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Democracy in America Volume 2

(De la Démocratie en Amérique #2)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  765 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Volume 2 of the classic commentary on the influence of democracy on the intellect, feelings, and actions of Americans. With an introduction by Phillips Bradley.
Paperback, 506 pages
Published August 11th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1840)
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“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 ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Ken Ryu
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Christy Peterson
May 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: freedom
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 ...more
Alex Zakharov
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those Interested in American History and Political Science
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 ...more
L.M. Smith
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jeremy Egerer
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, favorites
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 ...more
Bob G
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: top100
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.
John Yelverton
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alethea Hammer
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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."
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
A prophetic book about the mindset of Americans -- including their virtues and potential vices.
May 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dan Markham
Knocked this one off over breakfast
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
read at St. John's College
An interesting look at 19th century American culture . . .
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-fictions
Very interesting book
Dmitry D Tankov
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Definitely worth reading.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Natnael M
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This guy gets it.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Not as good as volume 1.
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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.


Other books in the series

De la Démocratie en Amérique (2 books)
  • Democracy in America Volume 1

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