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Lecture

Democracy in America notes

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Department
Political Science
Course
POLI 1042
Professor
All Professors
Semester
Fall

Description
Democracy in America By: Alexis De Tocqueville • Written 50 years after the ratification of the Constitution o States his opinions about Americans  Outsider: perspective  Americans are quick to defend Americans  Biased toward France? • Tocqueville = French aristocrat o Admirer of America and democratic revolution o Initially sounds like a tourist • “Narrow spirit of sect” = Christianity/Puritanism because they are one-minded, held extreme penalties for small things o New self-government = experiment • Pilgrims and their relationship to politics o Faithful group of people whose morals set the tone for government o Actively involved in their local government  “American spirit” o Saw Christianity as a law, political force, and soul shaper • Puritanism = political theory and religious doctrine o View of religious order = Anti-Federalistic  Homogenous, same values/ideals, God influencing society • Religion = key related to laws that lead to enlightenment o Craft sacred city on a hill through religion and morality  appealed to Anti-feds • Spirit of Religion and Spirit of Freedom o By having Christian virtues, you care more about fellow man  Tendency of unreligious = act selfishly o Religion acts as a restraint on relentless democratic freedom (materialism, loss of opinion) o Spirit of Freedom = respecting others’ rights as long as they don’t infringe on your rights • “Idea of rights is nothing other than the idea of virtue introduced into the political world” o In modern context, we use the word “right” instead of “virtue”  Bill of Rights = promoter of virtue • Should translate Pilgrim virtues into rights wanted to be included in government o 1837 – some diminishment of rights because religion is diminishing  Tied together • Freedom isn’t free  must be fought for, don’t appreciate it as much as we should o America = greatest model of freedom in the world • Where do we get rights and how do they shape our character? o Characterizing US on unstable will of majority  Not as competent as aristocracy but because they can elect legislatures, will follow laws • New regime = better because progressive, not set in their ways  restless • Old form = calm  mores and political structure doesn’t change o Modern democracy provokes and takes advantage of masses more than old regime o New regime = energetic • Publius promotes new regime based on ambition among the people o Stressed extending the sphere • Old regime seeked to remove factions altogether to control people in easier manner  didn’t work/impossible • 2 different ways of dealing with factions = consider and remove causes, think about effects o Publius deals with latter because removing the possiblility of factions removes freedom  Previous regimes failed because squashed freedom • Restlessness in soul/lack of contentment in modern democratic society o Older soul was calmer because situated in a world that was easily defined o “Restlessness” = tied to ambition o Commercial extended republic • Restlessness good? o “it” = democracy that is revered because it is now ruling people as opposed to God ruling (pg 234)  Bad thing • Democracy will not lead country to virtue o Ambition = fuel of government  Monotonous way of thinking  mediocre o Heroic part of America?  You can be well off but have a communal sense of peace/one with America • Is that enough for the soul though? • Maybe greatness doesn’t depend on peace o Greatness from blood, warfare, strife  Peace leads to softness of the soul • America prides itself on freedom but really has little freedom o Majority creates stifling atmosphere  All think same way • Anyone who thinks differently = tyrant, villain o Sheep-like • With our president, we hold him in high esteem o Assume the best in him, give whole-hearted faith, give president our opinions and thereby prostitute ourselves (giving our most prized possession to our regime)  No longer independent, more of a slave • Spirit of lawyers and jury system counterbalances the chaotic nature of democracy o Lawyer of spirit acts as counterweight because love of order and tradition conservative  Link between people and aristocracy  a priest in ancient Egypt o America’s aristocracy is at the attorney’s bar and on the judge’s bench • If it’s legally allowed is it right? o Drawn to legal controversy  Moral issues solved through legal means o Is it Constitutional? o We are legally minded • Jury system = anti-democratic o Teaches practice of equity (people can judge you as well) o Combats selfishness (not involved with the case) o Disposition o School that is always open • Multiplicity of religious sects o Religion held more by females than men  Their responsibility to make home and children religious • Breeding ground for future citizens = home, need to have spiritualness • “Mores” (Christian beliefs vs. mores) o Customs, less specific than religious dogma, more of a habit and belief o Religion facilitates the use of our freedom o No individual who is not a succulent that didn’t accept separation of church and state (priests agreed as well) o Christianity as liberalism  emphasize liberal priorities • Believes Americans to be least philosophic o Although not natively Socratic, living in a rational regime so vibrant some philosophic qualities o Not philosophic because we are selfish, scorn forms of formalities and praise informalities, don’t really like the supernatural (too realistic)  “it is religion that gave birth to Anglo-American societies” • We all have inherited certain beliefs/opinions o Need to realize how prejudiced we are o Every regime in different countries are like this • Have to move forward by accepting things  salutary servitude • New religions cannot be established and Americans will laugh at new prophets o We prefer to take our truths from people, not prophet  Not given to the supernatural, given to the belief in our human abilities  make a God out of ourselves • We are skeptical but completely trust the judgment of the public o Religion is more of a common opinion than doctrine  Democracy is our new God • Need dogmatic beliefs because can’t go into life believing in nothing o This is where society/government comes in • Religion = virtue in modern world because it answers our questions, takes us out of ourselves and little world we live in o Some religions are “false” and “absurd”  brutally hones • Religion is the cure for restlessness in democracy, grounds us, stability inducing device • How/why religions should not engage in political affairs o If religion is wrong in politics, they ruin religions for all • Muslim religion = Islam  not as easily divided into the 2 realms, single entity of religion and politics encompassing all aspects of human rights
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