История на икономическата мисъл

Democracy in America/De la Démocratie en Amérique

Bilingual Editon, Volume 4

Автор(и) : Alexis de Tocqueville

Издател : Liberty Fund

Място на издаване : Indianapolis, USA

Година на издаване : 2010

ISBN : 978-0-86597-723-5 CL (vol. 4)

Брой страници : 1569

Език : английски


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In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont visited the United States on behalf of the French government to study American prisons. In their nine months in the U.S. they studied not just the prison system but every aspect of American life, public and private—the political, economic, religious, cultural, and above all social life of the young nation. From Tocqueville's copious notes of what he had seen and heard came the classic text De la Démocratie en Amérique, published in two large volumes, the first in 1835, the second in 1840. The first volume focused primarily on political society; the second, on civil society. Tocqueville's account of the travels and adventures of the two Frenchmen aimed to get down the truth about America, not only to praise the new country's strengths but also to critique its shortcomings when these were all too evident to outside eyes.

For Tocqueville, virtually every aspect of the new republic was fascinating: the laws and the customs, the manners and the mores of a people so very different from the populations of the kingdoms of Europe. He was particularly interested in the success of democracy in America, specifically of republican representative democracy, which seemed to have failed elsewhere, most conspicuously in revolutionary France. Perhaps because Tocqueville, an aristocrat, was by no means sympathetic to ""pure"" democracy, which seemed tainted by its associations with the Terror of the French Revolution, he examined American democracy with a thoroughness such as had never been seen before, and seldom if ever since. Tocqueville considered the tendency of democracy to degenerate into either the tyranny of the majority or what he called soft despotism, a sovereign power that “extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules. . . .it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” (Book IV, chapter 6.)

Tocqueville noted that religion played a leading role in American life in the 1830s, due to its being constitutionally separated from government. Far from objecting to this situation, he observed that Americans found this disestablishment quite satisfactory, in contrast to France, with its outright antagonism between avowedly religious people and supporters of democracy.

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