Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty

Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty

by Lucien Jaume
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

"Tocqueville remains the most endlessly fascinating of all modern writers about democracy. Lucien Jaume, one of France's leading intellectual historians, is an outstanding interpreter of his thought, in all its political variety. Jaume wants to re-establish the distance between 'our' Tocqueville and the man himself, a product of his time and of a distinctive

See more details below

Overview

"Tocqueville remains the most endlessly fascinating of all modern writers about democracy. Lucien Jaume, one of France's leading intellectual historians, is an outstanding interpreter of his thought, in all its political variety. Jaume wants to re-establish the distance between 'our' Tocqueville and the man himself, a product of his time and of a distinctive aristocratic social and intellectual milieu. In doing so, he allows us to see why Tocqueville is still such an appealing and unsettling figure for our own times. A wonderfully lucid book and an indispensable guide."—David Runciman, University of Cambridge

"Long in gestation, this is a major work by a major political theorist who is insufficiently known in the Anglophone world. Lucien Jaume succeeds admirably in providing a fresh reading of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Based on deep and wide knowledge, this magisterial interpretation will immediately be recognized as significant by Tocqueville scholars, and it also makes an important contribution to current debates about the complex relationships between religion, democracy, and liberalism."—Cheryl B. Welch, Harvard University

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This astute study of Alexis de Tocqueville and his landmark political study, Democracy in America (published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840, respectively), offers insights into the Frenchman’s life and times and how they shaped his perspective on the newborn American republic. As Jaume writes, America was not the subject but “the pretext for studying modern society and the woes of France,” as encoded in Tocqueville’s book. The four major sections of Jaume’s study analyze the text from the perspective of Tocqueville as political scientist, Tocqueville as sociologist, Tocqueville as moralist, and Tocqueville as literateur who was writing in the same Romantic era as Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand, and Lamartine. Jaume shows the challenges Tocqueville faced in explaining American concepts like popular sovereignty to his countrymen. In particular, Jaume does a fine job of interpreting Tocqueville’s concept of the authority exercised by the public at large in a democratic America as (in Tocqueville’s words) “a sort of religion, with the majority as its prophet.” His volume provides a thorough understanding of Tocqueville’s timeless work as a product of its time. (Apr.)
New Criterion - Harvey C. Mansfield
Jaume has written a good book in the category of contextual studies, from which anyone can learn relevant facts of his life and thought useful for understanding [Tocqueville].
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2008 Prix François Guizot, Académie française

"[E]xhilarating. . . . Jaume, who probably knows Tocqueville's intellectual world better than anyone else alive, has reconstructed his reading in intricate detail, and brilliantly demonstrates the way particular themes and passages in Democracy in America relate to it."—David A. Bell, London Review of Books

"This astute study of Alexis de Tocqueville and his landmark political study, Democracy in America (published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840, respectively), offers insights into the Frenchman's life and times and how they shaped his perspective on the newborn American republic. . . . Jaume does a fine job of interpreting Tocqueville's concept of the authority exercised by the public at large in a democratic America as (in Tocqueville's words) 'a sort of religion, with the majority as its prophet.' His volume provides a thorough understanding of Tocqueville's timeless work as a product of its time."Publishers Weekly

"[E]xcellent. . . . Tocqueville knew well his own class's reservations about democracy, and Jaume shows how, like Shakespeare playing with Plutarch's plotting, Tocqueville deftly repurposed conservative French ideas for his American drama. . . . [Jaume] sees in Tocqueville a political scientist, sociologist, moralist and writer, and discusses in detail his labors in each guise, the wonderful effect of which is to reveal how unified the man was—like the country he visited, vast and containing multitudes, as if Tocqueville saw himself in his portrait of America."—Elias Altman, The Nation

"[P]rofound, elegantly written and translated."Choice

"This is one of the finest studies of Tocqueville in years. It will prove invaluable to scholars."Library Journal

"Jaume has written a good book in the category of contextual studies, from which anyone can learn relevant facts of his life and thought useful for understanding [Tocqueville]."—Harvey C. Mansfield, New Criterion

"[I]mpeccable scholarship."—Jeremy Jennings, Standpoint

"Jaume has given us a brilliant reading of one of the most important books about America: one that is erudite, compelling, and frustrating. The culmination of Jaume's career, it provides much more than a deeper understanding of the arguments among French intellectuals in the 1830s and '40s. . . . Jaume shows how the question of America's future was part of a vigorous debate among French intellectuals over the meaning of liberty, aristocracy, democracy, and the role of the state in social life. And though Jaume argues against such a reading, these are debates we can still learn from today."—Shamus Khan, Public Books

"[T]he book is extremely well researched and rich. . . . [T]he book will not be exclusively of interest to Tocqueville scholars but also, and perhaps mainly, to students of the early French nineteenth century."—Tommaso Giordani, European Review of History

"[R]eaders who have previously studied Tocqueville's themes will find that Jaume's multilayered narrative leads them into rarely recognized sources of his thought and provides new perspectives on the dialogical construction of his best-known texts."—Lloyd Kramer, Canadian Journal of History

"Lucien Jaume pushes our understanding of Tocqueville's intellectual biography and political theory in . . . many new directions. . . . His book will not be the final word in Tocqueville studies, but it will be one of the first books read and cited by a generation of Tocqueville scholars."—David Selby, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"There are certainly many interesting insights and new observations in the book. Jaume's erudition is obvious on every page."—Helena Rosenblatt, Intellectual History Review

"Tocqueville is a serious book written by an immensely learned man, rich in suggestions for future research."—Ashraf Ahmed, Cambridge Humanities Review

"[Jaume's] erudite study offers readers an abundance of specific insights based on intimate acquaintance with primary sources from the nineteenth century and careful attention to the historical and linguistic nuances of Tocqueville's texts."—Aristide Tessitore, Review of Politics

"Jaume's book fills an important gap in the literature about Tocqueville. It highlights the blind spots of many admirers who have only looked to America to understand Democracy."—Andreas Hess, Dublin Review of Books

"Through an in-depth analysis of primary sources, cleverly combined with the vast collection of letters and handwritten notes yet unpublished, and paying a remarkable attention to the context, Jaume convincingly shows that Tocqueville's sympathy towards the American idea of citizenship does not come from a modern form of republicanism."—Danilo Breschi, European History Quarterly

Library Journal
In this study, which won the prestigious Prix Guizot from the Académie Française in 2008, Jaume (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris) takes on "democracy's Sphinx," Alexis de Tocqueville. The heart of the book is a deep reading of Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835, 1840) and The Old Regime … (1856). Jaume interprets Democracy as not so much a book about America as about France and the debates about democracy that were raging there at the time. Tocqueville, writes Jaume, was uncomfortable with democracy but convinced of its inevitability; he didn't believe institutions or laws could maintain a nation for long. Jaume demonstrates that Tocqueville attempted instead to show how in a society of equals, self-interest becomes the glue that binds society together. Jaume's discussion of Tocqueville's intellectual roots includes a brilliant chapter on the Jansenists (Pascal, etc.). An important aspect of the book is its elucidation of how Tocqueville was read by his contemporaries. This exceptional study can fruitfully be read against Arthur Kaledin's Tocqueville and His America. Both are attempts to come to grips with an extraordinarily subtle thinker who's never been easy to categorize. VERDICT This is one of the finest studies of Tocqueville in years. It will prove invaluable to scholars.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691152042
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
03/24/2013
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
356
Sales rank:
1,384,593
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Related Subjects

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >