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TocquevilleThe Aristocratic Sources of Liberty$
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Lucien Jaume

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152042

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152042.001.0001

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In the Tradition of Montesquieu

In the Tradition of Montesquieu

The State-Society Analogy

(p.101) 4 In the Tradition of Montesquieu

Lucien Jaume

, Arthur Goldhammer
Princeton University Press

Tocqueville is known to have read Montesquieu often, although opinions differ as to the time he spent on the history of the Romans and the Esprit des lois. This chapter is interested mainly in Tocqueville's conviction that American society exhibited a unified spirit. This emerges clearly from a manuscript included in the Nolla edition of Democracy in America. Here, Tocqueville uses an analogy taken from the natural history of his time: if Cuvier could reconstitute a vanished animal from a small piece of its anatomy, it should be possible, Tocqueville argues, to do the same for aspects of “moral man” that cannot be observed directly. Tocqueville was rather proud of this approach, although he was aware of the risks, for it was of course entirely possible that a people might exhibit any number of allogenic or contradictory traits.

Keywords:   Alexis de Tocqueville, Montesquieu, American society, unified spirit, Democracy in America

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