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Analytical sociology in Tocqueville's Democracy in America

  • Christofer Edling
  • E. Hedstrom
Publishing year: 2005
Language: German
Pages: 511-522
Publication/Series: Berliner Journal für Soziologie
Volume: 15
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften
Additional info: 4

Abstract english

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.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • sociology
  • sociologi
  • models


  • ISSN: 0863-1808
Christofer Edling
E-mail: christofer [dot] edling [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se


Faculty of Social Sciences

+46 46 222 88 62



Centre for Economic Demography




+46 46 222 88 62




I earned my PhD from Stockholm University in 1999. Between 2002 and 2005 I was Torgny Segerstedt Pro Futura Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study at Uppsala University. I received my Docent-title in 2003, and was appointed Associate Professor at Stockholm University in 2004. From 2006 to 2008 I was Head of the Department of Sociology at Stockholm university. Before coming to Lund in 2012 I served as Full Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. I have been a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2004/05) and Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (2013).

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences