Alexis de Tocqueville - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


PPT – Alexis de Tocqueville PowerPoint presentation | free to download - id: 329a1-MzQ4N


The Adobe Flash plugin is needed to view this content

Get the plugin now

View by Category
About This Presentation

Alexis de Tocqueville


Count Alexis de Tocqueville was born in Paris to a family from the Norman nobility ... Alexis' father was a French prefect (acquitance with state administration) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:1150
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 19
Provided by: guillermin
Learn more at:


Write a Comment
User Comments (0)
Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
  • Count Alexis de Tocqueville was born in Paris to
    a family from the Norman nobility
  • His family both suffered and participated in the
    French revolution
  • Alexis father was a French prefect (acquitance
    with state administration)
  • De Tocqueville studied law
  • 1831/2 Travels to the U.S. with a friend (G. de
    Beaumont) to study the prison system
  • 1839-1848 member of the Chamber of Deputies
  • 1849 French Foreign Minister
  • Withdrawal from politics after Louis Napoleons
  • Main works
  • The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856)
  • Democracy in America (1835-40)

Introductory Chapter
  • Amongst the novel objects that attracted my
    attention during my stay in the United States,
    nothing struck me more forcibly than the general
    equality of conditions. I readily discovered the
    prodigious influence which this primary fact
    exercises on the whole course of society, by
    giving a certain tenor to the laws by imparting
    new maxims to the governing powers, and peculiar
    habits to the governed.

Towards World Democracy
  • …the equality of conditions is daily progressing
    towards those extreme limits which it seems to
    have reached in the United States, and… the
    democracy which governs the American communities
    appears to be rapidly rising into power in
    Europe. (…) It is evident to all alike that a
    great democratic revolution is going on amongst
    us but there are two opinions as to its nature
    and consequences. To some it appears to be a
    novel accident… to others it seems irresistible,
    because it is the most uniform, the most ancient,
    and the most permanent tendency which is to be
    found in history.(4)

  • Europe ? America

  • The whole book… has been written under the
    impression of a kind of religious dread produced
    in the authors mind by the contemplation of so
    irresistible a revolution, which has advanced for
    centuries… It is not necessary that God himself
    should speak in order to disclose to us the
    unquestionable signs of His will we can discern
    them in the habitual course of nature, and in the
    invariable tendency of events… (7)

Abrupt Change
  • The existence of a democracy was seemingly
    unknown, when on a sudden it took possession of
    the supreme power. (…) … the democratic
    revolution has been effected only in the material
    parts of society, without that concomitant change
    in laws, ideas, customs, and manners which was
    necessary to render such a revolution benefitial.
    We have gotten a democracy, but without the
    conditions which lessen its vices and render its
    natural advantages more prominent… (9)

Need for direction
  • The Christian nations of our age seem to me to
    present a most alarming spectacle the impulse
    which is bearing them along is so strong that it
    cannot be stopped, but it is not yet so rapid
    that it cannot be guided… The first duty which is
    at this time imposed upon those who direct our
    affairs is to educate the democracy to warm its
    faith, if that be possible to purify its morals
    to direct its energies to substitute a knowledge
    of business for its inexperience, and an
    acquaintance with its true interests for its
    blind propensities… A new science of politics is
    indispensable to a new world. (8)

  • Individuality Vs. Democratic Equality
  • liberty

Tyranny of the majority
  • I hold it to be an impious and an execrable
    maxim that, politically speaking, a people has
    the right to do whatsoever it pleases, and yet I
    have asserted that all authority originates in
    the will of the majority. Am I, then, in
    contradiction with myself? (564)

  • Sovereignty of the people
  • Sovereignty of Mankind
  • Based upon justice and reason

(Compare with Rousseaus General Will)
Democracys Lights Shadows
  • In my opinion the main evil of the present
    democratic institutions of the United States does
    not arise, as is often asserted in Europe, from
    their weakness, but from their overpowering
    strength and I am not so much alarmed at the
    excessive liberty which reigns in that country,
    as at the very inadequate securities which exist
    against tyranny. (565)

What are the positive and negative aspects of
democracy, as de Tocqueville sees it developing
in America?
  • The good things and the evils of life are more
    equally distributed in the world great wealth
    tends to disappear, the number of small fortunes
    to increase desires and gratifications are
    multiplied, but extraordinary prosperity and
    irremediable penury are alike unknown. (576)

Equality… Mediocrity
  • When I survey this countless multitude of
    beings, shaped in each others likeness, amidst
    whom nothing rises and nothing falls, the sight
    of such universal uniformity saddens and chills
    me, and I am tempted to regret that state of
    society which has ceased to be. (576)

Lack of Freedom of opinion
  • In America, the majority arises very formidable
    barriers to the liberty of opinion (566) The
    Inquisition has never been able to prevent a vast
    number of antireligious books from circulating in
    Spain. The empire of the majority succeeds much
    better in the United States, since it actually
    removes the wish of publishing them.(567).

What are the relationships between Equality and
Freedom? Which one prevails in modern democracy,
according to de Tocqueville?
Freedom Art
  • If great writers have not at present existed in
    America, the reason is very simple given in these
    facts there can be no literary genius without
    freedom of opinion, and freedom of opinion does
    not exist in America. (566)

A New Aristocracy?
  • What is the aristocracy of manufacturers?
  • Have de Tocquevilles predictions come true?

The Foreigners gaze
  • A stranger frequently hears important truths at
    the fire-side of his host which the latter would
    perhaps conceal from the ear of friendship he
    consoles himself with his guest for the silence
    to which he is restricted, and the shortness of
    the travellers stay takes away all fear of his
    indiscretion. I carefully noted every
    conversation of this nature as soon as it
    occurred, but these notes will never leave my
    writing-case I had rather injure the success of
    my statements that add my name to the list of
    those strangers who repay the generous
    hospitality they have received by subsequent
    chagring and annoyance. (17)