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Democracy in America

Alexis De Tocquevilles Democracy in America delves deep into how the American States and the federal government would grow politically and socially under the umbrella of democracy. He sees the United States as a unique entity because of how and why it started as well as its geographical location. De Tocqueville explains that the foundations of the democratic process in America are completely different from anywhere else on the globe. The land was virginal and the colonies had almost complete sovereignty from England from the very beginning because they were separated by an ocean and financial troubles.

The people who came to America were the oppressed and unhappy in England and all were trying to find a place where they could start anew and create a political structure that would facilitate an individual freedom unlike anything that they had previously experienced in Europe. De Tocqueville believed that the nature of democracy in the New World rested within the fact that all of the emigrants were basically from the same social strata, resulting in the first new country where there was no preliminary basis for an aristocracy. Land is the basis of an aristocracyand [in America] when he ground was prepared, its produce was found to be insufficient to enrich a proprietor and a farmer at the same t ime(41). ” He saw that even the soil of America was opposed to the structure of an aristocracy. There were also outside influences lending unvoiced support for the creation of this new democracy. Being an ocean apart from its mother country, who at this time did not have the financial reserves to oversee its colonies, let the Americans govern themselves.

If they had not had this sovereignty at the beginning America might have become something completely different than it is today, but that as not the case, so these emigrants now had a fertile place to plant their ideas of a country founded upon the many ideas of the Enlightenment. Another large influence was the lack of neighbors. America had no worries of guarding and protecting its borders because there was not anyone there who could pose a threat.

They could put all of their energies toward the creation of their democracy. This democratic nation was to have no aristocracy and only one major division between its people: the North and the South. De Tocqueville saw two very different attitudes in these regions. The North and the South ad conflicting views as to how they were going to advance themselves in the economic and political arenas. But the introduction of slavery into labor was the major conflict between the two. Slaverydishonors labor; it introduces idleness into a society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distressThe influence of slavery, united to the English character, explains the manners and the social condition of the Southern States(42). ” With the advent of slavery, the South was creating a class system amongst themselves that would not exist in the other regions of the States. The few Southern ounders were granted huge amounts of land with which to work, and instead of diving into the land themselves like the northerners did with their smaller pieces of land.

They instead bought slaves and would eventually divide the country in a nasty dispute over their handling of affairs. He realized that the majority of the influences over public policy were the men in the North. They created the first public school system that was to be readily accessible to the majority of the people. The enlightened idea that every man should have access to knowledge was given exercise in this new nation, creating a ighly learned society, but one that is not very intellectual. Schools teach specialized skills so that American can enter the work force as soon as possible, but gloss over any areas that have no value in work.

Whereas in England, the few who do go on towards a higher education are actually being challenged and forced to expand their minds, higher education in America is available to many, but it is more specialized and very basic. This unlimited quantity, limited quality relationship is seem by de Tocqueville as an inherent part of a democratic society. This is because, “there is no classin which the taste for intellectual leasures is transmitted with hereditary fortune and leisure and [wherein] intellect [is] held in honor(53). Democracy is a facilitator of a blended society. The masses will be very similar in their thinking as well as their actions. America is a social democracy because the citizens are united by their beliefs and movements as well as their political organization and its laws. “In no country, in world does the law hold so absolute a language as it does in America; and in no country is the right of applying it vested in so many hands(63). ” Americans give up the idea of complete personal freedom o that they can obtain and preserve a civil society in which they can live.

A centralized government is one that controls all interests that are common amongst the nation, whereas a centralized administration deals with the interests of a small area or community. “These two kinds of centralization mutually assist and attract each other; but they must not be supposed to be inseparable(63). ” De Tocqueville sees America as having no real centralized administration but a supreme system of centralized government. This is states because America only has one legislature in each State that reigns.

He sees this as a great strength as well as its weakest point. Where ever there is a government that changes power so quickly do to its “subord inat[ion] to the power of the people(65)” will be susceptible to its “vigor. ” The States will be most likely torn apart by their vehemence and not apathy. In the 1830s, many of the citizens were very interested in every turn that this budding country took in the political arena. They saw criminals as a personal affront and society shunned all who dared to break the peace.

Now, with millions of people who live from the Atlantic o the Pacific, many views of American politics have changed. Instead of enthusiasm, apathy has taken over many people. Presidential elections have to most turn-outs, but those still do not have 50% turn-out rates. Laziness has taken over present day America and the society is really hurting because of it. Crime is rampant and no one seems to care if justice or punishment is served or not. Many are very disillusioned with the government and think it is easier to do nothing than to become involved and try to change it.

