Tocqueville and the American Experiment

Course No. 4863
Professor William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Share This Course
4.5 out of 5
79 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 4863
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

How is it possible that perhaps the greatest book about U.S. democracy ever written was penned by a Frenchman visiting this country 175 years ago? Why is it still relevant in today’s ever-changing political landscape?

Now you can draw your own conclusions as you join Professor William R. Cook for a spirited exploration of Alexis de Tocqueville and his unique observations of this young nation that resulted in the two volumes of Democracy in America.

Democracy and Our National Identity

Democracy is so much a part of our national identity as to be inseparable from it. It is all too easily taken for granted as we live our lives, debate our country’s issues, freely criticize our leaders, and cast our ballots.

But in today’s world, where we are also trying to understand how to make democracy a part of the national identity of other nations, an in-depth understanding of this remarkable political system is especially relevant.

What is American democracy, and why has it flourished? Is there something unique in our national character, in our social fabric and communities, that makes the United States especially fertile ground for the growth of democracy? Can American democracy be exported? Does it naturally fortify itself over time? Or do its benefits, ironically, work to undermine its strengths?

After more than two centuries of living with democracy, fundamental questions like these often go unasked.

Yet there was a time when the unique relationship between the American people and their government was still new, barely two generations old, and these questions were very much at the forefront of the age’s greatest minds.

One of those minds belonged to a 25-year-old French nobleman, a lawyer named Alexis de Tocqueville, who journeyed here in 1831, and whose written observations at that time left us a lasting and provocative look at U.S. democracy’s formative years.

Tocqueville took this journey with another young lawyer, Gustave de Beaumont, who had written a report on French prisons. Although the official purpose of the trip was to research innovations in the American penal system, the two of them—especially Tocqueville—had in mind a much broader use of the credentials provided them by their government.

Tocqueville wanted to observe firsthand the successful political experiment that was evolving in the United States and take his findings home to France, which was itself trying to shape its own young democracy.

A Hero Claimed by Liberals and Conservatives

The remarkable book that resulted—Democracy in America—has been called both the best book ever written about democracy and the best book ever written about America.

Published in two parts, one in 1835 and the second in 1840, it reveals, in its 700 pages, insights about democracy and the American character that have led both liberals and conservatives to claim Tocqueville as their own, often by citing the very same passages, and often out of context.

And its prescience runs so deep that it includes Tocqueville’s prediction, more than a century ahead of the fact, of the eventual emergence of the United States and what was then pre-Soviet Russia as the world’s reigning superpowers.

In Tocqueville and the American Experiment, Professor Cook leads you on an engaging and energetic discussion on Tocqueville, his journey, his writing of Democracy in America and, most of all, his thoughts on the young nation he was observing. For Tocqueville, it seems, had opinions about almost everything he encountered in America, and not exclusively politics and “classical” issues such as the nature of the judiciary and the role of freedom of the press. He wrote of:

  • The meaning of family in a democracy
  • Race and the damage done by slavery
  • The crucial role of women
  • Religion as a moral guide
  • The dangers of turning religion to political ends.

Seeing Ourselves Through a Foreigner’s Observations

“Tocqueville,” notes Professor Cook, “provides the brilliant observations of an outsider that still allow Americans to understand themselves better for having encountered his writings.

“Furthermore, in a time when America is encouraging nations around the world to adopt democratic values and is engaged in nation building, Tocqueville can be both a guide and a reminder of the cultural context in which democratic institutions can develop and flourish.

“Whatever we feel about particular American policies,” he continues, “we as a nation are trying to build democracies in other places.

“To do that, we have to ask, what in America is transferable to other cultures and other histories, and what isn’t? What are the most fundamental things, and what are secondary and tertiary in importance? What kind of education is needed to create not just a democratic institution, but what Tocqueville himself calls the ‘habits of the heart,’ [the American characteristics that] make a democracy more than a form of government but a way of life?”

A Professor’s very Personal Interest

Professor Cook will be familiar to Teaching Company customers. He has taught subjects that range from Dante to St. Francis to St. Augustine, but his interest in Tocqueville comes from a very different place than his background as an award-winning medieval historian.

Ever since his days as an undergraduate, he has been fascinated with democracy. In 1998 he decided to take a semester off to run for Congress, describing his campaign as a kind of “laboratory” for examining how democracy works. A careful reading of Democracy in America was part of his preparation.

