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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impo This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.


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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impo This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

30 review for Democracy in America, Volume 2

  1. 5 out of 5

    P.E.

    “Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the refl “Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions; they want to be led, and they wish to remain free: as they cannot destroy either one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large that holds the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large. This does not satisfy me: the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.” “I am trying to imagine under what novel features despotism may appear in the world. In the first place, I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls. Each one of them, withdrawn into himself, is almost unaware of the fate of the rest…. Over this kind of men stands an immense, protective power which is alone responsible for securing their enjoyment and watching over their fate. That power is absolute, thoughtful of detail, orderly, provident, and gentle. It would resemble parental authority if, fatherlike, it tried to prepare charges for a man’s life, but on the contrary, it only tries to keep them in perpetual childhood. It likes to see the citizens enjoy themselves, provided that they think of nothing but enjoyment. It gladly works for their happiness but wants to be sole agent and judge of it. It provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasure, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, makes rules for their testaments, and divides their inheritances. Why should it not entirely relieve them from the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living? Thus it daily makes the exercise of free choice less useful and rarer, restricts the activity of free will within a narrower compass, and little by little robs each citizen of the proper use of his own faculties. Equality has prepared men for all this, predisposing them to endure it and often even regard it as beneficial. Having thus taken each citizen in turn in its powerful grasp and shaped him to its will, government then extends its embrace to include the whole of society. It covers the whole of social life with a network of petty complicated rules that are both minute and uniform, through which even men of the greatest originality and the most vigorous temperament cannot force their heads above the crowd. It does not break men’s will, but softens, bends, and guides it; it seldom enjoins, but often inhibits, action; it does not destroy anything, but prevents much being born; it is not at all tyrannical, but it hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies so much that in the end each nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.” ---------- "Nos contemporains sont incessamment travaillés par deux passions ennemies : ils sentent le besoin d’être conduits et l’envie de rester libres. Ne pouvant détruire ni l’un ni l’autre de ces instincts contraires, ils s’efforcent de les satisfaire à la fois tous les deux. Ils imaginent un pouvoir unique, tutélaire, tout-puissant, mais élu par les citoyens. [...] Il y a, de nos jours, beaucoup de gens qui s’accommodent très aisément de cette espèce de compromis entre le despotisme administratif et la souveraineté du peuple, et qui pensent avoir assez garanti la liberté des individus, quand c’est au pouvoir national qu’ils la livrent. Cela ne me suffit point. La nature du maître m’importe bien moins que l’obéissance." - Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, t.2 (1840) ------------ DE LA DÉMOCRATIE EN AMÉRIQUE, T.2. Ce volume écrit quelque cinq ans après le premier revient sur les traits distinctifs du régime politique démocratique tel que l'envisage Tocqueville après son voyage de neuf mois aux États-Unis en 1831-2. 1) Tocqueville aborde l'influence générale de la démocratie : - Sur l'industrie et le commerce, - Sur l'évolution de la langue, - Sur les objets que se donne la littérature du pays (l'humanité, l'avenir, les objets les plus vastes), - Sur les traditions intellectuelles du pays (dilettantisme, goût des idées générales, prédilection pour les gains faciles), - Sur les mœurs, les liens sociaux et sur les familles, - Sur la notion de l'honneur, - Sur les armées et leur mode d'action (conscription, ambition de l'avancement,...) 2) Tocqueville étudie dans le détail l'influence qu'ont l'égalité des conditions et le goût du bien-être matériel sur la centralisation politique et administrative, et celle-ci sur les libertés individuelles. Il donne à voir les vertus et les écueils de la démocratie (passion de l'égalité, individualisme borné, grande docilité face à un pouvoir central qui concentre de plus en plus de prérogatives et exerce une surveillance de plus en plus grande des individus), qui peut aboutir aux pires forme de servitude qui soient. 3) Enfin, il s'interroge : comment combattre les maux et périls que la démocratie ne manque pas d'apporter avec elle ? D'après l'auteur, la religion est l'un des éléments qui peuvent le mieux contrebalancer les défauts inhérents à la démocratie : amour excessif du bien-être matériel, égalitarisme passionné, individualisme borné... D'autres éléments de réponse à ces périls sont les contre-pouvoirs comme les associations et les médias ; en règle générale tout ce qui permet l'exercice par tous des libertés politiques citoyennes. 