Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Tocqueville, Alexis De (1805–1859)
French political thinker, author, historian, and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, known primarily for his Democracy in America (two volumes, 1835–1840), has constantly gained readership after a hiatus from 1880 to 1945. The development of liberal democracies, demands for pluralism, and the demise of the communist model seem to explain this worldwide renewal of interest. It is important not to succumb to the allure of a visionary who saw it all coming, however. Instead, let us gauge the work's originality with respect to its era and the tradition of political philosophy. Three points in particular come to the fore: the relationship between freedom and equality, the concept of democracy, and the vision of despotism. Compared with a predecessor, such as Benjamin Constant, or a contemporary, such as François Guizot, Tocqueville pondered the consequences of the principle of equality promoted by the French Revolution in 1789 in far greater depth. He ...