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Democracy in America: And Two Essays on America and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Democracy in America (Penguin Classics)

101 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140447606
ISBN-10: 0140447601
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Editorial Reviews


“No better study of a nation’s institutions and culture than Tocqueville’s Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer.” –The New York Times

“The Bradley edition of Tocqueville’s classic is the best now available in English.” –Charles A. Beard

“Professor Bradley’s edition should remain the standard one for our time.” –F. O. Matthiessen

With an Introduction by Alan Ryan

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447606
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 171 people found the following review helpful By nyc_economist on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a classic book. One that belongs on the bookshelf of any person with a serious interest in civil society and politics in America. This book comes in the familiar classic Penguin style binding which means it's an affordable but solid paperback which will still be in one piece even after years of thumbing your way through it (and I think I'm somehow addicted/comforted by the smell of their pages).

But the one unforgivable defect of this 900+ page edition is that it contains no index!! de Tockville wrote lots of chapters with descriptive titles, so you can kind of find your way around, but still it substantially diminishes the usefulness of the text.
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90 of 92 people found the following review helpful By "ann70920" on April 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
This translation of Democracy in America is the one to buy. As you would expect from a Penguin edition, the typeface is clear and the paper is of good quality. The book as an object is a pleasure to hold and inviting to read.
But the real joy of this edition is that it is the only one to contain the two short essays that are tucked away at the back. It is worth beginning the book with these essays. They work in their own right but they also serve well as an introduction to the America of De Tocqueville.
'Excursion to Lake Oneida',the second essay, is a beautiful vignette of that time and that place; a rare gem that deserves to be read more widely.
If you intend to read De Tocqueville, read this translation. It is lucid, informative, entertaining and hugely readable. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling through America with De Tocqueville, and I will carry the story of the 'Excursion to Lake Oneida' with me for along time.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Alexis de Tocqueville looks at the United States and examines its political, social, and cultural intricacies in DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA AND TWO ESSAYS ON AMERICA. This edition of DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA is well introduced and translated by Gerald Bevan and Isaac Kramnick. This is not a basic travelogue of a French aristocrat -Intellect - statesman's journey through the American wilderness in a span of nine months, but it is a significant documentary that compares and contrasts European Aristocracy to American Democracy. At the time that Tocqueville wrote DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, both Europe and the United States experienced an enormous shift in its political and social structure. On the US side, several events occurred, Andrew Jackson was president, the Anti-Slavery movement, Indian Removal commenced, immigration was on the rise, and the industrial age was emerging; for the French and European side, the Revolution of 1830 and autocracy took precedence as well as a radical shake-up of the social class. Possibly, for Tocqueville his travels to the United States served as a respite from France's revolutionary tendencies, and the opportunity to observe US history in the making. In terms of chronology, 55 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and 30 years before the Civil War. In essence, Tocqueville's accounts bear much significance to how the United States progressed, and where it was headed.

Tocqueville writes and thinks in a Jeffersonian stance. With Bevan's translation, the book is readable. Throughout DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA Tocqueville suggests that productivity cannot occur while a man remains idle, and that action must take place in some form or another - the rule of law or through communication. No doubt, this annotates Jeffersonian politics and ideology.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Bernstein on November 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
George Lawrence's translation, which migrated from Harper & Row to Doubleday back to HarperCollins, is far and away the best translation of this classic study of democracy and American life. Lawrence is more accurate than the old Henry Reeve translation (even as revised by Phillips Bradley) kept in print by Vintage, and livelier than the stodgy translation inflicted on us by Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. for the University of Chicago Press.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on July 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a truly amazing book.

As noted above, de Tocqueville predicted both American and Russian ascendency over one hundred years before they actually occured.

However, beyond that, de Tocqueville applied a keen and discerning to then emergent trends in the United States and where they would lead. For example:

--On Tocqueville noted the inherent problems with extracting work from people who themselves were not compensated for doing the work;

--On North/South Tocqueville recognized that its reliance on slave labor put the South at a competitive advantage relative to the North in terms of developing a strong economic infrastructure;

--On the fate of African Tocqueville recognized that if revolution was to occur in the United States, the fate of African Americans would play critically in it because once the process of giving people an equal stake in society was started it would have a self propogating effect;

--On the status of Tocqueville though he was more careful here to hedge his bets allowed for the idea that the power of equality would eventually include American women as well;

--On the Tocqueville perhaps at his most prescient recognized that equality could be a recipe for government either of the people or alternatively a dictatorship imposed on those same people.

This last observation is perhaps still most salient for our times as we come to see that even an oligarchy can be a dictatorship. Maybe even all governments, however started, are ultimately destined to oligarchy, a status that will change only when enough of the right excluded demand a change and in so doing start the process all over again.
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