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By Jon Elster

The ebook proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him initially as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his prior paintings at the rationalization of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our realization this present day rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, lots of that are nonetheless worthwhile of extra exploration. Elster proposes a unique studying of Democracy in the US within which the major explanatory variable is the speedy financial and political turnover instead of equality of wealth at any given cut-off date. He additionally deals a analyzing of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution as grounded within the mental kin one of the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the the Aristocracy. always going past exegetical observation, he argues that Tocqueville is eminently worthy analyzing this day for his noticeable and methodological insights.

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Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist

The ebook proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him at first as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his previous paintings at the clarification of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our cognizance this present day rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, a lot of that are nonetheless priceless of additional exploration.

Additional info for Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist

Example text

At such times men swoop down upon equality as upon conquered spoils and cling to it as a pre­ cious good that someone would snatch from their grasp. The passion for equal­ ity then inundates the human heart and fills it entirely. No use telling people that such blind surrender to an exclusive passion jeopardizes their most cher­ ished interests: they are deaf. No use pointing out to them that liberty slips through their fingers while their attention is focused elsewhere: they are blind, or, rather, in all the world they see only one good worth coveting.

DA p. 276) [Because] the United States was settled by equals, no natural and permanent conflict among their interests yet exists. Social states do exist in which members of the minority cannot hope to win over the majority. . In the United States, political questions of such an absolute and general kind cannot arise, and all parties are prepared to recognize the rights of the majority, because all hope some day to exercise those rights. (DA, p. 285) These claims must be understood on the background of Tocque­ ville's argument that in America politics, no less than private fortunes are in incessant flux (Ch.

It was a hatred embittered by all the envy that the new noble inspired in his erstwhile equals" (AR, p. 1 28). But as in the text just cited (AR, p. 1 27), he also refers to economic envy within classes, adding that "in this system of collective taxation, each taxpayer had a direct and permanent interest in spying on his neighbors and informing the tax collector of any increase in their wealth. All were trained to outdo each other in slander and hatred" (AR, p. 1 59). In DA Tocqueville has extensive discussions of the causes and effects of envy.

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