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Democracy in America Volume 1 (De la Démocratie en Amérique #1)

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  766 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Out of Alex de Tocqueville's travels through the U.S. in the 1830's came an insightful study of a young democracy and its institutions. This 2 volume edition presents Tocqueville's original text. Footnotes, bibliography.
Paperback, 446 pages
Published August 11th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1835)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 01, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Democracy--and America
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 ...more
Norman Cook
De Tocqueville makes some insightful observations about the U.S. that still hold up today, but many of his conclusions are, shall we say, misinformed and certainly not pertinent now.

Still probably true:
"...it is easy to perceive that the wealthy members of the community entertain a hearty distaste to the democratic institutions of their country. The populace is at once the object of their scorn and of their fears."

Or this:
"On my arrival in the United States I was surprised to find so much distin
...more
Jesse Schexnayder
Apr 10, 2011 Jesse Schexnayder rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
The destiny of the American people, as the sovereign power of the United States, consequently revolves about both their written laws and, equally as important, their moral values.

Both of these have gone through cycles, highs and lows; the eddies and storms of American history. It is easy for us now to be caught up in the concerns of our present day, but there is infinite value in looking back in time to where we were, and what the root causes are for our present situation.

Where do our ideals of
...more
Seth Hettena
Sep 19, 2014 Seth Hettena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, history
In Issac Asimov's book Foundation, there is a mathematician who is able to predict accurately large scale future events. Now Foundation is a work of science fiction, but de Tocqueville was doing this stuff (without the math) in the 1830s in this extraordinary book.

Like Asimov's Hari Seldon, de Tocqueville writes how he can "prove" (his words) how one form of government or one branch of that government was superior to others and see the problems ahead. His view of race in America in 1830 is breat
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Saul
Feb 23, 2014 Saul rated it liked it
de Tocqueville definitely has a lot of insightful things to say about America and democracy, but it's hard to see where his biases end and the facts begin. He has a very odd (to a modern reader) pro-aristocracy pro-religion France-slanted point of view. This means that much of the time, he tries to cherry-pick examples from America to make points relevant to his domestic politics. If you've read his other works, you know he's an ardent monarchist, and this often colors his perception of the ...more
Easton
Dec 04, 2012 Easton rated it it was amazing
Definately a classic that should be read by anyone who loves freedom....I would think that is everyone I would hope. De Toqueville not only expounds on how each adult was in the habit of BEING government on a local level that doesn't exist today but also that it was the majority of americans's customs that made our democratic republic work well. By customs, he means the intelligence/wisdom (knowledge applied) and morals (tendancy to do right or goodness) that make us unique. In other words, our ...more
sim
Mar 08, 2014 sim rated it it was amazing
Uma análises apaixonante e isenta dos primeiros anos da Democracia Americana.
Tocqueville conseguiu antever a decadência do Sul e guerra de Secessão, o domínio continental americano, a praticamente extinção dos índios. A premonição da ascendência dos Estados Unidos e Russia a super potências é visionária
Tem piada ver como a carga fiscal e uso dos rendimentos dos impostos mudou ao longo dos anos e a passagem do isolacionismo de uma primeira fase quase sem forças militares para a suprema potência
...more
Michael
May 10, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
This was a very worthwhile read. I think it was considerably longer than it needed to be, with quite a lot of redundancy, but I kept reading because every few pages I would come across a complete gem.

Overall, I think de Toqueville was remarkably prescient, a very intelligent socio-political observer of only 30 years old when he wrote this volume. His knowledge and insights were impressive.

To me, the most striking things were those which have not changed since those early days of our nation, and
...more
Fred
Aug 10, 2012 Fred rated it really liked it
Amazing that it was written by a twenty-something Frenchman and even more amazing how relevant much of it still is. Tocqueville does a great job of remaining impartial throughout his analysis of America's strengths and weaknesses, often times pointing out inherent flaws within the American style of government that aren't readily apparent.

Not light reading by any means. Sometimes it was so dry that I had to repeat chapters in order to get through them because my mind would wander and I'd realize
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Yann
Jul 22, 2011 Yann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Très bien écrit, passionnant et instructif. Toqueville, aristocrate français pénétrant et érudit, reconnaissant l'inexorable avancée de la liberté, analyse l’Amérique de la première moitiée du XIXeme siècle pour comprendre l'influence des institutions sur les mœurs, et deviner le futur de l'Europe. Les chapitres sur la naissance de l'Union sont très intéressants, ainsi que ceux sur l'équilibre des pouvoirs aux diverses échelles (comptés, état, fédération), le poids de la majorité, la question de ...more
Dayla
Feb 26, 2013 Dayla rated it it was amazing
I found much to love about this book. First of all, it is very interesting to read someone's perspective about people in the United States, and what makes them tick, from someone who is not from here. What I discovered is that we like to join groups. How many groups do you belong to?
Are you counting Triple A (the Automobile Club), the RV Association, the Book Club, the Daughters of the American Revolution, etc.

