AMERICA REVISITED: 150 Years after Tocqueville by Eugene J. McCarthy

AMERICA REVISITED: 150 Years after Tocqueville

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The former Minnesota Senator compares contemporary America with the America observed in 1831 by Alexis de Tocqueville. His concerns--including the treatment of Indians and blacks, prisons, religion, the economy, the media, and politics--range so much wider than his attempts at synthesis that the book seems directionless. And even when, chapter by chapter, he puts his finger on a significant trend, he fails to explain it. He notes, for example, that today's voluntary citizens' associations are more defensive and negative than those of the 19th century, but offers no analysis. Worse, he shows little acuity at the observer's level, blandly enumerating such now-familiar phenomena as the concentration of media ownership, corporate feudalism, and the personalization of the presidency. His approaches to America's ills are sensible but usually unoriginal, as per his suggestion that only violent criminals be jailed. And whereas his plan for reforming the electoral college is thoughtful (he'd make it a more independent deliberative body), its efficacy is doubtful. McCarthy, moreover, is no historian. It is not true that few lawyers supported the American Revolution; the maxim ""Tyranny begins where annual elections end"" is incorrectly attributed; and the discussion of the profitability of slavery is based on a long-outdated book. The twice-past presidential aspirant seems to be grinding an are against the major parties and appealing to a not altogether authentic past.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday