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Most of us probably don’t learn about Alexis de Tocqueville in school anymore, but his masterpiece,Democracy in America, is still surprisingly resonant. When he came to America in 1831 to study our great political experiment, he puzzled over our strange struggles with religion and politics, work and money, sex and gender, and love and death. Clearly we haven’t come as far as one might hope. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom—and it isn’t now. Tocqueville didn’t just catalog our problems; he provided a manual on how to flourish despite them. In The Art of Being Free, journalist and scholar James Poulos puts Tocqueville’s advice to work for a contemporary audience, showing us how to live sane, healthy, and happy lives amid our hectic, shifting world.
Poulos reveals what Tocqueville’s beloved study tells us about everything from our relationship to technology and our obsession with appearances to our workaholism, our listlessness, and our ways of coping with stress. He explores how our uniquely American malaise can be alleviated—not by the next wellness fad or self-help craze, but by the kind of fearless inventory-taking that has fallen out of fashion. Like Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live or Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Being Free offers a surprising and vital new twist on a timeless tour de force—for Americans in all ages.