Tocqueville: Democracy in America

Tocqueville: Democracy in America

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by Alexis de Tocqueville

ISBN-10: 1931082545

ISBN-13: 9781931082549

Pub. Date: 02/09/2004

Publisher: Library of America

Alexis de Tocqueville, a young aristocratic French lawyer, came to the United States in 1831 to study its penitentiary systems. His nine-month visit and subsequent reading and reflection resulted in Democracy in America (1835–40), a landmark masterpiece of political observation and analysis. Tocqueville vividly describes the unprecedented

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Alexis de Tocqueville, a young aristocratic French lawyer, came to the United States in 1831 to study its penitentiary systems. His nine-month visit and subsequent reading and reflection resulted in Democracy in America (1835–40), a landmark masterpiece of political observation and analysis. Tocqueville vividly describes the unprecedented social equality he found in America and explores its implications for European society in the emerging modern era. His book provides enduring insight into the political consequences of widespread property ownership, the potential dangers to liberty inherent in majority rule, the importance of civil institutions in an individualistic culture dominated by the pursuit of material self-interest, and the vital role of religion in American life, while prophetically probing the deep differences between the free and slave states. The clear, fluid, and vigorous translation by Arthur Goldhammer is the first to fully capture Tocqueville’s achievements both as an accomplished literary stylist and as a profound political thinker.

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Product Details

Library of America
Publication date:
Library of America Series
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

