Exploring American Democracy, with Alexis de Tocqueville as Guide
Alexis de Tocqueville has contributed to the idea of America with such brilliance that he has helped Americans define themselves. Despite his own ambivalence toward the individualistic trends he observed during his American journey of the 1830s, the young French aristocrat became one of the first theoreticians of the United States as a society built on voluntary associations. By reading Democracy in America (1835, 1840), we will engage the American and European contexts in which Tocqueville's thoughts evolved and were received on both sides of the Atlantic. We will discuss Tocqueville's conceptualization of civil society and reflection on liberty and equality, and their relevance for our own lives. We will use Tocqueville’s classic text (and other sources allavailable in English) as starting points to write seminar papers on American democracy.