Democracy in America Redux
The book that is the most key to understanding America today isn’t some work written by a former politician, or a work coming from academia. No, the most important work to understanding America is nearly 200 years old — and yet in many ways it still holds to the test of time. Alexis de Tocqueville saw a young country, struggling with the issues of slavery and with a level of sectarianism that make today’s partisan struggles look respectful and quiet in comparison. Yet his analysis of the American condition, of America as less of a nation than an ideology, still stands firm today.
Yet times have moved on. The America that Alexis de Tocqueville traveled had only a few million people, most of whom were not only white but specifically British. The modern America is not only more populous, it is more diverse. America has gone from a backwater experiment in democratic rule to the premier military and economic power of the world, and is on the cusp of a new century of greatness as the global leader in thought. America has achieved an Empire — not the military-political ones of old, but rather a cultural-economic-ideological empire. Soft power has become the name of the game (this is, of course, not to question the continued relevance of hard power in the modern world; the cultural-economic-ideological American Empire is held together by a more military-political empire at its core).
Tocqueville’s work is still far and away the most relevant single work to understanding the whole of America — especially in ideology — but it is time for someone to take Tocqueville and consider the modern world as he did. Ideally, this would take the form of a new work — a Democracy in America in the Twenty-First Century. I believe that if someone were to stand on Tocqueville’s shoulders and update him, the world would be better off.
I am not the man for that task, unfortunately. Rather, what I will try and accomplish over the next few months is a much smaller project — I will simply try and use Tocqueville’s style to comment on very particular part of the American experience. I will attempt to do this without exposing my partisan views — as did Tocqueville himself.
I intend to publish once a week — though I am busy over the next few months, and publishing might be irregular. To know when the latest ones come out, you can follow me on Twitter @musiccityboer; I’ll tweet immediately when I post a new analysis.