In the third week of Political Studies, fellows will consider the liberal tradition and its expression in America. The first section will consider the question of American national character through a close reading of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The second section will take a more wide-ranging approach—with selections from Burke, Tocqueville, the Federalist, and contemporary thinkers—to reflect on the moral content of liberalism.

Both courses will engage great champions and critics of liberalism to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our political and social order. Fellows will examine how liberalism rightly understood can promote individual freedom amid moral order, and what might be required today to sustain (or revive) our free society.

Images: Centennial mirror, poster commemorating 100 years of Independence of the United States

Yuval Levin on creating unity in a diverse society


Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin is a Resident Scholar and Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the Editor of National Affairs magazine. Mr. Levin served on the White House domestic policy staff under President George W. Bush.

Jenna Silber Storey

Jenna Silber Storey is a senior fellow in the Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies department at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the co-author of a book with Benjamin Storey: Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session


  • Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. 4: “Of the Principle of the Sovereignty of the People in America”
  • Vol. 1, Part 1, Ch. 5: “Necessity of Studying What Takes Place in the Particular States before Speaking of the Government of the Union,” pp. 53–65
  • Vol. 2, Part 2, Ch. 20: “How Aristocracy Could Issue from Industry”
  • Vol. 2, Part 4, Chs. 1–3 and 6–8:
    • “Equality Naturally Gives Men the Taste for Free Institutions,”
    • “That the Idea of Democratic Peoples in the Matter of Government Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Powers,”
    • “That the Sentiments of Democratic Peoples are in Accord with Their Ideas to Bring Them to Concentrate Power,”
    • “What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear,”
    • “Continuation of the Preceding Chapters,” and
    • “General View of the Subject”


  • Vol 2, Part 1, Chs. 1–2 and 5:
    • “On the Philosophic Method of the Americans,”
    • “On the Principal Source of Beliefs among Democratic Peoples,” and
    • “How, in the United States, Religion Knows How to Make Use of Democratic Instincts”
  • Vol. 2, Part 3, Chs. 8–12:
    • “Influence of Democracy on the Family,”
    • “Education of Girls in the United States,”
    • “How the Girl is Found Beneath the Features of the Wife,”
    • “How Equality of Conditions Contributes to Maintaining Good Mores in America,” and
    • “How the Americans Understand the Equality of Man and Woman”


  • Vol. 2, Part 1, Chs. 10 and 17:
    • “Why the Americans Apply Themselves to the Practice of the Sciences Rather than to the Theory,” and
    • “On Some Sources of Poetry in Democratic Nations”
  • Vol. 2, Part 2, Chs. 10–13:
    • “On the Taste for Material Well-Being in America,”
    • “On the Particular Effects That the Love of Material Enjoyments Produces in Democratic Countries,”
    • “Why Certain Americans Display Such an Exalted Spiritualism,” and
    • “Why the Americans Show Themselves So Restive in the Midst of Their Well-Being”
  • Vol. 2, Part 2, Ch. 16: “How the Excessive Love of Well-Being Can be Harmful to Well-Being”


Discussion Questions:

  1. Is the liberal society capable of keeping what Kristol describes as its promises?
  2. Why do we tend to couch our political principles in terms of freedom?
  3. Is political practice applied political theory? If it isn’t, then what is the point of political theory?
  4. Can the liberal society produce good citizens? Can it produce good people? Did it produce you?

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