An overview of the democratic theory and the democratic life in an americans identity

But the theory of government remained an overarching theoretical concept in continental Europe right to the end of the nineteenth century e. The sciences concerned with the state have been differentiated and specialized. Public law, economics, political science, political sociology, geography, planning, and other academic disciplines have developed their own systems of reference for theory and analysis.

An overview of the democratic theory and the democratic life in an americans identity

Convinced of the irreversibility of democracy and contemptuous of reactionaries who thought they could block this historical movement, he was nevertheless obsessed by the erosion of those traditional contexts and values—aristocracy, honor, localism, religion, cultural variety—on which European liberty had depended for so many centuries.

In his personal life this conflict of values proved almost too great to contain, and in his final years he succumbed to melancholy, despairing of the future of liberty and culture in Europe.

An overview of the democratic theory and the democratic life in an americans identity

It was this same tension, however, that provided the underlying creative impulse behind the extraordinarily dispassionate analyses of modern society contained in his two major works, Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the French Revolution Each of these men endowed a single dynamic aspect of the social order with decisive developmental significance.

It is this principle of social development that gives meaning to the major areas of fact and insight into which his sociological work falls. There are four such areas: Tocqueville was fascinated by the problem of power, particularly the power of the modern democratic state.

The impact of centralized, massbased sovereignty upon the traditional authorities of family, local community, social class, and morality is a theme in his work second only to that of equalitarianism.

The two themes are, indeed, inseparable. Tocqueville was not the first to emphasize the affinity between social equality and political centralization, but his Democracy in America is certainly the first systematic treatment of the subject, just as his Old Regime and the French Revolution is the first scholarly demonstration of the roots of the French Revolution in the history of European administrative centralization.

From the vantage point of contemporary sociology, three aspects of his consideration of power are noteworthy: Democracy inevitably has an accelerative influence upon bureaucracy, for unpaid political service can be performed only by the rich and privileged, whose very existence frustrates the objectives of democracy.

Hence it is possible, he wrote, to measure the progress of democracy in a nation by the rate of increase of paid functionaries. Tocqueville saw the relation between bureaucratic centralization and social equalitarianism not only as historical but also as functional.

All that erodes social hierarchy, regionalism, and localism is bound to intensify centralization in the state. Conversely, all that furthers the development of political centralization—war, dynastic ambition, and revolution—is bound to accelerate social leveling.

While the major cause of modern bureaucracy is the democratization of power, Tocqueville identified four factors which account for its variable intensity from nation to nation: When revolution ushers in democracy, as in France, it makes for a higher degree of initial centralization than is the case when democracy evolves gradually, as in the United States.

When the lower classes hold the balance of poweradministration tends to be centralized, for this is the only means whereby the lower classes can wrest power from local aristocracy.

The lower the level of literacy in a population, the greater and more inevitable the tendency to concentrate administration in an educated, governing elite. Both saw conflict between bureaucracy and the democratic impulses that had helped produce it.

For both men, any future despotism would emerge not primarily from individuals or groups but from the bureaucratic system per se.

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Despite his profound interest in public opinion, he had no clear awareness of its sources. It does not seem to have occurred to him that public opinion is something that can be manufactured by minority pressure groups. He conceived of it as a more or less direct emanation from the political masses.

But if he did not explore its sources and variable expressions, he nevertheless correctly identified it as a new and powerful force in the modern state, one henceforth crucial to the legitimacy of governments.


Equally important, Tocqueville, in contrast to most political conservatives of his day, feared not the instability but the stability of public opinion in democracy, a stability so great, in his view, that not only political revolution but even intellectual innovation would become increasingly unlikely.

Liberty, in his view, has little to do with the breadth of political power or the extent of mass participation in it. Liberty can exist only where there are countervailing authorities which stand as buffers between the individual and the central government.

Traditional secondary authorities—aristocracy, guild, commune—had been eroded by the impact of equalitarian democracy. Tocqueville asked what authorities, if any, had succeeded these. In Europe he found almost none; hence his growing pessimism about the future of liberty there.


In America, however, the great profusion of voluntary associations, the power and independence of local communities, the professions especially the legal professionand the whole system of division of powers within the political government seemed to him the effective basis of a pluralism that might restrain the powers of both majority opinion and administrative centralization.

A distinction between authority and power is fundamental in Tocqueville, authority being the inner nature of association, rooted in function and allegiance, while power is coercion, generally with the implication of force externally applied.

It is in terms of this distinction that his treatment of family, local community, master-servant, professional, and other social relationships can most readily be understood. Each of these, for Tocqueville, is a pattern of constraints as well as of activities, and its internal strength is a function of its relative immunity from political power.

He is at the opposite extreme from Marx, who found in the capitalist class essentially the same union of power, wealth, and status that had characterized the feudal nobility. According to Tocqueville, the dominant tendency of modern history is toward the disengagement of these three elements from one another.

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Social classin the sense of self-conscious and culturally distinct classes, is precluded in modern society by exactly the same forces that destroyed feudal aristocracy: There are levels of wealth and privilege, but the nature of democracy and of a money-based economy prevents these levels from hardening into real classes.

Tocqueville was by no means blind to the power of manufacturing interests and their remoteness from workers. For while the category is fixed by industrialism, the content is ever-changing; incessant mobility prevents the crystallizing of attitudes and culture, the sinking of roots, and the socially recognized eminence that social class requires.

What struck Tocqueville was the immense middle class in the United States.You may have arrived at this page because you followed a link to one of our old platforms that cannot be redirected. Cambridge Core is the new academic platform from Cambridge University Press, replacing our previous platforms; Cambridge Journals Online (CJO), Cambridge Books Online (CBO), University Publishing Online (UPO), Cambridge Histories Online (CHO), Cambridge Companions Online (CCO.

Academy of Social Sciences ASS The United Kingdom Association of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences formed in gave rise to the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences incorporated , which became the Academy of Social Sciences on ASS Commission on the Social Sciences Notes from the meeting on by Ron Johnston.

Different patterns of democratization are often used to explain other political phenomena, such as whether a country goes to a war or whether its economy grows. Democratization itself is influenced by various factors, including .

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BibMe Free Bibliography & Citation Maker - MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard. EUROPEAN LIFE European Jews are divided mainly between the Jews of Spain and Portugal, the Sephardim, and the Jews from German-speaking countries .

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