Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America addresses the benefits and disadvantages the United States demonstrates in an advance democracy. In this paper I will argue how persuasive and suitable his work on understanding the ineluctable growth of democracy is to prepare mankind of a new way of life and set a standard of security for the new political structure as well. De Tocqueville’s trip to America inspired him to put democracy under a microscope, personally he was not fond of the idea of it but knew it was going to take over the world.
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He identifies what the French revolutions lacked and what America had succeeded or failed to do in order to form and figure a democracy for France that will not crumble.
On his trip to America, De Tocqueville’s understanding of the equality of conditions was that it was the most vital component of American life, a “fundamental fact”. It touches everything, creates opinions, traditions, politics, the law, and society. “I readily discovered the prodigious influence which this [equality of conditions] primary fact exercises on the whole course of society…” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page. 398) It touches everything, creates opinions, traditions, politics, the law Not only does he conquer that America, democracy is at its “most developed state”, but does not see a decline anytime soon. De Tocqueville views democracy, or in his eye’s “equality”, as an unstoppable and, to some, an irresistible force. That every man and woman, intentional or not, has contributed to the rise and success of democracy throughout the world. Along with this discussion of ascending equality, he introduces the revolutions happening among the Christian world such as places like France and major events as in The Crusades. De Tocqueville introduces God, whom in his eyes we are, “…blind instruments in the hands of…” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page. 400). That whether we like it or not, God has already predetermined what is to happen, that though we have free will to make our choices, that we are unwillingly and unknowingly following the fate set up centuries before us by God, himself. Democracy, like it or not, is destined, by God, to spread to all of human civilization.
Making it clear that these works are not acts of praise, Alexis De Tocqueville also dives into what could go wrong. Issues such as establishing equality in the political world, moral authority and the chance for tyrannical rule. In an equally constituted country, De Tocqueville states, “To conceive of men remaining forever unequal upon to a single point, yet equal on all others, is impossible; they must come in the end to be equal upon all.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 411.) He also addresses two methods of establishing equality in the political world; either everyone has the same rights or rights must be taken away and permitted to no one. To which he leaves to society to pick itself, but takes in account the human heart, which is filled with passion and a “taste for equality” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 411). De Tocqueville arises the paradox, “…, the people have a right to do anything; and yet I have asserted that all authority originate in the will of the majority.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 413.) He believes that, granted with such a privilege of equal rights and ability to do as pleased, why would one grant the majority the ability to make decisions for themselves? Alexis De Tocqueville’s coined term “soft despotism”, is a form of tyranny disguised with the illusion of popular control. He fears that it may lurk in the shadows of democracy hidden in the majority rule, the people unaware of such events unfolding in their equal country. De Tocqueville believes that unlimited power is itself risky and a poor choice, that humans are incapable of handling it with caution. He argues, “I am not much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country [America], as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 415.) He concludes in the fact that it is not the equality itself which is harmful, but the lack of precautions observed in case of “soft deposition” sneaking its way into the majority.
Alexis De Tocqueville supports his claim of the inevitable spread of democracy by peoples fear of God, that humans unwillingly in his control. No matter your preposition to democracy, whether you supported or fought the cause in the first place, is beside the question. He gives no further examples to support his claim, “It is not necessary that God himself should speak in order that we may discover the unquestionable signs of his will.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 401.) De Tocqueville relies on his observations in America and “… the habitual course of nature and the constant tendency of events.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 401.) Which I can only assume is referring the all of the failed attempts of French Revolutions he has witnessed, from this observation it seems that his, “history repeating itself”, supporting claim is unsubstantiated. From a civilian point of view, the quote earlier stated of which we are blind in God’s hands, is not exactly a comforting statement, whether I address my religious beliefs or not. The statement radiates a lack of free will, and the feeling to become insubordinate to the front.
Determinism, a theory clearly supported and presented by De Tocqueville in his God-fearing statements of prearranged destiny, theorizes that everything in life (events, moral values, relationships, etc..) has already been completely established by antecedently existing clauses. The resurfacing quote, “…blind instruments in the hands of God.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 400.) is a direct relation to determinism, directly implying that God has complete control of one’s life and fate. This argument rids the idea completely of having free will in a democratic society due to the religious, external force controlling every aspect of your life from above. Isn’t the point he’s trying to convey about an excessive amount of freedom? The contradictory religious statement derails the democratic element De Tocqueville preaches of ability of choice.
Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a poor promotional pamphlet for the sale of the democratic political system. I understand that De Tocqueville, with a dislike for democracy but acknowledges that it’s here to say, wrote this piece as a critique used to improve the outcome of the next French revolution, to work with and shape the form of democracy entering his country. He wishes to custom make France’s democracy to avoid imminent problems he witnessed in America. Democracy in America lacks optimistic arguments but does present the growth of democratic life interestingly. He uses fear, fate, and elements that are presented in everyday life to describe the various impacts and inescapable conditions of democracy to help, what seems, prepare humanity for the “new science of politics… needed for a new world.” (Alexis De Tocqueville, page 401.)
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