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Chasing the Red, White, and Blue: A Journey…

Chasing the Red, White, and Blue: A Journey in Tocqueville's Footsteps…

by David Cohen

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Philology > Periodicals
  Budzul | May 31, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312261543, Hardcover)

Do the observations on American society that Alexis de Tocqueville made during his famous 1831 tour of the country (specifically that the United States was possessed of a unique "equality of opportunity") still hold true? British journalist David Cohen attempts to answer that question by retracing the Frenchman's route.

Cohen's journey takes him from New York City, through the Rust Belt (specifically Flint, Michigan), the greater Ohio valley, the Deep South, and Washington, D.C., with a side trip to Silicon Valley. Mixing interviews, personal observation, and statistical data, he finds that de Tocqueville's trenchant, generally buoyant opinions of the young republic (based in part on misunderstood assumptions) no longer hold true. The gap between rich and poor is rapidly widening; race and religion have become divisive social factors; lobbyists wield disproportionate influence in government; and for an increasing number of citizens the dream of upward mobility has become an "almost willfully stupid denial of reality."

Cohen covers much ground here very rapidly. His statistics come in flurries. His observations, while ardent, tend toward the obvious; his mini-histories are blurry and conflated, and many of his encounters with various citizens, from stockbrokers to migrant workers, perfunctory. It is not that his conclusions, pessimistic for the most part, are invalid, necessarily, but the evidence upon which he builds his case can seem too often too meager to support them. --H. O'Billovitch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:08 -0400)

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Retracing the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose journey across America ended in Washington, D.C., the author changes the final destination to Silicon Valley, California, and presents a glimpse into the lives of Americans today.

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