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On the Road to Contemplation with Aristocracy and Democracy,
This review is from: Democracy in America (Penguin Classics) (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. However, the basic premise throughout the book concentrates on the difference between Democracy and Aristocracy and their relationships to the social classes of each respective ideology, and how each accomplished and achieved effectiveness. Tocqueville looked toward America as a model to post-revolutionary France (back cover of the Penguin edition), and one may say that this was an exchange of politics and ideas that the United States had done a century before; this was a shared entity.
DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA should be required reading. However, with its large volume, two volumes, small increments should be divided into separate reading sessions in order to understand the gist of Tocqueville's purpose of critiquing America's political system. The most exemplary aspect of the book is how Tocqueville speaks rhetorically in a no nonsense way as well as its timelessness, which will further entice readers to read on. As an added treat, the appendices and the two most important essays of the book pertaining to Tocqueville's encounters with the Iroquois and Chippeway Indians should not be overlooked.