Decision Concerning MS “Democracy in America”// Author Monsieur A. de Tocqueville

Dear Monsieur DE TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis.

I am writing concerning your MS “Democracy in America”, recently submitted to Critical Review of Governments and States. I would like to thank you for considering the Journal as a publication destination. Certainly your topic is, on paper, a good fit. However, I regret to inform you that we will not be proceeding with publication. I outline the reasons for this decision below.


The principle problem with your MS is that it is unclear which disciplinary boundary it falls under. At times you appear to be engaged in an analysis of institutions; at others a sociology of American life; at yet others a political-theoretic examination of American democracy. Although CRoGaS encourages submissions from all these fields, and values and promotes an interdisciplinary research agenda, I felt that your MS was not clearly defined enough in any one of these categories. As a result it ended up being neither fish nor fowl (so to speak). Perhaps focusing on just one of these areas in an isolated and sustained manner would improve the focus. It would certainly help the reader.

Some more specific complaints:

If democracy really has been ordained by providence for over 700 years, are you not here merely stating the obvious at great length? What is the distinctive contribution of this work?

I found it difficult to follow the structure of the argument because your understanding of key concepts such as “democracy”, “liberty” and “equality” fluctuates at different points in your argument. In the case of democracy you imply on the one hand that it is an institutional mechanism, on the other that it is a social ethos. So which is it? Regarding liberty and equality, you tell us that Americans would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom. I do not follow your reasoning: how can slaves be equal? What *is* equality? Defining these terms at the outset would help.

Regarding liberty specifically, it is unclear which theory you subscribe to. At points I took you to be expounding a pure negative conception, at others some variant of republican non-domination theory. Clarifying your commitments on this point is essential.

I found it difficult to discern what the “mother idea” promised in your introduction was. Is it that democracy is the cure for democracy? That democracy eventually always saves itself from crisis? That democracy is the future, but only for Americans and not Europeans? Indeed is this even a book about America at all? You say that France has “always been in your thoughts”. If so, why not simply write a book about France? The revolution of your own country might make for a more fitting study: it would certainly have the added virtue of dispensing with the laborious and tedious discussions of American township democracy you attempt here.

Finally, I struggled to see how your Volume I was compatible with your Volume II. You close the first volume with optimism (for America, at least). Democracy’s apparent weaknesses are its hidden strengths, and in the long run it is the future of all successful commercial societies. By contrast, your second volume ends with the prediction that all democracies will degenerate into the worst forms of despotism. You are in manifest contradiction.

As an aside, I found your predictions for the future fanciful and unlikely. American democracy may well be on the rise. But a global confrontation with the backward barbarians of Muscovy and the Urals? Britain, surely, will have something to say about that! As for an American civil war over the rights of negroes, this is most improbable, and betrays a distinct lack of understanding regarding the nature of the union. In future you should stick to the present, and to the facts.


The Editor.


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