'Je veux imaginer sous quels traits nouveaux le despotisme pourrait se produire dans le monde : je vois une foule innombrable d’hommes semblables et égaux qui tournent sans repos sur eux-mêmes pour se procurer de petits et vulgaires plaisirs, dont ils emplissent leur âme. Chacun d’eux, retiré à l’écart, est comme étranger à la destinée de tous les autres : ses enfants et ses amis particuliers forment pour lui toute l’espèce humaine ; quant au demeurant de ses concitoyens, il est à côté d’eux, mais il ne les voit pas ; il les touche et ne les sent point ; il n’existe qu’en lui-même et pour lui seul, et, s’il lui reste encore une famille, on peut dire du moins qu’il n’a plus de patrie. Au-dessus de ceux-là s’élève un pouvoir immense et tutélaire, qui se charge seul d’assurer leurs jouissances et de veiller sur leur sort. Il est absolu, détaillé, régulier, prévoyant et doux. Il ressemblerait à la puissance paternelle, si, comme elle, il avait pour objet de préparer les hommes à l’âge viril ; mais il ne cherche, au contraire, qu’à les fixer irrévocablement dans l’enfance ; il aime que les citoyens se réjouissent, pourvu qu’ils ne songent qu’à se réjouir. Il travaille volontiers à leur bonheur ; mais il veut en être l’unique agent et le seul arbitre ; il pourvoit à leur sécurité, prévoit et assure leurs besoins, facilite leurs plaisirs, conduit leurs principales affaires, dirige leur industrie, règle leurs successions, divise leurs héritages, que ne peut-il leur ôter entièrement le trouble de penser et la peine de vivre ?' 'C’est ainsi que tous les jours il rend moins utile et plus rare l’emploi du libre arbitre ; qu’il renferme l’action de la volonté dans un plus petit espace, et dérobe peu à peu à chaque citoyen jusqu’à l’usage de lui-même. L’égalité a préparé les hommes à toutes ces choses : elle les a disposés à les souffrir et souvent même à les regarder comme un bienfait. Après avoir pris ainsi tour à tour dans ses puissantes mains chaque individu, et l’avoir pétri à sa guise, le souverain étend ses bras sur la société tout entière ; il en couvre la surface d’un réseau de petites règles compliquées, minutieuses et uniformes, à travers lesquelles les esprits les plus originaux et les âmes les plus vigoureuses ne sauraient se faire jour pour dépasser la foule ; il ne brise pas les volontés, mais il les amollit, les plie et les dirige ; il force rarement d’agir, mais il s’oppose sans cesse à ce qu’on agisse ; il ne détruit point, il empêche de naître ; il ne tyrannise point, il gêne, il comprime, il énerve, il éteint, il hébète, et il réduit enfin chaque nation a n’être plus qu’un troupeau d’animaux timides et industrieux, dont le gouvernement est le berger.' MES RÉSERVES : Pour moi, ce deuxième volume se montre beaucoup trop prolixe et bavard. Les idées exposées méritent sûrement qu'on s'y arrête et qu'on passe du temps à bien les comprendre, et leur auteur défend une vision nuancée et qui dans l'ensemble me paraît juste, mais Tocqueville revenant sans arrêt sur les mêmes observations, on a là de vraies redites, parfois copieuses. Ce livre reprend extensivement certaines idées majeures déjà développées dans le premier volume pour finalement n'apporter pratiquement rien de nouveau, sinon un travail de projection beaucoup moins rigoureux que ce qu'offrait le premier volet. Bref, les idées sont bien argumentées et bien articulées, mais le livre manque cruellement de nerf. Lecteur, je te conseille de passer ton chemin et de lui préférer le premier tome : De la Démocratie en Amérique, tome I ------------- LECTURES PROCHES : Le discours de Tolstoï sur une certaine forme de déterminisme historique qui régit les sociétés humaines : La Guerre et la Paix II Le processus de centralisation de l'État et la formation des identités nationales : La création des identités nationales. Europe, XVIIIe-XXe siècle Les dérives de la centralisation et de l'égalitarisme à outrance : Reflections on the Revolution in France La Révolution française déclare la guerre à l'Europe : L'embrasement de l'Europe à la fin du XVIIIe siècle Nouvelle histoire des guerres de Vendée L'URSS. De la révolution à la mort de Staline (1917-1953) Istanbul: Souvenirs D'une Ville Fiction sur la formation des États-Unis : The Martian Chronicles Sur les inégalités économiques et leurs justifications. Sur l'histoire de la fiscalité en occident et ailleurs (BRICAS, Afrique subsaharienne, ...) : Capital et idéologie Sur les subdivisions du travail industriel et commercial et ses effets sur la société civile. Le travail - Une sociologie contemporaine Sur le mercantilisme et la publicité : Contes cruels 99 francs Sur la perversion du rôle joué par les médias aujourd'hui : La Langue des medias : Destruction du langage et fabrication du consentement L'art du roman La Guerre du faux Sur le rôle de l'association de citoyens comme contre-pouvoir à la centralisation administrative et à la concentration des pouvoirs dans le seul gouvernement : Habiter en lutte : Zad de Notre-Dame-des-Landes. 40 ans de résistance Tour de piste de la France contemporaine : Sur les chemins noirs Le tour de la France par deux enfants d'aujourd'hui La carte et le territoire L'avenir possible : Retour au meilleur des mondes Les Monades urbaines Tous à Zanzibar Nous autres La Ferme des animaux 1984 Le Meilleur des mondes ------------ Bande-son : Electioneering - Radiohead

