Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Tocqueville Final

Tocqueville Final



|Views: 206|Likes:
Published by Giorgi Areshidze

More info:

Published by: Giorgi Areshidze on Jun 02, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Tocqueville’s Account of the Role of Religion in the American Democracy — Giorgi AreshidzeProfessor Tulis, Spring 2007
In the Introduction to Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville refers to the“religious terror” that he experienced upon confronting the “irresistible revolution” that was being brought about by spread of democracy and by the relentless march of equality of conditions throughout the Western world (6). Tocqueville claims that he accepts the gradualadvance of equality as a “providential fact,” a historical development that entirely “escapeshuman power,” even though he contends that this development will wield profoundlytransformative and sometimes undesirable effects over the affairs of men (6). But whileTocqueville believes that to attempt to resist the march of equality would be as futile as to wish“to struggle against God himself,” he does not consider it beyond the capacity of man “to instructdemocracy” and to moderate its most dangerous pathologies (7). Indeed, Tocqueville intends toshow that democracy is in urgent and dire need of being instructed, because even though it hasthe potential of bringing about the conditions in which true human liberty can flourish, it alsocarries within it the seeds of a new sort of spiritual and political despotism that is far moredegrading than anything that man has experienced before. Tocqueville identifies theunprecedented and profound threat to human liberty and to intellectual independence in the ageof democracy as the “tyranny of the majority” (239-249). If the politically dominant majority indemocracy is left to its own penchants and “dangerous instincts,” Tocqueville fears that it willgradually stifle independent thought and ultimately extinguish the individual liberty which isdemocracy’s most sacred possession (419). To avoid this terrible outcome, and to preservedemocratic liberty, it is necessary to nurture the political and cultural conditions in which themajority is constantly combated, restrained and moderated by forces that are not inherent indemocracy itself.2
Tocqueville believed that he discovered in the American regime a model of democraticliberty that was wedded at its foundation with certain moderating elements that served asantidotes to the tyranny of the majority and excessive individualism, and he sought torecommend these remedies that the Americans had incorporated in their regime to the risinggeneration of Europeans who were zealously committed to the progress of political equality. Of the many factors that Tocqueville claims favored the preservation of liberty in America, one in particular stands out above all others: America, Tocqueville contends, “is the product (and this point of departure ought constantly to be present in one’s thinking) of two perfectly distinctelements that elsewhere have often made war with each other, but which, in America, they havesucceeded in incorporating somehow into one another and combining marvelously. I mean tospeak of the
 spirit of religion
and the
 spirit of freedom
” (43). The root of the vitality of theAmerican regime is that democracy in America was founded by ardent religious believers, whosucceeded at combining the enlightened spirit of republican liberty with the most austereelements of piety and religious devotion (43). Tocqueville believed that the lasting impact of thePuritan “point of departure” of the American regime was so crucial for preserving liberty in thiscountry that he claimed that in that origin was present “the key to almost the whole work” thatwas contained in Democracy in America (29). Because he believed that American democracywas sustained by what he called “mutual support” of religion and liberty, and by the salutary andmoderating influence that faith continued to exert on the character of that regime, Tocquevillehoped to present the American model as an alternative, or a corrective, to the radical anti-religious ire that had engrossed the advocates of democracy in Europe (DA, 43, Old Regime, 96-99).3

Activity (5)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads
Jussara Almeida liked this
netharvest liked this
thisisntbianca liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->