Alexis de Tocqueville wrote his classic work, Democracy in America, in the early nineteenth century. He was an aristocrat who came to America with the mission of exploring the functioning of American democracy. In his observations, he observed a wide variety of civil associations in the new republic.
One of the things that he found fascinating was the trend towards equalisation. The young democratic republic had been fighting against European inequalities. Having witnessed a ‘great democratic revolution’ underway, he was keen to point out the radical social implications of this new way of life.
Throughout his observations, Tocqueville was fascinated by the idea that equality was a natural by-product of democracy. He argued that inequalities were not necessary or desirable. Instead, he saw that the spirit of democracy was bound up in the struggles for greater equality.
As a political writer, Tocqueville was a master of his craft. It is a testament to his skill that his work, Democracy in America, is still highly relevant today. Despite its length, the book remains a masterpiece of nineteenth-century literary and political writing. Among its many virtues, it is noted for its willingness to embrace paradoxes and the narrative complexity of the American experience.
The book is a detailed study of the American democratic experience. As such, it covers everything from the civic dispositions of citizens to the knowledge of the English language. Ultimately, it teaches the reader how to be a more active participant in the democratic process.
At the same time, Democracy in America also warns against the potential for self-destruction. During the time period in which it was written, growing numbers of Americans feared the power of the government. This distrust was accompanied by a ‘jealous eye’, and the ‘natural’ and supernatural powers were frequently brought to the fore. For Tocqueville, this led to a fundamental dilemma.
While Tocqueville believed that the democratic process was gradually leading to a more equal society, he was concerned that it would ultimately destroy the aesthetic dimension of life. Specifically, he feared that a majority of people would eventually become ministering prophets.
Democracy in America is a work that is often referred to by political commentators when drawing conclusions about the United States. Some observers, however, think it is a lavish hymn to the nation’s past. Others argue that it is a celebration of the emerging authority of the nation in the world. Whether you agree or disagree with the interpretations of the book, the work is a fascinating read.
The book is considered a milestone in the history of political writing. It has been translated into many languages. Many have called it the greatest work of the 19th century. Even Walt Whitman celebrated the power of the poet to break conventional language in his famous poem, Leaves of Grass.
Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a must-read for anyone interested in the political development of the United States. Known for its elegant prose, the book is highly readable and informative. Besides, the book contains a wealth of illustrations, including photographs and print materials.