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Democracy in America (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)- Abridged version Paperback – 5 Feb 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions; New edition edition (5 Feb. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853264806
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853264801
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.7 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

Edited, with an Introduction, by Thomas Bender --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Feb. 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Taking an 'Introduction to US politics', I was surprised to see how much of de Tocqueville's(hence deToc) poignant observations in his masterpiece,'Democracy in America', are still valid today. It is unbelievable that this was written nearly one and a half century ago, which accurate analysis led my professor to say often during class, 'If deToc came back today...' I can't understand why many people around the world have love-or/and-hate feelings against the U.S. but do not understand the U.S. at all, and why so few seem to refer to deToc's 'Democracy in America.'Maybe, because this book is the vital key to understanding Uncle Sam's psyche that some wants it to be unknown as it is. Overall, a magnificient piece of analysis that would help anyone to understand the U.S. without taking all the pains of coming over like I did.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Aunin on 27 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
The three star review is NOT for the text itself - Tocqueville writes insightfully and lucidly on a wide range of topics. If you are a casual reader looking to read Democracy in America, get this. It is cheap, and a good read which will help you look at politics in a new way. If you are getting this book for academic purposes however, do not buy this edition. It is an abridged version (I know it doesn't say this on the description or the cover, but look at the page count: 416, where the other editions come in at around 1000). Several passages, indeed several chapters, are missing, and the chapters are in the wrong order, so citing the book in essays is nightmarish. I found that I had to cross-reference it with a freely available but badly edited online version whenever I wanted to quote it.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Dec. 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A brilliant analysis by the father of sociology of what permitted the success and blossom of the American civilization.
I am a French (and read this book in my own chauvinistic language), and we Europeans need badly much of what is described in this book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 124 reviews
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
A whole course on political science 11 Nov. 2003
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It has been said that this is the best book about the US and the best book about democracy. Having just read it, I can say it is even more. Tocqueville reflects not only on the US or on democracy, but his comparative approach sheds light on the Europe of his times and before, on the nature of aristocracy and the inevitable democratic revolution which was on its way across the civilized world. Tocqueville was a realistic aristocrat, sometimes nostalgic for the "greatness" of yesterday, but bearing no illusions whatsoever about the feasibility of stopping democratic change. So, he sets to find out what is it about democracy that can work, and what its inherent risks are. And he decides to tour the grandest democratic experiment ever attempted by Man: the United States.
What Tocqueville finds is a unique nation. Unlike most other nascent states in history, the English who moved to America found a huge land, practically devoid of people (and in those cases where it was inhabited, they were easily killed), where everybody could be a landowner. This, plus the particular ethics of the Puritans, the glorifiaction of hard work, thrift and virtuosity, provided for a prosperous, practical people (not necessarily tolerant, especially in religious affairs). Far away from kings and emperors, Americans developed a communal democracy. So far so good, Tocquevill really admires the basic qualities of the US.
But this book is not a long eulogy of democracy. Tocqueville admits democracy is the best way to govern a modern society, but that does not mean he thinks it's perfect or endlessly beneficial. Democracy DOES poses risks: among others, the tyranny of the majority, the mediocrity towards which it impels mores; the loneliness of the individual, lost amidst an endless, faceless crowd.
Even for some minor mistaken attempts at prophecy, Tocqueville's prescience adn long-term vision is simply astonishing. He was right about the merits of democracy; he was right about its shortcomings. If he would come to the present-day US, he would probably find much to celebrate (prosperity, technological progress, widespread access to education, health, etc), and much to deplore, precisely the mediocrity of democratic tastes (think music, literature, cinema, art. etc).
Tocqueville's culture and knowledge are impressive, even more so considering how young he was when he travelled in the US. His style is conversational and straightforward, assertive but modest. The reader will find here a whole lot of wisdom and subjects to think about and it is simply one of the best books on politics and society ever written, one that is relevant todat as it was many years ago.
114 of 130 people found the following review helpful
Every literate American should read this 22 Jun. 2000
By David E. Levine - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The specific edition I am reviewing is the Heffner addition which is a 300 page abridgement. I also own an unabridged edition but I have only read Heffner cover to cover. What is amazing about de Toqueville is how uncanny many of his observations are over a century and a half later. He accurately predicted in 1844 that the world's two great powers would be the United States and Russia. He aptly pointed out that Americans are a people who join associations and he is so right 156 years later. Although there are both religious extremists on both ends, ie fundamentalists and atheists, he was dead on that, as a whole, we are a religious society but that our religious views are moderate. De Toqueville shows how American characteristics evolved from democracy as opposed to the highly class structered societies of Europe. From de Tocqueville, it could have been predicted that pop culture, such as rock music etc, would develop in America because the lack of an aristocracy causes a less cultured taste in the arts. In a thousand and one different ways, I found myself marveling at how dead on de Toqueville was. Most controversially, those who argue that we have lost our liberties to a welfare state might well find support in de Toqueville. Here, 100 years before the New Deal, he forsaw that a strong central government would take away our liberties but in a manner much more benign than in a totalitarian government. There are certain liberties that Americans would willingly sacrifice for the common good. Critics of 20th century liberalism in the US might well point to this as an uncanny observation. By reading "Democracy in America," the reader understands what makes Americans tick. De Toquville was an astute observer of who we are as a people and should be read by all educated Americans.
I want to note that there are several editions of this great work and in deciding which to buy, be aware that each has a different translator. I feel Heffner's translation is slightly stilted but, he did such a wonderful job in editing this abridgement that it, nontheless, deserves 5 stars.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Amazingly accurate picture of past, present and future USA 24 Dec. 1999
By J. P. Ledbetter - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most stricking and accurate evaluations of the American physical, mental and emotional existence then, now and in the future. De tocquevile, before our time, predicted most if not all of our successes and failures. And both congratulated and warned us of the paths we would wind up on if we chose to go left or right along the way. A compliment to the wisdom of men of his time and an insult to the pettyness of those of ours. Reading this book along with others like the Federalist Papers makes one wonder if we are progressing or regressing in our mental abilities and reasoning powers. I tend to think, the more I study the philosophies of his time and the ones presented today that we are moving backwards in knowledge, wisdom and common sense. The more technologically advanced we seem to become the more spoiled arrogant and naieve we seem to be in our social, economic and judicial practices. De Tocqueville and the men and women of his time were the true pioneers in mankinds attempt to be more than the sum of his parts. We have lost our way in regards to logic heading into the 21st century and the new millinium. And it will take men like our founders and De Tocqueville to lead the way back.
154 of 180 people found the following review helpful
Find another edition. 12 Jan. 2007
By Kirk R. Anderson - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I have three complaints about this edition of Tocqueville:

