Week 2 Readings – DE TOCQUEVILLE & MARTINEAU – SOC 2111/2
CHAPTER 10: ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE (1805-1859)
- DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
o Confronted the intense social conflicts of post-aristocratic France with
o He feared that the victory of the demos would lead to the erosion, if
not outright destruction, of aristocratic values and institutions
o Tocqueville arrived in New York on May 12, 1831
o Jacksonian democrats saw it: “whether people or property will
govern? Democracy implies a government by the people…. Aristocracy
implies a government of the rich.”
o In America, the people ruled yet much of what he had hoped for for
France he found in the US: order, government based on the separation
and balance of powers, true freedom
o Tocqueville saw America as post-revolutionary, middle-class society –
a one-class or classless society in which greater and greater equality
was become the rule
o In America, the democratic revolution had thus produced a high
degree of social equality (more in the second paragraph on pg 88)
o The French upper classes had failed to make the lower fit to govern,
which would have required the sharing of power. The privileged and
powerful were bent on excluding the people from government.
Tocqueville here directs his argument to the members of his own
proprietary class – democracy has been perceived as evil, and the
benefits it might confer ignored.
o Tocqueville argued that democracy brings certain losses for a
minority but definite gains for the majority. With democracy properly
guided, comfort is more general and ignorance less common.
o In the USA: no tradition exists of a distinction of rank, no portion of
the community is tempted to oppress the remainder, and the wrongs
that may injure isolated individuals are forgotten in the general
contentment that prevails
o In France, a centralized bureaucracy inevitably becomes the absolute
master of liberty and life.
o In America, the people accomplish their tasks by and for themselves.
- THE THREE RACES OF THE UNITED STATES
o He rejects racism on the Afro-Americans and native peoples of the
o Tocqueville – the races appeared distinct not so much do to their
outward characteristics as to their culture and education
o The Indians and the blacks had been forced into inferior positions and
subjected to tyranny and worse at the hands of the whites
o Blacks were deprived of all privileges of humanity – of their historic
memories, their language, customs, even family.
o White people caused tragic among aboriginals too
o They were forced from their native lands, their whole way of life was
undermined [connect to the JAN 21 film] Week 2 Readings – DE TOCQUEVILLE & MARTINEAU – SOC 2111/2
o Tribe after tribe was expelled from its land, which the whites soon
appropriated, obtaining in that manner vast territories.
o Tocqueville observes how different in its consequences was slavery in
the US as compared with the slavery of antiquity, where master and
slave were of the same color and where the latter was often superior
to his master in education and culture.
o He also perceived that prejudice was often stronger in the North than
in the South – in the North, where blacks lived officially as free
individuals, whites shunned them anyway lest they be confounded
o Slavery destroyed the dignity of labour. Thus Tocqueville proposed
that the presence or absence of this pivotal, master-slave relationship
had much to do with the fact that North had developed commercially
and industrially while the South had not
o Although Tocqueville generally stressed the egalitarian character of
American society, he recognized that even among whites there existed
class divisions between those who owned property and those who
owned little or none and labored for the former.
- THE ARISTORCRACY OF MANUFACTURES
o Tocqueville observed a new form of dependence, accompanied by
great human wretchedness, emerging among the manufacturing
populations of the democratic societies of his itme.
o Tocqueville recognized the technical advantages of the industrial
division of labour: goods are produced in large quantities with greater
speed and economy; and production costs per unit diminish as the
amount of capital and the scale of production grow larger.
o Division of labor – workman becomes more weak, more narrow-
minded and more dependent
o The art advances, the artisan recedes
o Wealthy and educated men come forward to embark in manufactures,
which were heretofore abandoned to poor or ignorant
o Masters mind enlarges, workers mind narrows
o Masters and workers have no similarity and their differences increase
- SOCIOLOGY OF IDEAS, CULTURE AND RELIGION
o Where inequalities are great and of long duration, the members of
different social classes tend to regard one another as if they were
members of distinct races.
o Democratic-egalitarian societies – people tend to recognize their
o Democratic societies, the individual has great curiousity but little
leisure, his life is active, practical, and excited, and he craves quick
success. Week 2 Readings – DE TOCQUEVILLE & MARTINEAU – SOC 2111/2
o Americans do not easily