It is tempting to tell you all kinds of interesting things about the life of this rather adventurous man, but here I must restrict myself to just those few biographical facts that you need to know in order to situate the book that we will discuss here. On Democracy in America, de la democratie en Amerique. After the Revolutions of 1830, Tocqueville, who had finished his law study, decided to work in the service of a government that was controlled by the progressives, backed by the new rising industrial middle class. In a way this was a choice against his own family. Later he said this was a black day, but he believed that the fundamental changes in French society are inevitable and that people from the old aristocratic classes, like himself, should offer their services in developing a new democratic France that retains some of the best elements from its feudal past. And then this young ambitious lawyer was given a very interesting assignment. He was invited to study the penitentiary system in the United States and find out if there are aspects in the treatment of criminals over there that might be adopted in France. So from May 1831 until February 1832, the 26 year old Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont traveled through the United States, visited prisons, talked to judges and lawyers and prepared their official government report. Back in France, they published the outcomes of their research in a book on the penal system in the United States and its applicability in France, and I can testify here that the copy of the first edition of that study is still in the drawer of his desk at the consul. But during that trip, Tocqueville had noticed and studied so much more than just courtrooms and prisons, and in 1835, he published the first volume of his two volume masterpiece, On Democracy in America. That book was an instant success, and from that moment on Tocqueville was a name to reckon with in Paris intellectual circles. The second volume of the book appeared in 1840. One year before Tocqueville had become a member of Parliament, representative of the District of Valognes, where the village of Tocqueville can be found. So his book is about democracy, or maybe it's better to say it's about a process of democratization. A development that unfolded in the United States so much quicker than in France that Tocqueville sometimes seems to think that a French visitor can see in the United States what the future has in store for France. It's a kind of futuristic ambition. Let us study the American democratic system, its assets, also its darker aspects in order to better understand what lies ahead for us here in Europe and profit from that information. So, democratization does not only refer to political processes. The change in politics is part of a more general movement into the direction of more equality between the members of society. The social conditions under which they live become more similar. The most striking inequalities between the social layers begin to dwindle away, people become more alike not only in the economic realm, but also in their habits, in their lifestyle. In America the differences are less flagrant than in France. For many people in the United States there is this similarity in, for example, the schools they send their children to, the houses they live in, or even the punishments that they can expect when they have committed a crime. And Tocqueville says, although we here in France pride ourselves of living in the country of liberty and of equality, in the United States we can observe a degree of equality that we have not yet achieved in France. Well, that is to say, we are not there yet, but we may be moving in that same direction. Tocqueville observed social mobility, the possibility to move from one layer of the social ladder to another layer. In the upward direction and sometimes also downward. The Americans all hope that their children will climb the social ladder in what they see as the country of the great opportunities, but at the same time, they are scared to death when they think of the possibility that their offspring will end up lower on that ladder. A society with a lot of social mobility offers opportunities, but it can not guarantee the children of the rich that they will remain just as wealthy as their parents were. Modernity comes with a kind of fear of falling, and this was beautifully spelled out by Alain de Botton, in the book aptly called status anxiety.