If you can’t beat democracy, join it: Alexis de Tocqueville
in Beginning classical social theory
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This chapter looks at sections from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835-40). Tocqueville uses ‘democracy’ as a social rather than narrowly political concept, i.e. a concept that points to a general tendency underlying the development of modern society. Tocqueville regrets the decline of aristocratic society and its values but thinks it is irreversible. Instead, he finds in the USA some of the mechanisms – including religion and ‘individualism properly understood’ – that can turn democracy into a good thing, after all.


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