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Democracy Growing Up

Authority, Autonomy, and Passion in Tocqueville's Democracy in America

Laura Janara

Publication Year: 2002

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America continues to be widely read, but for all this familiarity, the vivid imagery with which he conveys his ideas has been overlooked, left to act with unexamined force upon readers’ imaginations. In this first sustained feminist reading of Democracy in America Laura Janara assesses the dramatic feminine, masculine, and infantile metaphorical figures that represent the historical political drama that is Tocqueville’s primary topic. These tropes are analyzed as both historical artifacts and symbols for psychoanalytic interpretation, deepening and complicating the standing interpretations of Tocqueville’s work. Democracy Growing Up comments critically upon the peculiar gendered and familial foundations of modern Western democracy and upon the notion of democratic maturity that Tocqueville offers us.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

I AM GRATEFUL to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for doctoral fellowships, and to the Killam Trust at Dalhousie University for a postdoctoral fellowship: respectively, these funds facilitated my doctoral dissertation and this book that has grown out of it. Scholars at the University of Minnesota provided feedback on early...

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pp. 1-7

It has been well said that notable works of political theory tend to be written in times of crisis, transition, or disorder in the human world.1 What guides these projects is a mounting sense of dread as the once-known order collapses, its familiar, engrained meanings disintegrating into social, political, and psychic confusion. In such moments when chaos seems to loom, the task of the theorist...

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1. "The Key to Almost the Whole Work"

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pp. 9-46

After opening Democracy in America's with a description of the "physical configuration" of North America,Tocqueville commences his work of social analysis.1 This he does by introducing an analogy that proves central to the book's general portrait of postaristocratic democracy.The trope consists of a vivid comparison between the birth of a human child and its development into...

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2. Genealogy, Birth, and Growth

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pp. 47-67

Tocqueville sees in 1830's France a world dramatically transformed but its future as yet unsettled. Seeking to understand the dynamics of this emergent social state to help organize the form it will take, he turns to chart the vast territory of democracy in the United States. Submerged in the resulting portrait of democracy is a narrative of family and human development...

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3. Adolescence and Maturity

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pp. 69-98

At the center of Democracy in America's symbolic family narrative is the struggle of democracy, born out of aristocracy, to grow up well. So what, for Tocqueville and in his text, constitutes such democratic maturity? In his published texts and letters,Tocqueville describes human maturation time and again as the healthy process of becoming "manly" (male, viril). This idea influenced...

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4. Homo Puer Robustus: Property, Commerce, Industry

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pp. 99-128

In Democracy in America, private property and what Tocqueville calls "commerce" and "industry" are centrally implicated in democracy's capacity to achieve healthy maturity.The text's symbolic family narrative and its protagonist, young democracy, increasingly illustrate their capacity for pathological development, as these questions of economy come to bear on Tocqueville's...

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5. Impotence and Infantilism

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pp. 129-156

In The Mermaid and the Minotaur, Dinnerstein's general aim is to reveal why people willingly surrender themselves to oppressive political and social conditions. She charges that we are ambivalent about growing up and, citing Freud, that oppression "is not wholly obnoxious to us. Identification with a powerful authority is a fatefully seductive position. Through identification...

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6. Democracy's Family Values

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pp. 157-184

Preceding chapters reveal that Democracy in America's symbolic family drama stipulates that, for health, democracy generally requires the primacy of male forces over contained though essential female forces, with each facilitating healthy expressions of the other.This final chapter examines Democracy in America's sections on family, the sexes, and marriage in democracy. In them,...

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Conclusion: Family, Gender, and Democratic Maturity

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pp. 185-196

The work of this book involves illustrating points of contact between the gendered and familial narrative that frames Democracy in America,and Dorothy Dinnerstein's (as well as Erik Erikson's) theory of human development. At many points,Tocqueville presses us to consider the problem of how democracy, as symbolic youth, and its citizens can grow up by integrating, rather than...


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pp. 197-228


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pp. 229-238


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pp. 239-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488362
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791454411
Print-ISBN-10: 079145441X

Page Count: 266
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Series Editor Byline: John G. Gunnell See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 53956521
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Democracy Growing Up

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Social conditions -- To 1865.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • Autonomy (Psychology).
  • Gender identity.
  • Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1805-1859. De la démocratie en Amérique.
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