Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859) is the author of one of the greatest pieces of political sociology ever written. It is Democracy in America, appearing in two volumes in 1835 and 1840. It would be worth a close study even if it weren’t directly about the 19th-century American experience.
Democracy (tempered by republican institutions) was rather new in the modern age, appearing in full flower in the United States. But it became rather apparent after the French Revolution that the age of monarchy and aristocratic control of politics was passing onward to a new age.
The aristocrats, as he well knew and understood, had been the partial guardians of liberty as Europe then knew it. The question became could liberty survive an age without monarchy where the people essentially controlled their political fate?
His answer was decisively yes, but with conditions. The conditions that tempered the dangers of democracy to human liberty were present in the American context. He set out to investigate them and report on them in these two wonderful volumes.
Democracy in America is all the more prescient that it remains probably the best account of the state of politics in the maturing American nation. No student of American politics, history, or society can afford to be unfamiliar with its contents.