Ch. 1The Outward Configuration of North America21
Ch. 2On the Point of Departure and Its Importance for the Future of the Anglo-Americans31
Ch. 3Social State of the Anglo-Americans52
Ch. 4On the Principle of Popular Sovereignty in America62
Ch. 5Necessity of Studying What Happens in Particular States Before Speaking of the Government of the Union66
Ch. 6On Judicial Power in the United States and Its Effect on Political Society111
Ch. 7On Political Judgment in the United States120
Ch. 8On the Federal Constitution126
Ch. 1Why It Is Strictly Accurate to Say That in the United States It Is the People Who Govern197
Ch. 2Parties in the United States198
Ch. 3On Freedom of the Press in the United States205
Ch. 4On Political Association in the United States215
Ch. 5On the Government of Democracy in America224
Ch. 6What Are the Real Advantages to American Society of Democratic Government?264
Ch. 7On the Omnipotence of the Majority in the United States and Its Effects283
Ch. 8On That Which Tempers the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States301
Ch. 9On the Principal Causes That Tend to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States319
Ch. 10Some Considerations Concerning the Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races That Inhabit the Territory of the United States365
Pt. IInfluence of Democracy on the Evolution of the American Intellect
Ch. 1On the Philosophical Method of the Americans483
Ch. 2On the Principal Source of Beliefs Among Democratic Peoples489
Ch. 3Why the Americans Show More Aptitude and Taste for General Ideas Than Their English Forefathers494
Ch. 4Why the Americans Have Never Been as Passionate as the French About General Ideas in Politics499
Ch. 5How Religion Uses Democratic Instincts in the United States501
Ch. 6On the Progress of Catholicism in the United States510
Ch. 7What Makes the Mind of Democratic Peoples Receptive to Pantheism512
Ch. 8How Democracy Suggests to the Americans the Idea of Man's Infinite Perfectibility514
Ch. 9How the Example of the Americans Does Not Prove That a Democratic People Can Have No Aptitude for Science, Literature, or the Arts516
Ch. 10Why Americans Devote Themselves More to the Practical Applications of Science Than to the Theory522
Ch. 11In What Spirit Americans Cultivate the Arts530
Ch. 12Why Americans Build Such Insignificant and Such Great Monuments at the Same Time536
Ch. 13The Literary Aspect of Democratic Centuries538
Ch. 14On the Literary Industry544
Ch. 15Why the Study of Greek and Latin Is Particularly Useful in Democratic Societies545
Ch. 16How American Democracy Has Changed the English Language547
Ch. 17On Some Sources of Poetry in Democratic Nations554
Ch. 18Why American Writers and Orators Are Often Bombastic561
Ch. 19Some Observations on the Theater of Democratic Peoples563
Ch. 20On Certain Tendencies Peculiar to Historians in Democratic Centuries569
Ch. 21On Parliamentary Eloquence in the United States574
Pt. IIInfluence of Democracy on the Sentiments of the Americans
Ch. 1Why Democratic Peoples Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality Than of Liberty581
Ch. 2On Individualism in Democratic Countries585
Ch. 3How Individualism Is More Pronounced at the End of a Democratic Revolution Than at Any Other Time588
Ch. 4How Americans Combat Individualism with Free Institutions590
Ch. 5On the Use That Americans Make of Association in Civil Life595
Ch. 6On the Relation Between Associations and Newspapers600
Ch. 7Relations Between Civil Associations and Political Associations604
Ch. 8How Americans Combat Individualism with the Doctrine of Self-Interest Properly Understood610
Ch. 9How Americans Apply the Doctrine of Self-Interest Properly Understood in the Matter of Religion614
Ch. 10On the Taste for Material Well-Being in America617
Ch. 11On the Particular Effects of the Love of Material Gratifications in Democratic Centuries620
Ch. 12Why Certain Americans Exhibit Such Impassioned Spiritualism623
Ch. 13Why Americans Seem So Restless in the Midst of Their Well-Being625
Ch. 14How the Taste for Material Gratifications Is Combined in America with Love of Liberty and Concern About Public Affairs629
Ch. 15How Religious Beliefs Sometimes Divert the American Soul Toward Immaterial Gratifications633
Ch. 16How Excessive Love of Well-Being Can Impair It638
Ch. 17How, in Times of Equality and Doubt, It Is Important to Set Distant Goals for Human Actions639
Ch. 18Why All Respectable Occupations Are Reputed Honorable Among Americans642
Ch. 19Why Nearly All Americans Are Inclined to Enter Industrial Occupations644
Ch. 20How Industry Could Give Rise to an Aristocracy649
Pt. IIIInfluence of Democracy on Mores Properly So-Called
Ch. 1How Mores Become Milder as Conditions Become More Equal655
Ch. 2How Democracy Simplifies and Eases Habitual Relations Among Americans660
Ch. 3Why Americans Are So Slow to Take Offense in Their Country and So Quick to Take Offense in Ours663
Ch. 4Consequences of the Three Previous Chapters667
Ch. 5How Democracy Modifies Relations Between Servant and Master669
Ch. 6How Democratic Institutions and Mores Tend to Raise Prices and Shorten the Terms of Leases679
Ch. 7Influence of Democracy on Wages682
Ch. 8Influence of Democracy on the Family685
Ch. 9Raising Girls in the United States692
Ch. 10How the Traits of the Girl Can Be Divined in the Wife695
Ch. 11How Equality of Conditions Helps to Maintain Good Morals in America698
Ch. 12How the Americans Understand the Equality of Man and Woman705
Ch. 13How Equality Naturally Divides the Americans into a Multitude of Small Private Societies709
Ch. 14Some Reflections on American Manners711
Ch. 15On the Gravity of Americans and Why It Does Not Prevent Them from Acting Rashly715
Ch. 16Why the National Vanity of the Americans Is More Restless and Argumentative Than That of the English719
Ch. 17How Society in the United States Seems Both Agitated and Monotonous722
Ch. 18On Honor in the United States and in Democratic Societies725
Ch. 19Why There Are So Many Ambitious Men and So Few Great Ambitions in the United States738
Ch. 20On Place-Hunting in Certain Democratic Nations745
Ch. 21Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare747
Ch. 22Why Democratic Peoples Naturally Desire Peace and Democratic Armies Naturally Desire War761
Ch. 23Which Class in Democratic Armies Is the Most Warlike and Revolutionary768
Ch. 24What Makes Democratic Armies Weaker Than Other Armies at the Start of a Campaign but More Formidable in Protracted Warfare772
Ch. 25On Discipline in Democratic Armies777
Ch. 26Some Remarks on War in Democratic Societies779
Pt. IVOn the Influence that Democratic Ideas and Sentiments Exert on Political Society
Ch. 1Equality Naturally Gives Men a Taste for Free Institutions787
Ch. 2Why the Ideas of Democratic Peoples About Government Naturally Favor the Concentration of Power789
Ch. 3How the Sentiments of Democratic Peoples Accord with Their Ideas to Bring About a Concentration of Power793
Ch. 4Concerning Certain Particular and Accidental Causes That Either Lead a Democratic People to Centralize Power or Divert Them From It797
Ch. 5How Sovereign Power in Today's European Nations Is Increasing, Although Sovereigns Are Less Stable803
Ch. 6What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear816
Ch. 7Continuation of the Preceding Chapters822
Ch. 8General View of the Subject831
Tocqueville's Notes835
Translator's Note873
Note on the Texts907