I highly recommend this book. It is well written, and some day I am going to get to t
...more
Erica
Jan 26, 2014 Erica rated it liked it
Had only read pieces of this work throughout grad school, was glad to finally get through the whole first volume. Not s impressed/fascinated as I thought I would be. I generally find political writing from any period boring, though. I did appreciate his chapters on Race in America, of course, and unexpectedly, Chapter XVII: Principle Causes of Maintaining the Democratic Republic, Part III, on religion in America. May have to use it in my next blocked course (Hist 101 with Early American ...more
Dorian Neerdael
Le premier tome de cet ouvrage de Tocqueville est une collection plate et inintéressante de faits, à propos du fonctionnement des jeunes Etats-Unis.
Mais la question qui traverse l'ouvrage, et qui est intéressante d'un point de vue historique, est "comment un Etat démocratique, qui se base sur l'opinion du vulgaire, sur la tyrannie de la majorité est-il possible ?"
En répondant à cette question, Tocqueville veut montrer à la France, son pays natal, qu'il y a plus d'avantages que d'inconvénients da
...more
Marc Moore
Dec 18, 2013 Marc Moore rated it really liked it
The first and final thirds of this book should be required reading for all people, regardless of race, creed, whatever. It rambles a little in the middle section, but it's quite striking how observant the Frenchman was, almost 200 year's ago. His prediction that the U.S. and Russia would be the preeminent powers, for instance, was probably ridiculed at the time, given the woeful state of Russian military power, pre-Soviets.
Mara
Sep 26, 2012 Mara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still LOVE Tocqueville. I wish he were alive today to travel around and compare America today with the America he first saw. I am curious as to how religious he would think Americans are now, what he would think of our customs now in our various regions, and of course, his final analysis of democracy today in America. If only.

Of course, this is just volume one, and I am sort of cheating to count this as a book separate from volume two...
Bob
Jan 20, 2015 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top100
This is my first review after Amazon purchase of Goodreads. Keeping it short. Not interested in Amazon owning this.

Absolutely must read for anyone of any political persuasion. Helps explain why U.S. is what it is today. Some of his predictions were wrong but the historical analysis based on his interviews and research seems sound. I can't express how important I think this book is to understanding the U.S. in 2013.
Ruth Ann
Aug 14, 2016 Ruth Ann marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Many years ago my Humanities-American Studies professor highly recommended that we add Alexis de Tocqueville's two-volume book to our bookshelves. This has been on my want list for a long time. Finally decided to buy the book set after a high recommendation for this translation with its translator's notes. Written after Tocqueville's visit to American in 1831 it still has relevancy today. It is a meaty book that I will digest slowly between other projects, activities, and other books.
Kbullock
Fascinating and frustrating at the same time. The author was obviously a keen observer, but he devoted only a fraction of the volume to reporting his observations. He wasted much ink on stating broad generalities. Still, a very valuable book. The final chapters of Volume 1, in which he discussed race relations and the potential for the dissolution of the Union, are particularly good.
Nick
Apr 10, 2011 Nick rated it it was amazing
Reeding De Tocquville's Democracy in America was like reading a text book. Read, think, read, think. Over the last two months I have "studied" the book.
Found many concepts of thinking outdated, but he gives us a perspective into that time (1830s).
It is a must read for all those interested in American history and government.
Jeremy Egerer
Jun 24, 2015 Jeremy Egerer rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a single crash course in political theory and American culture, look no further. Tocqueville is profound, eloquent, and frequently passionate in his examination of liberty, equality, and the necessity of good culture -- an author of an absolute masterpiece. Will make you proud to be an American.
Ziggie
Jan 01, 2012 Ziggie rated it it was amazing
De-Tocqueville's books democracy in America are important books that people need to read, to learn about your country, to learn what your schools no longer teach you, the important facts about our country that the progressive movement has been doing everything they can to erase from history. These are important books to read, to learn about the greatness of the country you live in.
Thor
May 04, 2013 Thor rated it really liked it
Though this is mostly political theory (I can't bring myself to say political science), what I liked best was the sociology of America by a brilliant visitor from almost another planet. For me, there are dozens of quotable quotes. I'm very interested in this time period for a project I'm doing, and it captures agrarian New England political culture in a way that works for me.
Leah
This is a good text to read in an election year . . . and it's on my master's reading list, too! Too birds with one stone! Not gonna lie . . . I feel a little smarter for having read this in the original French.
Silrin
Aug 25, 2012 Silrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classique
Même si il a omis de prendre en compte les minorités dans son étude (à la base elle visait le milieu carcéral), elle n'en demeure pas moins intéressante et montre bien les aspects séduisants que possédait la société Américaine à l'époque.
Alethea Hammer
Sep 08, 2015 Alethea Hammer rated it really liked it
It's very interesting to read this from the prospective of 185 years later. To look at his analysis and his predictions, what he got right and wrong. He clearly explains the problems leading to the Civil War. But didn't really predict it . at least not in Volume I. I'm just starting volume Ii.
Arun
Apr 25, 2016 Arun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Hard going because of the language, but extraordinarily perceptive and fascinating. One of those books where every other paragraph has to be read twice over, with numerous observations & insights worth highlighting for future reference. Hopefully, I will finish it before 2015 rolls past :)
Timothy
May 20, 2014 Timothy rated it it was amazing
A magnificent work, full of information and ideas.

I provided the foreword to the Laissez Faire Books ebook edition.
Raven
Dec 12, 2015 Raven rated it really liked it
Eerily still relevant... particularly de Tocqueville's views on the danger of paternalizing the government and the tyranny of the majority.
John
Jan 19, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clear eyed view of an emerging democratic republic by a French citizen. Very insightful commentary on the evils of slavery, and success of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
Arnaud Coutant
Dec 30, 2013 Arnaud Coutant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
un ouvrage essentiel
un voyage au coeur de l'Amérique institutionnelle et un plaidoyer pour la découverte.
une réflexion fascinante sur cette inconnue qu'est l'Amérique.
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Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (July 29, 1805 – April 16, 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies.

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Other Books in the Series

De la Démocratie en Amérique (2 books)
  • Democracy in America Volume 2

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“men who so uneasily tolerate superiors patiently suffer a master, and show themselves proud and servile at the same time.” 8 likes
“What is called family pride is often founded on the illusion of self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself.” 7 likes
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