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The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville's Democracy in America


The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville's Democracy in America Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

One of the greatest books ever to be written on the United States, Democracy in America continues to find new readers who marvel at the lasting insights Alexis de Tocqueville had into our nation and its political culture. The work is, however, as challenging as it is important; its arguments can be complex and subtle, and its sheer length can make it difficult for any reader, especially one coming to it for the first time, to grasp Tocquevilles meaning. The Chicago Companion to Tocquevilles “Democracy in America” is the first book written expressly to help general readers and students alike get the most out of this seminal work.

Now James T. Schleifer, an expert on Tocqueville, has provided the background and information readers need in order to understand Tocquevilles masterwork. In clear and engaging prose, Schleifer explains why Democracy in America is so important, how it came to be written, and how different generations of Americans have interpreted it since its publication. He also presents indispensable insight on who Tocqueville was, his trip to America, and what he meant by equality, democracy, and liberty.

Drawing upon his intimate knowledge of Tocquevilles papers and manuscripts, Schleifer reveals how Tocquevilles ideas took shape and changed even in the course of writing the book. At the same time, Schleifer provides a detailed glossary of key terms and key passages, all accompanied by generous citations to the relevant pages in the University of Chicago Press Mansfield/Winthrop translation. The Chicago Companion will serve generations of readers as an essential guide to both the man and his work.

About the Author

James T. Schleifer is emeritus dean of the library and professor of history at the College of New Rochelle and has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University and the University of Paris. He is the author of the award-winning book The Making of Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”; coeditor of De la Démocratie en Amérique, a critical edition in the Pléiade series; and translator of the four-volume historical-critical edition of De la Démocratie en Amérique edited by Eduardo Nolla. 

Table of Contents



     Why Read Alexis de Tocquevilles Democracy in America?

     What Are the Purposes and Uses of the Companion?

Part I

What Are the Contexts of Tocquevilles Democracy?

1    Who Was Tocqueville?

      What Are Some Essentials of His Life and Background?

      How Was He Able to Write Such a Brilliant Book?

      What Kind of Man Was Tocqueville?

2    How Was Democracy in America Written?

      Tocquevilles Journey to America

          Why Did Tocqueville Visit the United States in 1831? And What Did He Do There?

          How Did Tocqueville and Beaumont Work?

          What Is the Importance of Tocquevilles Travel Diaries and Letters Home?

          What Were the Weaknesses of Tocquevilles Journey?

          Tocquevilles Intellectual Encounter with America

     Tocquevilles Second Voyage to America

          How Did Democracy in America Take Shape?

          Tocquevilles Working Papers

          Help from Others

          What Were the Sources of Tocquevilles Book?

     The Style and Structure of Tocquevilles Democracy

          Tocquevilles Ways of Writing: How Does He Address His Readers?

          How Is Democracy in America Organized?

          The Shape of the 1835 Democracy

          The Shape of the 1840 Democracy

Part II

What Are Some of the Major Themes of Tocquevilles Democracy?

3    What Are Some of Tocquevilles Basic Convictions?

4    What Does Tocqueville Mean by Equality, Democracy, and Liberty?




     How Are Equality, Democracy and Liberty Related?

5    How Does Democracy Threaten Liberty?

     Democratic Materialism

     Democratic Individualism


     Where Would Power Accumulate?

6    How to Preserve Liberty?



     Self-Interest Well Understood


     What Is Tocquevilles Essential Message?

7    What Are Some of Tocquevilles Other Major Themes?

     Economics and the Role of Government

     A Partisan of Democracy?

          Democracy and Religion

          Democracy and Intellectual Creativity

          Democracy and Morality

          Democracy and Revolution

     Democracy and War

     The Democratic Character

     Tocquevilles Major Themes Reconsidered

8    What Else Does Tocqueville Have to Say about America?

     What Is Specific to America?

     The American Setting

     The Federal Constitution

     The Future of the Three Races

     American Exceptionalism

     Other Functions of America

     Tocqueville and the American Example

Part III

American Readings of Tocquevilles Democracy

9    How Has Tocquevilles Democracy Been Read in America?

     Conservative Readings

     Liberal Readings

     Libertarian Readings

     Communitarian Readings

Concluding Reflections

Part IV

Tools for Use

Glossary: What Are Some of the Key Terms in Tocquevilles Democracy?

Guide to Key Chapters and Passages: Which Parts of Tocquevilles Democracy Are the Most Famous and Essential?

Suggestions for Further Reading



Product Details

Schleifer, James T.
University of Chicago Press
United States - 19th Century
Politics - General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

The Chicago Companion to Tocqueville's Democracy in America New Hardcover
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