Democracy in America are two books by French philosopher and aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville. He published the first in 1835 and the second one five years later. The original name is De La Démocratie en Amérique.
In 1830, the citizen king, Louis-Philippe, took over France. Alexis de Tocqueville and fellow lawyer Gustave de Beaumont felt their careers could not advance in this state of the monarchy. Hence, in 1831 the pair decided to travel to the United States. They traveled around the states for nine months. One of the focal points of their visit was also to study American prisons.
Tocqueville, of course, based the books on his experience with American culture and life in the country. He began his work on the first book shortly after his return to France in 1832.
On Democracy in America
Tocqueville was a lawyer. Thus, it is not surprising that, to a substantial extent, the books are very analytical. He describes how the American system of government works, the difference and relationship between state and federal government, the system of checks and balances, and more.
He further deals with the social changes, namely, the impact of growing equality and economic opportunities. Yet, he warned of the chance of “tyranny of the majority,” in which democracy can result. Another possible threat he saw was corruption and consumerism.
Tocqueville sees the contradiction between freedom and equality. He predicts the future rise of the USA and Russia as two of the most powerful countries.
Today, nearly 200 years after its first publication, Many of his observations are now still precise. Hence, the relevance of Democracy in America is perpetual. At least as long as the USA exist. Both liberal and conservative Americans perceive the book as one of the best portrayals of their system. It is also the most quoted book about the USA.