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Democracy in America

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  22,034 ratings  ·  782 reviews
Democracy in America has had the singular honor of being even to this day the work that political commentators of every stripe refer to when they seek to draw large conclusions about the society of the USA. Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat, came to the young nation to investigate the functioning of American democracy & the social, political & economic life ...more
Paperback, 983 pages
Published April 24th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1835)
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 ·  22,034 ratings  ·  782 reviews

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Roy Lotz
I struggle to penetrate God’s point of view, from which vantage point I try to observe and judge human affairs.

A few months ago, bored at work and with no other obligations to tie me to New York, I decided that I would look into employment in Europe; and now, several months and an irksome visa process later, I am on the verge of setting off to Madrid. Unsurprisingly, I’m very excited to go; but of course leaving one’s home is always bittersweet. This is partly why I picked up Tocqueville’s D
I had thought to come back to this after reading a general history of the early history of the US republic, but instead a sudden batch of newspaper articles wondering about the end of Democracy brought me back to it.

Reading this book I felt that the unfinished The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution was Tocqueville's masterpiece and in so far as Democracy in America has renown, I feel it is because there are a lot of Americans, and naturally it is nice when a foreigner takes your country an
Russell Bittner
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t mind admitting that Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America is quite possible the most demanding piece of exposition I’ve read since Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. I suspect it’s one of those books — analogous, if you will, to Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Melville’s Moby Dick, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or Musil’s Man Without Qualities — that avid readers want to have read, but never have.

I finally did.

If you can find the time (and the quiet) to read fifty pages of th
Glenn Russell

Alexis de Tocqueville captures the spirit of American democracy back when he wrote his classic in 1835. But what of the spirit of democracy in current day America where every citizen has the God given right to be a spectator or participate in exciting entertainment? The following fiction by author Lawrence Millman hits the bull's-eye.

A few years ago the Murmansk Opera came to town. And my friend Clint decided to take his wife Erma to a production of The Legend of the Invis
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

de Tocqueville, a young French diplomat, wrote this remarkable essay in two books based on his travels to the United States in the 1830s. He was a student of the consequences of the French revolution and had a very disdainful view of power for a diplomat — in particular the elite’s ability to eventually exploit the loopholes and take power back from the people. It quickly becomes obvious from this treatise that de Tocqueville had enormous admiration f
Ahmad Sharabiani
‭De la democratie en Amerique = On Democracy in America = Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
De La Démocratie en Amérique published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. Its title translates as On Democracy in America, but English translations are usually simply entitled Democracy in America. In the book, Tocqueville examines the democratic revolution that he believed had been occurring over the previous several hundr
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It amazed me that my country, the USA, was looked on as a democracy worth emulating within its first half century of existence. Though some see Democracy in America as a recounting of travels, and others see it a deconstruction of a foreign country, I think I am with a fair number of others who consider Tocqueville as trying to find what France might adapt for its own institutions. That, of course, started with our penal system because that is what “paid the freight” for Tocqueville and his comp ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I'm going with 4 stars here, it isn't always the easiest book to read, but worth it. There is a lot of wisdom in this book, a lot of insight. While history hasn't borne out all his predictions, there have been enough. Sadly also, it looks as though more of the things he said may still prove to be true.

In today's atmosphere, the thoughts here compared to the reality we live in and that "may" be coming to pass....well, it's worth some thought. When America broke away from the "branch" so to speak
E. G.
Introduction & Notes
Further Reading
Translator's Note

--Democracy in America

Two Essays on America:
--Two Weeks in the Wilderness
--Excursion to Lake Oneida
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bettering-myself
Update: My brother just told me that Kurt Vonnegut says that anyone who hasn't read Democracy in America is a wimp. So I guess that makes me almost not a wimp. Well!

Post from a few weeks ago: I've been wanting to read de Toqueville's, Democracy in America for some time, and I've finally bit the bullet. The translation is beautifully done. De Toqueville's sentiments are eloquent and thought provoking. Wonderful.

How's that for summer reading! Part of me wishes we still talked like pilgrims.
Taku Nakaminato
Feb 02, 2019 marked it as to-read
Long time ago I studied this book for a semester-long seminer class. I liked it, but I couldn't keep carrying the big book with me after the class. I wish there had been eBooks at that time.
Hai Quan
May 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
The evidence is mounting. I am a philistine.
Manuel Antão
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Wisdom of the American People: "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville, Gerald Bevan (Trans.)

Like many people, I think that Donald Trump might not give up power if he loses the presidential election. And if he tries a coup, I'm afraid that he could succeed. I don’t think that’s the likely outcome, but it’s not something I’d discount. Deeply I want to believe in the robustness of American democracy, whose persistence (with its o
Douglas Wilson
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-studies
Justly a classic. I learned a great deal, including about myself.
Rebecca Renner
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
One of the most pivotal books in my college education. It got me to start rethinking the concept of prisons and mass incarceration in America.
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
It's taken a year and a half but I have finally finished the unabridged version of Tocqueville's great classic.

Ironically there is far too much to cover to try to give an adequate review.

"In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont were sent by the French government to study the American prison system. In his later letters Tocqueville indicates that he and Beaumont used their official business as a pretext to study American society instead.[3] They arrived in New York City in May of t
Lynn Beyrouthy
Feb 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
In the 1830s, the period during which this book was written, Europe was still straining under the social structures of The Old Regime (the Helvetian Confederation excluded) while a new democratic state had emerged, ever since its Declaration of Independence on July 4 1776, the United States of America, led by George Washington who seemed to be the modern American version of Solon or Pericles.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat and politician, fascinated by the democracy so easily establis
My husband and I have listened to the audio version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America for the past few months. We have paused many times to discuss interesting passages and have thoroughly enjoyed this courteous visitor’s (de Tocqueville was French) perspective on the early years of our nation. The first Volume was written in 1835 and the second in 1840.

To fully appreciate this monumental socio-economic classic of colonial and antebellum political life, one would need to devote man
This classic is a must for students of political science and American studies. With its highly academic writing style, it’s like reading the Federalist Papers. I could only read a little at a time. I ended up with the abridged version, which is just as well. The abridger says Toqueville was often repetitive, so I don’t think I missed anything important.

He wrote two volumes some years apart, which are now usually combined into one. Each volume is divided into several sections. Toqueville was a Fr
Have to eventually read this, of course.

Just a note, for now. I was reading about some essay on The Economist, and one of the comments quoted from de Tocqueville. The comment, below, reminded me of one of the reasons I’m somewhat pessimistic about America’s future as Aquinas’ “city on a hill”.
The foundation of New England was a novel spectacle, and all the circumstances attending it were singular and original. […]
  The settlers who established themselves on the shores of New England all belonged
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
No getting away from the fact that this is a loooong book and it's always a challenge when you are reading a book in translation. Tocqueville is a Frenchman who toured America in the 1820s-30s and then wrote the book about the United States for his audience in France. His observations are relevant both in an outsiders view on the constitutional government and as compared to the aristocratic governments of Europe. More importantly are Tocqueville's observations on the American character itself--t ...more
Great Book Study
I'm still keeping this at 4 stars because I realize the enormity of it (especially when I consider that Tocqueville wrote this w/ a pen), but, man, am I glad to be done reading this.

Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not a review by any means, just a placeholder to indicate that after two months of enthusiasm, two months of stalling, and a final two months of hard reading, I have finally finished Democracy in America. I am no longer a wimp! (nor am I a "twerp", in the words of Vonnegut. Thanks Dion)

In my altered state (the euphoria of having finished such an amazing book), I cannot with sound mind expound upon how awesome this book is. It will take many years of study and careful re-reading to fully
Sarah Myers
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
Five reasons you really might want to consider reading Democracy in America:

1. You were assigned it for a political theory class. Yes, in this circumstance, I would definitely recommend reading it. This should not need elaboration.

2. You just love beautiful writing. Congratulations. The introduction alone will be a literary feast worth the price of the book. (Note that this might vary by translation; mine is the Mansfield and Winthrop translation.)

3. You feel unlearned, inferior, left out, and
Jerry Raviol
Oct 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in response to my frustration with what I saw as our inability to bring democracy to other places in the world. Chapters 1-42 and 55 - 57 are the most insightful. Others tend to drag. In 1830s de Tocqueville comes to America to figure our why a democratic revolution in France lead to anarchy and despotism, while a democratic revolution in America lead to freedom. What he finds is still relevant to our trying to bring or give democracy to others.

Two things emerge- first there were ma
Jun 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
tourist instructs his hosts that their preferred legal mechanisms may develop into ochlocracy if they don't cool it.
Oct 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Caveat: I read the 320 page abridged version, so some of my complaints may be simple misunderstandings.

I'll start by saying that I'm not sure what gives a 25 year-old rich French kid on a pleasure cruise through the New World the credibility to make completely unsupported assertions on the political and social climate of early America and have them accepted as gospel.

After slogging through 300 or so pages, I'm exceedingly grateful that this abridged version exists, because I can't imagine ever
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Witticisms like

the lower classes of society ... what they always lack, more or less, is the art of judging the means, even while sincerely wishing the end

and its related One must not conceal from oneself that democratic institutions develop the sentiment of envy in the human heart to a very high degree. It is not so much because they offer to each the means of becoming equal to others, but because this means constantly fail those who employ them (...) Every day this complete equality eludes the
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read selections this time around, as I did years ago.

de Tocqueville toured and studied America not long after the French Revolution. He was hoping to glean ideas for his own country. I think what he found couldn't necessarily apply. He says we had no democratic revolution, because we began democratically. This makes sense, as our Revolution was simply an effort to keep that independent flavor, rather than lose it to our parent country.

Among the many things he observes and analyzes, I was inter
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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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