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Democracy's SpectacleSovereignty and Public Life in Antebellum American Writing$
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Jennifer Greiman

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823230990

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823230990.001.0001

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/ “The Thing is New”: Sovereignty and Slavery in Democracy in America

/ “The Thing is New”: Sovereignty and Slavery in Democracy in America

Chapter:
(p.36) 1 / “The Thing is New”: Sovereignty and Slavery in Democracy in America
Source:
Democracy's Spectacle
Author(s):

Jennifer Greiman

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823230990.003.0002

In a footnote appended to Democracy in America's most famous chapter, “Tyranny of the Majority,” Tocqueville offers two anecdotes whose relationship to each other appears to lie in the illustration of his claim that democratic government in the United States is by no means too weak, “as many Europeans make out,” because the authority and operation of government are not necessarily limited to the state. Democracy's autoimmune response appears to be in full operation in both of these stories, as ostensibly “popular” agents take power upon themselves, acting in place of — even against — the authority of the law and the state in order to prevent the exercise of rights specifically associated with democratic citizenship. Tocqueville's description of the “strange melancholy” that haunts subjects “in the midst of abundance” reads like democracy's hangover.

Keywords:   Tocqueville, sovereignty, slavery, Democracy in America, democratic government, power, democracy

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