Although he lost that race, a course in Tocqueville has since become part of the array of subjects he teaches.

It is especially interesting to realize that as Professor Cook describes Tocqueville’s journey and illustrates Tocqueville’s insights with examples from his own small town in upstate New York, that many of those insights were gathered in the same district in which Professor Cook ran for Congress.

Tocqueville spent several weeks in that area, including significant time as the guest in the Canandaigua, New York, home of a man named John Canfield Spencer, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, held two Cabinet offices in the presidential administration of John Tyler, and was a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Spencer was instrumental in the American publication of Democracy in America. He contributed an introduction and some corrective footnotes—but his greatest contribution may well have been in the long conversations he had with Tocqueville.

Although Tocqueville never mentions Spencer’s name in his book, he did record some of those conversations verbatim. Professor Cook points out how those discussions, included in his letters and his journal, not only influenced Tocqueville’s thinking, but offer a window to us today into how that thinking evolved over the years between Tocqueville’s journey to America and the appearance of his book.

Freedom of the Press and Centralized Government

A primary example of Tocqueville’s changing opinions over the nine-year interval between his visit and the completion of Democracy in America concerns freedom of the press.

Describing those changes in the same friendly, conversational style that marks his presentation of the entire course, Professor Cook notes how Tocqueville was initially quite nervous about the unbridled freedom of the press he found in America, fearing that a dominant press might acquire too much power. But Tocqueville was used to the far more centralized press of France, with only a small number of major newspapers. It is fascinating to see how his views evolve as he learns more about the vibrant American press and how its many outlets serve to prevent the centralization of power.

Tocqueville constantly cautioned against the centralization of governmental administration. He believed that if Congress or a state legislature passes a bad law that is administered centrally, for example, the bad effects are felt everywhere. But if those laws are administered locally, there will always be places where the application will be less rigid and the impact of the bad laws thus less onerous. This would provide an opportunity for public demonstrations that would make changes in those laws more likely.

What Else Did Tocqueville Believe?

As Professor Cook traces Tocqueville’s journey and thoughts about the society he is exploring, you’ll see certain concerns emerge repeatedly.

Tocqueville believed, for example, that the forces that held democracy together and made it work most efficiently bubbled up through society, rather than trickling down from government.

He thus saw serving on juries—especially juries in civil cases—as a crucial part of the education of the citizenry, a “school free of charge,” to use Tocqueville’s own words.

“I think,” Cook quotes Tocqueville, “that the practical intelligence and good political sense of the Americans must principally be attributed to a long use that they have made of the jury in civil matters.”

Professor Cook shows how Tocqueville saw much of American daily life as education in good citizenship, with both political and civil associations providing fertile training grounds.

In the case of political associations, participants would have an opportunity not only to advance causes they believed to be in their own self-interest, but to gain practical experience in learning what he called “self-interest well understood.” In giving up their time and energy, and working with other people, citizens would learn how individual self-interest had to be placed within the context of the common good.

In the case of civil associations, Professor Cook uses the story of a cat rescue group in his own town of Geneseo to illustrate Tocqueville’s notion of how civil associations help make life better.

Concerns as Deep as His Admiration

He admired the vibrancy of citizen participation at the base of American democracy, but Tocqueville also saw things that deeply concerned him.

As a system dependent on the will of the majority, democracy needed to be always vigilant against the tyranny of that same majority, the danger that it could rule almost absolutely over the minority.

That danger wasn’t likely to come from government, for there were constitutional safeguards in place. Instead, Tocqueville saw the threat of majoritarianism in the speech that swirled around him, even going so far as to note that despite all of the opinion he heard being voiced, he had found less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion in America than any place he had been!

Although the circle of discussion in America is very broad, he said, its perimeter is clearly delineated. Those whose views fall outside of that circle, even though their views are permitted, are cut off from power, with political careers closed to them. They can become the butt of jokes and, in the worst of cases, the victims of social persecution.

Tocqueville was also concerned about the long-range implications of what he called “equality of conditions,” a term roughly equivalent to what we call equal opportunity. For Tocqueville, equality of conditions was fundamental to democracy, giving “a certain direction to public spirit, a certain turn to the laws, new maxims to those who govern and particular habits to the government.”

But in a society in which such a principle pertains, a society without built-in privilege, Tocqueville also saw a danger. He feared that people might well seek other ways to experience the feeling of being special, either by withdrawing into the family or by the selfish pursuit of material wealth.

Tocqueville even coined a term—individualism—to describe this threat, and urged renewed attention to maintaining vibrant local governments and political and civil associations that will constantly demonstrate the advantages of entering and participating in the activities of the public square.

A Book for Today

Tocqueville can be both a guide and a reminder of the cultural context in which democratic institutions can develop and flourish. His book can be seen both as an inspiration and a warning for Americans of the 21st century, providing insights and innovative ways to consider what we all too often take for granted in the United States.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    An Overview of Democracy in America
    The course begins with a brief overview of Tocqueville's masterwork. Written to educate the French about democracy, it was originally published as two separate volumes, released five years apart. x
  • 2
    Alexis de Tocqueville—A Brief Biography
    Professor William R. Cook introduces the young French nobleman, trained as a lawyer, whose most famous book was only one achievement in a life marked by several, including service as France's foreign minister and a history of the French Revolution still regarded as a classic. x
  • 3
    The Journey to America
    Though Tocqueville rarely describes specific events or conversations, his letters and journals allow us to follow him on his trip and get an excellent feel for the experiences he and his colleague, Gustave de Beaumont, have in America. x
  • 4
    Equality of Conditions and Freedom
    This lecture considers the meaning and implications of what Tocqueville introduces in Democracy in America's first paragraph as the foundation of the democratic enterprise: the concept he calls "equality of conditions." x
  • 5
    The Foundations of the American Experience
    Although democracy transcends any particular manifestation of it, Tocqueville stresses specific elements of the American experience that lead to its particular expression of democratic principles, including its roots in England, its form of Protestant Christianity, and its geography. x
  • 6
    Does America Have a Mixed Constitution?
    Americans are often taught that we have a classical republic, consisting of elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. However, Tocqueville challenges this idea by arguing that there is only one overarching principle at work in America: democracy. x
  • 7
    The American Constitution
    This lecture examines Tocqueville's admiration of—and concern over—the American Constitution, with special focus on the role of the federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, and the eligibility of a president for re-election. x
  • 8
    The Judiciary and Lawyers in America
    We shift to other levels of the judiciary to see what Tocqueville has to say about justices of the peace, lawyers, and the vital role of juries as schools of democracy. x
  • 9
    Democracy and Local Government
    For Tocqueville, democracy to a large extent trickles up rather than down, with local elections and offices providing both efficiency and a democratic laboratory, both of which are dangerously subject to damage by the centralization of administration. x
  • 10
    Freedom of Speech in Theory and Practice
    This lecture examines Tocqueville's views on the necessity and danger of freedom of speech, including his discussion on the limitations placed on speech not by law, but by custom. x
  • 11
    Freedom of the Press
    We see how Tocqueville's views on freedom of the press clearly evolved between his work's two volumes and also enjoy the opportunity of using his own journal's word-by-word record of a conversation he had on this subject as a case study of his interviewing method. x
  • 12
    Political Parties
    Political parties as we understand them were only in their infancy when Tocqueville arrived in America. We examine his definition of "great" and "small" parties in explaining why the new realities of his time demand a new political science. x
  • 13
    The Problem of the Tyranny of the Majority
    For Tocqueville, the danger of the tyranny of the majority is one of the most serious facing a democratic society. With even institutional safeguards offering insufficient protection, he looks to political associations as an essential barrier against that tyranny. x
  • 14
    Political Associations
    Tocqueville defines political associations as groups of people united for a particular political purpose. He examines how they function and how they act effectively to advocate for the particular issue they agree about. x
  • 15
    Civil Associations
    The great complements to political associations in a democracy are civil associations, those private organizations without a political focus. Tocqueville argues that they not only help bind Americans together, but also are important to the functioning of democracy. x
  • 16
    Blacks and Indians
    Tocqueville cannot paint a picture of America without dealing with race, especially black slavery and the "Indian problem." Although some of his predictions have not proved accurate, his perspective can be helpful in understanding contemporary American society. x
  • 17
    Mores and Democracy
    This lecture examines what Tocqueville calls the mores of democracy—its "habits of the heart"—including the possible implications as we seek to help nations without a tradition of democracy quickly create egalitarian and free societies. x
  • 18
    Christianity and Democracy
    Democracies are prone to changing values because of their majoritarian nature. Hence, an important question is: Where is the anchor of democracy to be found? For Tocqueville, that answer is in religion generally and Christianity specifically. x
  • 19
    Education and Culture in Democracies
    This lecture examines Tocqueville's belief that education in America is broad but shallow, with the average person knowing more than his or her counterpart in Europe, but with America lacking great scientists, writers, philosophers, and artists. x
  • 20
    Individualism in America
    Tocqueville's different take on the trait he called "individualism" creates a useful prism through which to examine this quintessentially American phenomenon and what he saw as its dangerous tendency to cause Americans to withdraw from the public sphere. x
  • 21
    The Desire for Wealth in America
    Tocqueville is disturbed by the materialism he sees in America, with people so caught up in pursuing riches that they ignore other important aspects of what it means to be human, and even fears a long-range threat to equality of conditions. x
  • 22
    The Democratic Family
    This lecture focuses on Tocqueville's observations of the modern democratic family, with special focus on the role of women, both in the daily life of America and in its success. x
  • 23
    Are Democracy and Excellence Compatible?
    From the time of the ancient Greeks, people have debated whether democracy destroys excellence or encourages it. This lecture examines the question of excellence or mediocrity as it is raised in a variety of contexts throughout Democracy in America. x
  • 24
    Tocqueville’s Unanswered Questions
    The course concludes by reviewing Tocqueville's most important insights and applying them to the next 175 years of American history. Of course, our nation's story is still developing, but we can ask which possibilities that Tocqueville outlines are at present those in the ascent. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Maps
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

