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Democracy in America Paperback – April 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: Alexis de Tocqueville "Democracy in America" Translated, Edited, and With an Introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop
  • Paperback: 722 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226805360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226805368
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The editors have written more than a mere introduction; they have written in fact a small book, a remarkably comprehensive and yet succinct study of Tocqueville's political thought. . . . Mansfield and Winthrop have made a remarkably comprehensive and tightly argued case for Tocqueville as the greatest political theorist of democracy, a theorist who is just as relevant today as he was in the nineteenth century."
(Gordon S. Wood New York Review of Books)

"It would be difficult to think of a greater service to the study of Tocqueville than the one performed by Mansfield and Winthrop in their impeccable new edition and translation of Democracy in America. . . . The publisher is justified in claiming that this version will henceforth be seen as the 'authoritative' edition in English."
(Choice)

"The Mansfield-Winthrop work will henceforth be the preferred English version of Democracy in America not only because of the superior translation and critical apparatus, but also because of its long and masterly introductory essay, itself an important contribution to the literature on Tocqueville."
(Roger Kimball The New Criterion)

"If Tocqueville is an indispensable guide to understanding the American experience, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop are indispensable guides to Tocqueville himself. In the introduction to their fresh and limpid translation of Democracy in America—what will surely be the definitive translation for some time to come—they offer a helpful summary of Tocqueville's philosophical and political thought."
(Thomas Pavel Wall Street Journal)

"Democracy in America will continue to be read with profit as long as the United States survives as a republic and, indeed, as long as democracy endures. It deserves faithful translators, careful expositors and insightful commentators. In Mansfield and Winthrop it has found them."
(Robert P. George Times Literary Supplement)

"[A] major new translation. . . . Tocqueville's insights confirm his brilliance and remind us that many features of national character are virtually indestructible."
(Robert J. Samuelson Newsweek)

"This will be the English translation of Tocqueville for a long time, and it has the additional bonus that the introduction is as succinct an introduction to Tocqueville, or at least to the conservative view of him and his achievement, as one can find."
(Adam Gopnik The New Yorker)

From the Inside Flap

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.

Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop's new translation of Democracy in America is only the third since the original two-volume work was published in 1835 and 1840. It is a spectacular achievement, capturing the elegance, subtlety, and profundity of Tocqueville's original. Mansfield and Winthrop have restored the nuances of his language, with the expressed goal "to convey Tocqueville's thought as he held it rather than to restate it in comparable terms of today." The result is a translation with minimal interpretation, avoiding the problem that Tocqueville himself read in the first translation of Democracy in America.

The strength of the translation is only one reason that Mansfield and Winthrop's Democracy in America will become the authoritative edition of the text. Also included is a superb and substantial introduction placing the work and its author in the broader context of the traditions of political philosophy and statesmanship. Together in one volume, the new translation, the introduction, and the translators' annotations of references no longer familiar to us combine to offer the most readable and faithful version of Tocqueville's masterpiece.

As we approach the 160th anniversary of the publication of Democracy in
America, Mansfield and Winthrop have provided an additional reason to celebrate.
Lavishly prepared and produced, this long-awaited new translation will surely become the authoritative edition of Tocqueville's profound and prescient masterwork.

