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Democracy in America {abridged}

av Alexis de Tocqueville

Andra författare: Richard D. Heffner (Redaktör), Henry Reeve (Översättare)

Andra författare: Se under Andra författare.

Serier: Democracy in America (abridged)

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1,028520,515 (3.87)Ingen/inga
The complete edition based on the revised and corrected text of the 1961 French edition Originally penned in the mid-eighteenth century by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America remains the most penetrating and astute picture of American life, politics, and morals ever written, as relevant today as when it first appeared in print nearly two hundred years ago. This edition, meticulously edited by the distinguished de Tocqueville scholar J. P. Mayer, is widely recognized as the preeminent translation.… (mer)
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Visar 5 av 5
I started to read this, but didn't finish. My interest in political theory is zero at this stage of my life. I found it interesting to see his thoughts and predictions, and at another stage of my life I could have enjoyed this very much. He gives insights not only on Democracy in America, but also how it worked and developed in other parts of the world up to the time of his writings in 1835. The introduction was very informative as well. For anyone interested in the development of Democracy, this would be a fascinating book because his predictions of its course for the future are insightful.
  MrsLee | Jun 25, 2021 |
I'll start by saying that I'm not sure what gives a 25 year-old rich French kid on a pleasure cruise through the New World the credibility to make completely unsupported assertions on the political and social climate of early America, and have them be accepted as gospel. After slogging through 300 or so pages, I'm exceedingly grateful that this abridged version exists, because I can't imagine ever wasting the time on the complete edition. I was interested in reading a book that has been hailed for its perpetual timeliness, foresight, and penetrating insight into early American democracy, but I was sorely disappointed on every single front.

Tocqueville does occasionally make some interesting observations. In the beginning he spends a significant amount of time talking about the political power inherent in the townships (i.e. small, local groups), which is an incredibly important point, and one still relevant today. It was also particularly interesting to me after reading Hannah Arendt's [b:On Revolution|127232|On Revolution|Hannah Arendt|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1309200849s/127232.jpg|1660484], where she heavily emphasizes the same. (Incidentally, I highly recommend Arendt's analysis of the beginning of our country and the formation of the Constitution -- it is much more penetrating than Tocqueville, mainly because she's insanely brilliant.) Later in the book, there is a 2-3 page section in chapter 34 ("How An Aristocracy May Be Created By Manufactures") that I found particularly prescient, essentially describing the division and alienation of labor about a half-century before Marx popularized the idea.

These two observations were about the extent of the positives. The rest is so mired in sweeping generalizations and arrogant condescension as to be virtually worthless. His analysis of the manners and temperament of the American people is completely irrelevant now, but couldn't have been much more relevant then, since it was based on only one man's observation, and since he was clearly writing with an aristocratic chip on his shoulder. His predictions, which are hailed as so sage, are wrong at least half the time, making him about as wise as me. My favorite was when he talked about how unlikely it would be for the U.S. to experience a civil war, and this a whopping 25 years before civil war broke out.

There are two huge oversights that led Tocqueville to severely miscalculate America's trajectory. One, the rise of corporations and their near-invincible power, was only hinted at in chapter 34, but its omission is forgiveable since the phenomenon was not necessarily intuitive. In reality, Tocqueville's "tyranny of the majority" is a red herring, because an elite oligarchy ended up controlling everything more or less by the beginning of the 20th century. His other oversight, however, was less pardonable. He spent shockingly little time talking about how easily manipulable by propaganda his tyrannical majority would be. This would essentially make them a tool of the wealthy elite. His only references to public opinion were oblique and clearly not indicating anything like the extent of the media manipulation that we started to see, again around the turn of the 20th century. His reference to a free press hints at it, but the omission of a deeper discussion is noticeable.

I could give more examples, through quotations, of some of the generalizations I'm talking about, but I honestly don't want to waste the time. Instead, I'll give my favorite quote, from chapter 48 ("Why Great Revolutions Will Become More Rare"). I like it because it is actually timely, describing pretty deftly what is going on right now in the U.S.:
. . .When property becomes so fluctuating, and the love of property so restless and so ardent, I cannot but fear that men may arrive at such a state as to regard every new theory as a peril, every innovation as an irksome toil, every social improvement as a stepping-stone to revolution, and so refuse to move altogether for fear of being moved too far. I dread, and I confess it, lest they should at last so entirely give way to a cowardly love of present enjoyment, as to lose sight of the interests of their future selves and those of their descendants; and prefer to glide along the easy current of life, rather than to make, when it is necessary, a strong and sudden effort to a higher purpose.

I must admit that overall I am glad to have gotten the general idea of what people are talking about when they refer to Tocqueville. After thinking two stars (based mostly on enjoyability and disappointed expectations), I have to go ahead with three, just because of the scope of the thing. It's darn impressive to pen a thousand page study of the political and social landscape of early America. Even if you're only right around half the time, it still takes a pair to give it a go. And I respect that.

Caveat: I read the 320 page abridged version, so some of my complaints may be simple misunderstandings due to ignorance. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
Loved this! It was so interesting to read an outsiders perspective of America in between the American Revolution and Civil War. ( )
1 rösta Carolfoasia | Mar 11, 2011 |
If you want to read about how a pompous, arrogant ass of a Frenchman viewed ‘the Great Experiement’ in Democracy, read this book. Otherwise, skip it. I had to read it in a government class as an undergraduate student (therefore, this image isn’t of the printing that I read, but since the guy has been dead for 150 years, I don’t think much has changed. The intent (I believe) was for us to get some insight as to how America was perceived by Europeans of the age. At that time, we had yet to show our greatness in any way. We were a struggling agrarian society that had gotten our butts kicked recently by the British and were working over the American Indians in order to settle the West.

Of course, a Frenchman is a judge of democracy? Yes, they had their revolution in 1789 that started an orgy of blood letting against the noblity (at first) and then (after the realized that they already killed everyone who actually knew how to run a country) each other. Then you get a charismatic military dictator who gives France 15 glorious years in the sun (militarily) while he ran the economy into the ground and pissed off the rest of the continent. Then you get some sort of mismash constitutional monarchy. Yeah good background.

I found the tone annoying and his observations unsurprising. If you are a student of government and the theory thereof, give it a go, otherwise give it a pass. ( )
  Wprecht | Sep 1, 2006 |
Essential addition to any historians bookshelf. Had this one for years and had to replace a worn copy. The man knew our country better than many know her now. ( )
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» Lägg till fler författare

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Tocqueville, Alexis deprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Heffner, Richard D.Redaktörmedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Reeve, HenryÖversättaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Bowen, FrancisÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Gregorian, VartanEfterordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat

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It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood; it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting; such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
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Please distinguish between Richard Heffner's 1956 abridgement of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835; 1840) and other editions.
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The complete edition based on the revised and corrected text of the 1961 French edition Originally penned in the mid-eighteenth century by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America remains the most penetrating and astute picture of American life, politics, and morals ever written, as relevant today as when it first appeared in print nearly two hundred years ago. This edition, meticulously edited by the distinguished de Tocqueville scholar J. P. Mayer, is widely recognized as the preeminent translation.

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