Democracy in America

Democracy in America

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Overview

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville's classic treatise on the American way of life.

Over 175 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, an astute political scientist, came to the United States to evaluate the meaning and actual functioning of democracy.

Here, Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of majority rule—which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of a monarchy. He analyzes the influence of political parties and the press on the government and the effect of equality on the social, political, and economic life of the American people. He also offers some startling predictions about world politics, which history has borne out. So brilliant and penetrating are his comments and criticisms, they have vital meaning today for all who are interested in democracy.

Abridged and with an Introduction by Richard D. Heffner
and an Afterword by Vartan Gregorian

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451531605
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/06/2010
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 140,923
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Alexis de Tocqueville was born in 1805 to a noble French family that had survived the French Revolution. His father gained some political power under the reign of the Bourbons, and after the July Revolution of 1830, the family was exiled along with the king. Tocqueville, then twenty-five years old, stayed in France, swearing allegiance to the new government. Shortly thereafter he and a friend, Gustave de Beaumont, sought and received a government assignment to study the prison system of the United States. They arrived in America in 1831. After extensive travels across the young nation, Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America (published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840). The publication of the first volume made Tocqueville a well-known figure, but he led a quiet life, accepting modest governmental posts, traveling around Europe, and marrying an Englishwoman. In 1848, Tocqueville once again rose to political prominence after a prescient speech that foretold of revolution. After serving through the massive upheavals and overthrows of government, Tocqueville retired from political life in 1849. Always weak in health, his lung disease grew progressively worse from that period on. Moving south several times on doctor’s recommendations, Tocqueville succumbed to death in Cannes in 1859.

Richard D. Heffner received his A.B. and M.A. from Columbia University and has taught history and political science at the University of California, Sarah Lawrence College, and the New School for Social Research. He has been University Professor of Communications and Public Policy at Rutgers since 1964. Mr. Heffner also produces and moderates his prize-winning weekly public television series, The Open Mind, and for twenty years was Chairman of the motion picture industry’s film rating system. In addition to Democracy in America, Mr. Heffner is the editor of the Mentor book A Documentary History of the United States.

Vartan Gregorian is the twelfth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Prior to his current position, Gregorian served for nine years (1989-1997) as president of Brown University and for eight years (1981-1989) as President of the New York Public Library.  He became founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and four years later became its twenty-third provost.  Gregorian, an historian, was a professor at San Francisco State University, UCLA, University of Texas at Austin, Penn, and Brown.

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Democracy in America 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
De Tocqueville was simply of one of the great social scientists writing about America and Democracy. From reading the book I deduced that De Tocqueville was a social scientist before Marx! He compares European culture and government with the fledgling culture and democracy he observes in America. He is very much impressed with what he sees taking place in America in the 1830's and hopes it will spread to Europe. He at first believed that America's prosperity was simply due to geography and their distance from powerful neighbors, he abandons this idea after his visit to America. He comes to realize that the West is not being peopled 'by new European immigrants to America, but by Americans who he believes have no adversity to taking risks'. De Tocqueville comes to see that Americans are the most broadly educated and politically advanced people in the world and one of the reasons for the success of our form of government. He also foretells America's industrial preeminence and strength through the unfettered spread of ideas and human industry. De Tocqueville also saw the insidious damage that the institution of slavery was causing the country and predicted some 30 years before the Civil War that slavery would probable cause the states to fragment from the union. He also the emergence of stronger states rights over the power of the federal government. He held fast to his belief that the greatest danger to democracy was the trend toward the concentration of power by the federal government. He predicted wrongly that the union would probably break up into 2 or 3 countries because of regional interests and differences. This idea is the only one about America that he gets wrong. Despite some of his misgivings, De Tocqueville, saw that democracy is an 'inescapable development' of the modern world. The arguments in the 'Federalist Papers' were greater than most people realized. He saw a social revolution coming that continues throughout the world today. De Tocqueville realizes at the very beginning of the 'industrial revolution' how industry, centralization and democracy strengthened each other and moved forward together. I am convinced that De Tocqueville is still the preeminent observer of America but is also the father of social science. A must read for anyone interested in American history, political philosophy or the social sciences.
Russell_Kirk More than 1 year ago
Interesting and well written of a perspective on the U.S. in the 19th century; de Tocqueville examines our form of democracy, political associations and the races at that time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This abridged version of the classic was so good that I got the full version which is over twice as long. However, this version does present the ideas well. The translation uses a bit outdated English but the positive side of that is that it reminds you when it was written, i.e. about 1840. It not only predicts current day problems but seems to point to the coming Civil War, the Mexican War and the trouble between labor and big business. Actually so many of the warnings have come to pass that I found myself wondering if we still have a republic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Toqueville's work unquestionably will last for as long as human nature remains the same. Certainly, it is diverting to read accounts about the topography and anachronistically idiosyncratic habits of the inhabitants of America over a century ago; the fundamental value of his work, however, lies in his understanding of human nature that does not change throughout time. More than most (if not all) writers on the American polity, he perceives how certain tendencies of human nature are revealed in the particular society founded upon practical wisdom, personal responsibility, self-reliance, and faith. Many of his disquisitions on these tendencies that could be accentuated in American democracy are now more thought-provoking than ever. One prominent example is his intuitive grasp of a challenge to Americans. He shows famously how they are practical and intent upon getting things done by combining in 'societies.' A problem could occur if ever the citizens in general become selfish and much less self-reliant: 'individualism' could arise. He articulates a bleak portrait of a society in which none care to take personal responsibility, but are willing to sacrifice freedom for temporary security. This is disquieting for modern society, and it would be well were more people to read his work and learn from it.
Hawkeye51 More than 1 year ago
De Toqueville's observations detailing just who the Americans are, remains valid to this day. His writings do not confirm the pretentious belief in American Exceptionalism rather, they expose the subtle differences in how we view individualism and the State and the belief system in continental Europe.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Alexis De Tocqueville paints an amazingly detailed and accurate picture of the early stages of America's political,social, and economic status. HOWEVER, as this is an ABRIDGED version, I'm sure that this version could've been much much much much more Ad Hoc. As a junior in high school reading this for the summer, I can tell you that this book is a horrifyingly boring read, not just because of its length and difficulty, but because its seemingly irrelevant detail which is given. If you're a history buff, you will MAYBE love this book. In my honest opinion, this book is best read in excerpts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a Junior in High School I can't begin to tell you how boring and difficult to read is this book. Could'nt Mr.Heffner have found a more to the point approach for those of us who HAVE to read this book?