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Democracy in America (from Tocqueville's Work)

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Submitted By peterdescombe
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De la Démocratie en Amérique – Tocqueville

The ideal of a democracy, like the one developed by the Americans since 1776, lies in the fact that Men were born equals. This principle of equality has been the foundation of Tocqueville’s thought. All along this book, we can notice that the causes that enable the democratic state of America to be, lies on the particular situation of this country. Indeed, America lives under a pure democracy, without any aristocratic inheritance or revolutionary passions. This country has laws, recognized and applied by “almost” everybody. However, the country also has habits and morals deeply integrated (brought about by the diverse immigration) and particularly powerful.

Usually within a democracy, common opinion rules the world. Although, the Americans hold a very particular philosophical vision according to which, each individual, unique, judge things by himself. As a matter, everyone cannot put forward his own opinion about every subject because if it was the case, he would dedicate and lost most of his time to study and, seeing that everything couldn’t be detailed, would go for some approximation. That is why Tocqueville says that, for some special domain, such as religion for example, it is necessary for the human being to come to general ideas. The example quoted by Tocqueville is very forceful and makes us able to catch the consequences of the emanation of an individual thought on this point.

Tocqueville clearly distinguishes the individuals from aristocratic society from the ones from democratic society. Thus, the first ones blindly follow the ideas and doctrine inculcated by a man considered as higher than the other. To the contrary, the second ones, being considered all equals, will rather tend to believe the principles adopted by the mass. In this second case, the majority make the society exists and Tocqueville...

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