William R. Cook

About Your Professor

William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Tocqueville and the American Experiment is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 81.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Closest thing to reading it cover to cover Great look into this important, but large book. I have never read cover to cover, only many excerpts. So it was nice to get the big picture of how it all fits togther, as well as the background of how it came to be/ who Tocqueville was.
Date published: 2020-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Cook knows this subject well My wife and I enjoyed this course about Tocqueville. I remember some of the Frenchman's sojourns from my introductory course in Political Science in college years ago and it always stayed in mind. When reading Tony Horwitz' "Spying on the South" late last year, I was reminded of the Tocqueville travels in America and my interest was peaked again. Professor Cook knows this information so well! I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2020-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A MIRROR ON AMERICA “Give democratic people enlightenment & freedom & leave them alone & they will take all of the goods from the world. They will perfect each of the useful arts and render life more comfortable. I do not fear they will stop. While man takes pleasure in the…search for well being, it is feared that he will finally lose the use of his most sublime faculties and by wishing to improve everything around him, he will finally degrade himself. The peril is there, not elsewhere.” (From" Democracy in America", 1848) Below, I highlight a few of Tocqueville’s (T’s) concepts alphabetically. CENTRALIZATION of LAWS keeps states from fighting each other. HOWEVER, centralization of ADMINISTRATION is dangerous because national sameness leads to despotism (multiple lectures). TGC’s “Hidden Factor" (Scott Page, L9) reinforces: uniformity reduces complexity thus decreasing robustness and survival. DEMOCRACY exists best on the local level (L6) where township citizens can talk and compromise. L9: By teaching how to “tone down” the enforcement of oppressive national laws, local democracy reverses individualism's sense that “I don’t need you". If America falls to despotism (L24), it will slowly, benignly degrade its citizens.” EDUCATION (19): Nowhere in the world is PHILOSOPHY more ignored. Rather, “Americans depend on learn unshakable principles." L18: Churches discuss mores (not politics) and via families, influence the state. Christianity in America is “worldly" & in decline. Ominously, when few vote (L20), a tiny minority can require the religious majority to withdraw. L19: SCIENCE is based on practical results rather than meditation on principles. LITERATURE is quantity over quality. HISTORY: Given equality of conditions, historians don’t focus on individuals, but on causes. "This can lead to a fatalistic view of history." American education raises the bottom but lowers top. EQUALITY OF CONDITIONS (L4): Democratic equality is about the elimination of barriers between people, not absolute equality. (L18): Conversely, equality of conditions isolates and stimulates materialism. Religion counters materialism, isolation, & uniformity (L18, L21, L23). HABITS OF THE HEART (L17): T characterizes Americans as preferring specifics rather than general ideas. “They are actors but don’t like to analyze their activity. They are suspicious of intellectual systems as inimical to equality of condition”. They trust experience over structure. They believe in human progress and perfectibility to the point that they buy things that don’t last. Yet T feels that “in any society, people need…some accepted framework”… to avoid chaos. Equality stokes a desire for acquisition but materialism degrades. America leaves the people’s souls to the purview of legislators. INDIVIDUALISM (L20) leads to social withdrawal rather than common bonds. Lack of participation makes people strangers; extends (but weakens) bonds of affection, forgets ancestors, alienates descendents, and confines citizens to solitude. Such laissez-faire defaults to the evil of central administration, allows tiny parties to take over, and invites despotism. If elections get personal, individualism avoids the public square. L21: Individualism leads to materialism while ignoring humanity. Specialization leads to lack of transferable skills, lower wages, and the formation of a despotic commercial aristocracy. LAW (L8): SCOTUS is the most powerful court on earth and quite political because political questions lead to judicial interpretations. Serving on a jury, where judges guide & lawyers teach our “system”, leads to T’s prized SELF INTEREST WELL UNDERSTOOD. Lawyers