The two volumes of Democracy in America, written by Alexis de Tocqueville, stand as objective evaluations of the American democracy and society. In 1835 Tocqueville published his first volume which cast a positive light on how a modern democracy should operate; five years later, in 1840, the second volume was published to illustrate the dangers of despotism, and overly powerful centralized governments.
Tocqueville pursued his evaluation amidst a shift in French government from an aristocracy toward a more democratized nation. During his work within the courts of Versailles, Tocqueville developed a sense of strong liberalism as he knew that the aristocracy was bound to vanish. The shifting form of France’s government precipitated into a revolution, and Tocqueville saw a great opportunity and responsibility to analyze what lessons other democracies had learned so he could be part of leading France and other nations into governments that were modeled from the strengths of democracy while avoiding the weaknesses.
He traveled to the United States to examine the fine details of how each cog of the machine worked, to reveal the inadequacies, to project future problems, and to gather information about the struggles America faced throughout the development of our society. After his time in America, Tocqueville continued his studies in England in an effort to learn the intricacies of the British government. His efforts would be forever immortalized in the two volumes of Democracy in America.
One of the chief weaknesses that Tocqueville observed about the American system was the potential for a highly individualized public brought about through equality. He directly linked individualism with equality, and drew the conclusion that as the people become more equal, their drive toward individualism and materialism grows. This condition, Tocqueville asserted, would eventually lead to despotism because more people would focus on themselves rather than their...
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