Monthly Archives: February 2010

De Toqueville and the Tyranny of the Majorirty

de toqueville.jpgAlexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America isn’t exactly what I expected when I began it. What I had read of it suggested something of a high-minded travelogue, a paean to the United States, that most democratic of democracies, full of insights and admiration. What I found instead is a straight-out political analysis of a form of government with which Europe was largely unfamiliar, an analysis as clear-eyed as it is dense, and only very carefully complementary. It is no more a travelogue than Rouseau’s Social Contract is a business manual. Though he was here for 9 months in 1831 and traveled extensively during that time, he rarely mentions place-names at all and never descends to a personal anecdote or reveals the name of a single person he spoke with. His one and only concern is the subject in the title: how democracy worked in America.

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