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Democracy in America (Perennial Classics) 0th Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060956660
ISBN-10: 0060956666
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"[George Lawrence's] wonderful style has given us a work that will be a standard for many years." -- --Library Joural
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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 778 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060956666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060956660
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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By A Customer on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anyone wishing to better understand how it is that America achieved it's current position in the world must read this book. De Tocqueville's seminal work rings true today and gives a great perspective on our past, present and future. Everything that has ever happened in America's relatively short history, up to and including our most recent presidential election and the attacks of September 11th are better understood after reading this timeless classic.
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By A Customer on December 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is probably the best book on the history of American Government. I loved it. I highly recommend it.
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By A Customer on January 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alexis de Tocqueville sees America, her people and institutions, from a foreign perspective and draws numerous insights which are timeless. His ability to contrast early American culture with Europe and cultures of ages past shows the reader how and why things were different in America at the time of his visit. Each of the pieces fits together well, progressing along a line of growing appreciation from a man willing to see things as they are as opposed to one who simply wants to critique. Perhaps most compelling are the warnings de Tocqueville sets forth, many of which have not been heeded by America. These prescriptions for continued social harmony no doubt should be revisited and examined for their ability to bring about the best outcomes for all. In any case, de Tocqueville presents an excellent political primer for anyone interested in a deep understanding of social structure, it's causes, benefits, and hazards.
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