Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville (French: [alɛksi də tɔkvil]; 29 July 1805  16 April 1859),[6] colloquially known as Tocqueville (/ˈtɒkvɪl, ˈtk-/),[7] was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes, 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both, he analysed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

Alexis de Tocqueville
Portrait by Théodore Chassériau (1850), at the Palace of Versailles
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
2 June 1849  30 October 1849
Prime MinisterOdilon Barrot
Preceded byÉdouard Drouyn de Lhuys
Succeeded byAlphonse de Rayneval
President of the General Council of Manche
In office
27 August 1849  29 April 1852
Preceded byLéonor-Joseph Havin
Succeeded byUrbain Le Verrier
Member of the National Assembly
for Manche
In office
25 April 1848  3 December 1851
Preceded byLéonor-Joseph Havin
Succeeded byHervé de Kergorlay
ConstituencySainte-Mère-Église
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Manche
In office
7 March 1839  23 April 1848
Preceded byJules Polydore Le Marois
Succeeded byGabriel-Joseph Laumondais
ConstituencyValognes
Personal details
Born
Alexis Charles Henri Clérel de Tocqueville

(1805-07-29)29 July 1805
Paris, France
Died16 April 1859(1859-04-16) (aged 53)
Cannes, France
Political partyMovement Party[1][2]
(1839–1848)
Party of Order
(1848–1851)
Spouse(s)
Mary Mottley
(m. 1835)
Alma materUniversity of Paris
ProfessionHistorian, magistrate, jurist

Philosophy career
Notable work
Democracy in America (1835)
The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856)
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolLiberalism[3][4][5]
Main interests
History, political philosophy, sociology
Notable ideas
Voluntary association, mutual liberty, soft despotism, soft tyranny, Tocqueville effect

Tocqueville was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte's 2 December 1851 coup and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution.[8] Tocqueville argued the importance of the French Revolution was to continue the process of modernizing and centralizing the French state which had begun under King Louis XIV. The failure of the Revolution came from the inexperience of the deputies who were too wedded to abstract Enlightenment ideals.

Tocqueville was a classical liberal who advocated parliamentary government and was skeptical of the extremes of democracy.[8] During his time in parliament, he sat on the centre-left,[9] but the complex and restless nature of his liberalism has led to contrasting interpretations and admirers across the political spectrum.[3][4][5][10] Regarding his political position, Tocqueville wrote "the word 'left' is [...] the word I wanted to attach to my name so that it would remain attached to it forever".[11]