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Educating Democracy

Alexis de Tocqueville and Leadership in America

Brian Danoff

Publication Year: 2010

Revisionist analysis of the role of strong leadership in democracies, drawing primarily upon the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. Do strong leaders inevitably undermine democracies? Drawing upon the insights of Alexis de Tocqueville, Brian Danoff offers a compelling, revisionist analysis of the role of leadership in democratic societies. Rather than focusing on effectiveness or character to assess the quality of leaders in democracies, Tocqueville suggests that great democratic leaders are those who educate, elevate, and empower their fellow citizens; certain types of leadership enhance rather than diminish self-rule. Danoff then enriches and expands Tocqueville’s perspective through the ideas of American theorists and statesmen such as Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, and the Antifederalists. Timely and necessary, this book sheds new light on both Tocqueville and on the role of leadership in American democracy.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. 1-8

Alexis de Tocqueville is widely considered to be one of the greatest analysts of American political life, and his writings on America have been endlessly interpreted and reinterpreted. But, remarkably, there have been few, if any, sustained analyses of Tocqueville’s ideas on leadership, and the relevance problem of democratic leadership in America is through Tocqueville. ...

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Chapter 1. Tocqueville on Leadership and the Education of Democracy

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pp. 9-37

In this book, I explore the concept of democratic leadership, using Tocqueville’s ideas not as a source of definitive answers, but rather as a starting point and source of inspiration. To set the stage for the rest of the book, this chapter offers an analysis of Tocqueville’s views on leader-As noted in the introduction, Tocqueville asserted that the “first ...

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Chapter 2. The Antifederalists and Tocqueville on Democratic Leadership and Democratic Authority

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pp. 39-66

In this chapter, I examine the Antifederalists in the light of Tocqueville’s theory of leadership. I focus on the Antifederalists rather than the Federal-ists in part because I believe that the Antifederalists articulated a theory of leadership that has not been explored sufficiently by scholars. We shall see that on the subject of leadership there are important affinities between ...

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Chapter 3. Lincoln and Tocqueville on Democratic Leadership and Self-Interest Properly Understood

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pp. 67-101

In this chapter, Abraham Lincoln’s ideas on democratic leadership are examined through the lens of Tocqueville’s political theory. Scholars have sought to understand Lincoln’s thought by carefully considering it in the light of a wide variety of political thinkers, including Aristotle,1 Machiavelli,2 Locke,3 Winthrop,4 Bentham,5 and Weber.6 Detailed discus-...

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Chapter 4. Wilson and Tocqueville on Leadership and the “Character Foundations of American Democracy”

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pp. 103-140

Many American politicians have peppered their speeches with quotations from Tocqueville, usually in a superficial manner.1 In the case of Woodrow Wilson, though, we have a unique example of an American president who can genuinely be called a serious student of Tocqueville. In 1883, Wilson wrote in his private notebooks that Democracy in America contained “quite ...

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Chapter 5. The Vocation of the Democratic Moralist: Putnam, Tocqueville, and the Education of Democracy Today

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pp. 141-157

We have seen in this book that the Antifederalists, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson all suggested that a central task of leadership in America is to educate democracy. In making this argument, they each offer their own variation on a Tocquevillian theme. Like Tocqueville, these American thinkers suggest that leadership—and authority—should be understood not ...


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pp. 159-197


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pp. 199-209


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pp. 211-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781438429632
E-ISBN-10: 1438429630
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438429618
Print-ISBN-10: 1438429614

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 560600108
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Educating Democracy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Citizenship -- Study and teaching -- United States.
  • Democracy -- Study and teaching -- United States
  • Civics -- Study and teaching -- United States.
  • Education -- Aims and objectives -- United States.
  • Political leadership -- United States -- History.
  • Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1805-1859 -- Influence.
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