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Written over 150 years ago, Democracy In America is even more important and compelling today than it was then. This past fall, I had the opportunity to teach a Government class for my college. My class studied the second volume of this invaluable classic. It was such a pleasure to study it through a mentor's eyes. It truly came alive for me in a way that it never had before as I prepared to teach it. Despite his young age, Tocqueville was a master at understanding human nature. Volume II is fille Written over 150 years ago, Democracy In America is even more important and compelling today than it was then. This past fall, I had the opportunity to teach a Government class for my college. My class studied the second volume of this invaluable classic. It was such a pleasure to study it through a mentor's eyes. It truly came alive for me in a way that it never had before as I prepared to teach it. Despite his young age, Tocqueville was a master at understanding human nature. Volume II is filled with both compliments for American culture and cautionary advice for us as citizens. It's amazing how accurate his predictions and warnings were. We are falling into the very snares and excesses about which he cautioned. I wish that all Americans would take the time to read this insightful volume. If we would simply heed Tocqueville's admonitions, we would be well on our way to rebuilding our great American culture and securing our liberty. “When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint . . . . It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. . . . they neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.” ~Alexis de Tocqueville

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    it's amazing to read a book from so long ago that is so exquisitely detailed about what's going to happen in the future. tocqueville follows democracy through to its most minute consequences and sets forth warnings. many sections of this book were very dense for me, but it was still enjoyable. mostly i appreciated the warning of the gentle power that will eventually permeate from the government throughout all society into the individuals until they become unmotivated to exercise their moral agen it's amazing to read a book from so long ago that is so exquisitely detailed about what's going to happen in the future. tocqueville follows democracy through to its most minute consequences and sets forth warnings. many sections of this book were very dense for me, but it was still enjoyable. mostly i appreciated the warning of the gentle power that will eventually permeate from the government throughout all society into the individuals until they become unmotivated to exercise their moral agency and cede more and more of it for the sake of preserving tranquility until they become completely dependent on the government. this is bad! as the tytler cycle illustrates, dependence is the last stage before bondage.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Norman Cook

