Tocqueville's Political Economy

By Richard Swedberg | Go to book overview

Chapter One
THE ECONOMY OF THE NEW WORLD

WHEN TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD Alexis de Tocqueville set out on his voyage across the Atlantic in April 1831 he had only a vague notion of what he would find in the United States, based on a few books that gave a romanticized and often superficial view of the country. What he experienced during his nine-month-long visit took him by surprise and excited him: he found a very different type of society with an extremely dynamic economy and a people who loved to do business. Everybody wanted to make money and be successful, and the result was a booming entrepreneurial economy.

All of this surprised and shocked Tocqueville, who was suspicious of materialism and used to people who were weighed down by class and tradition. There were also quite a few economic phenomena that he did not know how to make sense of, especially the growth of industry and what looked like the emergence of a new and powerful economic elite. All of this set his mind working and inspired him to slowly translate what he had experienced during his trip into the remarkable picture of U.S. society and its economy found in the two volumes of Democracy in America (1835, 1840).

To get close to the way that Tocqueville tried to understand the U.S. economy one has to look at the way he went about his observations; how he tried to organize the information he collected; and how he came up with explanations. Tocqueville's method—both when it came to the study of the economy and the rest of society—was, as he put it, to generate “ideas” by a close study of “facts.” The process of thinking things through, on the basis of information that he had collected, was hard and painful for Tocqueville. Without it, however, he believed little of interest could be accomplished.

Tocqueville had no desire to simply produce a book with impressions from his travels; thus it is in this sense misleading to present Democracy in America as belonging to the genre of travel literature. Neither did Tocqueville want to produce a history of the United States or a narrative in which one event follows another. There had to be transparency in the explanation—the social mechanisms that accounted for the phenomenon in question had to be explicitly and carefully presented—both when it

-6-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Tocqueville's Political Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 342

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.