The Making Of Tocqueville's America: Law And Association In The Early United States by Kevin Butterfield

The Making Of Tocqueville's America: Law And Association In The Early United States

byKevin Butterfield

Hardcover | November 19, 2015

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Alexis de Tocqueville was among the first to draw attention to Americans’ propensity to form voluntary associations—and to join them with a fervor and frequency unmatched anywhere in the world. For nearly two centuries, we have sought to understand how and why early nineteenth-century Americans were, in Tocqueville’s words, “forever forming associations.” In The Making of Tocqueville’s America, Kevin Butterfield argues that to understand this, we need to first ask: what did membership really mean to the growing number of affiliated Americans?

Butterfield explains that the first generations of American citizens found in the concept of membership—in churches, fraternities, reform societies, labor unions, and private business corporations—a mechanism to balance the tension between collective action and personal autonomy, something they accomplished by emphasizing law and procedural fairness. As this post-Revolutionary procedural culture developed, so too did the legal substructure of American civil society. Tocqueville, then, was wrong to see associations as the training ground for democracy, where people learned to honor one another’s voices and perspectives. Rather, they were the training ground for something no less valuable to the success of the American democratic experiment: increasingly formal and legalistic relations among people.

About The Author

Kevin Butterfield is assistant professor of classics and letters at the University of Oklahoma, where he is also senior associate director of the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage.

by Kevin Butterfield


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Title:The Making Of Tocqueville's America: Law And Association In The Early United StatesFormat:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:November 19, 2015Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629708X

ISBN - 13:9780226297088

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“In this intriguing book, Butterfield traces the rise of voluntary associations in the early years of the Republic and the changing nature of the associational landscape as the nineteenth century progressed. In a series of short and lively chapters that zoom out to consider organizing efforts across the board and zoom in to analyze the details of particular associations, Butterfield shows that the vibrant world of membership de Tocqueville reported on in the 1830s was not some natural outgrowth of the Revolutionary experience, but the result of four decades of intense debate over the appropriate scope and form of private affiliations. In excavating the deeper foundations of the 1830s associational edifice, Butterfield’s book makes important contributions to the history of voluntary associations and of antebellum politics.”