SOCIOLOGY – Alexis De Tocqueville – Free Ebook

Democracy was achieved by such a long arduous and heroic struggle that it can feel embarrassing even shameful to be pretty Disappointed by it Perhaps the best guy to such feelings and to Modern democracy in general is a 19th century French aristocrat [Alexis] De [Tocqueville] Photo Tocqueville Democracy was a highly exotic and new political option he’d been born in 1805 when Napoleon was the populist dictator of half of Europe But he prescient lee believed that democracy was going to be the future all over the world and so he wanted to know What would that be like? To find out he set out to America with a grant from the French government he arrived in New York together with his friend who [stabbed] a boomer in may of 1831 and then embarked on a nine-month journey around the new Nation after His journey he compiled his thoughts into one of the greatest works of political philosophy Democracy in America published in 1835 in The book De Tocqueville was particularly alive to the problematic and darker sides of Democracy five issues struck him in particular in France the society that the Tocqueville knew from childhood Making money didn’t appear at the Forefront of People’s Minds the poor had almost no chance of acquiring wealth and the tiny upper stratum of landed aristocrats Didn’t need [to] make any more money as a result for very different reasons [money] was not the way to judge a life However the Americans that de tocqueville met on his journey believed constantly that through hard work It was possible [to] make a fortune and to do so was entirely admirable and right Money seem to be quite simply the only achievement that Americans Respected for example the top fill observed that in America people believed that a book that did not sell well Just couldn’t be any good because the only test of goodness for any item was how much money it happens to make Democracy and capitalism had thus created seemingly equitable But also very flat an oppressive way for humans to judge each other In a chapter of democracy in America entitled why the Americans are often so restless in the midst of their prosperity? [de] Tocqueville sketched an enduring analysis of the relationship between high expectations and Dissatisfaction between political equality and envy he wrote when all the prerogatives of birth and fortune have been abolished When every profession is open to everyone an ambitious man May think it is easy to launch himself on a great career and feel that he has been called to no common destiny But this is a delusion which experience quickly Corrects when inequality is the general rule in Society the greatest inequalities attract, no attention But when everything is more or less level the slightest variation is noticed that is the reason for the strange Melancholy often haunting inhabitants of democracies in the Midst of abundance and of that disgust with life sometimes gripping them even in calm and easy circumstances the Old Rigid Hierarchical European system that had denied all hope of social movement to the poor was unjust in a thousand all too obvious ways to Tocqueville recognized But it had offered those on the lower rungs one notable freedom the freedom not to have to take the achievements of quite so many people in Society as Reference points, and then find themselves severely wanting in status and importance as a result Typically we think of democracy as being the opposite of Tyranny But de Tocqueville noticed that democracy could easily create its own specialized type of tyranny that of the majority Democratic culture he thought often ends up demonizing any assertion of difference an especially cultural superiority Even though such attitudes might be connected [with] real merit in a tyranny of the majority a society has an aggressive leveling instinct It’s regarded as a civic virtue to take on anyone who seems to be getting above Themselves and to cut them viciously down to size The Tocqueville was disturbed by the way in which in the [united] [States] people have no distinction Refused to think that anyone could be better than them just because they had say Trained to be a doctor for seven years or study the law for two decades or written some very good books [a] healthy and admirable reluctance to defer to people [too] easily Encouraged an unhelpful refusal to accept any kind of submission at all and yet as the Tocqueville saw it it simply must be the case that some people in society are wiser more intelligent kinder or more mature than others and Therefore should be listened to with special attention Democracy was the Tocqueville thought fatally biased towards mediocrity You suppose that democracy would encourage citizens to have an open mind however de Tocqueville came to the opposite conclusion That one could find few places with less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America trusting that their system was fair [and] just Americans simply gave up on critical thinking and put their faith in newspapers, and so called common [sense] instead Furthermore as this was a commercial society Americans were very conscious of not wanting to step too far out of line with their neighbors who might also be customers It was better to trot out cliches than to try to be original and never more so [than] when there was something to sell although to Tocqueville says a lot of really quite grim things about Democracy and America the top fill wasn’t anti-democratic or Anti-American he was just trying to show why living in a democracy could in some key ways be really quite annoying and frustrating He is teaching us the stoic lesson that certain pains just need to be expected don’t be too surprised or shocked Don’t come along with the wrong expectations Politics in a democracy [it’s] going to be pretty awful in some major ways. It’s not that we’re doing anything specifically wrong It’s just the price you pay and should be willing to pay when you give ultimate [authority] to everyone you

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