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Lift your lamp beside the golden door, Break not the golden rule, avoid well the golden calf, know; not all that glitters is gold, and laissez faire et laissez passer [let do and let pass] but as a shining sentinel, hesitate not to ring the bell, defend the gates, and man the wall

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Democracy In America by Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy in America was published in numerous editions in the 19th century. It was immediately popular in both Europe and the United States, while also having a profound impact on the French population. By the twentieth century, it had become a classic work of political science, social science, and history. It is a commonly assigned reading for undergraduates of American universities majoring in the political or social sciences, and part of the introductory political theory syllabus at Oxford.

Tocqueville's work is often acclaimed for making a number of predictions that were eventually borne out. Tocqueville correctly anticipates the potential of the debate over the abolition of slavery to tear apart the United States (as it indeed did in the American Civil War) and the rise of the United States and Russia as rival superpowers, which they did become after World War II, with Russia as the central component of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, he predicts that any part of the Union would be able to declare independence, something that didn't happen.

American democracy was seen to have some unfavourable aspects: the despotism of public opinion, the tyranny of the majority; conformity for the sake of material security; and a lack of intellectual freedom, the deficiency in which he felt tended to degrade administration and to reduce statesmanship, learning, and literature to the lowest level. Democracy in America predicted the violence of party spirit and the judgment of the wise subordinated to the prejudices of the ignorant.

Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_In_America

Armstrong and Getty Discuss


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Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits..

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. 

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Project Gutenberg -


http://www.gutenberg.org/files/816/816-h/816-h.htm

Read Online -

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/home.html

PDFs -

http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/toqueville/dem-in-america1.pdf
http://rosenoire.org/archives/de_Tocqueville,_Alexis_-_Democracy_in_America_-_Vol_2.pdf
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Tocqueville's Discovery of America by Leo Damrosch (Read 1st Chapter Free via Amazon)


http://english.republiquelibre.org/Notes-of-alexis-de-tocqueville-in-lower-canada.html

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