    This second volume is much more of a generic philosophical treatise than the first volume that dealt with the nuts and bolts of the structure of U.S. government. As such, it didn't have as much punch or relevance of the first volume. This volume is divided into two main sections: Section I: Influence of Democracy on the Action of Intellect in The United States. Section 2: Influence of Democracy on the Feelings of Americans. Here are some quotes I thought were particularly interesting: "It must nev This second volume is much more of a generic philosophical treatise than the first volume that dealt with the nuts and bolts of the structure of U.S. government. As such, it didn't have as much punch or relevance of the first volume. This volume is divided into two main sections: Section I: Influence of Democracy on the Action of Intellect in The United States. Section 2: Influence of Democracy on the Feelings of Americans. Here are some quotes I thought were particularly interesting: "It must never be forgotten that religion gave birth to Anglo-American society. ... Religious institutions have remained wholly distinct from political institutions, so that former laws have been easily changed whilst former belief has remained unshaken." "It must be acknowledged that amongst few of the civilized nations of our time have the higher sciences made less progress than in the United States; and in few have great artists, fine poets, or celebrated writers been more rare." "[The man of action] has perpetually occasion to rely on ideas which he has not had leisure to search to the bottom; for he is much more frequently aided by the opportunity of an idea than by its strict accuracy; and, in the long run, he risks less in making use of some false principles, than in spending his time in establishing all his principles on the basis of truth." "Taken as a whole, literature in democratic ages can never present, as it does in the periods of aristocracy, an aspect of order, regularity, science, and art; its form will, on the contrary, ordinarily be slighted, sometimes despised. Style will frequently be fantastic, incorrect, overburdened, and loose—almost always vehement and bold. Authors will aim at rapidity of execution, more than at perfection of detail. Small productions will be more common than bulky books; there will be more wit than erudition, more imagination than profundity; and literary performances will bear marks of an untutored and rude vigor of thought--frequently of great variety and singular fecundity. The object of authors will be to astonish rather than to please, and to stir the passions more than to charm the taste. Here and there, indeed, writers will doubtless occur who will choose a different track, and who will, if they are gifted with superior abilities, succeed in finding readers, in spite of their defects or their better qualities; but these exceptions will be rare, and even the authors who shall so depart from the received practice in the main subject of their works, will always relapse into it in some lesser details." "But what ought to be said to gratify constituents is not always what ought to be said in order to serve the party to which Representatives profess to belong. The general interest of a party frequently demands that members belonging to it should not speak on great questions which they understand imperfectly; that they should speak but little on those minor questions which impede the great ones; lastly, and for the most part, that they should not speak at all. To keep silence is the most useful service that an indifferent spokesman can render to the commonwealth." "Democracy encourages a taste for physical gratification: this taste, if it become excessive, soon disposes men to believe that all is matter only; and materialism, in turn, hurries them back with mad impatience to these same delights: such is the fatal circle within which democratic nations are driven round." "Democracy loosens social ties, but it draws the ties of nature more tight; it brings kindred more closely together, whilst it places the various members of the community more widely apart." "American women never manage the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other hand, ever compelled to perform the rough labor of the fields, or to make any of those laborious exertions which demand the exertion of physical strength. No families are so poor as to form an exception to this rule. If on the one hand an American woman cannot escape from the quiet circle of domestic employments, on the other hand she is never forced to go beyond it. Hence it is that the women of America, who often exhibit a masculine strength of understanding and a manly energy, generally preserve great delicacy of personal appearance and always retain the manners of women, although they sometimes show that they have the hearts and minds of men." "I never observed that the women of America consider conjugal authority as a fortunate usurpation of their rights, nor that they thought themselves degraded by submitting to it. It appeared to me, on the contrary, that they attach a sort of pride to the voluntary surrender of their own will, and make it their boast to bend themselves to the yoke, not to shake it off." "It would seem that in Europe, where man so easily submits to the despotic sway of women, they are nevertheless curtailed of some of the greatest qualities of the human species, and considered as seductive but imperfect beings; and (what may well provoke astonishment) women ultimately look upon themselves in the same light, and almost consider it as a privilege that they are entitled to show themselves futile, feeble, and timid. The women of America claim no such privileges." "Men who live in democratic countries do not value the simple, turbulent, or coarse diversions in which the people indulge in aristocratic communities: such diversions are thought by them to be puerile or insipid. … He thus enjoys two pleasures; he can go on thinking of his business, and he can get drunk decently by his own fireside." "If ever America undergoes great revolutions, they will be brought about by the presence of the black race on the soil of the United States--that is to say, they will owe their origin, not to the equality, but to the inequality, of conditions."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ken Ryu

    In the first volume, Tocqueville frames the politics, geography and people of the United States. In the second volume, he pontificates on how the freedom and equality loving Americans differ from their European counterparts. He extends numerous theories, most of them sound, regarding the unique character of Americans and how the democracy has lead to some surprising and some anticipated outcomes. He talks about religion, community, industry, society, military, materialism, and revolution. With a In the first volume, Tocqueville frames the politics, geography and people of the United States. In the second volume, he pontificates on how the freedom and equality loving Americans differ from their European counterparts. He extends numerous theories, most of them sound, regarding the unique character of Americans and how the democracy has lead to some surprising and some anticipated outcomes. He talks about religion, community, industry, society, military, materialism, and revolution. With all the freedoms granted to Americans, American are very rule-abiding. In this Tocqueville attributes to the devoutly Christian attitude of most Americans. Rather than being limited by governmental regulations, Americans conform to Christian morality and therefore self-regulate their behavior against antisocial behavior. Tocqueville equivocates on this question. He ponders whether Americans inherently desire a social fabric where morality tempers bad behavior and therefore turn to Christianity, or whether Americans would be deeply religious regardless of the form of government of the country. In their less religious European counterparts, the more restrictive government rules serve to control the population from anarchy. Tocqueville leans towards the counter intuitive theory that because Americans have less civil rules, they gravitate towards a more religious nature. He spends much time on American's love of equality. He argues that American love equality even more than freedom. Equality, unlike the class and caste system of European countries, creates a curious dynamic among fellow citizens. In England, where social classes are firmly established, the interactions among upper class and servant classes are well known and easy to adhere too. In the United States, the equality among citizens make social interaction unstructured and often uncomfortable. Whereas a servant is an appendage of his master's estate in England, none such relations exist among employers and employees in America. In England, a servant and master have a close patriarchal relationship, whereas American workers and bosses trade on monetary agreements and lack that bond. In Europe, class and title are paramount. In the United States, as no class system is formalized, American instead seek monetary gains to establish their credentials. The quest for riches drives Americans to work hard and industriously. The distinction of bettering one self is financially based in America. Tocqueville observes the materialism and monetary drive that is uniquely American. Tocqueville notes that a high percentage of Americans are land owners, and therefore desirous to hold onto their property. Revolution and wars are antithetical to the stability and status quo. Americans are want to seek peace and reject revolutionary appeals that may threaten their coveted property and materials. This volume is not as interesting or informative as the first. On the plus side, it is more speculative and detailed. Tocqueville shows his intelligence, knowledge of political science, and well-considered deductions to show how democracy has shaped the actions, goals, interactions and value systems of Americans. With the unique opportunities, Christian heritage and land-rich aspects of the country, Tocqueville is careful not to assume that all democracies will function like that of the United States. He does his best to distinguish which aspects are likely uniquely American and which are likely universal outcomes of a democratic society. At times he admires, other times he disdains, and sometimes he marvels at America and Americans. Tocqueville offers a fair, thorough and well-written assessment of the American experiment. Certainly exhaustive, but a well-crafted work that will endure.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christy Peterson

