Questions to think about when reading Tocqueville:
- Tocqueville wrote in 1831 after he traveled to America to understand egalitarian society - an aristocrat writing post-revolutionary France
- came from family that suffered during the French Revolution - doesn’t see the Revolution as a positive thing, and doesn’t prize democracy - is a realist (doesn’t think time can reverse)
- equality is inevitable and decline of aristocracy is inevitable as well - by democracy, he means society where there is equality of status, old aristocratic society (etc. king, queen, commoner status) is removed
1. Why do master-servant relations differ in aristocracies and democracies? (relate to Chapter 5) 2. Why are two Englishmen abroad so distant from each other? (relate to Chapter 2) 3. Why are Americans difficult to offend at home in America but so easily offended abroad? (relate to Chapter 3) 4. Why are humanitarian sentiments more prevalent in democratic societies than aristocratic societies? (relate to Chapter 1 and 4)
Chapter 1: How Mores Become More Gentle as Social Conditions Become More Equal In times of equality, people are more sensitive to the sufferings of others because they can imagine themselves in the same position.
* Equality of social conditions and greater gentleness of mores are correlative facts (i.e. did not happen by chance) * Between members of each class, people feel as though they are children of the same family and have sympathy for one another as they come from the same profession, property, and birth level * However, members of different classes do not have real sympathetic feelings for one another * Members of each class (or caste) have their own opinions, feelings, rights, mores, and a whole separate existence therefore cannot understand and judge what others (from other castes) suffer * People had obligations to others (such as devotion of serf to lord or duty of lord to serfs) that arose from political rights, not natural right - assistance was given not because people cared for one another as a human being, but because they were bound and affected by class * Feudal institutions made people sensible to sufferings of certain men (men from the same caste as you) but not to miseries of the entire human race (because there is no sympathy for people of different caste from you) - e.g. the aristocrats carry grief towards tragedy of a noble, but have no feelings toward tragedy of the poor, because they don’t understand the poor’s suffering and fate * “when ranks are almost equal among people, as all men think and feel in the same manner, each instantaneously can judge the feelings of all the others…there is no misery that he cannot readily understand…his imagination and rapid glance at himself at once puts him in their place” * in a democracy, men show general compassion for all human race, and would relive sorrows of others when they can do so without too much trouble to themselves * Americans have the most kindness in criminal justice, and have removed capital punishment from their codes (vs. harsh punishment in UK) * As people become more equal, they show more reciprocal compassion, and the law of nations become more gentle
Chapter 2: How Democracy Leads to Ease and Simplicity in the Ordinary Relations between Americans Because there are no prejudices or class barriers to prevent people from socializing with one another in a democracy, people relate to each easily in a natural, frank and open manner.
* When two Englishmen meet abroad, surrounded by strangers who speak a different language and act in a different manner, they will show great curiosity and anxiety, and will try to avoid each other * In aristocratic England where wealth takes the place of one’s birth, the rich fears losing or sharing their wealth, while the poor tries to get wealth at all costs or pretends to be rich leading to an unspoken warfare between all citizens * This is why the English...
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