The fall of the Berlin Wall. The collapse of the Iron Curtain. The Orange Revolution. The Arab Spring.
The rush of events in recent decades seems to confirm that Alexis de Tocqueville was right: the future belongs to democracy. But take a closer look. The history of democracy since the 1830s, when Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, reveals a far more complicated picture. And the future, author Chilton Williamson Jr. demonstrates, appears rather unpromising for democratic institutions around the world.
The fall of communism sparked the popular notion that the spread of democracy was inevitable. After Tocqueville challenges this sunny notion. Various aspects of twenty-first-century life that Tocqueville could scarcely have imagined—political, economic, social, religious, intellectual, technological, environmental—militate against democracy, both in developing societies and in the supposedly democratic West.
This piercing, elegantly written book raises crucial questions about the future of democracy, including:
•Just what is democracy? As Williamson shows, definitions and concepts have become so varied that the term is effectively meaningless.
•How does a system whose institutions and habits arose in small-scale societies adapt to a postmodern, globalized world?
•After two centuries of democratization, are Western countries really more free?
•How can democracy endure when people care more about procuring what they want than about securing liberty?
•How does a political system survive when it is beset by problems that cannot be solved by political means?
Two decades ago, Francis Fukuyama famously pronounced the “end of history.” History, it turns out, is still very much with us. Democracy (whatever it is) may not be in the decades and centuries to come.
One of the greatest books ever to be written on the United States, Democracy in America continues to find new readers who marvel at the lasting insights Alexis de Tocqueville had into our nation and its political culture. The work is, however, as challenging as it is important; its arguments can be complex and subtle, and its sheer length can make it difficult for any reader, especially one coming to it for the first time, to grasp Tocqueville’s meaning. The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” is the first book written expressly to help general readers and students alike get the most out of this seminal work.
Now James T. Schleifer, an expert on Tocqueville, has provided the background and information readers need in order to understand Tocqueville’s masterwork. In clear and engaging prose, Schleifer explains why Democracy in America is so important, how it came to be written, and how different generations of Americans have interpreted it since its publication. He also presents indispensable insight on who Tocqueville was, his trip to America, and what he meant by equality, democracy, and liberty.
Drawing upon his intimate knowledge of Tocqueville’s papers and manuscripts, Schleifer reveals how Tocqueville’s ideas took shape and changed even in the course of writing the book. At the same time, Schleifer provides a detailed glossary of key terms and key passages, all accompanied by generous citations to the relevant pages in the University of Chicago Press Mansfield/Winthrop translation. TheChicago Companion will serve generations of readers as an essential guide to both the man and his work.
Commager on Tocqueville
Henry Steele Commager University of Missouri Press, 1993 Library of Congress JC229.T8C63 1993 | Dewey Decimal 321.8
Commager on Tocqueville is Henry Steele Commager's masterful interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Using Tocqueville's classic as a vehicle for discussing such contemporary issues as the environment, civil rights, and the military-industrial complex, Commager calls for a new vision of American leadership that trascends nationalism.
In this fresh interpretation of Tocqueville's thought, Joshua Mitchell explores the dynamic interplay between religion and politics in American democracy.
Focusing on Democracy in America, The Fragility of Freedom examines Tocqueville's key works and argues that his analysis of democracy is ultimately rooted in an Augustinian view of human psychology. As much a work of political philosophy as of religion, The Fragility of Freedom argues for the importance of a political theology that recognizes moderation.
"An intelligent and sharply drawn portrait of a conservative Toqueville."—Anne C. Rose, Journal of American History
"I recommend this book as one of a very few to approach seriously the sources of Tocqueville's intellectual and moral greatness."—Peter Augustine Lawler, Journal of Politics
"Mitchell ably places Democracy in America in the long conversation of Western political and theological thought."—Wilfred M. McClay, First Things
"Learned and thought-provoking."—Peter Berkowitz, New Republic
Tocqueville’s thesis on the relation between religion and liberty could hardly be timelier. From events in the Middle East and the spread of Islamist violence in the name of religion to the mandated coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the interaction between religion and politics has once again become central to political life. Tocqueville, facing the coming of a new social and political order within the traditional society that was France, faced this relation between politics and religion with freshness and relevance. He was particularly interested in reporting to his French compatriots on how the Americans had successfully resolved what, to many Frenchmen, looked to be an insuperable conflict. His surprising thesis was that the right kind of arrangement—a certain kind of separation of church and state that was not also a complete separation of religion and politics—could be seen in nineteenth century America to be beneficial to both liberty and religion. This volume investigates whether Tocqueville’s depiction was valid for the America he investigated in the 1830s and whether it remains valid today.
2016 witnessed an unprecedented shock to political elites in both Europe and America. Populism was on the march, fueled by a substantial ignorance of, or contempt for, the norms, practices, and institutions of liberal democracy. It is not surprising that observers on the left and right have called for renewed efforts at civic education. For liberal democracy to survive, they argue, a form of political education aimed at “the people” is clearly imperative.
