French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville's classic treatise on the American way of life.
Over 175 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, an astute political scientist, came to the United States to evaluate the meaning and actual functioning of democracy. Here, Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of majority rule—which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of a monarchy. He analyzes the influence of political parties and the press on the government and the effect of equality on the social, political, and economic life of the American people. He also offers some startling predictions about world politics, which history has borne out. So brilliant and penetrating are his comments and criticisms, they have vital meaning today for all who are interested in democracy.
Abridged and with an Introduction by Richard D. Heffner
and an Afterword by Vartan Gregorian
It's hard to think of a work that has so influenced our understanding of the United States as this still the most authoritative, reflective set of observations about American institutions and the American character ever written. That its author was a Frenchman, and an aristocrat at that, and that he was balanced and penetrating has often occasioned rueful surprise. However, de Tocqueville's distance from his subject is precisely what lends his observations such continuing currency. A few decades ago, for instance, we read Tocqueville for his prediction that Russia and the United States would one day contest for pre-eminence. Now, we ought to read him (Iraqis and Afghans should, too) for his classic analyses of the link between political parties and free associations and for his reflections on such matters as religion and public life, and "self-interest properly understood." But many solid translations exist. Why another? Because the Library of America would be incomplete without this canonical work of history and sociology. And this translation by Goldhammer, the dean of American translators from the French, accomplishes what it's hard to believe possible: it lends to this unalterably grave work some zest. Never slipping into slang, it gives a colloquial cast, fitting for our time, to a work normally rendered only with high solemnity. The Library of America claims that its editions will stay in print forever. This one's likely to stand that test.