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An Exploration of Individualism as Described by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America

The traditional work Democracy In America by Alexis de Tocqueville has been the explanation for scholarly pursuit in addition to strife inside that very same community. Through a brief examination of this textual content, a quantity of of Tocqueville’s arguments helped to outline lots of the constructs that made America what it was as well as those who have led to what it has turn out to be today. Of the many themes and ideas offered by Tocqueville, his ideas on individualism struck the loudest chord with me.

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Tocqueville describes America as a society of joiners because of the reality that it is a nation virtually entirely composed of immigrants. This, along with the pursuit and promise of “equality of conditions” that Americas touted as an unofficial theme, introduced residents from many courses collectively in closer proximity and relation. Although this feels like a great factor, Tocqueville argued that with this mixing of social classes and elevated opportunity individuals would isolate themselves, “bond of human affections is extended and loosened” (p.

483). As folks gained wealth and left behind the every day wrestle to survive many sought out education and as a result of this enlightenment developed the “habit of always contemplating themselves in isolation” (p. 484).

This individualism is likened to selfishness by Tocqueville however he is careful to level out that he does not imagine that it is the similar factor. He does this by describing selfishness as “a passionate and exaggerated love of self that causes man to narrate everything to himself alone,” and individualism as “a reflective and peaceful sentiment that disposes every citizen to .

. . withdraw to a minimal of one aspect with his family and friends” (p. 482). The means in which individualism caused folks to separate from society with only their friends and family triggered a problem, in that, by doing so a public conscience cannot be established. Individualism results in a slowdown of democratic culture and the results in such “fabric of time is torn at every moment and the hint of generations is effaced” (p. 483). If persons are not careful equality of situations can, over time, make “each man forget his ancestors . . . and threatens lastly to restrict him wholly in the solitude of his own heart” (p. 484).

Tocqueville goes on to say, “all the passions that equality provides birth to or favors, there might be one . . . that it sets within the hearts of all men on the identical time: the love of well-being” (p. 422). Unfortunately this type of passion usually manifests itself as an uncontrollable desire to amass wealth and materials issues. “The style for material enjoyments, should be thought of the first supply of this secret restiveness revealed within the actions of Americans and of the inconstancy of which they give every day examples” (p. 512). Although this sort of materialistic pursuit of wealth might seem like true freedom for some, Tocqueville argues that it is actually the manifestation of the middle class American’s overwhelming fear of death. “He who has confined his heart solely to the search for the products of this world,” Tocqueville observes, “is always in a hurry. . . . In addition to the products that he possesses, at every prompt he imagines a thousand others that demise will prevent him from having fun with if he doesn’t hasten” (p. 512). Equality of situations awakens the internal feeling of hope and happiness in all folks, but unchecked theses feelings can result in an all consuming obsession with one’s own mortality that ignites and hinders ardour which leads to “unceasing trepidation” compelling an individual to “change his designs and his place at each moment” (p. 512).

Tocqueville then goes on to describe an America where the individualism described above results in a need for materialistic wealth that “disposes males to imagine that all is nothing but matter” (p. 519). He talks about how this can lead to an American society that emphasizes improvement of “the items of the body” (p. 521) and disregards the development of the thoughts and care of the soul. Tocqueville qualifies these statements by making the claim that there is not a different nation that’s “less occupied with philosophy than the United States” (p. 403). It is each profound and fascinating that Tocqueville saw this taking place in his time because it has actually continued and grown since then. The epidemic of people, just like the Kardashians, becoming celebrities for doing nothing completely illustrates what he describes as “minds so disposed, each new method that leads to wealth by a shorter path . . . each discovery that facilitates pleasures and augments them seems to be probably the most magnificent effort of human intelligence” (p. 436).

These observations lead to another necessary point of Tocqueville’s, the lack of knowledge and allowance for the “profound, gradual work” (p. 435) of ones personal mind. During his travels Tocqueville found few individuals that would take the time to develop a true passion and want for introspection and contemplation. It is because of this that America finally gave start to philosophy and the practice of pragmatism solely serves to illustrate what Tocqueville described as America’s “unparalleled vitality toward application” (p. 437). This “unparalleled energy” is what led to the practice of planned obsolescence and why it is an ever growing a half of daily life in America. With the rapid advancement of technology it is not unheard of for a computer or different system to be out of date inside weeks. Although the system was totally different, Tocqueville noticed this phenomenon when talking with a sailor, “art of navigation makes such fast progress daily that probably the most lovely ship would soon become almost ineffective if its existence were prolonged beyond a couple of years” (p. 428). Rapid development, along with the population’s desire for the “latest and greatest” compelled craftsman “to make many imperfect things very rapidly” (p. 441) simply to satisfy demand. Even language in America changed and commenced to reflect this “industrial taste”(p. 435)

With the ever rising emphasis that was placed on progress and software it’s not surprising that the purity of the arts have been affected as nicely. Tocqueville described the greatest way in which artwork and artists in America couldn’t escape the desire to be related when he talked about how the work turned from depicting “sentiments and ideas” to “emotions and sensations” (p. 442). The embodiment of this, based on Tocqueville, is greatest illustrated by America’s obsession with theatre, which he considered “most pure to democratic peoples” (p. 467). He goes on to say “Most of those that attend the acting on the stage don’t seek pleasures of the thoughts, however vigorous feelings of the center. They don’t look ahead to finding a piece of literature however a spectacle” (p. 467 / 468). This is the direct consequence to and results of the “practical, contested, and monotonous” (p. 448) lives that were created due to the emphasis that was positioned on the materialistic growth we discussed earlier. Through television and movie, this type of spectacle, which Tocqueville criticized and ascribed to democratic societies, has reached a degree of cultural relevance and depravity that he might have by no means predicted.

Tocqueville believed that a powerful and flourishing democratic society might domesticate, within the spirit of its folks, a consciousness of the fragile stability between the finite quantity of material items this world has to offer and the overwhelming have an effect on of an “exalted and almost fierce spiritualism” (p. 510). Throughout the examination of Tocqueville’s words it turned clear that greatest threat to America just isn’t foreign enemies or the federal government, the greatest threat to America are it’s residents. Only through understanding and the abandonment of the selfish apply of individualism will America survive.

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