de Tocqueville Study Questions

de Tocqueville, roughly a contemporary of Mill and Marx, offered a liberal perspective on history and society that contrasted both with Mill's "progressive" liberalism and Marx's "scientific" socialism. 

Much of  de Tocqueville's most important work concerned the United States.  For the sake of time, we will not be discussing most of those sections of Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Revolution, and Society on the USA (chapters 1-4), which are excerpted from his famous book Democracy in America (although you certainly are free to read these, and I encourage you to do so!).  Nor will we discuss the very interesting section in this book on race relations and colonialism (although, again, you certainly to read that chapter and I encourage you to do so!).

Instead, we will focus mostly on de Tocqueville's writings on France and French history (although we will discuss some of his conclusions about the dangers facing democracies, drawn from Democracy in America

READ: Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Revolution, and Society Introduction (pp. 1-46) and Chapters 5-8, 10 (pp. 163-319, 348-379).

Each of you will be assigned to present two 5-10 minute reports to the class on specific questions (see below).  Your reports should explain de Tocqueville's MAIN ARGUMENTS regarding the topic/question and should refer to specific evidence (be ready to cite page numbers!):

·         Was Tocqueville a supporter or a critic of the Enlightenment tradition?  Explain. 

·         What did he see as the major causes and consequences of the French Revolution?

·         How do his views seem to contrast with positions taken by contemporary conservatives, liberals, and socialists? 

·         How did he understand the nature of Freedom and Liberty, and in particular, how did he understand the relationship between freedom and equality? 

·         How did he understand the functions and purpose of the state, particularly in “modern” (liberal capitalist) society 

·         How did he understand the main “forces” involved in making History and the causes of historical change? 

·         How did his analytical methods and conclusions about society compare and contrast to those of Mill and Marx?