Tocqueville Redivivusnby Clyde Wilsonn”America does not repel the past or what it hasnproduced.”n—Walt WhitmannJohn Lukacs: OutgrowingnDemocracy: A History of the UnitednStates in the Twentieth Century;nDoubleday; Garden City, NY.nWere some power, either repubhcannor princely, to entrust menwith a classroom of promising youthnwho were to be educated to becomenthe best possible historians of thenfuture—well, I would find the worksnof John Lukacs indispensable. Why?nSimply because I can discover in ourntime no better example of creativenhistorical thinking and practice.nof apprehending the world andnuniquely characteristic of the West.nHe has also practiced what he hasnpreached. Each of his books—A NewnHistory of the Cold War; The Passing ofnthe Modern Age; The Last EuropeannWar: J939-J941; 1945: The Year Zero;nPhiladelphia: Patricians and Philistines,nand the latest—has provided anworking example of how to apply historicalnthinking to the understandingnof some part of the awesomenand overwhelming experience of ourncentury.nMany of our best historians, afterntheir first few insights, have tended tonltU&iHS«UJ«ji4tiirUiV>i.U^i-li:iitMt-i<..i.(i…< -.-f-.,-*•….>. . .,.r :^ri«iUrtlAisU*tU3i^a«M)AtChiHaU>n16 / CHRONICLESnOne of Lukacs’ themes has been thendefense, at the same time innovativenand reactionary, of history as a form ofnknowledge—distinct from other formsnClyde Wilson is editor of The Papersnof John C. Calhoun and professor ofnhistory at the University of SouthnCarolina.nrepeat themselves. (This, perhaps, isnmore a criticism of national standardsnof discourse and the degradation ofnAmerican publishing than it is of historians.)nBy contrast, Lukacs has inneach book set himself a new challenge.nPurposes and themes recur, of course,nbut each book has been an exhibit inncreative historical practice, and Out­nnngrowing Democracy is no exception.nBasic to Lukacs’ performance wasnhis realization, early on, that the canonsnof historiography created in then19th century were not fully applicablento the historical reconstruction andnunderstanding of the 20th. History, bynthese canons, was to be written from anthorough and thoroughly detached examinationnof the documentary record.nThis was and is an eminently soundndoctrine, but the secret of all goodnrules is in knowing when to applynthem. (For instance, computers arenmarvelous aids for accounting and fornanalysis of empirical data, but to applynthem more than incidentally to mattersnsuch as education or warfare merelynreveals that the researcher does notnknow what he is doing. This, Lukacsnwould say, is a characteristicallynAmerican error.)nThe canons of historical researchnsimply do not fit our century. Ourncentury is the century of inflationn(another of Lukacs’ themes), includingninflation of the documentary record.nLike dollar bills, there are more andnmore documents worth less and lessn(not to mention the shift of large segmentsnof communication and consciousnessnaway from the written wordnto electronic and pictorial media). Tonwrite the history of the 20th centurynfrom documents alone is both impossiblenand irrelevant. Historical understandingnmust, rather, be an imaginativenact—faithful to the factual recordnbut embodying a process closer to thatnof creative literature than scientificninvestigation. Lukacs has dramaticallyndemonstrated the utility of this approachnsuccessfully once more in OutgrowingnDemocracy, though the booknhas received less favorable attentionnthan some of his other works.nThe challenge that Lukacs has setnhimself in Outgrowing Democracy isnToequevillian—the interpretation ofnthe nature and status of Americanndemocracy as it has evolved throughnour century. For his purpose, the tiflenis perhaps unfortunate, for it gives annunjustified authoritarian connotadonnto his analysis. What Lukacs’ analysisnseeks is not the abandonment but thenmaturing of American democracy. It isnjust such a work as Tocqueville himselfnwould have written—could he havenadded to his knowledge of the Jacobinnrevolution a sad wisdom acquired byn