Overview

Alexis de Tocqueville

(1805—1859)


Related Overviews

Democracy in America

John Stuart Mill (1806—1873) philosopher, economist, and advocate of women's rights

equality

federalism

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'Alexis de Tocqueville' can also refer to...

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59)

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59)

Alexis de Tocqueville: A Biography. By Hugh Brogan. (London: Profile, 2006. xii, 724 pp. £30.00, ISBN 978-1-86197-509-6.)

Alexis de Tocqueville and American Intellectuals: From His Times to Ours

Alexis de Tocqueville and the American Character: The Problem of Reconciling Excellence and Consent

Alexis de Tocqueville and the Second Republic, 1848–1852: A Study in Political Practice and Principles

Alexis de Tocqueville on the Covenantal Tradition of American Federal Democracy

Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution

Alexis de Tocqueville, Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution

de Tocqueville, Alexis

Democracy in America. By Alexis de Tocqueville. Trans. and ed. by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. xcii, 722 pp. $35.00, ISBN 0-226-80532-8.)

Harvey Mitchell. Individual Choice and the Structures of History: Alexis de Tocqueville as Historian Reappraised. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1996. Pp. xiii, 290. $54.95

Hugh Brogan. Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2007. Pp. 724. $35.00

Individual Choice and the Structures of History: Alexis de Tocqueville as Historian Reappraised. By Harvey Mitchell. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. xiv, 290 pp. $54.95, ISBN 0-521-56091-8.)

Jon Elster. Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2009. Pp. x, 202. $22.99., Paul A. Rahe. Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville and the Modern Prospect. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2009. Pp. xxiii, 374. $38.00

Tocqueville, Alexis, Comte de (1805–1859)

Tocqueville, Alexis, Comte de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis, Comte de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de

Tocqueville, Alexis de.

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–1859)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–59)

Tocqueville, Alexis de (died 1859), Social Historians / Commentators, Political Figures

 

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Quick Reference

(1805–59)

An early French sociologist who travelled to the United States between 1831 and 1832 to observe democracy at work. His classic work Democracy in America (1835–40) identifies within democracies a tension between equality and liberty which cannot easily be reconciled. Since democracy tends to undermine hierarchy, it discourages the formation of intermediate groupings between the individual and society, and therefore promotes tendencies towards individualism and centralization which, if unchecked, will result in an authoritarian state. This proposition was illustrated in a systematic comparison of France and the United States. The post-revolutionary history of the former country revealed the dangers of attempting to impose equality without first establishing the liberty of self-government: administrative centralism fostered revolutionary despotism. In the case of the United States, the well-entrenched constitutional principle of federalism provided for a multiplicity of intermediate voluntary associations, and a decentralized mode of government to which people had ready access, and in which they could participate. In both cases, however, Tocqueville warned against the ‘tyranny of the majority’, by which ‘every citizen, being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd’. His work is thus the starting-point for many debates about the nature of mass society (including, for example, D. Reisman 's The Lonely Crowd, 1950, and R. Bellah 's Habits of the Heart, 1985).

Subjects: social sciences — literature.


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