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Democracy in America Volume 1

(De la Démocratie en Amérique #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,041 ratings  ·  57 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 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
Thomas
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Tocqueville states at the beginning that "nothing will be easier than to criticize this book should anyone care to do so." He's right. This is basically a long opinion piece based on various and disparate observations, which is why he's so often quoted on both sides of an issue. Sometimes his opinions seem well founded, sometimes not. Sometimes they contradict each other because he tries to see both sides -- these sides are usually framed in terms of American democracy vs. European aristocracy ...more
Jesse Schexnayder
Dec 24, 2010 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
Alex
With the eyes of a disinterested foreign lawyer and the cool mind of a philosopher, the author clearly dissects and analyzes all the relationships between the states, the union, and the individual citizens. He details all parts of the governments, how and why they so formed, and the philosophy behind the design. To aid understanding, he compares the US governments with those of Europe.

The introduction is a valuable first-hand sketch of the author himself, a pious religious aristocrat who had a
...more
Ken Ryu
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This classic book is an impressive and thorough review of the American experiment. Written in 1830, French aristocrat Tocqueville presents his view of the framework of the American government, compares the United States to Great Britain and France, and offers many prescient predictions of the future of the United States and democracy.

The book begins with Tocqueville describing the geography of the United States, which at the time of writing did not include Texas, California and most of the
...more
Scott Cunningham
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Incredible Book.

I'm not sure if this is the most misquoted book, but I can say that while reading it and discussing it with others, many seem to have opinions about it that turned out not to be supported by the writing. I was told that this is a book about the American prison system, race relations in America, slavery in America, and many more single sentence summaries.

That was not what I found. For this reason, I will not attempt to summarize what I have learned. I do not think a few words
...more
Peter
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
de Tocqueville is widely cited and serves as a cornerstone for much of our American political science framework....the two volume translated work from 1835 and 1840 is 700+ pages. There is definitely a historical interest, and parts of it remain eye opening, but it is a reference book of 19th Century insights made up of many, many short chapters; rather than the clever monologue of a 20 something French person's 10 month travel trip to the strange land. That is what I had naively envisioned. For ...more
John Yelverton
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this masterpiece, Alexis de Tocqueville reports on the government in America while pointing out his concerns and his beliefs of possible outcomes with the precision of an Old Testament prophet. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for the student of history.
Shane Allen
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I give this classic 5 stars not because it’s consistently interesting or entertaining but because it really is a work of genius. Toucqueville was a prophet in so many ways. It would do America so much good for everyone to read it. It’s just too bad that the ones whom need it most never will.
Hannah Wagner
Sep 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Some good insights on the birth of US democracy. Runs into issues when dealing with poverty and race, but overall interesting.
Barbara
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back when we were an innocent nation with freedom for all...
John
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Took too long.

If you want to finish this book in a hurry, forget it. This is definitely not a quick read. Way too long.
Bill
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Needs more sex and explosions. Should’ve consulted Michael Bay before writing.
Also - racist.
Chris Rhodovi
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Must read... some time in the new year I'll pull out Vol. 2
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
...more
Seth Hettena
Aug 28, 2014 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
...more
Saul
Jan 17, 2014 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
Sep 13, 2012 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
Michael
Mar 14, 2013 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
Sep 29, 2011 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
...more
Dayla
Jan 28, 2013 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
...more
Erica
Jan 09, 2014 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
Marc Moore
Dec 18, 2013 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
Jan 20, 2012 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 G
Jan 12, 2013 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.
Ziggie
Jan 01, 2012 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.
Jeremy Egerer
Jun 19, 2015 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.
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
Oct 30, 2010 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.
Thor
May 04, 2013 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.
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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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