the book, Democracy in America Review analysis

Democracy in America Review

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Democracy in America is a book that consists of two volumes. The author of the book, Alexis de Tocqueville, completed the first volume in 1835 and the second one in 1840. In 1831, Tocqueville was working as a lawyer in his country (France) when the county’s government sponsored him for a nine-month visit to America to study various aspects related to American democracy. Tocqueville was sent together with Gustave de Beaumont, who was working as a magistrate. The two gathered information through interviews from more than 200 Americans on various topics related to social practices, law and politics (Tocqueville, 2007). Although the primary aim of the book is to examine the purpose and extent of democracy in America, it has extensive information pertaining to literature and communication, particularly in the second volume. Tocqueville made an extensive exploration of various concepts related to history of communication and literature, such as artistic works, monuments, Latin, Greek and American literature, sources of poetry, styles adopted by American orators and writers, drama and impact of democracy on language. The book is unique in the sense that some of the concepts contained in it, such as difference between the effects of aristocracy and democracy on literature and language, are hardly included in communication studies today (Tocqueville, 2007). Importantly, the book gives a history of communication and literature development in American society in the 19th century. The numerous concepts in the book related to communication and literature qualify it as a vital book for communication studies, and this explains why the tutor chose it. This paper aims at pointing out and analyzing various concepts contained in the book, which are related to communication and literature.


In chapter eleven of the second volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville explores how Americans used to cultivate artistic works in 19th century. According to Tocqueville, people in America used artistic works as a mode of communicating their desires and opinions. For instance, Tocqueville noted that many artists added attractive qualities to their works displaying images of leaders, which the leaders did not actually posses. Also, most artists made artistic works displaying their own images, which portrayed qualities and features that they did not have in reality (Tocqueville, 2007). The artists went as far as making and wearing imitation diamonds to express their desires of owning real diamonds. In some cases, artists made objects that imitated ancient objects. Tocqueville states that he encountered palaces made of white marble that imitated architectural designs for ancient palaces. Tocqueville found that the walls of those buildings had paintings and drawings that imitated details of ancient cultures. Tocqueville noted that the artists used artistic works to communicate different cultural elements, depending on their cultural backgrounds (Tocqueville, 2007). In addition, fine artists and painters communicated about various issues in their private lives using artistic works. However, Tocqueville noted that most artists hardly displayed their works to the public. As a result, most of the artists did not achieve their communication goals using their artistic works (Tocqueville, 2007). In chapter twelve of the second volume, Tocqueville notes that Americans mounted monuments to praise their leaders and to express their preferences for specific leadership qualities. However, according to Tocqueville, the presence of democracy made the monuments less important to the Americans than they were intended to. This occurred due to the fact that the presence of democracy made people perceive individuals as less important than the state. Consequently, many monuments did not effectively relay the intended messages to people (Tocqueville, 2007).

Chapter thirteen of the second volume explores the nature of American literature works during 1830s. According to Tocqueville, most of the literary works in the US during the period were sourced from Britain and were reprinted in order to adapt them to the American society. Tocqueville found that there were three main types of books present in shelves; religious books, books aimed at enhancing rudimentary human knowledge of the readers and books containing information on politics (Tocqueville, 2007). According to Tocqueville, people hardly wrote books to counter opinions of others. Rather, they wrote them to offer their opinions without criticizing opinions of other people. Most books containing opinions were in the form of pamphlets that were aimed at communicating ideas or opinions. In some cases, the writers aimed at convincing people to support a certain issue or idea. Such pamphlets lost relevant within specific periods of time, after meeting the intended purposes. In some cases, they expired within a day (Tocqueville, 2007). Despite the fact that people were provided with books that enhanced their knowledge, which were sourced from England, many Americans did not utilize them or attach importance to them. According to Tocqueville, this occurred because most Americans believed that the books were not written for them. In addition to the aforementioned literary works, Tocqueville found that there were numerous journalists who wrote in newspapers. However, according to Tocqueville, most Americans were good at speaking English but they were not competent in writing. As a result, most American journalists did not write very good content, even though they managed to pass information and ideas to the locals. Also, there were sources explaining laws, which were written by experts (Tocqueville, 2007). Tocqueville found that many Americans used to perceive literature as part of ‘art’ and thus, they believed that learning it was a preserve of people who loved arts. In addition, Tocqueville noted that most people who read literature books preferred books with small volumes, written in simple English and with content that did not require them to do research in order to understand. As a result, most of the literature books addressed to Americans were written in consideration to those characteristics (Tocqueville, 2007). Also, lack of concentration on precise production of literature works implied that most literature works produced in America during the democratic age was deficient of important elements that enhance the quality.

