American Journey: Traveling with Tocqueville in Search of Democracy in America

From Clockworks2
Jump to navigationJump to search

Reeves, Richard. American Journey: Traveling with Tocqueville in Search of Democracy in America. New York City: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Tocqueville reference is to De la démocratie en Amérique (1835).[1]

Definitely tangential work of historically-based, academically-inflected journalism, with useful background passim on democracy and technology in America, especially communications technology.

From Encanto Books page on American Journey:

Synopsis: In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville began a nine-month journey in search of what he later called “Democracy in America.” Using Tocqueville’s original notes, Richard Reeves retraced those travels, going to the same places to find the modern counterparts of the Americans of the 1830s.[2]

Relevant here is looking back from our now (2021 for the Initial Compiler) to Reeves in 1981-82 or so looking back on the America Tocqueville saw in 1831, amidst a "technological driven speedup in democracy [...] different from the slow building of public opinion that Tocqueville had seen and studied," e.g., how "instantaneous electronic debate" is "by its nature confrontational" (Reeves p. 244). Also, not long after the American war in Vietnam:

Presidents and allied elites had [previously]controlled foreign policy by controlling the flow of information from abroad — until technology began distributing facts, opinions, and pictures indiscriminately. Radio, television, cables, satellites, jets, and telephones — the technology changed what we knew and when we knew it about other nations and the mysteries of diplomacy. The President, by the end of the twentieth century, was seeing the same battlefield on television news — or a premier's statement, or riots in Poland — at the same time his constituents saw it. He had no power in selecting the image, the timing, the words — and not enough influence in creating "average" opinions. (Reeves, p. 350).

In the 21st century, we can add other media and variations on the theme of how communications technology works for and against democracy in America and elsewhere, and whether those variations on democracy are good for the American Republic.

RDE, finishing, 27Jul21