Unhappily, the same social state that renders associations so necessary to
democratic peoples renders them more difficult for them than for all
others.

When several members of an aristocracy want to associate with each other
they easily succeed in doing so. As each of them brings great force to
society, the number of members can be very few, and, when the members are
few in number, it is very easy for them to know each other, to understand
each other, and to establish fixed rules.

The same facility is not found in democratic nations, where it is always
necessary that those associating be very numerous in order that the
association have some power.

I know that there are many of my contemporaries whom this does not
embarrass. They judge that as citizens become weaker and more incapable,
it is necessary to render the government more skillful and more active in
order that society be able to execute what individuals can no longer do.
They believe they have answered everything in saying that. But I think
they are mistaken.

A government could take the place of some of the greatest American
associations, and within the Union several particular states already have
attempted it. But what political power would ever be in a state to suffice
for the innumerable multitude of small undertakings that American citizens
execute every day with the aid of an association?

It is easy to foresee that the time is approaching when a man by himself
alone will be less and less in a state to produce the things that are the
most common and the most necessary to his life. The task of the social
power will therefore constantly increase, and its very efforts will make
it vaster each day. The more it puts itself in place of associations, the
more particular persons, losing the idea of associating with each other,
will need it to come to their aid: these are causes and effects that
generate each other without rest. Will the public administration in the
end direct all the industries for which an isolated citizen cannot
suffice? and if there finally comes a moment when, as a consequence of the
extreme division of landed property, the land is partitioned infinitely,
so that it can no longer be cultivated except by associations of laborers,
will the head of the government have to leave the helm of state to come
hold the plow?

The morality and intelligence of a democratic people would risk no fewer
dangers than its business and its industry if the government came to take
the place of associations everywhere.

Sentiments and ideas renew themselves, the heart is enlarged, and the
human mind is developed only by the reciprocal action of men upon one
another.

I have shown that this action is almost nonexistent in a democratic
country. It is therefore necessary to create it artificially there. And
this is what associations alone can do.

When the members of an aristocracy adopt a new idea or conceive a novel
sentiment, they place it in a way next to themselves on the great stage
they are on, and in thus exposing it to the view of the crowd, they easily
introduce it into the minds or hearts of all those who surround them.

In democratic countries, only the social power is naturally in a state to
act like this, but it is easy to see that its action is always
insufficient and often dangerous.

A government can no more suffice on its own to maintain and renew the
circulation of sentiments and ideas in a great people than to conduct all
its industrial undertakings. As soon as it tries to leave the political
sphere to project itself on this new track, it will exercise an
insupportable tyranny even without wishing to; for a government knows only
how to dictate precise rules; it imposes the sentiments and the ideas that
it favors, and it is always hard to distinguish its counsels from its
orders.

This will be still worse if it believes itself really interested in having
nothing stir. It will then hold itself motionless and let itself be numbed
by a voluntary somnolence.

It is therefore necessary that it not act alone.

In democratic peoples, associations must take the place of the powerful
particular persons whom equality of conditions has made disappear.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have conceived
a sentiment or an idea that they want to produce in the world, they seek
each other out; and when they have found each other, they unite. From then
on, they are no longer isolated men, but a power one sees from afar, whose
actions serve as an example; a power that speaks, and to which one
listens.

The first time I heard it said in the United States that a hundred
thousand men publicly engaged not to make use of strong liquors, the thing
appeared to me more amusing than serious, and at first I did not see well
why such temperate citizens were not content to drink water within their
families.

In the end I understood that those hundred thousand Americans, frightened
by the progress that drunkenness was making around them, wanted to provide
their patronage to sobriety. They had acted precisely like a great lord
who would dress himself very plainly in order to inspire the scorn of
luxury in simple citizens. It is to be believed that if those hundred
thousand men had lived in France, each of them would have addressed
himself individually to the government, begging it to oversee the cabarets
all over the realm.

There is nothing, according to me, that deserves more to attract our
regard than the intellectual and moral associations of America. We easily
perceive the political and industrial associations of the Americans, but
the others escape us; and if we discover them, we understand them badly
because we have almost never seen anything analogous. One ought however to
recognize that they are as necessary as the first to the American people,
and perhaps more so.

In democratic countries the science of association is the mother science;
the progress of all the others depends on the progress of that one.

Among the laws that rule human societies there is one that seems more
precise and clearer than all the others. In order that men remain
civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and
perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions
increases.

(Continues...)







Excerpted from Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville
Copyright © 2003
by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Note on this Reeve Edition
Preface to this Edition
Introductory Notice
Introductory Chapter 3
Ch. I Exterior form of North America 14
Ch. II Origin of the Anglo-Americans, and its importance in relation to their future condition 20
Ch. III Social condition of the Anglo-Americans 35
Ch. IV The principle of the sovereignty of the people in America 41
Ch. V Necessity of examining the condition of the States before that of the Union at Large 44
Ch. VI Judicial power in the United States, and its influence on political society 73
Ch. VII Political jurisdiction in the United States 79
Ch. VIII The Federal Constitution 84
Ch. IX Why the people may strictly be said to govern in the United States 133
Ch. X Parties in the United States 134
Ch. XI Liberty of the Press in the United States 140
Ch. XII Political associations in the United States 147
Ch. XIII Government of the Democracy in America 154
Ch. XIV What the real advantages are which American Society derives from the Government of the Democracy 186
Ch. XV Unlimited power of the majority in the United States, and its consequences 201
Ch. XVI Causes which mitigate the tyranny of the majority in the United States 215
Ch. XVII Principal causes which tend to maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States 228
Ch. XVIII The present and probable future condition of the three Races which inhabit the territory of the United States 264
Opinions of the Present Work 344
Endnotes 347
Appendix 640
Index 691
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    Democracy in America is a difficult read due to its political na

    Democracy in America is a difficult read due to its political nature, but it is very rewarding.  Tocqueville had excellent insight on the American political system and suggested that a similar style be used in post revolutionary France. His predictions from the novel didn't exactly come true, but history is still in the making.  After the American revolution ended and the colonies were  free questions arose as to how  the new states would be run without the need for a supreme ruler or king, and democracy was born. Shortly after the United States gained their independence , France began fighting for their own freedom. Eventually the too won. To gain insight about how they're new country should be ran Tocqueville spent 9 months in the &quot;new&quot; United States and studied their government and social systems. He was very surprised that the new states were doing so well and this left him with a optimistic view on the future of France. There was a part of the book that specifically discussed the constitution or the single document that governs the States.  This part was interesting to me because in our modern government there has been significant debate as to whether or not the constitutions has become out dated. Specifically the second and fourth amendment which republicans have said that the Obama administration violated. Because of my own political beliefs I found this section the most interesting and rewarding because it summed up the fact that the constitution was created for future generations and could not be altered. I found this part so important because it tells us direct that our rights had been violated. I definitely recommend &quot;Democracy in America to anyone, who is willing to read more about the political system of the United States. The material is very thought provoking and forces readers to think, about how the future of America will be because of current and past events.  

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