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Tocqueville- Reading notes

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Irving Zeitlin

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Tocqueville What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear * In past ages there had never been a sovereign so absolute and so powerful that he could by himself alone, without the aid of secondary powers, undertake to administer every part of a great empire. * No on had ever tried to subject all his people indiscriminately to the details of a uniform code, nor personally to prompt and lead every single one of his subjects. - Time of the Roman Emperor: different peoples of the empire still preserved various customs and mores. Although they obeyed the same monarch, most provinces had a separate administration. --> the details of social life and personal everyday existence normally escaped his control. - the burden of their tyranny fell most heavily on some, but it never spread over a great number. It had a few main targets and left the rest alone. It was violent, but its extent was limited. * Despotism among the democratic nations have a different character: It would be more widespread and milder; it would be degrade men rather than torment them. * Doubtless, in such an age of education and equality as our own, rulers could more easily bring all public powers into their own hands alone, and they could impinge deeper and more habitually into the sphere of private interests than was ever possible in antiquity. * But that same equality which makes despotism easy tempers it. * Men become more alike and more nearly equal, public mores becomes more humane and gentle. --> when there is no citizen with great power or wealth, tyranny in some degree lack both target and stage. * Democratic governments might become violent and cruel at times of great excitement and danger, but such crises will be rare and brief. * He does expect the leader become tyrants, but rather schoolmaster --> because men, the softness of their mores, the extent of their education, the purity of their religion, their steady habits of patient work, and the restraint which they all show in the indulgence of both their vices and their virtues. * Over this kind of men stands an immense, protective power which is alone responsible for securing their enjoyment and watching over their fate. That power is absolute, thoughtful of detail, orderly, provident, and gentle. ---> resemble parental authority. ---> infantilization of citizens (fatherhood, keep men in perpetual childhood.) * The power gladly works for men’s happiness but wants to be sole agent and judge of it. It provide for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns directs their industry, makes rules for their testaments, and divides their inheritances. * Why should it not entirely relieve them from the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living? * It daily makes the exercise of free choice less useful and rarer, restricts the activity of free will within a narrower compass, and little by little robs each citizen of the proper use of his own faculties. Equality has prepared men for all this, predisposing them to endure it and often even regard it as beneficial. * Having thus taken each citizen in turn in its powerful grasp and shaped him to its will, government then extends its embrace to include the whole of society. It covers the whole of social life with a network of petty, complicated rules that are both minute and uniform, through which even
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