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An Outsider Looking In: Alexis de Tocqueville A worldwide revolution toward democracy is in full swing amongst us (Political Science 565)

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Presentation on theme: "An Outsider Looking In: Alexis de Tocqueville A worldwide revolution toward democracy is in full swing amongst us (Political Science 565)"— Presentation transcript:

1 An Outsider Looking In: Alexis de Tocqueville A worldwide revolution toward democracy is in full swing amongst us (Political Science 565)

2 Alexis de Tocqueville Minor French Aristocrat Parents almost executed under Robespierre Liberal Active in French politics, retires after Louis Napoleon Bonapartes 1851 coup Democracy in America & The Old Regime and the Revolution 2

3 Democracy in America 1835 & 1840 – July Monarchy (July Revolution of 1830 – Revolution of 1848) Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont sent by French govt to study American prisons, but just a pretext for a study of America Tocqueville & Beaumont travel US for nine months, starting May

4 Key Points Developmental analysis Equality the definitive characteristic of American life Reconciliation of religion & liberty Relationship between law & morality Self-interest rightly understood 4

5 America in 1831 Jacksonian democracy – Expand suffrage to all white men (removed property restrictions for voting) – Militant egalitarianism – Militant racism – Suspicion of institutions of government and business – Expansionism Indian Relocation Act of 1830 Industrial Revolution – Interchangeable parts, urbanization, national roads, early railroads Slavery Nation, States and sections – Jackson a proponent of single national identity and of states rights – North and South 5

6 Purpose of the Book The first of the duties currently imposed upon the rulers of our society is to educate democracy, to reawaken, if possible, its beliefs, to purify its morals, to control its actions, gradually to substitute statecraft for its inexperience and awareness of its true interests for its blind instincts, to adapt its government to times and places, and to mold it according to its circumstances and people. (16) 6

7 The French 19 th Century 1789: French Revolution: The First Republic : Emperor Napoleon 1815 : Restoration of the Monarchy : Revolution: July Monarchy : Revolution: Second Republic : Second Empire under Napoleon III 1879: Third Republic 7

8 Method The condition of society is normally the result of circumstances, sometimes of laws, more often than not a combination of these two causes; but, once it is established, we can consider it as the fundamental source of most of the laws, customs, and ideas which regulate the conduct of nations; whatever it does not produce, it modifies. (58) 8

9 Method The entire man, so to speak, comes full formed in the wrappings of his cradle. (37) – Developmental approach – Origins and early experiences definitive of people and societies – America is the only society in the Christian world that is observable from its beginning 9

10 The Tide of History Toward equality – In 1100, power is determined entirely by birth – But the Church can provide a vehicle for social mobility to people of all classes, and the growth of Church power introduces paths to power for commoners – Rising power of money & trade can bring power to all, regardless of birth Towns & commerce have been used by kings and aristocrats to undercut one another, but towns and traders have grown in power all the while (12-13) Technology, art, etc. 10

11 The Tide of History The whole of the book in front of the reader has been written under the pressure of a kind of religious terror exercised upon the soul of the author by the sight of this irresistible revolution which has progressed over so many centuries, surmounting all obstacles, and which is still advancing today amid the ruins it has caused. (15) – The will of God – Teleological endpoint of Western civilization is equality 11

12 Problems in French Society But as we have left behind the social conditions of our ancestors and have cast behind us their institutions, ideas, and customs in one confused heap, what have we put in their place? (19) – Majesty of royalty gone, but the laws have not inherited it, people fear and despise authority – Powerful aristocrats who could oppose despotic govt are gone, but nothing is in their place – People of all classes have become selfish and materialistic 12

13 Problems in French Society We have abandoned whatever advatages the old regime possessed without grasping those gains offered by the present state of things; we have destroyed an aristocratic society and, as we complacently stand in the midst of the ruins of the old building, we seem willing to stand there forever. (20) 13

14 Problems in French Society In France, the representatives of Christianity and those of liberty and equality have, for historical reasons, become enemies, when they should be one and the same. (21) It is not simply, therefore, to satisfy a curiosity, albeit justified, that I have examined America; my aim has been to discover lessons from which we may profit. (23) – In this way, the book is about France as much as it is America 14

15 Climate and Character Contextual, developmental approach South America, though dangerous, due to its climate produced a kind of draining influence which riveted man to the present and rendered him indifferent to the future. In, North America, though, all was weighty, serious, solemn; it might be said that it had been created to become the realm of the mind just as the other was the home of the senses. (31) 15

16 What about the natives? Noble savage stereotype Brave, generous, honest, barbaric, strong, cruel and not especially bright. Maybe the degenerate remnants of a previously great civilization? (35, App. C, 824) – Complex grammar, but low levels of technology – A product of Tocquevilles method, which supposes linear development? They werent really using the land, which was meant for the Europeans to exploit. (36) 16

17 Common Features of American Colonists, derived from England Language Political heritage of rights and liberty, govt by consent Religious conflicts result in serious character, value of intellect & dispute, purified morals Unsettled, immigrant character of new colonies means no one is predisposed to accept the superiority of anyone else (39-40) 17

18 Colonists of the South Seekers of gold, adventurers without substance or character Later, farmers & craftsmen, w/better moral, but more or less identical with English lower classes No noble views, no spiritual thought presided over the creation of these new settlements (41) – Entirely mercantile 18

19 Slavery in the Colonies Brings dishonor to work; it introduces idleness into society together with ignorance and pride, poverty, and indulgence. It weakens the powers of the mind and dampens human effort. The influence of slavery, together with the English character, explains the customs and social conditions of the South. 19

20 New England Colonists Political ideas have permeated all of the United States, and now the world – A beacon lit upon mountain tops Middle class Not adventurers, immigrate with families, good morals Came to N. America not in search of wealth, Their object was the triumph of an idea. (42-43) 20