are a benign aristocracy that works on precedence (vs. T’s France where lawyers promote “what one out to wish to do"). Lawyers are often elected because we think they understand the law. L23 “Democracy is more JUST than other forms of gov’t.” SLAVERY: Tocqueville AND the writers of the Constitution (TGC's "America's Founding Fathers", Guelzo), expressed agonies over slavery. Slavery corrupts its "masters”: While on the Ohio River, T saw that the KY side was not well cultivated, as whites with slaves dishonored work. On the Ohio side, everyone worked and there was cultivated land, industry, and commerce (L5, L16). T. feared “even when blacks become free, they will still be strangers”. But T. (L4) cautions “…too many have too much to lose" with a revolutionary mentality. TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY Americans (L13) feel the majority opinion cannot fail. (For the limits on “Crowd Wisdom”, see TGC’s “Hidden Factor”, L12). If the majority tyrannizes the minority it causes (L6): indecision in crisis, constant law change, ideas not followed through (starting things is easy but completion is a morass), and ineffective foreign policy (the majority don’t care). Words change meanings often (L19) as the majority direction changes. Associations oppose such instability (L13). SUMMARY: By 2032, the US working class majority will be non-white. By 2045, the majority in all jobs will be non-white. We have a mere quarter century to get this right. Respect & freely talking together are marks of Tocqueville-style circumspection; lesser strategies are a mark of shortsighted individualism.
Date published: 2020-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Relevant I first read Tocqueville's Democracy in American when I was twenty years old. It struck me then that the election of a Hollywood movie actor indicated the shallowness of the electorate and that the tyranny of mediocrity had triumphed. I re-read it in January of 2017 when I feared the shallowness of American culture had given rise, as Tocqueville had observed, to the election of the unqualified and crude, such as it did in the election of Andrew Jackson in Tocqueville's day. Professor Cook is an engaging lecturer, fun to listen to, who is full of concrete examples from contemporary American life to illustrate his points. He embellishes his analysis with anecdotes from his own experience. He brings out how important involvement in local politics is. I also took Prof. Cook's course, which he co-taught, on The Divine Comedy. I follow politics very closely and both of these courses on these important books I found so relevant to current events in America.
Date published: 2020-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title is dead on - it is our (U.S.) experiment Prof. Cook - enthusiastic. Did a great job of tying in various lectures to each other and tying the past to the present. Subject matter should be of interest to all Americans and help define our avenues of discourse and approach to our government. Very insightful. Subject matter is still current to today's issues. It is remarkable the foresight Tocqueville had of the potential issues and potential successes the American democracy might have. Anyone listening to this lecture should easily be able to relate topics to their personage.
Date published: 2020-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Critical Thinking for Our Own Time! Professor Cook is the opposite of a "laid-back" lecturer! It is clear from his manner that he loves the material, believes it very important for the United States of the 21st century, and is pleased and excited to present his distillation of Tocqueville's thought to us! One of the most remarkable things about this course is how Tocqueville speaks to BOTH liberal and conservative concerns, reminding us of how intertwined they are and that the only thing we have to fear is the extremes that these concerns can lead us to if we are not very, very careful. It is amazing that any 25 year-old person could write this book, then or now. Tocqueville is aided by having a foreigner's eye: in many ways that we Americans cannot, he can see, celebrate, and call out things that we might only not even see, but if we do might be unwilling to admit it. Not everything about "democracy" -- or the United States, for that matter -- is to be celebrated! What are the most important observations/lessons that I took from this course? 