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On Tocqueville: Democracy and America (Liveright Classics) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Tocqueville’s gifts as an observer and commentator on American life and democracy are brought to vivid life in this splendid volume.


In On Tocqueville, Alan Ryan brilliantly illuminates the observations of the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, who first journeyed to the United States in 1831 and went on to catalog the unique features of the American social contract in his two-volume masterpiece, Democracy in America. Often thought of as the father of "American ...
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On Tocqueville: Democracy and America (Liveright Classics)

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Overview

Tocqueville’s gifts as an observer and commentator on American life and democracy are brought to vivid life in this splendid volume.


In On Tocqueville, Alan Ryan brilliantly illuminates the observations of the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, who first journeyed to the United States in 1831 and went on to catalog the unique features of the American social contract in his two-volume masterpiece, Democracy in America. Often thought of as the father of "American Exceptionalism," Tocqueville sought to observe the social conditions of emerging political equality in America, "a river that may be channeled but cannot be stopped in its course." In choosing America, he posed a central question of how a moderate, stable, and constitutional government is to be maintained in the wake of a revolution. As a dispassionate visitor, Tocqueville wanted to discover the social, moral, and economic arrangements that made liberty and self-government possible.

In doing so, Tocqueville made a number of prescient observations about American life—whether it be the contrast between equality and liberty or Americans’ belief that they all belong to the middle class—that remain as relevant today as when they were first written. While Tocqueville is often praised by both conservatives and liberals, either for his distrust of big government and fondness for decentralized power or for his concern with association and community, both tend to overlook his contempt for the “coarse appearance” of the individual members of Congress as well as his enthusiasm for the brutal nature of our prison system. Alan Ryan examines the often complicated and elusive Democracy in America, tracing the influence of writers such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Guizot, and explaining Tocqueville’s original conceptions of equality and individualism within their historical context. In Ryan’s hands, On Tocqueville becomes the perfect introduction and guide to Democracy in America.


On Tocqueville: Democracy and America features:


• a chronology of Alexis de Tocqueville's life


• an introduction and text by Alan Ryan that provides crucial context and cogent analysis


• key excerpts from Democracy in America

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/01/2014
Ryan's (politics, Princeton Univ.) short work on Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) and his classic text Democracy in America is meant to be an introduction to the political thinker's life and thought. The book is divided into two sections. The first contains Ryan's overview of Tocqueville himself, his influences and writings, and the two volumes of the aforementioned seminal work. The second section contains excerpts from Tocqueville's writings that showcase his views and observations on such topics as the rights of women in America, the role of religion in American democracy, and social conditions in this country. For the author, Tocqueville's work represents a "turning point in political thinking" because he looked at how a society and government can be built on the principle of equality for all without succumbing to the will of an oppressive majority. VERDICT Ryan succeeds in showing not only the historical importance of his subject's writings but also how relevant they are for contemporary readers. Those new to Tocqueville will find this book an easy-to-understand and appealing introduction.—Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871408198
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 8/4/2014
  • Series: Liveright Classics
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,258,528
  • File size: 638 KB

Meet the Author

Alan Ryan was warden of New College, Oxford University, and professor of political theory. The author of On Politics, John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism and Bertrand Russell: A Political Life, he currently teaches politics at Princeton University.
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