Tocqueville and Us: Reading Democracy in America

Full Title: 
Reading Democracy in America
Michael Behrent
Day/Time Taught: 
MWF 9:00-9:50 am and MWF 10:00-10:50 am
Course Number: 

What if there was a book that could completely explain the social world in which you live? What if this book could relate every aspect of modern society to a few basic principles? What if, finally, this book was written over 170 years ago? This course will explore the possibility that there is indeed such a book: Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835-1840).

Our goal will be to probe this extraordinary book’s core argument: that the most powerful force in modern society is what Tocqueville called the “equality of conditions”—a dynamic that determines the groups we join, the way we work, the thoughts we think, the clothes we wear, how we pray, what we love, and much more. We will examine the book from two perspectives. First of all, we will read it as a work of political philosophy: in other words, we will closely scrutinize the text itself, teasing out the author’s intentions by reflecting on his words, his style, and his argument.

Secondly, we will reflect on how it might be used for making sense of contemporary society. We will attempt to identify Tocqueville’s key theoretical arguments, and then apply them to the analysis of contemporary social and political issues in the United States and elsewhere. This class is aimed at students with a philosophical bent as well as a desire to reflect on the nature of modern society.

Contact FYS

The First Year Seminar is part of the General Education Program located in Anne Belk Hall, Room 250.

Phone: 828-262-2028

Our mailing address:
First Year Seminar
ASU Box 32065
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

Director of First Year Seminar:
Dr. Martha McCaughey

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