tocqueville_pess fall 09-1

tocqueville_pess fall 09-1 - Tocqueville: Why Democracy...

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Tocqueville: Why Democracy Might Be a Disaster, and Why it Might Be Wonderful First sessions: Why disaster Second set of sessions: why wonderful
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some very brief preliminary definition of terms These definitions are, like all others in the realm of politics, topics of fierce argument, but just for now, we’ll start with these: 1. “the government”--a system of organizing political and military power (also called “the state”) For example, two types of “government:” “Monarchy” vs. “Democracy” (majority rule, equality among citizens, decision-making that is supposed to be based on the majority rationally deliberating) 2. “the economy”--a system of distributing goods and services For example, three types of “economic” systems Feudalism: Aristocrats control land and other means of production. They extract labor from peasants, in an unequal relationship that continues for generations vs. “capitalism (also called “free enterprise”): Individuals privately control factories and other means of production. The people at the top employ other individuals (at a profit to themselves) in a relationship that ends whenever the one on top wants it to end. Vs. “socialism,” a system of production in which workers control production by making decisions together about how to produce, what to produce, how much, what hours, etc. (keep this thought in the back of your mind, though, for later in the semester: Goldman’s essay, that we’ll read later, shows that this kind of decision-making widens “deomocratic” decision-making to the workplace, so it’s both “political” and “economic” Tocqueville sees potential problems in both “the government” and “the economy” in societies that he calls democracies.
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associations:” Conscious, active, participatory self-rule, self-government (democracy among equals) is a good goal The big question for the section on Tocqueville -->Self-rule works only if The People are decent (not cruel or stupid) -->Life in democracy teaches people the necessary “habits of the heart” or “mores,” through local governance associations, the press, equality, and competition, all in balance> --> When democracy goes off balance or lacks a key nutrient, it’s hard to learn those habits because there is no constant need for them> -->Hardly anyone becomes fit for self-rule--> -->Someone else (tyrant, dictator) will easily take over, because The People are no longer fit for self-rule -->People have fewer and fewer opportunities to learn self-rule So it’s a vicious spiral downwards. Is that the situation we’re in today? Can we reverse the spiral? How, if at all, can volunteering and/or political
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tocqueville_pess fall 09-1 - Tocqueville: Why Democracy...

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