Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide

Joseph Epstein, Author . Atlas/HarperCollins $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-059898-3

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), whose Democracy in America is more quoted than read, is the subject of the latest installment in the excellent Eminent Lives series. Tocqueville is fortunate enough to have Epstein (Snobbery: The American Version ), another man of letters lighting the way. Epstein provides a penetrating examination of the man, his works, his influence, his times and what we can learn from Democracy in America . Epstein performs sterling service in marshaling the vast amount of material available on this enigmatic 19th-century Frenchman, and gives readers a clear understanding of the immense complexities involved: Tocqueville is much more than a source of useful epigrams and half-remembered misquotes. Was he a conservative, a liberal, a Christian, an agnostic, a historian, a sociologist, a reactionary aristocrat or a radical bourgeois? The answer, Epstein concludes, was that he was all and none; each era has its own understanding of the man, refracted through the particular concerns of the time, lending Tocqueville an aura of timelessness. His exquisite literary sensibility also helps to keep him fresh for each new generation. As an introduction to the man and a primer for his works, Epstein's book is admirable. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/09/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-06-174782-3
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Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-06-176888-0
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