Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Democracy in America

by Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop

Genius. Sheer genius. It seems like any book about American politics or history that I've read has at least one quote from this book, so I finally figured I should read it. Man, is this ever great. It's fascinating on so many levels. As history, it's primary source observations of a Frenchman who studied the United States in the 1830's. As a book on politics, it describes our government in depth, giving not just the facts of how it operates but also the rationale and history behind it. As a sociological tome, it mirrors the attitudes and behavior of the American people as well as contrasting those to the English and French. As a booster seat, it's nice and thick. It took me weeks to read (over a number of meals), and every day or so I found some tidbit to make me stop and think about the people around me -- neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members. It's not a simple read, since Tocqueville, like other 19th century writers, is very lengthy and doesn't limit himself to one field of study. But it is definitely worth making an effort to read. Why I wasn't given this to read in high school, I don't know. Well, it's twenty years late, but I'm gonna put a copy on my shelf.

LibraryThing link


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