Democracy in America, V2

ISBN: 1421906155
ISBN 13: 9781421906157
By: Alexis de Toqueville

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About this book

In 1831, the then twenty-seven year old Alexis de Tocqueville, was sent with Gustave de Beaumont to America by the French Government to study and make a report on the American prison system. Over a period of nine months the two traveled all over America making notes not only on the prison systems but on all aspects of American society and government. From these notes Tocqueville wrote "Democracy in America", an exhaustive analysis of the successes and failures of the American form of government, a republican representative democracy. Contained here is the unabridged second volume of that classic exposition as translated by Henry Reeve.

Reader's Thoughts


read at St. John's College

Dorian Neerdael

Ce deuxième ouvrage sur le système démocratique en Amérique est un peu plus intéressant que le premier. Il quitte le point de vue purement historique, il arrête l'analyse institutionnelle pour se pencher sur les moeurs de la population dans une démocratie. Cela tient assez de la sociologie, mais il y a aussi toute une partie très philosophique, notamment les deux premiers chapitres de la première partie (sur la tendance cartésienne des américains, et sur la relation au dogme).


Now I need to read more about de Tocqueville and critiques of his theory. I have tentative criticisms of his main tenets - mostly questions that I hope someone else might have noticed and studied for me. Perhaps I missed this section, but did he address how the despot produced by equality and democracy interacts with the other branches of our government? I suppose he would say that even if we begin with those three branches checking power, eventually the executive branch will dominate. And then, while in practice, it does seem as though de Tocqueville is accurate in his portrayal of equality producing mediocrity, I do wonder if mediocrity is the necessary result of equality. Why can't there be high standards and an excellent education available for all people? And perhaps I missed it, but does de Tocqueville address the waste of aristocracies who may have fools in high positions and geniuses born into poverty? But he remains utterly interesting in his analysis of our society. It's fascinating to me to observe his comments on equality between the sexes and the differences between European women and American women in his century. Apparently, he thought women in America acted more intelligently than European women. And it just amazes me, despite modern psychology, to see even a couple of centuries ago, evidence that people live up to expectations. Anyway, this is one author I would LOVE to meet in heaven.


A prophetic book about the mindset of Americans -- including their virtues and potential vices.

Berta Viteri

La tercera vez que lo leo; esta vez tomando notas en el ordenador...he conseguido reducir los dos tomos a 45 páginas de pasajes que me interesan. Tiempo de cocción de una tesis: mil años.

Dan Markham

Knocked this one off over breakfast


An interesting look at 19th century American culture . . .




In the first volume, the author described what he saw in the American people and system of government. In this volume he generalizes more about the future (from his point of view) and centers his thoughts about "democratic ages". He tries to relate the American experience to France. I can understand why he did that, and, if I were steeped in French history, I could probably relate much better to what he was saying. But I am not, and don't.

L.M. Smith

This book was required reading for my political science class in college but, to my surprise, I found it absolutely fascinating. Alexis de Tocqueville was a Frenchman who visited America shortly after the ratification of the United States Constitution and wrote Democracy In America vol. 1 praising our nation for it's determination, work ethic, and politics. He revisited the country some time later and wrote this book to express troublesome changes that he witnessed from one visit to the next and made some predictions about where we were headed, as a nation, based on those Tocqueville wasn't a psychic or any kind of Nostradamus, he was both a master and student of human nature and political trends. Now, 200 years later, his predictions are eerily on point and my copy of this book, for one, is heavily marked with various colored highlighters as I simply couldn't resist the urge to re-read and often quote certain passages from it.

Jeremy Egerer

Easily one of the six greatest secular books I've ever read. Somehow predicted the rise of socialism and the nanny state, the disappearance of truly great men from the political scene, the concentration of governmental power and its broadness of scope, the rise and dangers of the modern corporation and the mass-media, and the ever-shrinking individual amidst an increasingly dominant equality. Nobody has ever written such powerful and insightful social commentary with such force: Tocqueville is as good as it gets.


History at its best


Livre tres interessant sur les Etats Unis, tres lucide en ce qui concerne son fonctionement et son avenir.


I don’t know if I can be as forgiving as others have been in responding to Democracy in America. Tocqueville’s Volume 2 is filled with distracting, generalizing statements comparing an aristocracy to a democracy, amassing every American into unfavorable observations. I have read some book reviews that change how Tocqueville worded his comparisons into a less absolute manner, letting him get away with all of his inflexible, degrading statements. I found that I was so annoyed with his judgments that I would almost miss his observations that have merit. I suppose that I need to change how I read his report, and then I can concede that valuable introspective questions can be gleaned and a great examination can take place. Is this why this book is so revered, people are already doing this without objection? What kind of aristocratic world was Tocqueville living in? The only place I have heard of a devout aristocracy is in my core book. In those societies, everyone was raised up to an “aristocratic” level, all being equal and having abundance. Indeed, the kind of aristocracy Tocqueville describes sounds like the translated city of Enoch, and I am sure he didn’t have first hand experience there. Are there really any forms of government that stay free of corruption outside of religious texts? Like Madison observed in Federalist Paper 10, the same freedom that allows free men, allows men to form factions. This freedom allows for degeneration and conversely allows acceleration, inventions and improvement. Yes, there were (and still are) bad effects of democracy for Tocqueville to observe, because there is human nature and people are free to choose to do selfish and shortsighted things. Those effects and people aren’t universal in the United States, but sadly, the number it is becoming far more than is healthy. Tocqueville couldn’t foresee the result of democracy and its related free market effects on science, inventions, and manufacturing so early, but they were starting to manifest. Many of his conclusions are thus outdated and even laughable as I type this on my computer. The 5000 Year Leap explains this principle beautifully; the proof that democracy and free markets work is the amount of progress we have made in the last 200 years compared to the last 5000. A chapter without Tocqueville’s annoying comparisons was Chapter 14 in Book 2, How the Taste for Physical Gratification is United in America to Love of Freedom and Attention to Public Affairs. In this chapter he gives warnings about being so caught up in day to day living and enjoyments that education wanes, preoccupation with the fun things in life distracts attention from government and that lack of government involvement results in loss of freedom. We have seen some of these results already and are suffering its consequences. Still many of the American people aren’t alert to governmental proceedings and corruption. I know I need to reread this classic in a different light, one that is not so provoked and to give more consideration to Tocqueville’s train of thought and conclusions. I think that half the reason I resented his judgments was because they neatly pigeonholed the American people into behaviors that we can’t escape from, taking away our freedom to act differently. However, I grudgingly admit that I am not free of generalizing judgments…yet.

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