Democracy in America Book Review revised

Democracy in America Book Review revised - 1 A Review of...

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1 A Review of Democracy in America By Esaias Tong Although Tocqueville presented various points in his book, one of his main points worth mentioning was that democracy had mixed consequences - while it promoted true freedom and liberty of thought on one end, the growing ‘tyranny of the majority’ suppressed freedom of thought; I think he succeeded in this regard because his predictions about how the Americans should ‘struggle against tyranny of the majority without destroying public order’ 1 were astonishingly accurate. Tocqueville’s main purpose was to report the condition of democracy and equality in America at that time, discover the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic movement in America and predict the survival of Democracy and freedom. He wished to share the information on American Democracy with the people of his mother country, France to find out why Democracy was so successful in America and compared America’s Democracy profoundly with Europe’s aristocracy. As Americans took pride in their personal freedoms, but not in their individuality, by focusing on their sameness. The danger of ‘sameness’, as Tocqueville put it: “As the conditions of men become more equal amongst a people, individuals seem of less, and society of greater importance; or rather, every citizen, being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd, and nothing stands conspicuous but the great and imposing image of the people at large.” 2 The problem is that the majority’s opinion may not always be the best one to benefit the greater good of everyone, as it may suppress minorities’ opinions and their individual rights, effectively discouraging freedom of thought for the individual. No individual opinion would stand out and
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2 the ‘peculiar characteristics of each individual may be lost in the general aspect of the world.’ 3 However, by going against the opinion of the majority may in turn emphasize the superiority of the opinion of the individual. This dilemma may be avoided if there are checks and balances on the power of the majority to influence the government. Tocqueville warns that the ‘true friends of liberty and the greatness of man ought constantly to be on the alert, to prevent the power of government from lightly sacrificing the private rights of the individuals’. By exercising their wisdom and free will, the American people may foresee the potential hazards of democracy and therefore avoid them. A central theme consistent throughout Tocqueville’s fourth volume of ‘Democracy in America’ is how to achieve the marriage of individual freedom and majority rule in America. Political and social conditions created the healthy and fertile environment for freedom and
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This note was uploaded on 08/17/2011 for the course HIST 1301 taught by Professor Lauderback during the Spring '09 term at Austin Community College.

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Democracy in America Book Review revised - 1 A Review of...

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