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Customer Reviews

M. De Tocqueville was an aristocrat.
Daniel Myers
For the last factor alone, this book warrants a reading, although, some of its chapters are indeed very dry.
Andrei Bolkonski
Having just read it, I can say it is even more.
Guillermo Maynez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It has been said that this is the best book about the US and the best book about democracy. Having just read it, I can say it is even more. Tocqueville reflects not only on the US or on democracy, but his comparative approach sheds light on the Europe of his times and before, on the nature of aristocracy and the inevitable democratic revolution which was on its way across the civilized world. Tocqueville was a realistic aristocrat, sometimes nostalgic for the "greatness" of yesterday, but bearing no illusions whatsoever about the feasibility of stopping democratic change. So, he sets to find out what is it about democracy that can work, and what its inherent risks are. And he decides to tour the grandest democratic experiment ever attempted by Man: the United States.
What Tocqueville finds is a unique nation. Unlike most other nascent states in history, the English who moved to America found a huge land, practically devoid of people (and in those cases where it was inhabited, they were easily killed), where everybody could be a landowner. This, plus the particular ethics of the Puritans, the glorifiaction of hard work, thrift and virtuosity, provided for a prosperous, practical people (not necessarily tolerant, especially in religious affairs). Far away from kings and emperors, Americans developed a communal democracy. So far so good, Tocquevill really admires the basic qualities of the US.
But this book is not a long eulogy of democracy. Tocqueville admits democracy is the best way to govern a modern society, but that does not mean he thinks it's perfect or endlessly beneficial. Democracy DOES poses risks: among others, the tyranny of the majority, the mediocrity towards which it impels mores; the loneliness of the individual, lost amidst an endless, faceless crowd.
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110 of 126 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on June 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The specific edition I am reviewing is the Heffner addition which is a 300 page abridgement. I also own an unabridged edition but I have only read Heffner cover to cover. What is amazing about de Toqueville is how uncanny many of his observations are over a century and a half later. He accurately predicted in 1844 that the world's two great powers would be the United States and Russia. He aptly pointed out that Americans are a people who join associations and he is so right 156 years later. Although there are both religious extremists on both ends, ie fundamentalists and atheists, he was dead on that, as a whole, we are a religious society but that our religious views are moderate. De Toqueville shows how American characteristics evolved from democracy as opposed to the highly class structered societies of Europe. From de Tocqueville, it could have been predicted that pop culture, such as rock music etc, would develop in America because the lack of an aristocracy causes a less cultured taste in the arts. In a thousand and one different ways, I found myself marveling at how dead on de Toqueville was. Most controversially, those who argue that we have lost our liberties to a welfare state might well find support in de Toqueville. Here, 100 years before the New Deal, he forsaw that a strong central government would take away our liberties but in a manner much more benign than in a totalitarian government. There are certain liberties that Americans would willingly sacrifice for the common good. Critics of 20th century liberalism in the US might well point to this as an uncanny observation. By reading "Democracy in America," the reader understands what makes Americans tick.Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Ledbetter on December 24, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most stricking and accurate evaluations of the American physical, mental and emotional existence then, now and in the future. De tocquevile, before our time, predicted most if not all of our successes and failures. And both congratulated and warned us of the paths we would wind up on if we chose to go left or right along the way. A compliment to the wisdom of men of his time and an insult to the pettyness of those of ours. Reading this book along with others like the Federalist Papers makes one wonder if we are progressing or regressing in our mental abilities and reasoning powers. I tend to think, the more I study the philosophies of his time and the ones presented today that we are moving backwards in knowledge, wisdom and common sense. The more technologically advanced we seem to become the more spoiled arrogant and naieve we seem to be in our social, economic and judicial practices. De Tocqueville and the men and women of his time were the true pioneers in mankinds attempt to be more than the sum of his parts. We have lost our way in regards to logic heading into the 21st century and the new millinium. And it will take men like our founders and De Tocqueville to lead the way back.
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140 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Kirk R. Anderson on January 12, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I have three complaints about this edition of Tocqueville:

1) Nowhere in the book is the translator credited. This violates basic principles of publication and scholarship.

2) This is in fact an abridged version of the original English-language translation by Henry Reeve, dating from sometime before 1862. Unless you want to re-create the experience of a modern Frenchman confronted with de Tocqueville's somewhat archaic French by reading the text in somewhat archaic English, I would seek out any of the more recent translations: there are at least three.

3) The ellipses, that is, the abridgements, have sometimes been made to conceal some of the author's less flattering views America. In fact I suspect this is a "patriotic" abridgement. For example, in the second chapter of part one, Heffner has omitted references to some of the excesses of Puritan law in New England which the notoriously even-handed Tocqueville had cited.
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