In Teachers of the People, Dana Villa takes us back to the moment in history when “the people” first appeared on the stage of modern European politics. That moment—the era just before and after the French Revolution—led many major thinkers to celebrate the dawning of a new epoch. Yet these same thinkers also worried intensely about the people’s seemingly evident lack of political knowledge, experience, and judgment. Focusing on Rousseau, Hegel, Tocqueville, and Mill, Villa shows how reformist and progressive sentiments were often undercut by skepticism concerning the political capacity of ordinary people. They therefore felt that “the people” needed to be restrained, educated, and guided—by laws and institutions and a skilled political elite. The result, Villa argues, was less the taming of democracy’s wilder impulses than a pervasive paternalism culminating in new forms of the tutorial state.
Ironically, it is the reliance upon the distinction between “teachers” and “taught” in the work of these theorists which generates civic passivity and ignorance. And this, in turn, creates conditions favorable to the emergence of an undemocratic and illiberal populism.
We live in the democratic age. So wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, in his magisterial work, Democracy in America. This did not mean, as so many have believed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, that the political apparatus of democracy would sweep the world. Rather, Tocqueville meant that as each nation left behind the vestiges of its aristocracy, life for its citizens or subjects would be increasingly isolated and lonely.
In America, more than a half century of scholarship has explored and chronicled our growing isolation and loneliness. What of the Middle East? Does Tocqueville prediction—confirmed already by the American experience—hold true there as well? Americans look to the Middle East and see a rich network of familial and tribal linkages that seem to suggest that Tocqueville’s analysis does not apply. A closer look reveals that this is not true. In the Middle East today, citizens and subjects live amidst a profound tension: familial and tribal linkages hold them fast, and at the same time rapid modernization has left them as isolated and lonely as so many Americans are today. The looming question, anticipated so long ago by Tocqueville, is how they will respond to this isolation and loneliness.
Joshua Mitchell has spent years teaching Tocqueville’s classic account, Democracy in America, in America and the Arab Gulf and, with Tocqueville in Arabia, he offers a profound account of how the crisis of isolation and loneliness is playing out in similar and in different ways, in America and in the Middle East. While American students tend to value individualism and commercial self-interest, Middle Eastern students have grave doubts about individualism and a deep suspicion about capitalism, which they believe risks the destruction of long-held loyalties and obligations. Where American students, in their more reflective moments, long for more durable links than they currently have, the bonds that constrain the freedoms Middle Eastern students imagine the modern world offers at once frighten them and enkindle their imagination. When pondering suffering, American students tend to believe its causes can be engineered away, through better education and the advances of science. Middle Eastern students tend still to offer religious accounts, but are also enticed by the answers Americans give―and wonder if the two accounts can coexist at all. Moving back and forth between self-understandings in America and in the Middle East, Mitchell offers a framework for understanding the common challenges in both regions, and highlights the great temptation both will have to overcome—rejecting the seeming incoherence of the democratic age, and opting for one or another scheme to re-enchant the world. Whether these schemes take the form of various purported Islamic movements in the Middle East, or the form of enchanted nationalism in American and in Europe, the remedy sought will not cure the ailment of the democratic age. About this, Mitchell comes to the defense Tocqueville long ago offered: the dilemmas of the democratic age can be courageously endured, but they cannot resolved.
We live in a time rife with mutual misunderstandings between America and the Middle East. Tocqueville in Arabia offers a guide to the present, troubled times, leavened by the author’s hopes about the future.
Before being declared heretical in 1713, Jansenism was a Catholic movement focused on such central issues as original sin and predestination. In this engaging book, David Selby explores how the Jansenist tradition shaped Alexis de Tocqueville’s life and works and argues that once that connection is understood, we can apply Tocqueville’s political thought in new and surprising ways. Moving from the historical sociology of Jansenism in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France to contemporary debates over the human right to education, the role of religion in democracy, and the nature of political freedom, Selby brings Tocqueville out of the past and makes him relevant to the present, revealing that there is still much to learn from this great theorist of democracy.
With The Old Regime and the Revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote what remains the essential history of the French Revolution. Yet historians have found it nearly impossible to trace the evolution of Tocqueville's ideas because he chose not to disclose his sources.
Drawing on his unprecedented access to Tocqueville's papers—access made possible by the late French historian Francois Furet—Robert T. Gannett Jr. reveals the ingenuity of Tocqueville's analyses of issues such as landownership, administrative centralization, and public opinion in prerevolutionary France. He also sheds light on the benefits Tocqueville reaped from unexpected intellectual encounters with such authors as Burke, Constant, and Dareste de la Chavanne. A literary detective at work, Gannett tracks Tocqueville as the author himself tracked the French Revolution—and brings him to life as a meticulous historian and an ardent defender of liberty.
An ideal companion to The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volumes 1 and 2, both published by the University of Chicago Press, Tocqueville Unveiled will be a valuable resource for revolutionary historians and Tocqueville enthusiasts alike.