Politics in the Democratic Age: Alexis de Tocqueville’s "Democracy in America" (1906) *SOLD OUT*

Six Wednesdays: March 6, March 20, April 3, April 17, May 1, and (May 15 added) 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. *SOLD OUT*

$135.00(10% off for members)

Few books are so often quoted and yet so rarely comprehended as Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. This class is dedicated to exegesis of this beautifully written but at times difficult text. We will consider, among other things, the relationship—historical and logical—between aristocracy and democracy; the instability of democracy; the institutional mechanisms that serve as antidotes to this instability; the significance of habit in Tocqueville’s thought; the case for American exceptionalism; the importance of religion for democracy; and finally, whether Tocqueville himself recognized the limits of his “institutional” political science. Our intention is less to defend what Tocqueville says than to begin to comprehend the way in which he thought through democracy and its problems. This book, like so many others, should be approached with a willingness to suspend disbelief; moreover, it ought to be ruminated upon (Nietzsche’s phrase) rather than merely read. Although six sessions may offer us but a mere introduction to the profound reflections in this text, our hope is that we may work our way through at least some of the more significant questions Tocqueville brings to our attention.

Reading Schedule: While the exact timing of our readings will have to be determined by the pace of our discussion, and while I would urge you to read the entirety of Democracy in America, in class the material we will consider is as follows:

Class 1—Mar. 6: Author’s Preface to the 12th Edition, Author’s Introduction, Vol. I,
Part I, Chs. 1-4, 5 (pp. 61-70, 87-98), 8 (163-70).
• Class 2—Mar. 20: Vol. I, Part II, Chs. 4, 5 (pp. 208-12, 220-30), 6-10.

• Class 3—Apr. 3: Vol. II, Preface, Part I, Chs. 1-8, 12, 15-17, 20.

• Class 4— Apr. 17: Vol. II, Part II, Chs. 1-13, 15-17, 19, 20.

• Class 5—May 1: Vol. II, Part III, Chs. 1, 2, 8-14, 17-22.

• Class 6—May 15: Vol. II, Part IV, Chs. 1-4, 6-8

Six Wednesdays: February 20 cancelled due to weather conditions, March 6, March 20, April 3, April 17, May 1, and (May 15 added) 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.*SOLD OUT*


Book: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (978-0061127922)


Suggested Reading:

Tocqueville (Very Short Introductions) by Harvey Mansfield, Jr. (9780195175394)

Joseph Hartman teaches political theory, constitutional law and American government in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Prior to his time in the academy he spent more than a decade as a litigation attorney in private practice with a large law firm in Washington, D.C. He earned his Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown in 2015 (where he also served as the Interim Director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy). He holds a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School (1999) and a B.A. in American Government from the University of Virginia (1996). His academic and intellectual interests focus on the relationship between political thought and theology in the Western tradition and contemporary issues relating to public and constitutional law.

REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.

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Democracy in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061127922
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - August 29th, 2006

Tocqueville: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780195175394
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - July 13th, 2010