    I don’t know if I can be as forgiving as others have been in responding to Democracy in America. Tocqueville’s Volume 2 is filled with distracting, generalizing statements comparing an aristocracy to a democracy, amassing every American into unfavorable observations. I have read some book reviews that change how Tocqueville worded his comparisons into a less absolute manner, letting him get away with all of his inflexible, degrading statements. I found that I was so annoyed with his judgments th I don’t know if I can be as forgiving as others have been in responding to Democracy in America. Tocqueville’s Volume 2 is filled with distracting, generalizing statements comparing an aristocracy to a democracy, amassing every American into unfavorable observations. I have read some book reviews that change how Tocqueville worded his comparisons into a less absolute manner, letting him get away with all of his inflexible, degrading statements. I found that I was so annoyed with his judgments that I would almost miss his observations that have merit. I suppose that I need to change how I read his report, and then I can concede that valuable introspective questions can be gleaned and a great examination can take place. Is this why this book is so revered, people are already doing this without objection? What kind of aristocratic world was Tocqueville living in? The only place I have heard of a devout aristocracy is in my core book. In those societies, everyone was raised up to an “aristocratic” level, all being equal and having abundance. Indeed, the kind of aristocracy Tocqueville describes sounds like the translated city of Enoch, and I am sure he didn’t have first hand experience there. Are there really any forms of government that stay free of corruption outside of religious texts? Like Madison observed in Federalist Paper 10, the same freedom that allows free men, allows men to form factions. This freedom allows for degeneration and conversely allows acceleration, inventions and improvement. Yes, there were (and still are) bad effects of democracy for Tocqueville to observe, because there is human nature and people are free to choose to do selfish and shortsighted things. Those effects and people aren’t universal in the United States, but sadly, the number it is becoming far more than is healthy. Tocqueville couldn’t foresee the result of democracy and its related free market effects on science, inventions, and manufacturing so early, but they were starting to manifest. Many of his conclusions are thus outdated and even laughable as I type this on my computer. The 5000 Year Leap explains this principle beautifully; the proof that democracy and free markets work is the amount of progress we have made in the last 200 years compared to the last 5000. A chapter without Tocqueville’s annoying comparisons was Chapter 14 in Book 2, How the Taste for Physical Gratification is United in America to Love of Freedom and Attention to Public Affairs. In this chapter he gives warnings about being so caught up in day to day living and enjoyments that education wanes, preoccupation with the fun things in life distracts attention from government and that lack of government involvement results in loss of freedom. We have seen some of these results already and are suffering its consequences. Still many of the American people aren’t alert to governmental proceedings and corruption. I know I need to reread this classic in a different light, one that is not so provoked and to give more consideration to Tocqueville’s train of thought and conclusions. I think that half the reason I resented his judgments was because they neatly pigeonholed the American people into behaviors that we can’t escape from, taking away our freedom to act differently. However, I grudgingly admit that I am not free of generalizing judgments…yet.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    It is impossible to do this book enough justice and I posit that if you haven’t read it, then no matter how high your expectations are you will be blown away nonetheless, just as I was. The depth and breadth of the ideas, number of subjects, and the quality of writing makes you take a step back and realize how pedestrian in comparison most of political and sociological writing and thinking is, no matter how serious or well-reviewed. The rest are really just notes to self, don’t bother reading th It is impossible to do this book enough justice and I posit that if you haven’t read it, then no matter how high your expectations are you will be blown away nonetheless, just as I was. The depth and breadth of the ideas, number of subjects, and the quality of writing makes you take a step back and realize how pedestrian in comparison most of political and sociological writing and thinking is, no matter how serious or well-reviewed. The rest are really just notes to self, don’t bother reading them and get the book instead. Tocqueville: - Constantly runs counterfactuals - Always looks at long & short terms effects, and rather uncommonly at transitional period effects - Extensively employs thinking on the margin, sometimes marginal effects are themselves considered on the margin. - Regularly finds multiple divergent effects of the same cause, and conversely finds multiple divergent causes leading to the same effect Small sample of themes and ideas: - America vs France given the absence of genuine revolution in the former. - Must have initial equality (of opportunity) to get to freedom, which leads to appreciation and cultivation of individualism but under fluctuating and uncertain conditions this can in the long term decrease the need and taste for that very freedom & individualism via apathy and mediocrity. - Individual freedom seems “protected” by surrendering sovereignty to the illusion of self-rule by elected nation (via de Jouvenel/Orwell lines). T. sees voluntary associations as the only long term hedge against inevitable strengthening of the state at the expense of the individual. Intermediary local institutions as the only practically sustainable buffer. - Democratization leading to moderation in virtues and vices and more dangerously to moderation of will and mediocrity of the spirit. - Under democracy tendency to generalize is encouraged by assumption of sameness. The price of any generalization is a decrease in accuracy. French generalization, unlike American, had for centuries not been checked by practical experience and as such it is more utopian. - Literature under aristocracy can get suffocated by form, under democracy by lack of the taste for it. - Divorce and unfaithfulness are frowned upon, as under democracy you marry voluntarily and for love in theory - Democracy restricts the scope and ambition of intentional scientific study but increases the chances of breakthroughs by unintended positive side effects of wide-spread tinkering. - Pantheism is likelier under democracy (using sameness to generalize from self to society and then from self to everything). Lapses into obsessive spirituality are to be expected as an overreaction to otherwise general over-occupation with practice. - Religion, Army plus warfare style, Preoccupation with wellbeing, “Industrial” Aristocracy, Democratic despotism, Manners, National Vanity, Theater and Poetry

