Summary Analysis An American bookstore, Tocqueville begins, is packed with basic textbooks written in Europe, religious works and charitable reports, and finally political pamphlets, which are often preferred to books. He argues that there are a small number of admirable American authors that Europeans should pay attention to.
He was born shortly after the French Revolution had turned France into the empire; in his lifetime occurred those further changes that transformed France, at least nominally, into a republic. His object in writing Democracy in America was twofold: Instead of proceeding from ideas of right and responsibility, Tocqueville preferred to begin by analyzing social institutions as they functioned in reality.
Instead of working, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau had worked, from an arbitrary picture of the beginnings of humanity in a natural condition, Tocqueville preferred to work from what was statistically observable. Thus, Democracy in America begins with a picture of the geography of the new continent, its weather, its indigenous tribes, its economy, and its natural resources.
In this respect, Democracy in America is the forerunner of the scientific spirit in the investigation of social structures. Much of Democracy in America is concerned with institutions, and the first institution described by Tocqueville is that of the partition of property.
He points out that it is customary in the nations of Europe to divide property by the laws of primogeniture. The result is that property remains fixed in extent and in possession; the family, no matter how changed in each generation, is linked to the wealth and political power of landed property.
The family represents the estate, the estate the family, and naturally a strong inequality is carried from one generation to another.
The foundations of American culture are to be found, Tocqueville points out, in the equal partition of land and fortune. Land is continually broken up into parcels, sold, developed, and transformed. The accompanying wealth and power are much more fluid than in societies in which descent really dominates fortune.
The subsidiary effect of equal partition is that people have access to careers from which they might be blocked in another system. Tocqueville was fascinated by the practice of equality, a phenomenon rarely encountered in France during his lifetime.
Several chapters concern political equality; he is one of the first great commentators on the democracy of U. He emphasizes that it is fundamental to understand the nature of the township, particularly in its New England tradition.
The key to the nature of the United States, he asserts, is the wide and responsible nature of freedom at the level of municipal government. This gives the citizen a direct voice in the government and trains the citizen for the representative democracy of the federal government.
Tocqueville points out that, under this form of government, power is concentrated in the hands of the voter; the legislative and executive branches have no power of their own, but merely represent those who appoint them. To us, this fact is commonplace, but it was a new idea for the citizens of Europe in the nineteenth century.
Although much of this work is in praise of democracy in the United States, Tocqueville makes some important qualifications. His first principle is that abuse in government occurs when one special interest is served to the exclusion of all others.
The entire section is 1, words.Democracy in America, originally titled De La Democratie en Amerique, is a classic French political text published in two volumes in and by Alexis De Tocqueville, a prominent French diplomat and political scientist.
De Tocqueville examines the rise of democracy in the relatively new country of the United States and discusses what he. Tocqueville and the Nature of Democracy () Morton, F.
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L. "Sexual Equality and the Family in Tocqueville's Democracy in America," Canadian Journal of Political Science () 17#2 pp. – in JSTOR; Schleifer, James T.
The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville's Democracy in America (U of Chicago Press, ) Schneck, Stephen. This study guide and infographic for Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text.
Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs. Tocqueville says the main thing that struck him about his visit to America and study of American democracy was “the general equality of condition among the people” (p.
3). This central fact of equality affects both public attitudes and the making of laws in the country. Tocqueville continues his analysis of the arts in America by discussing its literature.
He seems to want to judge literary trends as fairly as possible—hence his acknowledgment that there are indeed a few admirable authors in America—though he makes a slightly different argument than before.
Tocqueville elaborates a number of features of America’s federalist system, which divides power between the national capital, the states, and local townships, stressing the ways this system both maintains individual freedom and encourages people to play an active role in their nation’s political affairs.