Classical Soc – November 9 – Lecture 8
- Demography and Modernity
- Biography and Context
- Democracy as a way of life
- American Democracy
- Democratic Politics
- The new World, not so much as a continent that was discovered, but new in the sense of being a
new era in human history. A new kind of way of organizing history.
o The general name for that kind of life is called Modernity.
- In Smith, we saw what a modern society looks like ift eh basic key to understanding it is the rise
of a commercial society: commerce. The rise of markets and a market order; exchanging; the
DOL. The general procedure that he takes is to first understand the market structure (how
would they work on their own if nothing got in the way), and then he goes on to ask how the
rise of that market affects social society- religion, family lives, politics.
o If x changes, then what happens to a, b, c, d.
- Comte had a different set of perceptions. Thought that ideas really define the characters of
society. Thought that the rise of science (enlightenment) was the main feature of a modern
society. He goes on to ask what the rise of this cultural belief system (based on science) affects
everything else. What would a scientific version of family, politics, legal system be like?
- Marx took the focus away from ideas, but shuifted it back to economic life. He focused on a
different aspect than Smith though. More importantly than what Smith said was, he thought,
production (capitalism, industrialism, and private property). Those are behind the rise of a
commercial society, and they give you a deeper picture. He begins with a pure account of
capitalist work and production; defined by exploitation, alienation, commodities etc. He then
asks what was capitalistic family life, religion, politics, etc. like.
- With Toqueville, the starting point is democracy, or democratic society. There’s a social
emphasis on the equality of people. He states that what society looks like when equality
becomes its basic principle is America, not Europe.
o Born in 1805, died in 1859 – was in the generation that was trying to pick up the pieces
of the French Revoution.
o Was an aristocrat
o The other dudes come from the family backgrounds that would become dominant in the
modern world (bureaucrats, the middle class).
o Toqueville’s family was old money. His father was imprisoned during the French
Revolution. His grandfather was a knight. He had a different perspective on the
revolutionary break through happening around him.
To him, like to others of the aristocratic class, the modern revolution was a very
sad ending to an old world that they had known and loved.
The old order actually allowed for something better to flourish- glory,
In contrast to many of his fellow aristocrats, Toqueville thought that the
old regime could NEVER be brought back. It was over. And this meant
the rise of modernity and democracy for him. o Thus, he wanted to isolate the dangers of this new society and
figure out how to channel them into good for the society.
He decided to go to America, where he thought he saw
Spent a year there. Came back to France.
- Origins of Democracy
o He turned away from studying politics to the broader social conditions.
o The increasing equality of conditions among all human beings.
You want to understand the process through which there are fewer hereditary
elites in the world.
1. Aristocratic Order
The authority to govern goes from generation to generation, without
election. The way you get someone to do something is by exercising
force; not incentive, and not by giving an argument. That power is in the
end rooted in land ownership.
o How did we get from this order to a democratic order?
2. Sources of Social influence
The Church began to own more land than even the nobility. Thus the
piests began to exercise a lot of power. Who becam priests? Just about
anyone, giving commoners a leeway into upper class society.
Rise of Civil Law
Coming from a noble family doesn’t give you a political expertise. You
have to be smart. SO regular people had another way of rising up the
As regular people began to engage in commerce, they began to gain
Entertainers (poets, musicians) were hired by aristocrats for their
parties. This gave commoners access to the political elite,.
3. Historical Causes *** get proper notes on this from someone else.
Crusades (SEE Goliath)
The European aristocracy got obsessed with fighting foreign battles,
causing them to lose their property, and causing them to become
Everyone becomes equal. Before it wasn’t because the aristocrats just
used their horses.
Suddenly everyone can read. Before the printing press, printing a group
was expensive. Mail
Each of us has our own personal relationship with god. You’re cutting
out the middleman (the priest) which exists in Catholicism. Thus, the
Priest didn’t have the soul route to god anymore.
Once America was discovered, people who lived in Europe and were
oppressed had a way out. They weren’t stuck.
- Challenges of Democracy
o The problem, he thought, was that everything in France was a mess. You had a bunch of
reactionary conservative aristocrats trying to turn back time, and then you had radicals
trying to push everything along.
o He thinks that democracy could lead to enlightenment, or it could lead to barbarianism;
prosperity or poverty.
How does democracy potentially mess up social order?
If there’s something bad about democracy, then you have to
understand what’s good about the aristocracy.
1. Qualities of Aristocracy
Nobles check central power.
The aristocrats were independent sources of power who could keep the
central authority in line. They have their own armies and loyalists.
There’s no line of resistance with democracy. If the government wants
to wipe us out, that’s it, we’re done. We have no one to help us.
King’s divinity checks power
• Authority rested on God's grace, less tyranny
Noblesse, Oblige (Obligations of nobility)
The idea that the elites in society, the nobles, had an obligation to help
out the lower orders. Aristocrats would do that- they would go around
helping the people at the bottom of society. They would basically think
of their lower order as their pets, and treated the peasants accordingly.
They took care of them.
Toqueville was worried that with the rise of democracy, you would lose
that sense of obligation by the elites because everyone is ‘equal”. It
would be disrespectful to think of the lower class as pets.
If you’re loyal to a duke, he’s loyal to you and he’ll protect you. It was a
natural order for the elites to protect those at the bottom.
People accept the fact that they’re at the bottom of the order. It gave a
type of stability to the whole system. This begins to collapse with
democracy. No one knows where they stand in life. The nobles begin to
beat down the peasants as the peasants try to clammer for power. The
peasants feel like they’re being denied something and try to take down
the nobles. Church allied with the old order, rather than democracy.
Thus, people for democracy end up becoming atheists, which was
horrible for Toqueville, because a good society needs religion to draw
o What’re you going to do in that situation? o Page 9. “I conceive a society which …