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Democracy in America by Alexis de…

Democracy in America (1836)

by Alexis de Tocqueville

Other authors: Ralph Raico (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Democracy in America (complete)

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This is not for the faint of heart. But it is amazing that something written so long ago (and by one so young!) could still have the ring of truth to it. I'll admit, our book club voted to read it then mostly complained about its length, so we divided it up and each person was responsible for about 100 pages. Several of us got so interested that we read more than our assignment, but none of us (myself included) actually read the entire book. I'm thinking, now (writing this on Nov 5, 2008) that I should persevere and read it all. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 12, 2016 |
This is the one book that I read in the core that I would reccomend to anybody. ( )
  kateminasian | Nov 22, 2014 |
Westvaco is the West Virginia Paper Co., makers of fine papers. For 47 years, they did a special Christmas book each year that they distributed to their customers, all featuring works from American history or literature. They all include a decorated slipcover, fine endpapers and many have embossed images on the book covers. Some feature gilt edges and silk ribbon bookmarks. Although they had a limited press run the number is not stated nor are they numbered or signed.
1 vote SteveJohnson | Mar 8, 2014 |
The book's basis was a nine month visit to America by De Tocqueville in 1831, ostensibly to study America's prison system. It was an interesting time to visit America, half-way between the establishment of the constitution and the Civil War. In the course of the visit he met former president John Quincy Adams, then incumbent Andrew Jackson, Senator Daniel Webster and Sam Houston among others. He traveled the length and breath of a country much smaller than what we see on the map now. Before the Mexican-American War and Western expansion and he visited both North and South: New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans.

The book is labelled as both American History and Political Science. De Tocqueville said the first volume was more about America, the second about democracy. The introduction by Mansfield and Winthrop, the translators and editors of the edition I read, called it both the best book on America and the best on democracy. That despite it being written by a French aristocrat--at least by birth although the introduction describes him as a democrat and liberal by conviction.

De Tocqueville says in his own introduction he did not mean to write a "panegyric" to America. He's critical, at times presciently so, of America and democracy both, and doesn't pull his punches about how slavery and racism might pull apart the country. He doesn't hesitate to call slavery "evil" and his depiction of the plight of Native Americans is both insightful and heartbreaking. Surprisingly so, not what I expected from a Westerner writing in the 19th Century. Yet despite some sharp criticisms--and it being written by an outsider, a foreigner, the book has been embraced and quoted by Americans both from the Left and Right. It's said to be commonly assigned in political science courses and I wish some excerpts had been assigned in mine, instead of the execrable People's History by Zinn. De Tocqueville in the end strikes me as much more credible, still relevant and much more thought-provoking about democracy and its faultlines--especially the "tyranny of the majority."

That's not to say this makes for easy reading. At times I considered giving up on it, slapping a two star rating as too tedious to read. Parts are a slog. I suggest anyone tackling this buy a paperback copy they don't feel hesitant to mark up and highlight and that they take it in short doses. This isn't one of those light, entertaining books. This isn't dessert or junk food. It's a meaty dish; one you chew on and parts can be hard to digest. But the man is brilliant. And it's surprising to me how 200 years later so much resonates in this book and is relevant to contemporary America and its politics. Well worth the effort to anyone interested in democracy or America.

At least the first volume is, which definitely deserves five stars for amazing. That first volume was a popular bestseller in its day, the second volume less so, and I can understand that. As De Tocqueville noted, the first book is more on America, and is grounded in a lot of telling observations. Not that it's absent in this second book, but the second volume is a lot more theoretical, and I think a lot of its points are better made in the first part. I also admit I'm not inclined to accept one of his major themes in this second volume, that religion is essential to democracy. And he seems very much off the mark in his contention that American democracy doesn't produce great literature or advances in the sciences. Admittedly, in 1835 when this second volume was published, about the only well-known American writers of fiction were James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving. I can't say I much agree with his criticisms of individualism either. That's not to say reading both parts wasn't worthwhile, but less essential I feel than the amazing first volume. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Jul 3, 2012 |
Offers an insightful analysis of our political system in the abstract. Many of the social particulars he writes about have obviously changed with time. ( )
1 vote librarianbryan | Apr 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tocqueville, Alexis deAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Raico, RalphContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, Mortimer Jsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bevan, GeraldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blanco Vila, Luissecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boorstin, DanielIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boorstin, Daniel J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bowen, FrancisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradley, PhillipsEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Commager, Henry SteeleEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Epstein, JosephIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldhammer, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, Stephen D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heffner, RichardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laski, Harold J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lerner, MaxEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mansfield, Harvey C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mansfield, Harvey C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayer, J. P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mill, John StuartIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nolla, EduardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reeve, HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ryan, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spencer, John C.Prefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winthrop, DelbaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winthrop, DelbaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Among the new things that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck me more forcefully than the equality of conditions.
The human mind invents things more easily than words; that is why many improper terms and inadequate expressions gain currency.
The Constitution of the United States is like one of those beautiful creations of human diligence which give their inventors glory and riches but remains sterile in other hands.
How wonderful is the position of the New World, where man has as yet no enemies but himself.
[The oppression] would be akin to parental authority if only it had the same goal of preparing children for adulthood; but instead its sole objective is to consign them to everlasting kindergarten; it wants the populace to enjoy themselves, as long as they never have any dreams beyond their own entertainment.
Having seized each individual in turn in its firm grip and molded him into its pattern, the regime extends its embrace to encompass the entire society, blanketing its surface with an intricate web of trivial regulations, comprehensive and regimented, from which the most creative minds and resolute souls cannot manage to extricate themselves away from the collective; rather than breaking the willpower, it softens, bends, and channels it; instead of compelling action, it endlessly restricts it; instead of destroying, it impedes formation; instead of tyrannizing, it prods, manipulates, conditions, discourages, restrains, and brainwashes the whole nation into nothing more than a herd of tractable, hard-working livestock of which the regime is the herdsman.
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The ISBN 0679728252 is used in LT's records both for the complete version of de Tocqueville's work and for the first volume of it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226805360, Paperback)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.
When it was published in 2000, Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop's new translation of Democracy in America—only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840—was lauded in all quarters as the finest and most definitive edition of Tocqueville's classic thus far. Mansfield and Winthrop have restored the nuances of Tocqueville's language, with the expressed goal "to convey Tocqueville's thought as he held it rather than to restate it in comparable terms of today." The result is a translation with minimal interpretation, but with impeccable annotations of unfamiliar references and a masterful introduction placing the work and its author in the broader contexts of political philosophy and statesmanship.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:45 -0400)

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The Edwin Cannan text of the 5th edition Donated by Miss H.E. Archdale, Headmistress 1958-1970. 1991(ABB44361)

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Library of America Paperback Classics

2 editions of this book were published by Library of America Paperback Classics.

Editions: 1598531514, 1598531522

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2 editions of this book were published by Liberty Fund, Inc.

Editions: 0865977194, 0865977240

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