Three main features that Tocqueville regarded as central to American democracy are discussed: the importance of local government, the concept of "civil association," and "the spirit of religion." The book is not simply a celebration of the democratic experience in America; Tocqueville is deeply worried about the potential of a democratic tyranny.
This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.