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Published: October 29, 2019

“Generation after generation of readers… have turned to this book and we see aspects of ourselves in it... Tocqueville used his impressive gifts as a writer, a thinker a political actor and an ethnographer- that’s an aptitude that’s often overlooked when we read Tocqueville- he used these aptitudes to bring together two topics that are distinct and yet no one in his day or in the time since has done a better job of melding together.

First, the evolution of democracy, which Tocqueville defined as a 700-year-old process (writing in the 1830s), driven by the inexorable advance of social equality.  That’s what he means by democracy.

The second is the challenge to European social thought that was posed by the existence of the United States.”

– Professor Richard R. John, Columbia University

Tocqueville's masterpiece is justly regarded not only as the best single book ever written about democracy, but also as one of the most incisive books ever written about the United States. It is valuable today not only as a benchmark for present-day ruminations on public life, but also as a trenchant critique of American culture, politics, race relations, and social thought.

Professor John is a historian who specializes in the history of business, technology, communications, and American political development.  He teaches and advises graduate students in Columbia’s Ph.D. program in communications, and is member of the core faculty of the Columbia history department, where he teaches courses on the history of capitalism and the history of communications.  His many publications include two monographs: Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse and Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications.

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