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Democracy in America, Volume 1 Paperback – March 29, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 222 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1831 French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville came to the United States to investigate its prison system. America was then a nation of 13 million people populating 24 states, with a largely unsettled territorial claim stretching westward to the Pacific. Seriously distracted from his original mission, the 25-year-old Tocqueville ended up writing about America's people, culture, history, geography, politics, legal system, and economy in ways so insightful and prophetic that today historians, professors, and politicians still consider his work Democracy in America a classic.

"For [Tocqueville] America was both the enticing object and the universal symbol of a New World in the making," writes historian and author Daniel J. Boorstin in his introduction to Volume I. "He was a master at seeing and describing the symbolism. Even more important, he wrote with an uncanny feeling for the grand currents of history and with a wholesome sense of how much and how little we can deflect those currents." This edition, the first in a two-volume set, is the Henry Reeve text, revised by Francis Bowen, and further edited by Phillips Bradley. (Click here for information about Volume II of Democracy in America.) If you've never read Democracy in America, take this opportunity to discover Tocqueville's startlingly astute observations on a democracy in its infancy. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"No better study of a nation's institutions and culture than Tocqueville's Democracy in America has ever been written by a foreign observer; none perhaps as good."
--The New York Times

Praise for the work of Joseph Epstein:

"Epstein is one of the premier contemporary American essayists...What is so remarkable about Epstein as an essay writer is that he'll begin a discussion at some personal place...and end up in another place relevant to us all. He enjoys making language work, not making it jump through hoops for show." --Booklist

"Joseph Epstein is an essayist in the brilliant tradition of Charles Lamb. He moves so effortlessly from the amusingly personal to the broadly philosophical that it takes a moment before you realize how far out into the intellectual cosmos you've been taken."
--Tom Wolfe

"Joseph Epstein's essays no more need his identifying byline than Van Gogh's paintings need his signature. Epstein's style--call it learned whimsy--is unmistakable; for Epstein addicts, indispensable."
--George Will

"Joseph Epstein is the liveliest, most erudite and engaging essayist we have." --James Atlas

"If Epstein's ultimate ancestor is Montaigne, his more immediate master is Mencken. Like Mencken, he has fashioned a style that successfully combines elegance and even bookishness with street-smart colloquial directness. And there is nothing remote or aloof about him."
--John Gross, Chicago Tribune


From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Nabu Press (March 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1148099751
  • ISBN-13: 978-1148099750
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Arthur Goldhammer's translation of Alexis de Tocqueville's classic study of the young United States is - if you'll forgive the word - gorgeous.
To read this is to feel that Tocqueville sits in the room with you. The language is modern and vibrant.
More importantly, the depth of his perception, his understanding of the changes wrought upon his world have never been rendered so clearly. There is no feeling of antiquity to these words: you sense the author's awe and admiration for the American experiment.
It would be a better nation if more thinking people read Tocqueville and I can think of no better translation than this one.
Jerry
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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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Format: Hardcover
Deftly edited by Olivier Zunz (Commonwealth Professor of History, University of Virginia), Democracy In America 1835-40 presents the classic text written by Alexis de Tocqueville in a new English translation by Arthur Goldhammer that smoothly captures the sheen of Tocqueville's literary style while faithfully rendering the depth and scope of his ideas. Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited the United States in 1831 for nine months, conducting interviews with more than 200 people on American politics, law, and social practices. His reflections on the "great democratic revolution" transforming the Western world are insightful, inspirational, and continue to offer a timeless depth from a seasoned perspective which has been appreciated by generations of historians, academics and scholars for almost 175 years now.
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Format: Hardcover
Tocqueville needs no introduction. Democracy in America is simply the best work American polity ever. Goldhammer's translation makes it better that it ever has been. The translation is eloquent and flowing, as Tocqueville's original French was.

This version is worth the extra money.
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Format: Hardcover
Tocqueville's classic study of America has become such a staple of the western canon that it is hard to believe it was written by a man in his late twenties and early thirties after only one visit of approximately nine months to the United States, from 1831-1832. The greatest part of that time was spent in three large eastern cities - on a mission that was to some extent pretextual, namely, examining American penal institutions. (Interestingly, it was also in 1831 that another youthful and well-born European, Charles Darwin, took to the sea and made of his observations from that journey the basis for a life's work, also attended by substantial renown.)

Tocqueville had a particularly useful background for such an undertaking: his father was a government official and an aristocrat. Tocqueville himself was trained as a lawyer. He also had a splendid intellect, a sensitive disposition, a knack for finding and interviewing people who would become important later on, and an aptitude for listening carefully and recording his impressions in detail. Moreover, he was - like Darwin - profoundly thoughtful when it came to analyzing and distilling the materials he collected, a process he underwent twice - once for each of the two volumes that comprise this work. It bears mention that he was highly ambitious, as befitted his lineage, and yearned for fame, which he obtained largely because of this book, as opposed to fortune, which he already had.

During a trip that led them to Ohio, Niagara Falls, Canada and New Orleans, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, as well as the nation's capital, Tocqueville and his friend Gustav de Beaumont encountered the travails of travel by wagon, stagecoach, canoe and steamboat, sometimes with hair-raising results.
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