Alexis de Tocqueville: Weaknesses of Democracy

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Alexis de Tocqueville: Weaknesses of Democracy

Most of the researches consider publications of Alexis de Tocqueville as longsighted and even prophetic. That actualizes the issues which Tocqueville investigates in his publications and books. For instance, Tocqueville in his “Democracy in America” foresees the future confrontation of Russia and United States. The reason for that is two different perception of life – for Americans the motive is a freedom, for Russians - service. Another significant problem which Tocqueville analyzed in his “Democracy in America” is the weaknesses of democracy and the relations between equality and liberty, which is the issue of continuing relevance. According to Tocqueville one the main weaknesses is the individualism, which democracy brings to birth. Tocqueville writes that this feeling instigates every person “to distance their self from the crowd and to separate their family and friends in small society”. The main goal of such society is satisfying its own needs. It should be mentioned that such “phenomenon” is naturally determined because of instability and anxiety of democratic times when you always can win and lost. Thus, Tocqueville writes “the poor conceive an eager desire to acquire comfort, and the rich think of the danger of losing it…”. Yet, individualism and materialism are not the main difficulties in the democratic society. They lead to even more dangerous consequence - greater concentration of power by administration. Since people prefer to build and to care about their own “small society”, a “big society” makes significant policy decision by itself. It should be mentioned that this problem is still actual even for modern democratic societies. For instance, there is a widespread phenomenon of absenteeism in western developed countries. Therefore, citizens are interested only in those political, economical, cultural or social issues which directly influence their own “small society”. Another serious weakness of the democratic society is a tendency toward equality. Discussing the relations between freedom and equality, Tocqueville notes that the Great Revolution will lead democratic societies toward total equality. The main insecurity of such condition, according to Tocqueville, is that all people in such society are identically equal and identically weak outside the “border” of their own societies. In such circumstances, when all people are equal, no one is obliged to help others; no one can lean on others for support. For this reason, in such democratic society no one can be defended from injustice, so that the problem of defending the minority from the will of majority becomes really essential. The centralized power in equal society is not limited, it does not defend and does not give preferences to citizens, and it just controls their existence and activity. Addiction of the equal society to unified administration leads to centralization of the power. Another significant effect of equality is tendency to isolation and separation. For the reason that people in the conditions of equality do not get any preferences and their administration only controls their lives and guarantees needs satisfaction, citizens get low hopes and aspirations about economical or social issues. Thus, they try to separate from social life. It should be mentioned that isolation and separation, which were already noticed in previous paragraph, are not only emotional problems for the people, but they also are necessary features of despotic government. Therefore, if the equality lead to isolation and separation of people, it may be really dangerous. Yet, Tocqueville in his “Democracy in America” describes not only negative features of equality. On the other hand, social equality leads citizens to identify them with each other. Nevertheless, Alexis de Tocqueville is rather pessimistic about the ability to build a perfect democracy where equality and freedom would be able to coexist. From the...
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