Democracy in America, Volumes One and Two by Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Henry Reeve is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable . Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Tocqueville, Alexis de, – [De la démocratie en Amérique. English]. Democracy in America/Alexis. Democracy in America: historical-critical edition of De la démocratie en Amérique /Alexis de Tocqueville; edited by Eduardo Nolla; translated from the French by.
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5 On the Government of Democracy in America. On Universal Suffrage. On the Choices of the People and the Instincts of American Democracy in Its. Choices. Book Two: Influence Of Democracy On Progress Of Opinion in The United treated of in the work on the Democracy of America, which I published five years . Democracy in America. byTocqueville, Alexis de, ; Reeve, Henry, ; Spencer, John C. (John Canfield),
Public opinion is bound to the majority in the executive, legislative, and judicial spheres. If only, he thinks, the branches could represent the majority without being enslaved to its desires. As it is, there is no sure guard against tyranny. Although Tocqueville spends a great deal of time warning against majority rule—a key aspect of a democracy—his point here is that his concern is actually in the interest of liberty, not against it.
Tyranny is tyranny regardless of whether it happens through the rule of one or the rule of many, he argues. The stronger a democracy becomes, the more powerful the majority becomes as well—and thus the more it approximates the force of a despot.
Active Themes Related Quotes with Explanations Tocqueville distinguishes between tyranny, which may well be enacted within the law, and arbitrary power, which may be enacted for the public good and thus not be tyrannical.
The power of the majority in the US favors both tyranny and the arbitrary power of the lawmaker. They are more independent than in France, and as a result, America remains potentially susceptible to challenges to its liberties. If tyranny is facilitated by majority-based election in America, arbitrary power is facilitated by the lack of checks and balances in the legislative branch. Download it!
The tyranny of the majority is potentially more insidious than that of a despot, Tocqueville thinks, since it is based on thought, not force. As soon as the majority decides on something, discussion ceases: while a king may have physical power, the majority also exerts moral will.
He characterizes America as a country with less independence of mind and freedom of discussion than anywhere else. The majority raises barriers around liberty of opinion. In a powerful series of arguments, Tocqueville drives home his point about the danger of majority rule.
The vision that Tocqueville is painting here sounds like a modern-day dystopia, and eerily foreshadows the rise of 20th-century totalitarian regimes. Active Themes American writers are continually applauding and praising each other, never to learn the truth about their vices or follies. Democracy in America is now widely studied in America universities, and it has been quoted by Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and Congressmen.
It was in this period that the United States first surpassed Europe in per capita income. The current popularity of Democracy in America in the United States might have surprised Tocqueville himself, because he wrote the book primarily for a French audience. The first volume was published forty-six years after the French Revolution. As Tocqueville points out in the Introduction, many leading Frenchmen were unwilling to accept that equality had come to stay: looking to the past with regret some foolishly ignored the fundamental changes taking place around them; others found themselves caught in various unnatural and unhealthy moral and political confusions.
It was first and foremost for such people that Tocqueville wrote the book. In so doing, however, he gave the world its richest, most various, and deepest reflection on democracy. But why was Tocqueville so certain that democracy was inevitable and irresistible? Note on the text of Democracy in America. The page numbers and quotations used in this feature refer to the translation done by Harvey C. This is one of the most recent and highly regarded translations, but it is not available online.
Therefore, for those who wish to use an online text, the links provided are to the revision of the Henry Reeve translation.
The two translations differ in many ways, but it should not be difficult to find the parallel passages. Suggested Homework Assignment Have the students read pp. Each student should draw up a numbered list of the different things that Tocqueville says contribute to equality in society Link to Equality Worksheet.
They should also define the following words: generative, clergy, Providence, enlightenment, feudal, haphazardly, arsenal Link to Definitions Worksheet.
The class can have two, or if there is time, three parts.
The most important part is the second activity below and the most time should be spent on it. Activity 1.
Follow this with a brief discussion of this passage, beginning with the question, what is it about America that most impressed Tocqueville? But he does describe in broad strokes how important it is, and the students should get some appreciation of this. Ask them what the equality of conditions is responsible for in America. Students should be able to say several things about this, but one thing they should notice is that it is not the same thing as democracy. Equality of conditions influences and may give rise to democracy, but it is something deeper and more powerful than any particular form of government Activity 2.
To answer this question, Tocqueville gives us a thumbnail sketch of French history over the past seven hundred years. The core of the lesson is what Tocqueville says in this history in the next two and a half pages. For most of this passage, each paragraph elaborates a different thing that has contributed to the advancement of equality. Have students read and discuss this passage.
Students should understand how the thing Tocqueville is discussing e. Students will have their lists to consult and the teacher may want to develop a running list on the blackboard or whiteboard.
The first paragraph of the history gives a brief sketch of Europe at that time, before the great movement towards equality began.