Analytical sociology in Tocqueville's Democracy in America

Christofer Edling, E. Hedstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analytical sociology seeks to explain complex social processes by carefully dissecting them and then bringing into focus their most important constituent components. It is through dissection and analytical abstractions that the important cogs and wheels of social processes are made visible and intelligible. By identifying some common features between Tocqueville's Democracy in America and contemporary analytical sociology, we argue that the explanatory approach that Tocqueville pursued in many respects is a forerunner to analytical sociology. These features are contrasted with those of other classical approaches in order to highlight the defining characteristics of Tocqueville's approach. One reason why Tocqueville is still worth reading, 200 years after his birth, is as an early example of the explanatory power of the analytical approach to sociology. However, the methodological and theoretical advances that sociology has undergone since the publication of Democracy in America makes it more interesting as a classic than as a useful source of reference for today's sociology students.
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)511-522
JournalBerliner Journal für Soziologie
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • sociology
  • sociologi
  • models

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