by: Alexix de Tocqueville
(Translated by: George Lawrence)
Harper Perenial Modern Classics
Reviewed by: Michael LoBue
The book, in any translation, is required reading for any professional manager of a trade association or professional society in the United States!
de Tocqueville’s observations of the American culture are as relevant today as when he made them more than 160 years ago. His observations are important to understanding the nuances of what might appear to be conflicting characteristics. For example, he observed that Americans were very critical of their politicians, other citizens and perhaps even “American traits,” but they were utterly intolerant of criticism from non-Americans.
This is an especially important read for anyone familiar with associations in the United States wanting to “export” the American model abroad. Associations in America are a unique private response to a public issue/need. Rather than requiring the permission of government to form, our laws are crafted to make such private responses easy and inexpensive to undertake.
We Americans may have borrowed the European model for associations, but we put such a unique twist on that model, making it dangerous to assume that associations elsewhere are the same. It’s not necessarily better, but it is uniquely American.
For those interested in just a taste of what de Tocqueville observed about associations in a America, here is his chapter (it’s short) “On the Use Which The Americans Make of Associations in Civil Life.”