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Tocqueville's Political Economy
Richard Swedberg

Paperback | November 2017 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691178011
352 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
Hardcover | 2009 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691132990
352 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 25 halftones. 1 line illus. 5 tables.
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Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) has long been recognized as a major political and social thinker as well as historian, but his writings also contain a wealth of little-known insights into economic life and its connection to the rest of society. In Tocqueville's Political Economy, Richard Swedberg shows that Tocqueville had a highly original and suggestive approach to economics--one that still has much to teach us today.

Through careful readings of Tocqueville's two major books and many of his other writings, Swedberg lays bare Tocqueville's ingenious way of thinking about major economic phenomena. At the center of Democracy in America, Tocqueville produced a magnificent analysis of the emerging entrepreneurial economy that he found during his 1831-32 visit to the United States. More than two decades later, in The Old Regime and the Revolution, Tocqueville made the complementary argument that it was France's blocked economy and society that led to the Revolution of 1789. In between the publication of these great works, Tocqueville also produced many lesser-known writings on such topics as property, consumption, and moral factors in economic life. When examined together, Swedberg argues, these books and other writings constitute an interesting alternative model of economic thinking, as well as a major contribution to political economy that deserves a place in contemporary discussions about the social effects of economics.

Richard Swedberg is professor of sociology at Cornell University. His books include Principles of Economic Sociology; Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology; and Schumpeter: A Biography (all Princeton).


"[T]he book is engaging and, along with its 50 pages of notes and source material, offers many insights into this important period in the history of economic thought."--J. Halteman, Choice

"Swedberg fills his book with intriguing information, observations, and syntheses, some of which range far beyond his stated topic."--Alan Sica, American Journal of Sociology


"In this thorough, clearly written, and superbly organized book, Swedberg persuasively presents Tocqueville as a creative and original analyst of economic topics. Swedberg also answers the question of whether Tocqueville 'got' America with a resounding 'yes.' Swedberg's work focuses especially on Tocqueville's way of thinking, and is a fresh, outstanding addition to contemporary Tocqueville scholarship and to the study of modern economic thought."--James T. Schleifer, author of The Making of Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"

"In this highly readable account of Tocqueville's entire career, Richard Swedberg shows him to be a pioneering economic sociologist who had an unusual appreciation of the unique features of the early American economy. There is a vast literature on Tocqueville as an ideologue of democracy but nothing like this book for depicting Tocqueville as a sophisticated political economist in the tradition of the English classical economists."--Mark Blaug, Amsterdam School of Economics

"Tocqueville's Political Economy is written with all the intelligence, thoroughness, and erudition characteristic of Richard Swedberg. By laying out Tocqueville's largely overlooked understanding of how economies work and relate to the rest of societies, this book makes a major contribution."--Bruce G. Carruthers, Northwestern University

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
CHAPTER ONE: The Economy of the New World 6
CHAPTER TWO: The Other Democratic Economy 38
CHAPTER THREE: Tocqueville's Background in Economics 73
CHAPTER FOUR: Tocqueville's Approach to Economic Analysis 100
CHAPTER FIVE: Pauperism and the Habits of Property 126
CHAPTER SIX: Politics in a Democratic Economy 146
CHAPTER SEVEN: Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs 173
CHAPTER EIGHT: Threats to the Democratic Economy 199
CHAPTER NINE: Sorrento and the Return to Thinking 219
CHAPTER TEN: The Economy of the Old World 238
EPILOGUE: Thinking with Tocqueville 272
Notes 285
Index 337

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