Dilemmas of Popular Sovereignty: Tocqueville’s Perspective

Seminars and Colloquia

Might a 19th century thinker help us grapple with political dilemmas of the 21st? This talk brought Tocqueville to bear on liberal democracy’s present discontents by exploring his understanding of popular sovereignty and its ramifications for democratic politics. While Tocqueville embraced popular sovereignty as an abstract principle and American practice, he also diagnosed its inherent dangers. Tocqueville’s clairvoyant analysis of the dilemmas faced by the American Union of his day offers a privileged site for considering enduring challenges to liberal democracy.


Eva Atanassow is a Junior Professor of Political Thought at Bard College Berlin and  a Józef Tischner Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comments by Aishwary Kumar (Senior Fellow, Human Rights, Constitutional Politics, and Religious Diversity; Lichtenberg Kolleg, Göttingen Institute of Advanced Study)