In the eleventh century, nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth, it might be purchased. The gradual development of the principle of equality is, therefore, a providential fact. Instead of proceeding from ideas of right and responsibility, Tocqueville preferred to begin by analyzing social institutions as they functioned in reality.
Where are we, then? This, however, is what we think of least; placed in the middle of a rapid stream, we obstinately fix our eyes on the ruins that may still be descried upon the shore we have left, while the current hurries us away and drags us backward towards the abyss.
In turn, poetry and the arts and sciences came to be accessible to the people and not just to rulers. The result has been that the democratic revolution has taken place in the body of society without that concomitant change in the laws, ideas, customs, and morals which was necessary to render such a revolution beneficial.
Mansfield calls it "at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America. Henceforward every new invention, every new want which it occasioned, and every new desire which craved satisfaction were steps towards a general leveling.
Land is continually broken up into parcels, sold, developed, and transformed. While the power of the crown, supported by the aristocracy, peaceably governed the nations of Europe, society, in the midst of its wretchedness, had several sources of happiness which can now scarcely be conceived or appreciated.
There are virtuous and peaceful individuals whose pure morality, quiet habits, opulence, and talents fit them to be the leaders of their fellow men.
Some assisted democracy by their talents, others by their vices. Tocqueville points out that, under this form of government, power is concentrated in the hands of the voter; the legislative and executive branches have no power of their own, but merely represent those who appoint them.
Now all distinctions of rank are being eroded, property is being divided among many, and the abilities of all, no matter their class, are being cultivated equally. Just about every country in the world trades with, tours in, and watches for the United States. In order to further explain why the American example is useful to France, Tocqueville begins with a brief summary of the political history of his own country—a history that he thinks is emblematic for Euro-American civilizations, all of which have witnessed what seems to be an inexorable march toward democracy and the greater equality of conditions that accompanies it.
I carefully noted every conversation of this nature as soon as it occurred, but these notes will never leave my writing-case. The vast swath of reasons offered by Tocqueville to explain the rise of democracy suggests just how over-determined he considers the process of democratization to be across the Western world, with roots in politics, technology, and religion, among other fields.
There is one country in the world where the great social revolution that I am speaking of seems to have nearly reached its natural limits. Another observation of Alexis is that religion is associated with all the customs of the nation and all the feelings of patriotism.
All then servilely submitted to its caprices; it was worshipped as the idol of strength; and when afterwards it was enfeebled by its own excesses, the legislator conceived the rash project of destroying it, instead of instructing it and correcting its vices.
Consistent with this limited view of the potential of women to act as equals to men, as well as his apparently missing on his travels seeing the nurturing roles that many men in the United States played, particularly in the Delaware Valley region of cultures where there was a lot of influence by Society of Friends as well as a tradition of male and female equality, Tocqueville considered the separate spheres of women and men a positive development, stating: The division of property has lessened the distance which separated the rich from the poor; but it would seem that, the nearer they draw to each other, the greater is their mutual hatred and the more vehement the envy and the dread with which they resist each other's claims to power; the idea of right does not exist for either party, and force affords to both the only argument for the present and the only guarantee for the future.
If the men of our time should be convinced, by attentive observation and sincere reflection, that the gradual and progressive development of social equality is at once the past and the future of their history, this discovery alone would confer upon the change the sacred character of a divine decree.
Tocqueville also outlines the possible excesses of passion for equality among men, foreshadowing the totalitarian states of the twentieth century.
But I do not conclude from this that we shall ever be necessarily led to draw the same political consequences which the Americans have derived from a similar social organization. In former ages slavery was advocated by the venal and slavishminded, while the independent and the warm-hearted were struggling without hope to save the liberties of mankind.
Tocqueville concludes by pointing to a contrast between aristocratic and democratic tendencies in the sphere of lawmaking. Noting the rise of the industrial sector in the American economy, Tocqueville, some scholars have argued, also correctly predicted that an industrial aristocracy would rise from the ownership of labor.
This book is written to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no design of serving or attacking any party. The people, never having conceived the idea of a social condition different from their own, and never expecting to become equal to their leaders, received benefits from them without discussing their rights.
Materialism Situation of women[ edit ] Tocqueville was one of the first social critics to examine the situation of U. The first category of patriotism is, for Tocqueville, the kind of patriotism that an aristocracy develops.
The phenomena which the intellectual world presents are not less deplorable. This is applicable to American life in because the whole world is practically joined to the United States.Tocqueville suggests in his opening that he is not aiming to write an introduction to American society that will merely be of scholarly interest, but instead thinks that.
An Introduction to the work of Alexis de Tocuqeville discussing his major works, Democracy in America, The Old Regime and the Revolution, and Souvenirs. Democracy in America is now widely studied in America universities, and it has been quoted by Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and Congressmen.
Humbler instances of its influence abound; for example, the name for the most generous category of giver to The United Way is the “Alexis de Tocqueville Society”.
Alexis de Tocqueville, an aristocratic Frenchman, visited the United States in and observed the nature of its government and people. His analysis is still important, especially to readers.
Notes. 1 At the time I published the first edition of this work, M. Gustave deBeaumont, my traveling-companion in America, was still working on his book entitled Marie, ou l'Esclaoage aux Etats-Unis, which has since appeared.
De Tocqueville’s Democracy In America: It has been said that a French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States in the ’s, “understood us” in a way that few observers (foreign and domestic) have.Download