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Tocqueville

The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty

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Description

Many American readers like to regard Alexis de Tocqueville as an honorary American and democrat--as the young French aristocrat who came to early America and, enthralled by what he saw, proceeded to write an American book explaining democratic America to itself. Yet, as Lucien Jaume argues in this acclaimed intellectual biography, Democracy in America is best understood as a French book, written primarily for the French, and overwhelmingly concerned with France. "America," Jaume says, "was merely a pretext for studying modern society and the woes of France." For Tocqueville, in short, America was a mirror for France, a way for Tocqueville to write indirectly about his own society, to engage French thinkers and debates, and to come to terms with France's aristocratic legacy.

By taking seriously the idea that Tocqueville's French context is essential for understanding Democracy in America, Jaume provides a powerful and surprising new interpretation of Tocqueville's book as well as a fresh intellectual and psychological portrait of the author. Situating Tocqueville in the context of the crisis of authority in postrevolutionary France, Jaume shows that Tocqueville was an ambivalent promoter of democracy, a man who tried to reconcile himself to the coming wave, but who was also nostalgic for the aristocratic world in which he was rooted--and who believed that it would be necessary to preserve aristocratic values in order to protect liberty under democracy. Indeed, Jaume argues that one of Tocqueville's most important and original ideas was to recognize that democracy posed the threat of a new and hidden form of despotism.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 11, 2013 – This astute study of Alexis de Tocqueville and his landmark political study, Democracy in America (published in two volumes, in 1835 and 1840, respectively), offers insights into the Frenchman’s life and times and how they shaped his perspective on the newborn American republic. As Jaume writes, America was not the subject but “the pretext for studying modern society and the woes of France,” as encoded in Tocqueville’s book. The four major sections of Jaume’s study analyze the text from the perspective of Tocqueville as political scientist, Tocqueville as sociologist, Tocqueville as moralist, and Tocqueville as literateur who was writing in the same Romantic era as Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand, and Lamartine. Jaume shows the challenges Tocqueville faced in explaining American concepts like popular sovereignty to his countrymen. In particular, Jaume does a fine job of interpreting Tocqueville’s concept of the authority exercised by the public at large in a democratic America as (in Tocqueville’s words) “a sort of religion, with the majority as its prophet.” His volume provides a thorough understanding of Tocqueville’s timeless work as a product of its time.
Tocqueville
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  • $27.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Published: Mar 21, 2013
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 360 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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