21 Pilgrims Puritanism almost as much a political theory as a religious doctrine. (46) – Equality before God – Emphasis on mutually agreed upon covenant for governance – Laws passed by consent of the community Along with penal laws redolent of the narrow bigotry of sect and religious fanaticism exist political laws which, although enacted two hundred years ago, seem still to anticipate the spirit of freedom of our own times. (52) 21

22 Aspects of Puritan Govt All in service of religious aims – Voting on govt, laws, taxes – Personal responsibility of those in power – Individual freedom – Trial by jury – Universal (male) militia service – Public education – Protection of the poor – Record keeping & administration (51-54) 22

23 Religion, Liberty & Equality The founders of New England were both sectarian fanatics & noble innovators. (55) – Believing religious law eternal, they saw political laws as infinitely flexible – Reconciling the spirit of liberty and spirit of religion – The town was organized before the nation, and at the Revolution the New England concept of equality came to organize the new nation We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... 23

24 Law & Society in America I am astonished that commentators old and new have not attributed to the laws of inheritance a greater influence on the progress of human affairs. (60) – Primogeniture keeps wealth & property unified A modern corporation has a similar function – Equal inheritance divides it, diffusing wealth and dividing it among heirs For T., this is a major cause for the then relative equality of wealth in the United States as compared to Europe 24

25 Equality of Education Almost everyone has access to primary education, almost no one has access to higher education Very few born rich enough not to work, have no leisure for study, never develop a taste for it Interest primarily in practical knowledge, rather than abstract academic forms of knowledge (65-66) 25

26 Politics and Equality Equality ends up by infiltrating the world of politics as it does everywhere else. (66-67) Two kinds of political equality: – All have equal rights – No one has any Americans have chosen the former – Women? Slaves? 26

27 Popular Sovereignty At the time of the Revolution, equality was so ingrained in American society that there was no thought of instituting an aristocracy The people reign in the American political world like God over the universe. It is the cause and aim of all things, everything comes from them and everything is absorbed in them. (71) 27

28 Method The condition of society is normally the result of circumstances, sometimes of laws, more often than not a combination of these two causes; but, once it is established, we can consider it as the fundamental source of most of the laws, customs, and ideas which regulate the conduct of nations; whatever it does not produce, it modifies. (58) 28

29 Pilgrims Puritanism almost as much a political theory as a religious doctrine. (46) – Equality before God – Emphasis on mutually agreed upon covenant for governance – Laws passed by consent of the community Along with penal laws redolent of the narrow bigotry of sect and religious fanaticism exist political laws which, although enacted two hundred years ago, seem still to anticipate the spirit of freedom of our own times. (52) 29

30 Aspects of Puritan Govt All in service of religious aims – Voting on govt, laws, taxes – Personal responsibility of those in power – Individual freedom – Trial by jury – Universal (male) militia service – Public education – Protection of the poor – Record keeping & administration (51-54) 30

31 Religion, Liberty & Equality The founders of New England were both sectarian fanatics & noble innovators. (55) – Believing religious law eternal, they saw political laws as infinitely flexible – Reconciling the spirit of liberty and spirit of religion – The town was organized before the nation, and at the Revolution the New England concept of equality came to organize the new nation We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... 31

32 Law & Society in America I am astonished that commentators old and new have not attributed to the laws of inheritance a greater influence on the progress of human affairs. (60) – Primogeniture keeps wealth & property unified A modern corporation has a similar function – Equal inheritance divides it, diffusing wealth and dividing it among heirs For T., this is a major cause for the then relative equality of wealth in the United States as compared to Europe 32

33 Politics and Equality Equality ends up by infiltrating the world of politics as it does everywhere else. (66-67) Two kinds of political equality: – All have equal rights – No one has any Americans have chosen the former – Women? Slaves? 33

34 Popular Sovereignty At the time of the Revolution, equality was so ingrained in American society that there was no thought of instituting an aristocracy – Any remaining The people reign in the American political world like God over the universe. It is the cause and aim of all things, everything comes from them and everything is absorbed in them. (71) 34

35 Bottom-Up Govt In America, township state federal govt (71) Man it is that makes monarchies and founds republics; the township seems a direct gift from the hand of God. But if the town has existed as long as man has, its freedom is uncommon and easily broken – The US is remarkable for the amount of power allowed municipal & local govts 35

36 The strength of free nations resides in the township. Tow institutions are to freedom what primary schools are to knowledge: they bring it within peoples reach and give men the enjoyment and habit of using it for peaceful ends. Without town institutions a nation can establish a free government but has not the spirit of freedom itself. (73) – Town govt trains individuals in self-govt, ownership of and active participation in it – Democracy as a way of being – NE towns best at this – This also makes Americans unbearably touchy about criticism from foreigners: it is a criticism of their own creation (277) 36

37 Centralization Two kinds (103): – Governmental: national issues (national law, war, foreign relations) For T., this is very important to accomplish. The nation may speak with one voice. (104) – Administrative: Zoning, construction, local issues For T, this is bad. It diminishes the sense that individuals govern themselves, reducing civic pride. (104) America has highly centralized its government, but has a decentralized administration (103) 37

38 A central govt may administer more efficiently & wisely, but it detracts from a nations democratic spirit (107) – Men must walk in freedom, responsible for their own behavior. (108) – The advantages Americans get from decentralized administration are political, while in France Subjects still exist but citizens are no more. (110, 111) 38

39 Force of Ideas You will never come across true exercise of power among men, except by the free agreement of their wills; only patriotism or religion can carry, over a long period, the whole body of citizens toward the same goal. (111) – Decentralization of administration results in heightened patriotism, and forms a check against a potentially tyrannical central govt – The habit of freedom (114) 39


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