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    Now I need to read more about de Tocqueville and critiques of his theory. I have tentative criticisms of his main tenets - mostly questions that I hope someone else might have noticed and studied for me. Perhaps I missed this section, but did he address how the despot produced by equality and democracy interacts with the other branches of our government? I suppose he would say that even if we begin with those three branches checking power, eventually the executive branch will dominate. And then, Now I need to read more about de Tocqueville and critiques of his theory. I have tentative criticisms of his main tenets - mostly questions that I hope someone else might have noticed and studied for me. Perhaps I missed this section, but did he address how the despot produced by equality and democracy interacts with the other branches of our government? I suppose he would say that even if we begin with those three branches checking power, eventually the executive branch will dominate. And then, while in practice, it does seem as though de Tocqueville is accurate in his portrayal of equality producing mediocrity, I do wonder if mediocrity is the necessary result of equality. Why can't there be high standards and an excellent education available for all people? And perhaps I missed it, but does de Tocqueville address the waste of aristocracies who may have fools in high positions and geniuses born into poverty? But he remains utterly interesting in his analysis of our society. It's fascinating to me to observe his comments on equality between the sexes and the differences between European women and American women in his century. Apparently, he thought women in America acted more intelligently than European women. And it just amazes me, despite modern psychology, to see even a couple of centuries ago, evidence that people live up to expectations. Anyway, this is one author I would LOVE to meet in heaven.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    De Tocqueville said the first volume of Democracy in America was more about America, the second more 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. The first volume was a popular bestseller in its day, the second a more modest success, and I can understand that. I rated the first volume five stars, this volume is getting quite a bit lower. It's still well worth read De Tocqueville said the first volume of Democracy in America was more about America, the second more 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. The first volume was a popular bestseller in its day, the second a more modest success, and I can understand that. I rated the first volume five stars, this volume is getting quite a bit lower. It's still well worth reading--there are startling insights in this book, they're just to me less striking and come less often. 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 this one is a lot more theoretical, and I think a lot of its points are better made in the first book. 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 this wasn't worthwhile, but less essential I feel than the amazing first volume.

