Classical Soc – November 30 – Lecture 11
- The Future of Democracy
- Spencer: Biography
o Evolution and ethics
o Sociology and biology
The Future of Democracy
o Less poverty
You have fewer people living in poverty, and the distinctions between the rich
and poor are less clearly marked. Although there are rich people, they tend not
to have a status as a separate class that exists forever. It’s always fluctuating.
If people from the aristocracy want to go up the hierarchy, they have to
eliminate those above them.
o Middleclass property owners
Own a bit of property. If there were to be a revolution, that would be bad for
you because you have something to lose. In general, people who are
middleclass tend to be the least revolutionary of all classes.
Aristocrats are more revolutionary because they don’t care about
money and don’t have much property. They have nothing to lose.
The middleclass has enough money to care about keeping it, but not so much
that they start thinking about other things in life that they really want.
Strike against Revolution.
o Commercial habits
People who are in the markets buying, selling, trading are against revolutions
because they prefer predictability. This way they can plan for the future.
o Lack of Public Spirit.
Most people only care about their own little private worlds and so they don’t
get worked up in the great questions of politics and revoltutions. They don’t
work very hard to promote a revolution because they don’t really care.
You don’t really care about the public issues, you’re more concerned about
yourself and your small world.
- Why don’t ideas change very much?
o People have very similar opinions.
When we’re all thinking similar thoughts, it’s rare that someone comes up with
We’re not truly individual; we’re unique, but we’re doing the same things.
o Incremental innovations
In an aristocracy you can have radical innovation because one guy at the top has
a new idea, and that changes everything. He only has to convince a few more
people at the top, and everyone else follows.
In a democracy change isn’t so radical because a few elites can’t command
everyone to change. Everyone has to accept it and we all have to be convinced
one by one. That is more gradual, thus, it is not revolutionary. o Domestic concerned
We’re all focused on our home life, so we don’t have time to think of
In a democratic society we’re just one little person in a big society. We think
that if everyone else is thinking one idea, they’re probably right, and so we just
tend to agree.
The real threat that Toqueville is concerned about is not revolution, but NOT
being able to change: stagnation. (616). Democracy in any society will at times
need to have great public movements. But we’re often so comfortable in our
position that we’re afraid to do that. Everyone knows change needs to be
implemented, but they don’t want to do it. The threat is not constant
revolution, but the inability to change themselves when the time comes.
- Democratic people tend to have an emotional desire for giving the central authority and
government a lot of power. Since democratic people want to think of everyone as equal, it
makes us very resentful of people who get special priviledges. There’s a tendency in
democracies to try to take away special priviledges, and give an abstract to a central
government as opposed to people. There’s a pressure to have a centralized government that
will run people’s lives with abstract, universal rules.
o Tocqueville was worried that this would lead to the idea that the central government
would be like parents: it will solve your problems. The idea that a government will give
you welfare if you don’t have a job, you go the state if you have problems. You don’t
rely so much on your personal connections. You give your children away to the
government for 7-8 hours a day in order to school them with a curriculum set by the
government. The government can regulate you in whatever way they wish. The state
can treat you like a child.
Ie. Trans-fat has become illegal in some states because it’s unhealthy; what, you
can’t decide whether or not you want to eat fast food?
Soft Despotism : don’t let yourself be turned into a child.
It’s not inevitable. There are factors which influence whether or not a
country is likely to succumb to this:
o Tradition of Freedom
If the people are more likely to participate anyways,
they are less likely to be controlled by the government.
o Violent Revolution
How did the country become democratic? If it was a
violent revolution, that country is much more likely to
have a stronger central authority because in the process
of revolution the existing elites, which provide a buffer
between the central authority and the average person,
would probably be killed.
o Education Level
Of the country entering democracy. If they have a lower
education level, they’re less likely to develop secondary
associations (bowling clubs, dancing groups, political
groups). They don’t create them and instead give the
government more power, assuming that they know
what they’re doing.
The more wars a country participates in, the more the
government is centralized. o Threats
If you’re constantly feeling threatened as a country,
you’re more likely to be centralized.
- Stagnation is the inability to change when problems arise (the more centralization you have, the
more you may stagnate), but centralization is the gathering of the authority into one
- Born in the 1920s, in the parts of England that were ____
- Family was very religious, but a part of Non-Conformist religion. Very temperate. Fun is bad.
Part of that religious outlook was that every individual human should be able to guide his or her
own life- this translates into keep the government out.
- Taught at home by his father, who trained him in science and engineering; not the classics (latin,
philosophy). This makes him very different.
- Worked for a while as an engineer for railroads.
- After, he started writing articles, arguing for extreme restrictions on the government controlling
the country. Was against poor laws (welfare), established church, restrictions on trading; a very
- First book was called “Social Statics” and was about the structure of society.
o Like Compte, he emphasized the steady progress of humanity.
However, he was against central authority; government intervention and
Thought society was a self-regulated organizism that didn’t need social priests.
- Started advocating the developmental hypothesis which was similar to Darwin’s Evolution of
Species (which was written 7 years later). Coined the term, “survival of the fittest”.
- Was a bachelor his whole life. Was always kind of nervous and anxious in his life. Took a lot of
opium because he couldn’t sleep.
- Spent the end of his life as a hermit who ran away from society.
- By the end of the 1800s, he was thought of as an intellectual equal to Darwin.
- Evolution and Ethics
o Believes that humans are a part of the natural environment, just like everything else in
the environment. They evolve, and as they evolve, their relationship ____ changes.
o Instead, you have to look to society as an evolving system and ask how certain kinds of
attitudes and behaviors are supportive of society’s integreation into its environment, or
the dysfunctions which exist which hurt its chances of adapting to its environment.
IF characteristics are GOOD, then we say it’s morally good.
If characteristics are BAD, then we say it’s morally bad.
Ie. In ea