Critical Analysis of Alex de Tocqueville's Democracy in America

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Irena Cosby
Analysis of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
Alexis de Tocqueville’s visit to the United States in 1831 prompted his work Democracy in America. This was supposed to be a chance for him to take a look at the American prison system. However, it was obvious from his writing that he looked at every aspect of American culture. In Democracy in America, he takes a look at how democracy works and the pitfalls that could bring about the downfall of democracy. Throughout his travels he noticed that private interest and personal gain motivated the actions of most Americans. He believed this cultivated a new concept, the concept of individualism. He believed this individualism was one of the greatest threats to democracy. He believed individualism would eventually sap the virtue of public life and create a despotism of selfishness. This growth of selfishness would be facilitated by citizens becoming too individualistic. They would, therefore, no longer fulfill their civic duties or exercise their freedom. De Tocqueville feared that the political order of America would soon become aimed at the satisfaction of individual needs, rather than the greater good of society. Alexis de Tocqueville viewed participation in public affairs, the growth of associations the principle of self-interest properly understood and religion as the only means by which American democracy could combat the effects of individualism. A great deal of Democracy in America was a comparison of democracy and aristocracy. He believed that in an aristocracy, people knew their ancestors and family history. An individual’s future was determined by that history. Rarely did one rise above the social status of one’s ancestors. The poor stayed poor and the rich got richer. However, in a democracy, people could change their station in life. However, this came with a price. The ability to be independent and mobile caused a disconnection between families....
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