  10. 4 out of 5

    L.M. Smith

    This book was required reading for my political science class in college but, to my surprise, I found it absolutely fascinating. Alexis de Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited America shortly after the ratification of the United States Constitution and wrote Democracy In America vol. 1 praising our nation for it's determination, work ethic, and politics. He revisited the country some time later and wrote this book to express troublesome changes that he witnessed from one visit to the next and This book was required reading for my political science class in college but, to my surprise, I found it absolutely fascinating. Alexis de Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited America shortly after the ratification of the United States Constitution and wrote Democracy In America vol. 1 praising our nation for it's determination, work ethic, and politics. He revisited the country some time later and wrote this book to express troublesome changes that he witnessed from one visit to the next and made some predictions about where we were headed, as a nation, based on those changes. de Tocqueville wasn't a psychic or any kind of Nostradamus, he was both a master and student of human nature and political trends. Now, 200 years later, his predictions are eerily on point and my copy of this book, for one, is heavily marked with various colored highlighters as I simply couldn't resist the urge to re-read and often quote certain passages from it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Egerer

    Easily one of the six greatest secular books I've ever read. Somehow predicted the rise of socialism and the nanny state, the disappearance of truly great men from the political scene, the concentration of governmental power and its broadness of scope, the rise and dangers of the modern corporation and the mass-media, and the ever-shrinking individual amidst an increasingly dominant equality. Nobody has ever written such powerful and insightful social commentary with such force: Tocqueville is a Easily one of the six greatest secular books I've ever read. Somehow predicted the rise of socialism and the nanny state, the disappearance of truly great men from the political scene, the concentration of governmental power and its broadness of scope, the rise and dangers of the modern corporation and the mass-media, and the ever-shrinking individual amidst an increasingly dominant equality. Nobody has ever written such powerful and insightful social commentary with such force: Tocqueville is as good as it gets.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dardan

    From chapter 9: "Christianity tells us, it is true, that you must prefer others to self in order to gain heaven; but Christianity also tells us that you must do good to your fellows out of love of God. That is a magnificent thought; man, using his intellect, penetrates divine thought; he sees that the purpose of God is order; he associates with this great design out of volition, and even while sacrificing his particular interests to this admirable order of all things, he expects no other recompe From chapter 9: "Christianity tells us, it is true, that you must prefer others to self in order to gain heaven; but Christianity also tells us that you must do good to your fellows out of love of God. That is a magnificent thought; man, using his intellect, penetrates divine thought; he sees that the purpose of God is order; he associates with this great design out of volition, and even while sacrificing his particular interests to this admirable order of all things, he expects no other recompense than the pleasure of contemplating it." Changed my life.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    One of the best books that I've ever read although it took me quite some time to read it. What started out was an examination of the prison system of the U.S. turned into an examination and observation about the political system of the United States and why it seems to work so well here and why it may not when attempted to other countries. He also warns the U.S. that we should be careful lest our democratic system become an oligarchy. It's pretty much about what makes the political system that w One of the best books that I've ever read although it took me quite some time to read it. What started out was an examination of the prison system of the U.S. turned into an examination and observation about the political system of the United States and why it seems to work so well here and why it may not when attempted to other countries. He also warns the U.S. that we should be careful lest our democratic system become an oligarchy. It's pretty much about what makes the political system that we've adopted here run so well. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bob G

    In the first volume, the author described what he saw in the American people and system of government. In this volume he generalizes more about the future (from his point of view) and centers his thoughts about "democratic ages". He tries to relate the American experience to France. I can understand why he did that, and, if I were steeped in French history, I could probably relate much better to what he was saying. But I am not, and don't. In the first volume, the author described what he saw in the American people and system of government. In this volume he generalizes more about the future (from his point of view) and centers his thoughts about "democratic ages". He tries to relate the American experience to France. I can understand why he did that, and, if I were steeped in French history, I could probably relate much better to what he was saying. But I am not, and don't.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    This was an absolutely fantastic read in which de Tocqueville focus more on the social aspects of the great American experiment than the governmental ones. His observations are amazing and uncanny in their accuracy nearly two hundred years after this book was written. You will be amazed and glad you read this work.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alethea Hammer

    I loved this book because it is a clear window back in time. His observations about human nature under different political systems is interesting, but sometimes debatable. His predictions for the future of the Union probably would have been correct except for the Civil War.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    7: Brilliant, incisive and still very relevant. "if I am asked how we should account for the unusual prosperity and growing strength of this nation, I would reply that they must be attributed to the superiority of their women." 7: Brilliant, incisive and still very relevant. "if I am asked how we should account for the unusual prosperity and growing strength of this nation, I would reply that they must be attributed to the superiority of their women."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natnael M

