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The Making of Modern Liberalism$
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Alan Ryan

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148403

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148403.001.0001

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Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

(p.429) 22 Alexis de Tocqueville
The Making of Modern Liberalism

Alan Ryan

Princeton University Press

This chapter offers a reading of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, arguing that the book was not a philosophical analysis of the concept of democracy, nor a simple narrative of the origins of American political institutions, but a form of political theory that used historical evidence to teach general lessons about the prospects for politics in the present. The chapter first places Tocqueville in his times and among his family before discussing his journey to America in 1831. It then considers the three major themes that might be extracted from the second volume of Democracy: the quality of intellectual and cultural life in an egalitarian society; the stability or proneness to revolutionary upheaval of such societies; and Tocqueville's final and most distinctive thoughts on democratic despotism, or what one might term quiet totalitarianism.

Keywords:   democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, political theory, politics, America, intellectual life, cultural life, democratic despotism, quiet totalitarianism

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