The Fragility of Freedom: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy, and the American Future

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.39
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 89%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $6.39   
  • New (3) from $56.19   
  • Used (10) from $6.39   


In this fresh interpretation of Tocqueville's thought, Joshua Mitchell explores the dynamic interplay between religion and politics in American democracy.

Focusing on Democracy in America, The Fragility of Freedom examines Tocqueville's key works and argues that his analysis of democracy is ultimately rooted in an Augustinian view of human psychology. As much a work of political philosophy as of religion, The Fragility of Freedom argues for the importance of a political theology that recognizes moderation.

"An intelligent and sharply drawn portrait of a conservative Toqueville."—Anne C. Rose, Journal of American History

"I recommend this book as one of a very few to approach seriously the sources of Tocqueville's intellectual and moral greatness."—Peter Augustine Lawler, Journal of Politics

"Mitchell ably places Democracy in America in the long conversation of Western political and theological thought."—Wilfred M. McClay, First Things

"Learned and thought-provoking."—Peter Berkowitz, New Republic

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Mitchell (government, Georgetown U.) offers a fresh interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville's thought, exploring the dynamic interplay between religion and politics in American democracy. He examines Tocqueville's major works, arguing that his analysis of democracy is rooted in an Augustinian view of human psychology, and reaffirms his belief that freedom is held together by the institutions of family, religion, and associational life in addition to commerce. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Peter Augustine Lawler
I recommend this book as one of a very few to approach seriously the sources of Tocqueville's intellectual and moral greatness.
Journal of Politics
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226532080
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Series: Prehistoric Archeology and Ecology Ser.
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua Mitchell is associate professor of government at Georgetown University. He is the author of Not by Reason Alone: Religion, History, and Identity in Early Modern Political Thought, also available from the University of Chicago Press.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Chapter One
1. The Augustinian Self
2. Antidotes to the Irrationalities of the Augustinian Self
3. Of the Embodiment and Disembodiment of Thought
4. Circularity of Cause and Effect
5. Of the Spillover Effects of One Sphere upon Another
6. Of Motion and Boundaries
7. Of New Beginnings and American Exceptionalism
Chapter Two
The Augustinian Self
1. Augustine and the Errancy from God
2. Hobbes and the Problem of Pride
3. Rousseau and the Errancy from Nature
4. Tocqueville and the Democratic Soul
5. The Enduring Power of the Augustinian Self: Nietzsche and the Democratic Age
Chapter Three
The Politics of Competition
1. The Purpose of Politics
2. Of Scale and Participation
3. The Interrelation of Political and Economic Participation
4. Of Associations
5. Of Newspapers: The Solution to the Problem of Site and Authority
6. Of Moderation and Motion: Mother Nature and Father Industriousness
7. When Boundaries Are Transgressed
8. Of Empire
Chapter Four
Christianity and Democracy
1. The Progress of History and Its Arrests: The Depth of Identity
2. The Problem of Difference in a Democracy
3. Christianity as Palliative for Envy and Difference
4. The Indirect Effects of Christianity upon Democracy
5. Of Long-Term Goals
6. The Right Relationship between Politics and Religion
7. The Permanence of Religion
Chapter Five
1. The New Political Science
2. Asking Too Much of Government, Asking Too Much of "the World"
3. What Is to Be Done?
4. Concluding Remarks

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)