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This volume starts with 'Americans philosophical evolution'?.. Then briefly explain individualism and different states of equality in America, and also a kinda tried to predict? the future of democratic government. This volume starts with 'Americans philosophical evolution'?.. Then briefly explain individualism and different states of equality in America, and also a kinda tried to predict? the future of democratic government.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Since June of this year I have been nightly nibbling away at Tocqueville's fascinating "take" on the United States of 1831-32, first finishing volume one a few months ago and, last night, volume two. Although they are now often, as in the version published by the Library of America, as one book, they were written roughly four years apart: volume one appearing in 1835 and the second in 1840. Although most of the data Tocqueville cites are long out-of-date, the observations about American life -- cu Since June of this year I have been nightly nibbling away at Tocqueville's fascinating "take" on the United States of 1831-32, first finishing volume one a few months ago and, last night, volume two. Although they are now often, as in the version published by the Library of America, as one book, they were written roughly four years apart: volume one appearing in 1835 and the second in 1840. Although most of the data Tocqueville cites are long out-of-date, the observations about American life -- culture, thought, inclinations, etc. -- and some of the predictions he makes for this country in the future are not. In the last chapter of volume one, for example, he includes a long chapter discussing how Native Americans and Black people have been treated in America, and it is not a flattering read. He and his traveling companion hated the institution of slavery and found its glaring contradiction to the professed ideals of the American Republic astounding. He also predicted that while slavery would someday inevitably fade away, the tensions of the long injustices done to Blacks would long remain. In volume two, while discussing the likelihood of future "revolutions" in America, he observes that revolutions do not result from societies that practice equality but, rather, those that practice some form of inequality. "If," he cautions, "American ever experiences great revolutions, they will be brought on by the presence of Blacks on the soil of the United States: in other words, they will result not from equality of conditions but, on the contrary, from inequality." In volume two, he returns frequently to what he sees as one of the most distinctive qualities of Americans -- their individualism. In volume one he had warned that excessive individualism, if it was allowed to crowd out or smother an appropriate concern for the larger needs of the whole, would lead to a crumbling of democracy. In this volume he returns to that theme, and talks more extensively about the pursuit of self-interest -- PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD (his words) -- would balance the pursuit of individual goals with those of the commonwealth. One of the brakes on excessive individualism, he believed, was the influence of religion (meaning Christianity) since its moral precepts stressed the importance of caring for others. However, as he had warned in volume one, if religious bodies began to intrude on specific matters of the state -- by, for instance, instructing their congregations on whom to vote for -- they would lose their broader positive interest on the broader society even as they perhaps gained a tighter hold on their congregants. Should this latter occur, this all-important brake on excessive individualism would be severely weakened. It appears to me that this fear has been realized in our own time, and the ethical rot that is so widespread among office-holders today is but one consequence. He also foresaw the danger of "great industry." Clearly, the vigor of American manufacturing and scientific inventions and rapid advances in technology were one of the reasons that so many Americans were able to live in relative equality (economic and social). However, he anticipated the marshaling of ever-greater combinations of industry that would not only acquire significant power but also weighs ever more heavily on workers. "Thus," he writes, "as industrial science steadily debases the class of workers, it raises the class of masters." He also anticipated -- imperfectly, of course, for he is writing almost 200 years ago now -- the rise of omnipotent states and the consequent loss of true freedom by citizens. "I am trying to imagine what new features despotism might have in today's world," he writes. "I see an innumerable host of men, all alike and equal, endlessly hastening after petty and vulgar pleasure with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn into himself, is virtually a stranger to the fate of all the others. For him, his children and personal friends comprise the entire human race. As for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he lives alongside them but does not see them. He touches them but does not feel them. He exists only in himself and for himself, and if he still has a family, he no longer has a country. "Over these men stands an immense tutelary power, which assumes sole responsibility for securing their pleasure and watching over their fate. It is absolute, meticulous, regular, provident, and mild. It would resemble paternal authority if only its purpose were the same, namely, to prepare men for manhood. But on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them in childhood irrevocably." This strikes me as a remarkably prescient view of the reality of what happens to those citizens who give all agency to some "leader" or "movement" for, once having done that, all real thinking and assessing by those citizens is shunted aside, making room for the incorporation of what "their leader" says and believes and asserts. We saw this sad phenomenon many times in the 20th century and, as should be very clear by now and in the United States of America, too, it still lives in the 21st century. Tocqueville's two volumes make for fascinating reading, much of it still of worth today.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    A prophetic book about the mindset of Americans -- including their virtues and potential vices.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    This is a hard and wonderful book. I loved it. This Frenchman in 1840 could see the very soul of men 150 years ahead of his time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    None

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan Markham

    Knocked this one off over breakfast

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mischke

    read at St. John's College read at St. John's College

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    An interesting look at 19th century American culture . . .

  26. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    Very interesting book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dmitry D Tankov

    Great work Great classic read! Highly recommend to anyone interested in history and politics. So many things described in this masterpiece are true today as well.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Reenah

    Definitely worth reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This man was more accurate than he ever realized. I highly recommend this book. I found myself highlighting pages and writing in comments. I wonder how Tocqueville would view us today.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    This guy gets it.

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