By Lucien Jaume

Many American readers wish to regard Alexis de Tocqueville as an honorary American and democrat--as the younger French aristocrat who got here to early the United States and, enthralled through what he observed, proceeded to put in writing an American booklet explaining democratic the United States to itself. but, as Lucien Jaume argues during this acclaimed highbrow biography, Democracy in America is better understood as a French ebook, written essentially for the French, and overwhelmingly interested by France. "America," Jaume says, "was in simple terms a pretext for learning smooth society and the woes of France." For Tocqueville, briefly, the US was once a replicate for France, a manner for Tocqueville to jot down in some way approximately his personal society, to interact French thinkers and debates, and to come back to phrases with France's aristocratic legacy.

by way of taking heavily the concept that Tocqueville's French context is vital for realizing Democracy in America, Jaume offers a strong and stunning new interpretation of Tocqueville's booklet in addition to a clean highbrow and mental portrait of the writer. Situating Tocqueville within the context of the trouble of authority in postrevolutionary France, Jaume indicates that Tocqueville used to be an ambivalent promoter of democracy, a guy who attempted to reconcile himself to the arriving wave, yet who was once additionally nostalgic for the aristocratic global during which he was once rooted--and who believed that it'd be essential to safeguard aristocratic values which will safeguard liberty below democracy. certainly, Jaume argues that one in every of Tocqueville's most crucial and unique rules was once to acknowledge that democracy posed the specter of a brand new and hidden kind of despotism.

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48. 62 Except, as we shall see, when it came to mobilizing the people against bourgeois notables and capitalists. Some legitimists, such as Chateaubriand, held that the king represented the national will by popular consent, which had been continually renewed since the time of Hugh Capet.  c h ap t er on e 36 work one of their favorite themes: that “liberty” exists primarily in the form of local liberties, and that community held out hope of survival despite the atomizing forces of the market society.

963 (from Tocqueville’s manuscript). 30 American social philosophy, based on “self-interest properly understood,” social relations among groups and families as a check on individualism, and the very structure of the political sphere (collective action without the state as the central axis) all converge in Tocqueville’s text on one and the same reality: local life. ”32 Yet Tocqueville also believed that the natural tendency of popular sovereignty was to increase centralization. 33 In the first volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville combined the political and psychosociological points of view in his discussion of the town, while in the second volume, at the heart of a key chapter on social morality and self-interest properly understood, he returned to the town as model.

This passage from 1856 follows the introduction to DA I (1835). , p. 74. 16 Ibid. ” The formula, which had become famous, was boldly stood on its head by Tocqueville: Bonaparte or any other popular despot confined all the forces of individuality behind the walls of the private. 17 Nolla I, p. 38; JS, p. 76. 18 There is room for debate, however, about the identification after the fact of the Second Empire with the “tutelary power” predicted at the end of DA I. This issue was in fact the subject of a debate between Melvin Richter and Claude Lefort at the Centre Raymond Aron in the 1990s, in which I was fortunate to participate at the invitation of François Furet.

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