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Tocqueville on American Character

Why Tocqueville's Brilliant Exploration of the American Spirit is as Vital and Important Today as It Was Nearly Two Hundred Years Ago

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In 1831, Alexis De Tocqueville, a twenty-six-year-old French aristocrat, spent nine months travelling across the United States. From the East Coast to the frontier, from the Canadian border to New Orleans, Tocqueville observed the American people and the revolutionary country they'd created. His celebrated Democracy in America, the most quoted work on America ever written, presented the new Americans with a degree of understanding no one had accomplished before or has since. Astonished at the pace of daily life and stimulated by people at all levels of society, Tocqueville recognized that Americans were driven by a series of internal conflicts: simultaneously religious and materialistic; individualistic and yet deeply involved in community affairs; isolationist and interventionist; pragmatic and ideological.

Noted author Michael Ledeen takes a fresh look at Tocqueville's insights into our national psyche and asks whether Americans' national character, which Tocqueville believed to be wholly admirable, has fallen into moral decay and religious indifference.

Michael Ledeen's sparkling new exploration has some surprising answers and provides a lively new look at a time when character is at the center of our national debate.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 03, 2000 – Ledeen (Machiavelli on Modern Leadership), a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, turns his attention to the French aristocrat who visited America in the 1830s and produced the wildly popular and classic travelogue-cum-philosophical essay Democracy in America. Ledeen argues that Tocqueville's observations about America are just as valid and relevant today as they were 160 years ago. Principal among these observations, according to Ledeen, is that, although materialistic, Americans are also extremely religious; further, he argues that American democracy feeds American religiosity and vice versa. Ledeen cautions that in the last few decades, Americans have embraced a rigid distinction between religious and public life, one that would have been unrecognizable in Tocqueville's day. Tocqueville, he asserts, saw the dangers inherent in individualism and applauded Americans for balancing their atomizing tendencies by joining voluntary associations. Ledeen simply echoes this, failing to address the declining role of such associations in American life. This volume ultimately disappoints--there is far more summary of Tocqueville than analysis of contemporary America, and what analysis Ledeen does offer isn't compelling (such as his garbled claim that Americans' participation in voluntary associations has something to do with a love of the emotional and therapeutic). His argument is further marred by a faint jingoism ("Americans love big challenges"; "It's dangerous, even fatal, to underestimate us"). Readers would do well to skip this unconvincing survey and read Tocqueville's original text.
Tocqueville on American Character
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Oct 05, 2001
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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