Alexis de Tocqueville watched with horror as American society and politics changed in the two decades following the publication of Democracy in America. During the 1840s and 1850s, the factors that Tocqueville had earlier identified as sustaining the republic—its land and location, its laws, and its mores—had begun to undermine it. Recent work on civil society, the public sphere, and social capital is congruent with a Tocquevillian analysis of the causes of the Civil War. The associational networks that had once functioned as bridging social capital fractured under the stress of slavery, becoming sources of divisive regional, bonding social capital.

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