reading notes

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1 Feb 2011
of 6
Tocqueville, Martineau, Taylor-Mill
4:18 PM
Memory is to the individual as history is to society
oWe will be discussing today one of the outstanding historical sociologists
oThree basic elements to historical sociology
Concern with social structure (the social context)
We have to understand the history that came before it
The history
The historical background
The biography
A concern with whom the historical individuals were - these
people will stand out and so we need to study the individuals and how
important they are)
Think of these things in terms of the counter-factuals (what would
have happened if instead …)
oWhat is the difference between a historian and a historical-sociologist
oIf we define history as a unique and unrepeatable series of events
A historian will study Julius Caesar, then a historical-sociologist will
study Caesarism
Historical sociologist will be interested in causes and consequences -
why something happened, not just why it happened
This makes sense - we want the context, history and biography
- this makes sense into our historical consciousness
oHe lived through the revolution and Napoleon
oHe was a personal witness to the coupe d'état of Napoleon Bonaparte
oSo then Tocqueville wanted to know, what are the conditions of a revolution -
how does this happen?
The key concept in Tocqueville is the rise of the Demos ("people")
Master trend from aristocracy to democracy - the people start
to play a more significant role in history
There was not the kind of violence in American democracy that there
was in democracy in France
oWhat was unique about American that was fundamentally different from
Europe and France?
There was no old regime - there was no established church or
monarchy (after the revolution), or nobility (or aristocracy)
There were no large metropolitan cities with slums and ghettos
There were poor people, but it was nothing like the slums of
No state bureaucracy
There were no great industrial centres (like Manchester and
One way to describe America at that time was that it was large middle
class (middle strata)
"avoiding destabilization by having no class conflict" - it was a
post-revolutionary middle class society
There was no requirement of the sharing of power (like in France)
People did have a voice in politics - checks and balances
America did learn from people like Locke and Montesquieu - the
people who came to America had a common national origin - they also had a
common religious origin (they were Calvinists - Puritans)
They all had a lot in common and they introduced certain
personal liberties that you did not have in France
Accountability of elected officials (a lot of these things
have become defunct now), trial by jury and local autonomy
There was no local autonomy in France - it was weakened by
the revolution - nothing stood between the state and the atomized
If we regard the first world war as the seminal
catastrophe of the 20th century, what happened as a result of
this was that all the old regimes were destroyed, and during the
war there was violent revolution - these revolutions were not
"educated citizenry", they were the masses - the reason that
Hitler and Stalin could manipulate this was because they had
lost solidarity with the groups - the y were totally individual and
did not know who to turn to - they could be manipulated by a
charismatic political leader
There is a dark side to American history, even at that time
Tocqueville discusses this under the heading "The Three Races"
The Whites, the Original People (the Indians), and the
Slaves (the Blacks)
He is prophetic about this - ``I can`t think of
anything that will cause civil war in America, other than
Almost every white boy was nursed by a black
woman - at this point there was no segregation - once
slavery came to an end, though, segregation was necessary
because there was `confusion` about who was whom
There were certain kinds of prejudice that
were stronger in the North than in the South
Discussions of the aristocracy of manufacturers
(discussed on page 93-94)
Alienation - something he begins to see but -
doesn`t understand - he begins to see a proletariat - this
was growing during Tocqueville's time
Before this there was no class of unskilled labour
The Industrial Revolution with its massive
amount of unskilled labour was the precursor to this
Sociology of ideas, culture and religion
America - there was a democratic attitude towards ideas and
culture - public opinion and voice were considered important - they
had a practical attitude - they respected theory but it needed to be
practical - in places like France it was the aristocracy that made these
Gentilhomme - (Tocqueville) - in France this word was
reserved for aristocracy, in Britain - the Gentry emerged, the
farmers wanted to send their children to the schools the
aristocracy sent their children to (this halted some of the class
warfare) - in America everybody was a gentleman
The practical attitude was demonstrated in all
aspects of American life (right down to titles)
oThe old regime and the French revolution - what were the causes for
Originally there was a mediation between the monarch and the people
- the English aristocrat had an interest in their "people" - they did stand up
for their gentry
The nobility was reduced to being an appendage to the crown -
they were controlled by the monarch - what happened under these
conditions was that the people rebelled because they were subject to
all of the work but none of the perks of being the aristocracy, even
though the aristocracy seemed to serve no function
The French peasant was much better off than the peasantry in some
of the neighbouring counties (such as Germany and Russia)
Serfdom - almost slavery
Why did the French revolution, and not these countries
Relative deprivation - they knew what things
were like when they were better - they felt cheated - they
knew they were better than neighbouring peasants, but
they had lost some of their previous advantages
The role of the church - one of the reasons for the extreme form
of criticism of the church was they were the single largest land owner
at the time, and so they were perceived the same way that the
peasants perceived the monarchy at the time
When you put all of this together, this is what it means to do the historical and
sociological approach of a period - it makes a convincing argument of the causes of the
oShe was one of the earliest women journalists - she was well known as a
oHer book was "society in America"