Sunday, September 27, 2020

New From Alexis de Tocqueville

"Tocqueville, was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, and historian. 

He is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution

In both, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. 

Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville's travels in the United States and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science."

(The above was cut and pasted from Wikipedia.)

Tocqueville wondered at various aspects of t the United States of America as he toured it and as he discovered it.

He found America's proclivity to form associations for the achievement of socially advantageous purposes to be of especial note.

Even more special than that, he found that America seemed to be proving that a people could govern themselves, sans roi.

He found that to be amazing.

Oddly the thing that I remember most from his book was his description of a farmstead that he had wandered upon somewhere in the frontier - Ohio/Indiana in those days: he said that the people had enclosed their keep with a fence made up of a fairly robust weave of the branches of some local shrub.

The branches had apparently retained enough vitality and sap to sprout leaves and put down roots; the result was a keep enclosed in a living shrubbery barrier.

For some reason that has always been one of my favorite images of early America.

Given my interest in Tocqueville I was recently excited by the discovery of some unpublished parts of the manuscript that became Democracy in America.

In a cellar of a building on rue Guénégaud in Paris, in an alcove in the limestone wall, some workers found a roll of paper nearly destroyed by the humidity of two centuries; but, since it had been rolled, it could be unrolled and read.

It had been intended to have been included in  Democracy in America.

Here it is.

"I do have one overriding concern, however.

Prosperity for all will no doubt result in an increase in the less than intelligent, less than perceptive, less than - shall we say - thinking, class; that increase, in Europe, would merely swell the streets with urchins; however, in egalitarian America, that might well swell the polling places with fucking morons.

One can only hope that if this observation be accurate, that the fucking morons will remain a minority, albeit a vocal and troublesome one, and that of the leaders from whom they are offered a choice  at the polling places, none of their class will prevail."

I think I like this almost as much as the keep with the living fence story.