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Tocqueville and His America: A Darker Horizon, by Kaledin, Arthur.

In this discursive study dedicated to interpreting the “character and thought” (xiii) of Tocqueville, Kaledin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) concentrates upon the ancillary and “darker” (less than optimistic) legacies of Tocqueville’s writings and views on politics and society. While expressing admiration for Tocqueville, Kaledin is more devoted to explicating the weaknesses of Tocqueville as a political thinker, concluding he “was a disharmonious man, full of disunited passions and impulses” (p. 9). The book is divided into four sections. The first part attempts to survey the formative influences upon Tocqueville and his Democracy in America, stressing his “triple-alienation,” ambivalence, and aristocratic tendencies. As the most rewarding and succinct part of the study, part two analyzes Tocqueville’s “political passion” (p. 104), and situates the great Frenchman within his own political tradition. The third part examines Tocqueville’s writing of Democracy in America as an effort to critique the “fate of liberty” in the modern world (p. 263). The final part attempts to defend Tocqueville’s “darker, more apprehensive” (p. 279) view of the American polity. Unfortunately, Tocqueville’s defense of a constitutionally-restrained political order, premised upon the diffusion of authority, cannot be easily reconciled with the author’s interpretation of Tocqueville.

Books mentioned in this essay, such as Tocqueville’s Democracy in America may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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