Tocqueville Forum on Liberal Democracy


The Tocqueville Forum strives to foster an enriched understanding of America’s political principles and encourage informed civic engagement. Launched in 2020, as a partnership between the Department of Political Science and Economics and the Jack Miller Center, the forum offers an annual series of lectures, seminars, reading groups, and other programming which advances a deeper knowledge of America’s fundamental political commitments to liberty and equality.

The Tocqueville Forum takes its bearings from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and particularly his famous declaration that “A new political science is needed for a world altogether new.” Tocqueville’s words reflected the challenges faced by political science in the face of the new democratic states springing up in Europe and the Americas. Despite his hope that the fledgling democracies would secure ordered liberty, Tocqueville also recognized that democratic revolutions could lead to the class warfare and terrorism witnessed during the French Revolution. His writings remind us that liberal democracy holds both promise and peril: liberal regimes have promoted freedom and equality, protected individual rights, and encouraged economic prosperity at an unprecedented level, but democracy also sometimes falls prey to its worst impulses and promotes false conceptions of equality, radical individualism, materialism, and apathy among its citizens. But unlike some modern critics of liberal democracy, who dismiss it as a hopeless cause, Tocqueville declared himself “full of fears and full of hopes” for the fate of democracy in America. Through a “new political science,” he sought to preempt liberal democracy’s vices while maintaining its advantages.

Following this model, the Tocqueville Forum promotes civil debate and inquiry into America’s founding principles to facilitate informed citizenship. The civic engagement needed to maintain our free government necessitates citizens who are keenly aware of liberal democracy’s advantages as well as its dangers. Christendom College’s liberal arts curriculum helps to educate and form free adults, capable of flourishing in a truly free society. The Forum aids in this endeavor by offering opportunities for greater understanding of our regime’s fundamental principles, searching discussion of those principles in rational and civil discourse, and encouragement of civic engagement that aims to preserve our political heritage.

For more information contact Dr. Kevin Burns at kevin.burns@christendom.edu  or  540-551-9228.

Christendom College admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
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