Renaud Lassus

The Revival of Democracy in America and the Better Angels of Your Nature Letter from a European Friend Publication date : February 4, 2021

A worthy heir to Alexis de Tocqueville’s landmark nineteenth-century analysis of the democratic experiment in the United States, Renaud Lassus’s The Revival of Democracy in America is both a brisk, lucid assessment of the nation’s current political and social climate and a resounding call for optimism at a moment when the prevailing winds seem to be blowing the other way.

The book’s first part is devoted to a nuanced and expansive diagnosis of the various crises, from immigration and economic inequality to media fragmentation and the outsize role of money in politics, that have created tensions and fault lines in American society. Lassus argues persuasively that these problems, some of which have been taking root for more than a generation, are complex and intertwined, but not insurmountable.

Indeed, the book’s second section presents evidence of an ongoing renewal of thought and action in support and defense of America’s core democratic values, sea changes in political orientations and public attitudes toward such issues as climate change, corporate governance, genetic modification, and artificial intelligence. These shifts are giving rise to new coalitions and consensuses among both Washington insiders and actors not traditionally active in civic discourse, with encouraging implications for not just the United States but European democracies as well. Populism, Lassus concludes, no longer has a monopoly on political innovation.

The Revival of Democracy in America is an ambitious and illuminating synthesis of multiple intersecting narratives, a case against the temptations of despair, and a document of a fraught but consequential moment in history, likely to be as valuable to future readers as Tocqueville’s book is today.

Renaud Lassus is Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs in the Economic and Treasury Affairs department of the Embassy of France in the United States. He has spent nearly a decade in Washington, D.C. cultivating relationships with economic and political actors and developing a nuanced perspective on American society. The Revival of Democracy in America is his first book.