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FROM THE SOCIAL CONTRACT TO THE ART OF ASSOCIATION: A TOCQUEVILLIAN PERSPECTIVE

  • Aurelian Craiutu (a1)
Abstract

In the United States, the debate on civil associations has coincided with the revival of interest in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, particularly Democracy in America (1835; 1840) in which he praised the Americans' propensity to form civil and political associations. Tocqueville regarded these associations as laboratories of democracy that teach citizens the art of being free and give them the opportunity to pursue their own interests in concert with others. Tocqueville's views on political and civil associations cannot be properly understood unless we also take into account the larger intellectual and political background of his native France. The main sections of this essay examine Tocqueville's analysis of civil and political associations in America. Special attention is paid to the strong relationship between democracy and civil and political associations and the effects that they have on promoting democratic citizenship, civility, and self-government.

In the United States, the debate on civil associations has coincided with the revival of interest in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, particularly Democracy in America (1835; 1840) in which he praised the Americans' propensity to form civil and political associations. Tocqueville regarded these associations as laboratories of democracy that teach citizens the art of being free and give them the opportunity to pursue their own interests in concert with others. Tocqueville's views on political and civil associations cannot be properly understood unless we also take into account the larger intellectual and political background of his native France. The main sections of this essay examine Tocqueville's analysis of civil and political associations in America. Special attention is paid to the strong relationship between democracy and civil and political associations and the effects that they have on promoting democratic citizenship, civility, and self-government.

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Robert Putnam , “Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy, 6, no. 1 (1995): 68

Dana Villa , “Tocqueville and Civil Society,” in The Cambridge Companion to Tocqueville, ed. Cheryl B. Welch (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 216–44

Robert T. Gannett , “Bowling Ninepins in Tocqueville's Township,” American Political Science Review 97, no. 1 (February 2003): 116

Koenraad Swart , “Individualism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (1826–1860),” Journal of the History of Ideas 23, no. 1 (January–March 1962): 78

Aurelian Craiutu , “Tocqueville's Paradoxical Moderation,” The Review of Politics 67, no. 4 (2005): 599629

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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