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Democracy in America, Volume I and II (Optimized for Kindle) [Kindle Edition]

Alexis De Tocqueville
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Endlessly quoted and referred to, Tocqueville's great history is as relevant now as when it was first published in the mid-19th century, and it remains the most penetrating and astute picture of American life ever written.

Editorial Reviews Review

As Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through the young United States, he wrote in his introduction to the first volume of Democracy in America, "the more clearly I saw equality of conditions as the creative element from which each particular fact derived, and all my observations constantly returned to this nodal point." And there is an abundance of observations to be found here, with chapters that consider everything from "judicial power in the United States and its effect on political society" to "why the Americans erect some pretty monuments and others that are very grand."

Why does Tocqueville remain one of the most insightful analysts of American society? Certainly there is the comprehensive nature of his project, but one must also take into account the brilliance of his prose, with just the right balance of elegance and clarity. Democracy in America is as accessible to the modern reader as the work of any contemporary journalist, political scientist, or sociologist--and in many cases more so. It is an essential volume for anybody concerned with American history.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Analysis!!!! December 30, 1998
By A Customer
I took a class on Sociology and Law in college and my professor kept on referring to this book. I decided to see what he was talking about first hand and am glad I did! This book is expertly written and thought provoking. This is kind of book that you take out and reference every once in a while. Yes, it does get boring in some parts but I think that if you are in the legal profession or you just like history this is a book for you!!
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83 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly open-minded study!! January 9, 2002
De Tocqueville was an amazing man who posessed amazing insight into the workings (and not-workings) of American society. One only laments the fact that he was not a middle caste American politician arguing amongst great minds during the Constitutional conventions. Then again, we are equally lucky of the fact that he was a curious Frenchman of the leisure class who happened to be passing through. This is what gives de Tocqueville the ability to refrain from emotionalism and give us an outsiders view of what makes America good, bad and just plain different.
See, de tocqueville recognizes, as did our founders, that liberty and democracy are key ingredients to a healthy society. On the other hand, he points out that too much freedom or democracy lead to lazy, public-opinion driven conformity, over-emphasis on materialism and restlessness. Another contradiction de tocqueville points out is that although self-government is generally a good idea, there are times when an all powerful aristocracy is just more efficient. He can see all sides.
The best part then is that de Tocqueville doesn't come to any final conclusion. He just observes and reports on America's inner workings as seen by an aristocratic Frenchman.

A few reccomendations to the de tocqueville virgins. First, as this is the unabridged, it may be advised to read the first book, pause to read something else, then read the second book. I read it straight through and found that not only would I have benefited from reflection, but much of the second book is a rehash the first. Second, keep in mind during the second book that the word 'democracy' is also de tocqueville's word for 'capitalism'. The word 'capitalism' would be introduced only years later by one Karl Marx.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book. December 23, 1998
By A Customer
This is probably the best book on the history of American Government. I loved it. I highly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must reading for all Americans January 29, 1999
By A Customer
A great book for understanding the state of the US in the early 1800's. Often quoted by politicians for support of contradictory views, so we need to be familiar with it to avoid being missled by those who want to use it to support any particular political viewpoint. However, there is a pressing need for an insightful critique from the standpoint of American history subsequent to the 1830's when it was written. A lot of de Toqueville's impressions regarding local governments as the foundation of American Democracy went by the board with the rise of the industrial economy, as the latter tended to erode a lot of individual freedoms that were presnt when this was an agricultural economy. In addition, many of Toqueville's observations were anticipated by ancient classical writers who could see the dangers of the mob rule accompanying democracy. De Toqueville perceived a lot of checks and balances against this but they may have had only limited effectiveness. I was surprised to see that he considered materialism to be such a strong influence even in the early history of the nation. His observations on the difficulty of abandoning slavery were somewhat true, as exemplified by the viciousness of the Civil War. I lost my copy of this book in the middle of reading it but am about to get another copy so that I can finish it, which indicates how important I think it is.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but don't hold that against it. February 26, 2000
what's amazing to me is how much and how little American culture has changed in almost three centuries.
If you want to understand where America is going, then it's essential to understand where America has been, and this book, even more than the Federalist papers, will show you that.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy Deconstructed September 21, 2010
One is at a loss on how to review a book of this depth and magnitude and considering the countless great reviews there are already about this book as Lincoln said there is little in my poor power to add or detract; however that being said I will still make a couple observations.

First I'm not sure how you completely define this book it is semi-historical, semi-political, semi-philosophical and a sociological analysis of America in particular and Democracy in general. All that being said Toqueville blends all this together to form his "theory" of the effects of democracy and equality that was taking hold in France and the rest of the world. Equality was the biggest fear for Toqueville, he worried people would be like pigs to the trough of equality trampling liberty and freedom on their way to gorge themselves silly and then find themselves at some despot's feet herding them around. I admit the pig analogy is kinda crude but it works.

I think Toqueville's concerns about equality are as valid today as when he wrote them. Liberty has always been a better friend to equality than equality has been a friend to liberty. Given all this though I think the two main things that are important about his work the need for religion\healthy morals for a society and a necessary but limited governmental role in society.

Religion is the glue that holds societies together, I can already hear the atheists screaming we can be moral with no god, sorry doesn't work at least be honest like Nietzsche and admit all that matters is strength, power and the will to use it against anyone who stands in your way. Here are a few Toqueville quotes to show the point.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Know America's Foundations
In order to understand why our Founding Fathers acted as they did to give us a nation birthed in freedoms for the individual over rights of the State, it is essential reading:... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert Harrold
5.0 out of 5 stars Valid Then and Valid Now
A classic that should be read by everyone interested in understanding the American way of life and the progression and development of today's America. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hayward S. Melville
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone interested in politics
If you want to be involved in politics, or be able to engage in a serious conversation about the foundation of form of government, this is a must read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by HarleyPhreak
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the intro by KKK Grand Dragon, John T Morgan
Democracy in America is a brilliant book, and I appreciate the opportunity to purchase a Kindle edition. But, wow, caveat emptor! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Democracy in America
Why do you ask me to rate something I gave as a gift? Not having received it myself, I cannot rate appropriately.
Published 2 months ago by Manassas1
5.0 out of 5 stars it is nice book
it is kept very good .everything is nice .
it is like an antique , it seem that you find the treasure.
Published 2 months ago by paul
5.0 out of 5 stars All Americans should read this
Should be required reading in all high schools, and at least all colleges. My five children were amazed that they had all graduated from college without ever hearing of De... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Deanna M. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for any library
Truly a must read and have book for any library, and a necessary book for young American's who are not receiving the requisite education in our American history and government... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Keith Schultz
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Book
Excellent book, very good book from student to history investigator and curios of history. Also well for lawyer, accountant student and politician novice and veterans. Read more
Published 3 months ago by licalgado
4.0 out of 5 stars Put it on your Kindle and keep at it ... It is a lot more than you now...
This often-quoted, seldom read book is for scholars and pundits. You really need to know something about American and French history to be able to judge the ideas of De... Read more
Published 4 months ago by James Brett
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