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Too Many Tocquevilles: The Fable of Tocqueville's American Reception

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 69, Number 2, April 2008
pp. 245-268 | 10.1353/jhi.2008.0010



Robert Nisbet's influential "Many Tocquevilles" is shown to be lacking in evidence for its contentions about Tocqueville's reputation from 1870 to 1940 and about American intellectuals' interpretations of his works after 1940. The uncritical reception accorded to "Many Tocquevilles" led to distortions of Tocqueville's thought and an erasure of an important part of the historical record, resulting in significant harm to the field. Nisbet made his unsupported assertions to bolster conservative political positions. Tocqueville was widely read between 1870 and 1940. No evidence exists for Nisbet's claims about interpretations of Tocqueville's works supposedly made by subsequent American commentators.

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