Democracy in America
Why the United States?
- He could study equality in its purest form
- U.S. didn’t have the feudal system and its past origins of aristocracy, peasantry, etc
- Tocqueville: democracy is an egalitarian society
What about slavery?
- Tocqueville had a humanistic outlook
- African American slavery, oppression of the natives
- Frederick Douglass (Narrative):
Born a slave in U.S.
Escaped later and went north to become leader of anti-slavery movement
Started and bought newspaper company in New York
Published a text—provides a psychological portrait of the African American slave
The importance of voluntary associations
- Tocqueville is no fan of equality, he sees equality as a reality of which you have to come to
terms with. What he does value is liberty (also a big fan of voluntary associations)
- How can freedom/liberty be protected in a democracy?
- Voluntary associations can serve as a counter-weight to a state that is too strong. He’s once
again drawing on his historical aristocrat background and before the French Revolution
- Through voluntary association, citizens are able to come together to pursue their interests
- “art of association”—a principle study that he made
- First reason to admire voluntary associations: they are the in-betweeners between the state
and common people. They are a check for tyranny and despotism.
- Second: the parallels of individualism and egoism
- Individualism is a by-product by looking after friends and family and the lower is the public
- Atomization of society—people breaking off into little units rather than collecting in bigger
groups (also known as individualism)
- Is Tocqueville a left-wing or right-wing thinker?
- Left-wing: to champion equality, more equality, more you’re on the left
- Right-wing: the more you are satisfied with the status quo of inequality, more you’re on the
- Tocqueville: not a fan of it, but it’s there to stay. He is agnostic about equality because he
doesn’t support it but he believes it’s here and must be dealt with Karl Marx (1818-1883): Difficulties around Interpretation
1. Controversial (Marxian vs. Marxist)
4. Emphasis shifts
- Marxist when referring to communist nations (Cuba, China)
- Marxian when referring to Marx and similar thinkers
- Marx wrote a tremendous amount—journalist, newspapers, communist manifesto with
- Many were unpublished manuscripts and 9 books
- Journalist, wrote about many current events (French Revolution, Napoleon, etc.)
- Wrote pamphlets, a political activist
- A historian, wrote about politics, economics, geographical sweep