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Tocqueville Between Two Worlds: The Making of a Political and Theoretical Life

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Alexis de Tocqueville may be the most influential political thinker in American history. He also led an unusually active and ambitious career in French politics. In this magisterial book, one of America's most important contemporary theorists draws on decades of research and thought to present the first work that fully connects Tocqueville's political and theoretical lives. In doing so, Sheldon Wolin presents sweeping new interpretations of Tocqueville's major works and of his place in intellectual history. As he traces the origins and impact of Tocqueville's ideas, Wolin also offers a profound commentary on the general trajectory of Western political life over the past two hundred years.

Wolin proceeds by examining Tocqueville's key writings in light of his experiences in the troubled world of French politics. He portrays Democracy in America, for example, as a theory of discovery that emerged from Tocqueville's contrasting experiences of America and of France's constitutional monarchy. He shows us how Tocqueville used Recollections to reexamine his political commitments in light of the revolutions of 1848 and the threat of socialism. He portrays The Old Regime and the French Revolution as a work of theoretical history designed to throw light on the Bonapartist despotism he saw around him. Throughout, Wolin highlights the tensions between Tocqueville's ideas and his activities as a politician, arguing that--despite his limited political success--Tocqueville was perhaps the last influential theorist who can be said to have truly cared about political life.

In the course of the book, Wolin also shows that Tocqueville struggled with many of the forces that constrain politics today, including the relentless advance of capitalism, of science and technology, and of state bureaucracy. He concludes that Tocqueville's insights and anxieties about the impotence of politics in a postaristocratic era speak directly to the challenges of our own postdemocratic age. A monumental new study of Tocqueville, this is also a rich and provocative work about the past, the present, and the future of democratic life in America and abroad.

Synopsis:

"Sheldon Wolin's Tocqueville between Two Worlds conveys a sweep of historical analysis that gives us deep insight not only into Tocqueville himself but also into the American character. The result is a work of supreme scholarship that sheds light on America's present and possible future as well as its past."---Senator Bill Bradley

"In his new interpretation of Tocqueville, Sheldon Wolin speaks with a master's voice. For him, Tocqueville's theme is the revival of the political within democracy and against the tendencies of democracy. There is no grander topic for us today, and Wolin's treatment is penetrating, thorough, and authoritative. This is a major work of political theory."--Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

"Sheldon Wolin is perhaps the most compelling American political theorist writing in the last half of the twentieth century. Here is a new book to launch the twenty-first, one that shows us how pertinent Tocqueville remains for democrats today and why Wolin continues to inspire so many political theorists."--William E. Connolly, author of Why I Am Not a Secularist

"Sheldon Wolin has given us a study of Tocqueville worthy of its subject, the greatest interpreter of American democracy. More than a masterful account of Tocqueville's life and thought, Wolin's book is likely to be an enduring work of political theory in its own right. Drawing on Tocqueville's concern with the fate of the political, Wolin offers sobering insights into the democratic prospect in our time."--Michael Sandel, Harvard University, author of Democracy's Discontent

"This is a magisterial study, a major interpretation of Tocqueville as a political theorist. Wolin has not simply restored Tocqueville to a forgotten place of honor in the canon of political theory. He has created a new place for him, showing how deep and extensive the range of Tocqueville's considerations of democracy have been, paralleling the path of modernity itself."--Thomas Dumm, Amherst College

Synopsis:

Alexis de Tocqueville may be the most influential political thinker in American history. He also led an unusually active and ambitious career in French politics. In this magisterial book, one of America's most important contemporary theorists draws on decades of research and thought to present the first work that fully connects Tocqueville's political and theoretical lives. In doing so, Sheldon Wolin presents sweeping new interpretations of Tocqueville's major works and of his place in intellectual history. As he traces the origins and impact of Tocqueville's ideas, Wolin also offers a profound commentary on the general trajectory of Western political life over the past two hundred years.

Wolin proceeds by examining Tocqueville's key writings in light of his experiences in the troubled world of French politics. He portrays Democracy in America, for example, as a theory of discovery that emerged from Tocqueville's contrasting experiences of America and of France's constitutional monarchy. He shows us how Tocqueville used Recollections to reexamine his political commitments in light of the revolutions of 1848 and the threat of socialism. He portrays The Old Regime and the French Revolution as a work of theoretical history designed to throw light on the Bonapartist despotism he saw around him. Throughout, Wolin highlights the tensions between Tocqueville's ideas and his activities as a politician, arguing that--despite his limited political success--Tocqueville was perhaps the last influential theorist who can be said to have truly cared about political life.

In the course of the book, Wolin also shows that Tocqueville struggled with many of the forces that constrain politics today, including the relentless advance of capitalism, of science and technology, and of state bureaucracy. He concludes that Tocqueville's insights and anxieties about the impotence of politics in a postaristocratic era speak directly to the challenges of our own postdemocratic age. A monumental new study of Tocqueville, this is also a rich and provocative work about the past, the present, and the future of democratic life in America and abroad.

About the Author

Sheldon S. Wolin is Emeritus Professor of Politics, Princeton University. He also taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley. His most famous book, "Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought", influenced a generation of political theorists.

Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix

INTRODUCTION 3

PART ONE: THE ABUNDANCE OF POWER 11

CHAPTER I: MODERN THEORY AND MODERN POWER 13

CHAPTER II: Theoria: THE THEORETICAL JOURNEY 34

PART TWO: ENCOUNTERING THE AMAZING 57

CHAPTER III: DISCOVERING DEMOCRACY 59

CHAPTER IV: SELF AND STRUCTURE 76

CHAPTER V: DOUBT AND DISCONNECTION 102

CHAPTER VI: " . . . THE THEORY OF WHAT IS GREAT" 113

CHAPTER VII: MYTH AND POLITICAL IMPRESSIONISM 132

CHAPTER VIII: THE SPECTACLE OF AMERICA 149

PART THREE: THE THEORETICAL ENCAPSULATION OF AMERICA CHAPTER IX: SOCIAL CONTRACT VERSUS POLITICAL CULTURE 169

CHAPTER X: THE CULTURE OF THE POLITICAL: "THE RITUALS OF PRACTICE" 202

CHAPTER XI: FEUDAL AMERICA 229

CHAPTER XII: MAJORITY RULE OR MAJORITY POLITICS 241

CHAPTER XIII: CENTRALIZATION AND DISSOLUTION 260

CHAPTER XIV: THE IMAGE OF DEMOCRACY 275

PART FOUR: PERSONA AND THE POLITICS OF THEORY 287

CHAPTER XV: TRAGIC HERO, POPULAR MASK 289

CHAPTER XVI: THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF CULTURE 304

CHAPTER XVII: DEPOTISM AND UTOPIA 339

CHAPTER XVIII: OLD NEW WORLD, NEW OLD WORLD 365

CHAPTER XIX: TOCQUEVILLEAN DEMOCRACY 374

CHAPTER XX: THE PENITENTIARY TEMPTATION 383

PART FIVE: SECOND JOURNEY TO AMERICA 407

CHAPTER XXI: THE POLITICAL EDUCATION OF THE BOURGEOISIE 409 CHAPTER XXII: Souvenirs RECOLLECTIONS IN/TRANQUILLITY 428

CHAPTER XXIII: Souvenirs SOCIALISM AND THE CRISIS OF THE POLITICAL 456

CHAPTER XXIV: The Old Regime and the Revolution: Mythistoricus et theoretieus 498

CHAPTER XXV: The Old Regime: MODERNIZATION AND THE POLITICS OF LOSS 531

CHAPTER XXVI: POSTDEMOCRACY 561

NOTES 573

INDEX 641

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691114545
Author:
Wolin, Sheldon S.
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton, N.J.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Political
Subject:
Tocqueville, Alexis de
Subject:
Political philosophy
Subject:
American history
Subject:
European History
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Philosophy : General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
01-22
Publication Date:
January 2003
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Pages:
664
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 32 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » Historiography
Humanities » Philosophy » General

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Product details 664 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691114545 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Sheldon Wolin's Tocqueville between Two Worlds conveys a sweep of historical analysis that gives us deep insight not only into Tocqueville himself but also into the American character. The result is a work of supreme scholarship that sheds light on America's present and possible future as well as its past."---Senator Bill Bradley

"In his new interpretation of Tocqueville, Sheldon Wolin speaks with a master's voice. For him, Tocqueville's theme is the revival of the political within democracy and against the tendencies of democracy. There is no grander topic for us today, and Wolin's treatment is penetrating, thorough, and authoritative. This is a major work of political theory."--Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

"Sheldon Wolin is perhaps the most compelling American political theorist writing in the last half of the twentieth century. Here is a new book to launch the twenty-first, one that shows us how pertinent Tocqueville remains for democrats today and why Wolin continues to inspire so many political theorists."--William E. Connolly, author of Why I Am Not a Secularist

"Sheldon Wolin has given us a study of Tocqueville worthy of its subject, the greatest interpreter of American democracy. More than a masterful account of Tocqueville's life and thought, Wolin's book is likely to be an enduring work of political theory in its own right. Drawing on Tocqueville's concern with the fate of the political, Wolin offers sobering insights into the democratic prospect in our time."--Michael Sandel, Harvard University, author of Democracy's Discontent

"This is a magisterial study, a major interpretation of Tocqueville as a political theorist. Wolin has not simply restored Tocqueville to a forgotten place of honor in the canon of political theory. He has created a new place for him, showing how deep and extensive the range of Tocqueville's considerations of democracy have been, paralleling the path of modernity itself."--Thomas Dumm, Amherst College

"Synopsis" by , Alexis de Tocqueville may be the most influential political thinker in American history. He also led an unusually active and ambitious career in French politics. In this magisterial book, one of America's most important contemporary theorists draws on decades of research and thought to present the first work that fully connects Tocqueville's political and theoretical lives. In doing so, Sheldon Wolin presents sweeping new interpretations of Tocqueville's major works and of his place in intellectual history. As he traces the origins and impact of Tocqueville's ideas, Wolin also offers a profound commentary on the general trajectory of Western political life over the past two hundred years.

Wolin proceeds by examining Tocqueville's key writings in light of his experiences in the troubled world of French politics. He portrays Democracy in America, for example, as a theory of discovery that emerged from Tocqueville's contrasting experiences of America and of France's constitutional monarchy. He shows us how Tocqueville used Recollections to reexamine his political commitments in light of the revolutions of 1848 and the threat of socialism. He portrays The Old Regime and the French Revolution as a work of theoretical history designed to throw light on the Bonapartist despotism he saw around him. Throughout, Wolin highlights the tensions between Tocqueville's ideas and his activities as a politician, arguing that--despite his limited political success--Tocqueville was perhaps the last influential theorist who can be said to have truly cared about political life.

In the course of the book, Wolin also shows that Tocqueville struggled with many of the forces that constrain politics today, including the relentless advance of capitalism, of science and technology, and of state bureaucracy. He concludes that Tocqueville's insights and anxieties about the impotence of politics in a postaristocratic era speak directly to the challenges of our own postdemocratic age. A monumental new study of Tocqueville, this is also a rich and provocative work about the past, the present, and the future of democratic life in America and abroad.

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