In chapter fifteen of the second volume, Tocqueville examined the usefulness Latin and Greece literature on the American society and other democratic societies. In doing so, Tocqueville made an exploration of the history of literature in Latin and Greece, during the aristocratic age. Tocqueville noted that during the inception of literature studies in Latin and Greece, people encountered difficulties in printing books. As a result, books containing literature worked were scarce. Consequently, most people did not manage to get them. In fact, literature works were hardly traded between the Romans and Greeks. Due to the scarcity, literature works were usually accessed by the rich (Tocqueville, 2007). As a result, many people who engaged in writing literature works were the rich. This led to some defects or biases emanating to their statuses and perceptions of the poor. However, their works displayed good writing skills and exquisite care. According to Tocqueville, their works indicated that they did nothing at random or with haste; rather they concentrated on every line that they wrote and tried to achieve perfection. In short, their literary works, which they produced during aristocratic ages, portrayed fine skills. On the other hand, the literature works written during democratic ages, such as during the period when Tocqueville visited America, were naturally deficient and did not portray keenness. In addition, Tocqueville noted that the literature works produced during aristocratic ages have remained relevant throughout, unlike most of the literature works of democratic ages, which quickly became irrelevant. For these reasons, Tocqueville argued that the big disparity between literature works of aristocratic ages and democratic ages implied that literature of democratic ages should not be read (Tocqueville, 2007).

Chapter sixteen of the second volume of the book explores the impact of democracy on language. Tocqueville noted that the English language that was being spoken by educated people in Britain had significant variations from the English language that was spoken by educated people in America. Tocqueville attributed the difference to the nature of governance. According to Tocqueville, language usually remains static in a country where autocracy is embraced. Changes hardly occur to the existing words and new words are hardly invented in an autocratic system. This, according to Tocqueville, explains the fact that no significant changes occurred in the English language that was being spoken by educated persons in Britain (Tocqueville, 2007). On the other hand, Tocqueville noted that people in a democratic systems like making changes even without good reasons. This is evident in their politics, as well as in their language. Even when they do not have to change words, they try to transform them. In most cases, the new words that are invented by people in a democratic system tend to represent new ideas. They borrow ideas from the daily activities they engage in. According to Tocqueville, this explains the reason why many words added by Americans to their English language were acquired from the language of trade, mechanical arts and jargon of parties (Tocqueville, 2007). Also, Tocqueville explored the impact of aristocracy and democracy on sources of poetry. According to Tocqueville, aristocracy gives consideration to historical figures, including individuals and objects. As well, it places importance on God and current significant leaders. As a result, poets in aristocratic systems usually include famous figures or God as subjects for their poetry pieces. On the other hand, people in democratic systems do not attach importance to historical figures and famous individuals. Consequently, they hardly include them as subjects for their poetry pieces (Tocqueville, 2007). This explains the fact that most poets of democratic ages focused on subjects such as subduing nature, drying rivers, drying swamps and peopling solitudes. Lastly, Tocqueville explores the inflation style adopted by American writers and how they engage in drama activities.


Overall, Democracy in America is an informative book. Although most of the topics in it focus on other issues related to democracy, it gives an extensive exploration of the impact of aristocracy and democracy on literature and communication. As noted in the above analysis, Tocqueville explored how Americans used artistic works to communicate their desires and opinions. Further, the book explores the natures of American literature during democratic ages. Tocqueville indicated that democracy has a negative impact on the nature of American literature, language, poetry and writing styles. On the other hand, aristocracy has a positive impact on the aforementioned concepts, as demonstrated by Tocqueville using cases of Latin, Greece and Britain. In short, Democracy in America is a book that is fit for communication studies since it enables readers understand the impact of aristocracy and democracy on nature of communication and literature. This explains why the book can be recommended for reading in class.


Tocqueville, A. (2007). Democracy in America. Ed. Isaac Kramnick. Trans. Henry Reeve.

New York: Norton

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