This is in direct relation to de Tocquevilles notion that democracies have a tendency o lose liberty and personal interest as the country grows larger. Not only with more people are there bound to be more differing ideas, but more people who share them, creating more voiced dissonance in the political sphere. This dissonance is glossed over when still in the minority. “[T]he tyranny of the majority” is one of de Tocquevilles main concerns with democratic nations. When a government is run and hindered by the thoughts of the majority, where do the ideas of the minority fit?

When in elections only 45% of the population votes, and who elects representatives, how is the majority of the country really epresented? The original thought behind the majority was that the consensus of many would be more informed and intelligent than of a few. But looking upon the uninformed voting habits of the public today, is that still the case? De Tocqueville sees the problem of an oppressive majority and it seems to have come to light in the last few decades. He views the majority not as an entity unto itself, but as a conglomeration of single men who might have aspirations other than the betterment of society.

If a lone man has the ability to misuse power, what changes if a majority has the ability to misuse as well? Thought is an invisible and subtle power, that mocks all efforts of tyranny(116). ” Since America is founded upon education that lacks thought, Americans are facilitating oppressive powers from the very place they are trying to facilitate freedom and liberty. Original American concepts of democracy are falling to the wayside, hypocrisy and apathy are taking its place, creating an even more fertile ground for the majority to gain more power than it already has.

If not careful, the majority will soon be speaking for a very select group, while the masses will be left out, creating a despotic government f the past to take over what is now one of the greatest democracies of the era. In response to Hofstadters theory on anti-intellectualism, De Tocquevilles vision of American education, or lack there of, again comes into play. It is not in the nature of America to strive for excellence. For to do so would be to draw oneself out of the masses, creating a feeling of distrust and suspicion that would envelop them wherever they went.

In order to feel a common bond with ones’ peers, intellectualism is not the route to take. So as to not alienate oneself, one must be content to merely be average. Mass media knows this; television was not created to promote education, it was and is used as an “opiate for the masses,” as Karl Marx once said about anything that would keep peoples minds off what could potentially be revolutionary ideas. Lives kept mundane and boring are not a threat to the development and movement of a nation. The contradictions in American values are amazing.

Liberty is canonized, yet Americans will give it up so easily if enticed, which is not difficult. Yet, there is still some element that has kept the country together and away from the tendency to convert from democratic means o other, more easily managed ways of govern. This element is adaptable from person to person. Many are content with the government as it is, as long as they can go about their lives without interference. Others will whole-heartedly take it as a personal mission to enter into politics and change the world for the better.

Whatever the case may be, people are easily led away from what is really important to the lasting of a society, and take their lives on a tangent route that may leave them satisfied with their mediocre accomplishments, but might eventually kill off any real progress towards excellence in any enre of society, even if for the time being, it feels that as a nation, America is content with itself. De Tocquevilles ideas of the effects of democracy on feelings and gender roles are very enlightening.

He sees the lack of class distinctions as to why Americans are immediately friendly with one another. Since no one person is better than the next, there is no premise for suspicion of one another. Americans are unaccustomed to a rigid etiquette, so they are less easily upset by a slight from another person. Amiable to the end, they will most likely let minor things blow over, and they will be hard to provoke ith breaches in decorum. Americans are very good-natured for the most part, and this trait will always make them a little apart from the rest of the Western societies.

De Tocqueville sees women in America as extremely different from the women in Europe. “and she is remarkable rather for purity of manners than for chastity of mind(234). ” He sees American women as worldly and unaffected by the European naivet and ignorance. He sees the influence of democracy in every action of a female. She has none of the rigid social restraints of the Europeans, and in so, needs to know how to combat her passions erself and not rely on society to do it for her. American women are self-assured and strong of opinion.

They have an innate ability to be strong and independent while still respectful of their husbands and fathers. Religion helps in maintaining constraints on the female population, but democratic societies hold the woman responsible for herself. De Tocqueville has left no aspect of American society out of his publication. He rips the American body open and examines all the things that are inside right down to the bare bones. It is a little scary to read of ones own nation and its culture. To realize that ones own life is not how he made it, but of how his ancestors have created society.

Whether it be as to how Americans view their politics, or their social afflictions, de Tocqueville voices his opinions as to what is commendable, are conversely, what is wrong with every aspect of America. He sees America through the eyes of intelligent outsider who has no reason to make America sound anything other than it is. He has done a very thorough job, and his vision of nineteenth century America will surely help lead America into the twenty-first century with a better definition of itself.

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