1) Nowhere in the book is the translator credited. This violates basic principles of publication and scholarship.

2) This is in fact an abridged version of the original English-language translation by Henry Reeve, dating from sometime before 1862. Unless you want to re-create the experience of a modern Frenchman confronted with de Tocqueville's somewhat archaic French by reading the text in somewhat archaic English, I would seek out any of the more recent translations: there are at least three.

3) The ellipses, that is, the abridgements, have sometimes been made to conceal some of the author's less flattering views America. In fact I suspect this is a "patriotic" abridgement. For example, in the second chapter of part one, Heffner has omitted references to some of the excesses of Puritan law in New England which the notoriously even-handed Tocqueville had cited.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
The Foundation of Democratic Study. Period. 26 May 2000
By "radioactive_lemming" - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Just reading the other reviews I'm astonished at the number of people who liked this book and didn't fully realize thay proved de Tocqueville right again. He points out that a materialistic society encourages each generation to not care a bit about previous/future generations. Its amazing how many people seem to think anything might be dated because it was written in 1830. Some things may have changed but the issues haven't. Ignore the date, this book is now.
It is a required reading by most Political Science dept. courses about American political thought. The most resonating critiques arise from his examination of the synergistic effect of individualism and materialism on democracy. Also he forbodes the ills of a strong centeralized government trampling on citizens- a warning calling out the need for strong local involvement by citizens.
With todays media its ironic that he calls Public Opinion the fourth branch of American government. I haven't seen the results of opinion polls on that last point though, I'm waiting for the Six O'clock news to tell me...
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