Synopses & Reviews
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.
“Schleifer includes so many excellent quotations to illustrate his points that its conceivable that this book might be read tout seul, as a substitute for the real thing! I hope not. But virtually everything one needs to know about Democracy, including a taste for Tocquevilles prose, is included in this fine companion.”
“An important and innovative aid. The ChicagoCompanion
is a truly Tocquevillian venture, opening up a host of questions about one of the most provocative meditations ever written on the human condition.”
“James Schleifer is widely regarded as one of the best interpreters of Alexis de Tocqueville’s thought. In this appropriately named ‘companion’ to Democracy in America
, he provides not only a scintillating reflection on this classic book but also a unique and sure guide to the intricacies of the text itself.”
"This book will be of great value to readers who seek a compressed orientation to things Tocquevillean all in one place. . . Highly recommended."
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?
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
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?
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
Other Functions of America
Tocqueville and the American Example
American Readings of Tocquevilles Democracy
9 How Has Tocquevilles Democracy Been Read in America?
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