2010 • $30.00 • 218 pp • hardback
Tags: Political Science
Over the last two decades there appears to have been a reawakening of interest in the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville, and in particular his great work, Democracy in America. Several new and significant commentaries have drawn proper attention to Tocqueville’s trenchant observations and sober and prudent recommendations. Most significantly, Tocqueville is now widely recognized as presenting the most penetrating insights concerning the psychology of the egalitarian majority and of the democratic individual. For this reason especially, Tocqueville is of vital interest to a sort of thinker who, following in James Madison’s furrow, seeks to understand and respond to the danger of tyranny of the majority. Still, one might wonder whether such an appreciation of Tocqueville does full justice to what he means when he describes his intention for his book as presenting “a new political science. . .for a world itself quite new.” It’s an aggressive statement. Does Tocqueville mean that what he writes has the scope, the comprehensive rationality, that would rival and even displace Montesquieu, whose political science does not yet belong to the “world . . .quite new?”
Koritansky’s interpretation of Democracy in America is guided by an affirmative response to this question. More substantively, the interpretation seeks to demonstrate that Tocqueville’s “science” rests squarely on the political philosophy of Rousseau. What Tocqueville explains about America is the operation of the “general will.” The present volume is a new edition of Koritansky's book, first published in 1986 in which Koritansky seeks to demonstrate Tocqueville Rouseauism by way of a chapter by chapter commentary on Democracy in America. It contains a new addendum that more fully elaborates what Koritansky shows to be the fundamental core of the political science that Tocqueville and Rousseau share, namely the civil religion. Religion in Tocqueville’s America is, for the most part, the spiritual consciousness of the general will. The problematical character of this religion emerges as the broadest and most vexing challenge to modern statesmanship in our world.