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Democracy In America, vol 1 by Alexis de Tocqueville
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Democracy In America, vol 1

by Alexis de Tocqueville

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Alexis de Tocqueville's famous Democracy in America (De la démocratie en Amérique) was published in two parts, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840. In 1831 the French government sent Tocqueville, then a 35 year old aristocrat and statesman, on a mission to report on the US prison system. During his nine month trip however, he and his buddy Gustave de Beaumont recorded much more: the budding nation's economic and political system, and its social, cultural and religious systems during a the tumultuous Jacksonian political era. Tocqueville's text is considered a central reference for the democratic system of the United States, and has been studied and taught ever since its publication.

The central focus of Democracy in America is the study of the nature of representative democracy - why it had succeeded in the US and failed throughout Europe. With no punches pulled, Tocqueville also does a solid job of predicting where democracy was headed in the US, including the the dangers of democracy - "tyranny of the majority" - as well as the threats to democracy such as the divisive nature of slavery, and a future rivalry with Russia. The author's frank discussion of the American character is also fascinating, as it evolved without centuries of aristocratic rule, and therefore sees "very little difference of rank in civil society and none at all in political life. Thus, an American does not believe that he is obliged to show any particular considerations, nor does he dream of demanding any of himself."

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