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Tocqueville’s Lessons for America on the Fourth of July

Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 masterpiece, Democracy in America, is as insightful today as when it was written. He undertook his study of the United States not “to advocate any form of government in particular.” Rather, in America, Tocqueville “sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress.”

On this Fourth of July, the Journal of Democracy is sharing three essays from our archives reflecting on the prescience of Tocqueville’s observations from nearly two centuries ago.

Postmodern Prophet: Tocqueville Visits Vegas
Although Tocqueville might be gratified to see how many of his observations about America have been proven true, he would still find much to surprise him today — particularly in American culture and arts.
Paul A. Cantor

Did Tocqueville Foresee Totalitarianism?
Did Tocqueville predict the form of “democratic despotism” that the twentieth century called “totalitarianism”? His prophetic gift is apparent in his comparison of the United States and Russia.
Martin E. Malia

The Indispensability of Political Parties
Stable democracy requires the creation of a supportive culture that fosters the acceptance of the rights of opposition, of free speech and assembly, of the rule of law, of regular elections, of turnover in office, and the like.
Seymour Martin Lipset

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Image Credit: Siva Seshappan