By Matthew Mancini
Accomplished in its chronology, the works it discusses, and the commentators it seriously examines, Alexis de Tocqueville and American Intellectuals tells the dazzling tale of Tocqueville's reception in American inspiration and tradition from the time of his 1831 stopover at to the us to the flip of the twenty-first century.
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Extra resources for Alexis de Tocqueville and American Intellectuals: From His Times to Ours (American Intellectual Culture)
The merits of the many sides of the debate are not of concern here. The key point about the arguments over civil society is that the concept itself is derived from the observations of Tocqueville in the Democracy about the importance of associations and Americans’ using them to counteract the evils of individualism and democratic excess. Of sixteen books listed in the Chronicle’s review, thirteen paid extended tribute or attention to Tocqueville and his chapters on associations. For the most part, however, the debate over civil society, considered strictly as an issue in recent American politics and society, could have occurred without Tocqueville’s help.
25 This interpretation provoked a whirlwind of research by Melvin Richter culminating in one of the most important of all Tocqueville articles, published in the following year. ’’ Tocqueville seems indeed to have actively repressed his feelings about the violence that accompanied France’s actions in North Africa; and fearing lethargy in France itself, he also approved of war as a means of rousing the French citizenry to great thoughts and stirring actions. 26 Richter’s essay was for a long time the last word on the Algerian question in Tocqueville’s career.
The editors, then, applied Tocqueville’s generalizations to a region of the United States that Tocqueville pointedly excluded them from, then challenged those generalizations as Reception and Renown Z 19 not being applicable to that region, and ﬁnally concluded that it was Tocqueville who had been in error. Yet how misleading would the image of turn-of-the-century scholarship on Tocqueville be if the account were abruptly to halt here. For the late twentieth century could also be seen as a true golden age of Tocqueville scholarship, with breakthrough studies in several important and relatively neglected areas of Tocqueville studies, excellent new editions of a kind that had never been successfully attempted before, attention to Tocqueville’s more overlooked or marginal works by major historians and political theorists, and greater stress than ever before on the comparative dimension in Tocqueville rather than a dogged continuation of the tradition of treating his Democracy as the epitome of his life and a work of more pressing importance to his American than his European readers.