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After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy Hardcover – September 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (September 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610170229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610170222
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,145,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

With this book, Chilton Williamson advances to the top rank of American political and social thinkers. This is an extraordinary performance of a versatile novelist, political analyst, art critic, etc. His main thesis may be arguable, but only by people whose mental equipment and scholarship are at least close to the qualities Williamson demonstrates.” —JOHN LUKACS, author of Five Days in London and Democracy and Populism


Chilton Williamson has written the best book on democracy in the past hundred years. Capturing Tocqueville has developed into an intellectual sport, sides taken less on the merits of the French aristo’s prophecy that equality and democracy were everywhere gaining ground in the nineteenth century than on when and in what form the process will be completed. Williamson, in this learned and elegantly written book, has changed the rules of the game.” —JOHN WILLSON, professor emeritus of history, Hillsdale College


“Is democracy good for people? Or nations? Can it survive George W. Bush’s ‘global democratic revolution’ or the ‘Arab Spring’? What, in any case, does democracy mean in an age of mass politics, mass culture, mass communications, not to say mass hysteria? Chilton Williamson tackles the horrors, contradictions, and absurdities of life after Tocqueville (and Fukuyama) in a book that is both immensely civilized and a cracking good read.” —STUART REID, former deputy editor of the Spectator (London)


“At last a book that actually thinks about democracy—i.e., courageously dares address the Deity of our times. While referring to just about everything that has been written about democracy in modern times—his culture seems as limitless as his modesty—Williamson adroitly nudges the democratic reader to wonder whether he has ever been taught the right things about democracy. This book is a thought-provoking meditation one feels urged to take an active part in.” —CLAUDE POLIN, professor emeritus, University of Paris–Sorbonne


A comprehensive and continually stimulating study of how we have entered a postdemocratic age which has subverted nearly everything that was valuable in American democracy as understood by Tocqueville.” —DONALD W. LIVINGSTON, professor emeritus of philosophy, Emory University

About the Author

Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Conservative Bookshelf and several other books. A senior editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, he has contributed to Harper’s, the New Republic, the American Spectator, the American Conservative, and many other publications. He and his wife live in Wyoming.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Bieter on September 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I recently read After Tocqueville by Chilton Williamson Jr., a writer whose articles I regularly read in the past when I subscribed to the Chronicles Magazine. [...] I remembered Williamson as a scholar and a sound thinker. Thus, I was excited to read his new book movements for "democracy." I am not disappointed and must recommend the book to all who are interested in the so calleI current movements for "democracy."

His book is a profound and fascinating blend of prophetic insights from Tocqueville on the advantages and disadvantages of democracy which correspond to observations and insights from some learned contemporary scholars, namely, Jacques Ellul and Bertrand de Jouvenel, with whose writings I am very familiar, and with some other profound writers on the idea and reality of democracy.

For example, here at pages 209-210 is Williamson on democracy, the Russian people, and Mr. Putin, today:

"Democrats looked for great things from Russia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, though optimism was greater among Westerners than the Russian people, who have learned over centuries that pessimism is the highest form of realism. Two decades after the restoration of the historical Russia, democracy is no more realistic a prospect there than than the restoration of the Romanovs. If any people has autocracy embedded in its DNA, that people is the Russians. Culture is destiny, and Russian culture is finally not that of European Russia -- the Russia of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and Solzhenitsyn -- but the Russia of the East. American Cold Warriors expected the Russian masses to accept "democracy" and "freedom" once the triumphant Western powers liberated them from the tyranny of the communist state.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. Peter Nennhaus on October 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an exhaustive and erudite dissertation about democracy - its various definitions, its history, its relations to monarchy, aristocracy, socialism, liberty, civilization, modernity, and finally its present status and doubtful future durability. What I missed was a crisp enumeration of its numerous problems and possible ways of correcting and improving them. The present malfunction of the US government urgently demands an exploration of our constitution - why does it permit a president to govern without a legislative majority? - and of the usurpation of the will of the people by overpowering lobbies, special interests and Mammon, to name a few. The utter unsuitability of democracy for certain nations is all too obvious and therefore needs the choice of alternate, responsible governance. What, in fact, is responsible governance outside democracy? The wisdom inherent in democracy is vulnerable to periods of public turmoil and in so-called "failed states" and one expects a discussion of ways of reinforcing it - yes, reinforcing wisdom, common sense, and pragmatism in states of chaos. Democracy is faulty, we all know that, and the author says so. However I was disappointed to find a philosophical text peppered with pungent quotations from authors past and present, yet obscuring the lack of a disciplined, item-by-item analysis of democracy's deficiencies and potential methods of repair.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Lawrence Klunek on June 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Williamson is an extraordinarily fine writer with a profound sense of knowing. His prose is direct spare and elegant. His apercus' are thoughtful and provoking. As the former editor of National Review's literary or "Books" section; Williamson knows how to write clearly, with biting wit and keen perception. His thoughts on the inestimable Frenchmen rank alongside John Lukacs and Hugh Brogan-- whose biography of Tocqueville is peerless. Williamson surveys the rotted landscape of intellectual malfeasance that litters the rootless, barren wasteland that holds sway. His work(s) engage, as he devastatingly eviscerates the charlatans that turn Tocqueville's travails through the "prison-system" he carefully surveyed and the cave of puerile minds incapable of unlocking the nature of the American nation's political, moral and social 'institutions' their peculiarities and inexpressible brilliance. The sociological aspects that animated her success and failures with foresight and value. The virtue of both writers is the fearlessness and fortitude, not to mention perspicacity, a deep reading, and better still understanding of the messiness of history. Both evince an observance and appreciation of the habits, mores and customs that were once a bulwark against the catastrophic interpretations the polity yielded. Tocqueville (and Burke) admired the civic 'piety' which stood for something. Unfortunately, Lincoln's 'constitutional' claims had the effect of nationalizing and leveling these institutions for political 'hay' so he could establish a 'nation' unlike what the original founders had established: a nation of common law, and the Anglo-American regard for civil liberty not the rancid construction of Equality lacking basis in those individual and communal bonds that reclaimed prerogatives a decent and enduring society willfully, perilously omit,
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