Tocquevillean Poetics
Political Science Reviewer, Volume 42.2
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Political Science

How to Cite

Tocquevillean Poetics: Political Science, the Nation, and Humanity. (2020). The Political Science Reviewer, 44(2), 289-320.


While ancient thinkers understood poetry and the arts to be an essential problem of political philosophy, the political importance of poetry generally decreased for many modern philosophers. Among more recent thinkers, however, I argue that Tocqueville revived political reflection on poetry and the importance of poetry for politics. I demonstrate that by redefining poetry in a capacious manner, and in considering equality’s effect on the democratic imagination, Tocqueville foresaw an unfolding development toward—and subsequent clash between—nationalist and humanitarian poetries, or ideals. I then discuss Tocqueville’s caution against unmitigated universalism, or humanitarianism, and some of the instruction provided by his political science, which includes tethering the ideal of universal humanity to the particularity of the nation, and the poetry of the nation to that of humanity, in turn. Tocqueville thus serves as a helpful guide for mitigating today’s “globalist-nationalist” divide.

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