By the same authors

Books that Matter. The case of Tocqueville's Democracy in America

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JournalThe Sociological Quarterly
DatePublished - 7 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article addresses a puzzle in the history of academic disciplines: Why is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, once considered a sociological classic, nowadays mostly praised as a classic in political philosophy? Existing approaches emphasize either aspects internal to the text or to the figure of the author, or external factors such as historical contexts and disciplinary dynamics. Our explanation questions the assumption that texts are stable and explores the pragmatic interplay between text-artifact-metaphor. The result is a pragmatic genealogy of the successive material incarnations of Democracy since 1945. This allows us to account for the various meanings that have been associated with Democracy (and Tocqueville) at key historical moments in terms of the cultural work of collectives of agents around the text and its material form so as to make it the icon of certain political and disciplinary projects.

Keywords: Tocqueville; Democracy in America; history of the social sciences; social theory; political theory; materiality

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    Research areas

  • Tocqueville; Democracy in America; history of the social sciences; social theory; political theory; materiality

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