'Democracy in America'
By Alexis de Tocqueville (Author), Isaac Kramnick (Editor, Introduction), Gerald Bevan (Translator)
A contemporary study of the early American nation and its evolving democracy, from a French aristocrat and sociologist
In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat and ambitious civil servant, set out from post-revolutionary France on a journey across America that would take him 9 months and cover 7,000 miles. The result wasDemocracy in America, a subtle and prescient analysis of the life and institutions of 19th-century America. Tocqueville looked to the flourishing deomcratic system in America as a possible model for post-revolutionary France, believing that the egalitarian ideals it enshrined reflected the spirit of the age and even divine will. His study of the strengths and weaknesses of an evolving democratic society has been quoted by every American president since Eisenhower, and remains a key point of reference for any discussion of the American nation or the democratic system.
This new edition is the only one that contains all Tocqueville's writings on America, including the rarely-translated Two Weeks in the Wilderness, an account of Tocqueville's travels in Michigan among the Iroquois, and Excursion to Lake Oneida.
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“No better study of a nation’s institutions and culture than Tocqueville’s Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer.”
(The New York Times)
“The Bradley edition of Tocqueville’s classic is the best now available in English.”
(Charles A. Beard)
“Professor Bradley’s edition should remain the standard one for our time.”
(F. O. Matthiessen)
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals, as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States, and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.
Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–48) and then during the Second Republic (1849–51) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.
He argued that the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals. Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government, but was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.