events archive

Democracy in America

Daniel Ben-Ami, economics writer, introduces a discussion of Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic.

7:00pm, Wednesday 15 July 2015, Free Word Centre, Farringdon Road, London

Although Alexis de Tocqueville is relatively little known in Britain, he is widely regarded as a seminal figure in the US. Democracy in America, his masterpiece, is often cited as one of the most important works both on the meaning of democracy and on American society. He has also been credited as an influence on such varied figures as Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber.

Yet Tocqueville is an enigmatic figure. He was a French aristocrat who spent years pondering American democracy. He saw the trend to democratic rule as irreversible, but argued it could be steered in many different directions. To some he is a quintessential liberal, but others view him as a conservative.

This session will discuss Tocqueville’s masterwork and its legacy.

Questions to consider

1)  What motivated Alexis de Tocqueville to write Democracy in America?
2)  What does he mean by equality of social conditions?
3)  To what extent does he see equality and liberty as in conflict?
4)  How does he conceive of the relationship between public opinion and conformism?
5)  Why does he attach so much importance to civil associations?


Daniel Ben-Ami
author, Ferraris for All. economics writer.


Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America is available in numerous editions and translations.

This version can be downloaded as an e-book or read online. It also includes numerous supplementary references.

More material on Tocqueville, including multimedia links, is available here