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Cheryl Welch

This chapter examines Alexis de Tocqueville's social and political thought. Tocqueville is known as a forerunner of systematic social or political theory, but he is more relevant today as a philosophical historian with particular concerns that parallel those of many contemporary political thinkers. Those concerns are: how to sustain the civic practices underpinning liberal democracy, how to create such practices in the face of hostile histories, and how to think about democracy's need for stabilizing beliefs. The chapter considers the first concern through a discussion of some of the principal arguments of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the second through an analysis of The Old Regime and the Revolution, and the third by considering the moral touchstones of Tocqueville's thought, in particular his arguments about religion and family. Tocqueville's views on tyranny, individualism, despotism, and aristocracy are also explored.