1) Tocqueville and his traveling companion HATED slavery; moreover, Tocqueville observed that the miserable way both black people and native Americans were treated by European settlers would continue to affect us -- poison us, really -- even after slavery had disappeared and some form of reconciliation between native Americans and white people had occurred. In a biting observation, he notes that Europeans (and he doesn't mean just those who settled in America) typically USE people of color -- whom they regard as inferior -- and, when they can no longer use them, or when they have become an obstacle to European ambitions, then they destroy them! Whew! What an indictment! Viewed from our current time of protests against racial injustice it is amazing how prescient Tocqueville's observations were. 2) For Tocqueville, the essential ingredient for democracy was "equality of condition," not as we might suspect, "freedom." By this he did not mean a form of "leveling" but, rather, that each person enjoyed -- both through the reality of law and also through the existence of -- genuine equality of opportunity to become what he or she could make of themselves. That is, there were no impediments -- racial, ethnic, class, or monetary -- that would prevent person "A" from advancing just as could person "B". Question: does the US of today still have "equality of condition"? 3) The very important role that "religion" played in the United States in serving to balance Americans selfish pursuits and acquisitiveness with reminders that "others" had to be included in their concerns -- what the Founders elsewhere called "civic virtue" -- and that there were larger contexts and time-frames than just "now" and "myself." This is important because I think many on the "left," in their efforts against the imposition of policy on all that is prioritized by certain religious groups, even if a majority of all citizens does not agree with those policies, have forgotten that religion -- indeed, Protestant forms of Christianity -- was widespread in the early years of the Republic. While the Founders did indeed hope to avoid the establishment of any religion, most of them did embrace religious faith in their own lives and believed that its continued vitality was important for the United States. 4) The importance of civic and political associations, for it was through such vital organizations that citizens both learned the principles of democracy -- cooperating with one another as well as compromising where necessary to achieve larger common goals -- and served to block the kinds of tyranny of the majority that could develop in democracies. He warned that if these were ever to lose their vitality, that if Americans ever stopped forming and joining such associations, democracy would be much the weaker for it. 5) Overall, Tocqueville admired democracy, although there were things about it that he did not much like, and other things that he feared could evolve into forms of tyranny or despotism. a) What did he not like? - The fact that democracy tended toward relative mediocracy, that Americans preferred the practical to the ideal, and the application of knowledge to making things work better, more efficiently, and easier. - He was also occasionally put off by the "vulgarity" of some people, and definitely offended by how Americans typically boasted about their country to anyone they encountered from abroad. b) What did he fear? - That American's deep individualism -- a consequence of all citizens being equal -- could lead to people withdrawing from the public square. Either because "I've got mine and, therefore, don't need the rest of you anymore" or because "It doesn't make any difference because it's all fixed or controlled by 'them.'" Such withdrawing from conversing and working with others weakens democracy, perhaps fatally. - That Americans' fondness for wealth and their constant efforts to attain MORE, combined with the growth of manufacturing and industry which delivered greater goods to the few at the top as opposed to the many actual workers, would eventually lead to an effective "aristocracy of wealth" that would undermine the equality of condition without which democracy cannot continue. A wonderful book, and a powerful and focused course! Most of the matters Tocqueville raises and discusses remain very relevant to us today, and much of what he says desperately needs to be revisited if we are to keep out Republic!
Date published: 2020-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Cook is incredible I have listened to other courses by Dr. Cook, and got this one just because of him, not sure I'd be interested in the topic. But he made the course so interesting and it made me think in totally new ways! This course makes you look at yourself and your role in your country and local community.
Date published: 2020-05-09
Date published: 2020-03-01
  • y_2020, m_12, d_2, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_8, tr_73
  • loc_en_US, sid_4863, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 12.28ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought