tocqueville

French policians and French writers

From "The Habit of Democracy" by Adam Gopnik in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, a review of two books about Alexis de Tocqueville:

[Tocqueville] decided to devote himself to politics in France, and, like all French literary men, made a mess of it. (French writers are emporers of conceits; French politicians must be umpires of the conceited.) 

The French character

From "The Habit of Democracy" by Adam Gopnik in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, a review of two books about Alexis de Tocqueville:

At a deeper level, too, [Tocqueville’s] turn of mind was French: witty but humorless, indifferent to empirical details, constantly searching for the lucid abstraction, what he called the "general idea." 

Relativism in political institutions

From "The Habit of Democracy" by Adam Gopnik in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, a review of two books about Alexis de Tocqueville:

"There is nothing absolute in the theoretical value of political institutions," Tocqueville wrote. "Their efficiency depends almost always on the original circumstances and the social conditions of the people to whom they are applied."