Intro to Tocqueville
Intro to Tocqueville MC 201
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Nina Notetaker on Wednesday October 5, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to MC 201 at Michigan State University taught by Zierler in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 3 views. For similar materials see Intro Study of Public Aff I in James Madison at Michigan State University.
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Date Created: 10/05/16
MC 201 Notes: Introduction to & the Examination of Democracy in America October 3, 2016 1. Background on the book a. Aristocrat by birth – family member of the old French aristocracy. Family lost all during the revolution in 1789. Became a democrat b. He had apolitical career – became the French foreign minister. c. Came to the US to study the prisons (at the time, US justice system was admired) d. Published two books (part 1 & 2) about US democracy e. Main theme of the book: “Democratic Revolution” i. As soon as democracy entered the US, it spread quickly and widely. ii. People are asserting their right to self-govern. f. Project: understand the changes taking place. Why is this happening? What is actually changing? How far is this going to spread? What determines if this transition will succeed or fail? g. Says America somehow holds the answer 2. The Meaning of Equality as Tocqueville defines it a. Introduction: “Of all the novel things…than the quality of social conditions” i. Amazed how equal everything is (even though we see it today as a lack of equality). What is equal? What does he see? b. Page 11: “Soon I came to realize…anything it does not directly instigate itself.” i. Says that democracy is more than a system of “political customs and laws”, such as majority rule and equality under the law. ii. Democracy also influences area of our private lives such as our “opinions”, “feelings”, and “ways of acting” iii. When he says democracy he doesn’t mean our political opinions but how we form those opinions? iv. Not a belief about politics – a belief about what God wants. But politics also affects this. Back in the day, capitalism was seen as a sin. Unlike European children, Americans don’t see their parents as authority figure- don’t call parents Madam/etc. Tocqueville says. But the children do ask for advice. Very democratic. 3. When we talk about democratic revolutions… a. Means democracy is bringing about great change to people 4. The spread of democracy: a. He predicts that the democratic revolution will continue to spread. i. More and more countries will become democratic 1. And it’s true – over the years – exception of WWII – democracies increased. Well, it WAS true, for 200 years. 2. Many countries over the years try to become democratic and then fall back to authoritarian law. a. Syria. Egypt. Turkey. Eastern Europe. ii. Democratic countries will become more and more equal internally 1. Civil rights waves b. The spread of democracy is “the most sustained, longstanding, and permanent development ever found in history” (12). c. “The gradual unfurling of equality in social conditions is, therefore, a providential fact…” (15) – his famous statement i. Providential = not man. God like fact. 5. Why do some democracies succeed? Why do some fall? He is exploring this questions and says America has the key. 6. America and France a. America and France underwent democratic revolutions around the same time, but with different outcomes. b. The French Revolution was unsuccessful: i. “Thus we have abandoned…” (20) ii. Machine for cutting off heads made in France/re-revolution c. The American Revulsion was successful i. Constitution adopted peacefully ii. No civil war like in France iii. “There is one country in the world where…” (23) d. Why did America’s succeed and France’s fail? What did the US do right that France did wrong? i. Institutions are not enough, something else is needed, but what? ii. Find it in the US. 7. Problems of democracy a. Tyranny of the majority: “If ever freedom…” (304) i. Worried majority is shallow ii. Worried disagreeing with majority will lead to attacks iii. Saw a healthy discourse – minority opinions said and heard and no one thinks it’s bad, although it does get heated. iv. In France, people had high expectations and demand but apathetic. Didn’t want to get involved in government. b. Individualism: “each citizen cuts himself…” (587) c. Despotism: “I believe it to be easier…” d. In America, democracy is about the people governing themselves. e. In France, people want the government to hear their demands and make their demands happen. f. Unique appreciation for the death of the revolution and the scope of the revolution and has some key ideas. Chapter 2 8.
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