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Tocqueville: Democracy in America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RussellBittner More than 1 year ago
I don't mind admitting that Alexis de Toqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA is quite possible the most demanding piece of exposition I've read since Hegel's PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND. I suspect it's one of those books -- analogous, if you will, to Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE, Melville's MOBY DICK, Proust's IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME or Musil's MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES -- that avid readers want to have read, but never have. I finally did. If you can find the time (and the quiet) to read fifty pages of this book a day, you can accomplish it in under three weeks. If you can devote yourself to more than fifty pages a day -- and have the concentration necessary to make sense of what you're reading -- you're a better (wo)man than I am. I couldn't. In spite of my best efforts and virtually ideal conditions (most often in some secluded spot in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden), I found myself having to read many sentences two and three times over. DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA is no doubt more worthy of a dissertation than of a review. And I suspect that thousands of dissertations have been written on this oeuvre. The book is dense -- with a capital "D" -- and any sort of commentary on it could rival exegesis of the Torah. Dense it is. But also prescient--with a capital "P." If you can't find the time or the circumstances to devote yourself to a reading of the entire work, read just Chapter 10 of Part II, Volume One ("Some Considerations Concerning the Present State and Probable Future of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States"). And keep in mind that Volume One was published in 1835; the "Trail of Tears" (the expulsion of the Cherokee Nation from Georgia to a circumscribed territory in Oklahoma) happened only three years later; and the Civil War was still relatively far off! But what of de Tocqueville's observation at the conclusion of Volume One concerning Americans and Russians -- ions before the start of the Cold War? Allow me to quote at length from pp. 475-476, as I don't want to shortchange the man: "There are today two great peoples on earth, who, though they started from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans. Both grew in obscurity, and while humanity's gaze was focused elsewhere, they abruptly vaulted to the first rank among nations: the world learned almost simultaneously of their birth and of their grandeur. All other peoples seem close to achieving the limits traced for them by nature and henceforth need only to preserve what they already have; but these two are still growing. All the others have stopped, or move forward only with the greatest of effort. Only these two march with an easy and rapid stride down a road whose end no eye can yet perceive. The American does battle with the obstacles that nature has placed before him; the Russian grapples with men. One combats wilderness and barbarity; the other, civilization with all its arms. The American makes his conquests with the farmer's ploughshare, the Russian with the soldier's sword. To achieve his goal, the American relies on personal interest and allows individuals to exercise their strength and reason without guidance. The Russian in a sense concentrates all of society in the power of one man. The American's principal means of action is liberty; the Russian's, servitude. Their points of departure are different, their ways diverse. Yet each seems called by a secret design of Providence some day to sway the destinies of half the globe." Just as prescient are de Tocqueville's observations in Volume Two, Part II, Chapter 20 (pp. 649 - 652 in the Arthur Goldhammer/Literary Classics of the United States, © 2004 edition I've just read). In these four pages (titled "How Industry Could Give Rise to an Aristocracy"), de Tocqueville not only foresees the dangers of the industrial process known as "Taylorism" introduced decades later by the Ford Motor Company, but also adumbrates the condition of alienation between worker and owner/manager, haves and have-nots, into which we in the U. S. are now inexorably slipping. (Should you have any interest in understanding more about this latter development, I would respectfully refer you to Naomi Klein's book, THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, which I reviewed here at Amazon at the end of last month.) And what of this concluding observation 150 years before the deluge of widgets and gadgets in which most of the current generation of digital addicts would appear to be drowning? "Habitual inattention must be regarded as the greatest defect of the democratic mind (last sentence on p. 718)." There are no doubt other good reasons for the seemingly constant state of distraction of so many young minds -- and de Tocqueville carefully lays out his argument in the pages leading up to his conclusion. And yet, one has to wonder whether the "democratic mind" as it has come to be in these United States and elsewhere in the Western World at the beginning of the twenty-first century was the incubator or the egg in our so-called "high-tech (r)evolution." Please allow me to return to p. 198 to conclude with one last citation, even if I could go on and on with others worth their aphoristic weight in gold. "Time no more stops for nations than it does for individuals. Both advance daily toward a future of which they know nothing." "...(A) future of which they know nothing." Scary stuff -- but worthwhile (to say the least!) reading. RRB 6/14/13 Brooklyn, NY