Interpreter of The Life of Democracy

Reprinted from Law and Freedom

Given his family history and background, Alexis de Tokville had every reason to be a reactionary monarch. Born in 1805, ten of his ancestors were arrested and imprisoned during the Revolutionary Terror, five of whom were guillotineed and the rest escaped that fate only because of the fall of Robespierre.

Instead, he acknowledged the relentless advancement of democracy in the world and welcomed it with conservatism. Whatever it was, he recognized that there was no return The old regimeAnyone without an omelette can return his eggs. Yet, he also had a conservative disposition, not surprising to a man of his class, and whenever fundamentalism threatened chaos, he was always in favor of restoring order, even at the cost of violence.

Olivia Junzer The Man Who Understood Democracy An excellent biography of this major figure in political philosophy. It is well-written and judicious in its use of detail, which is to say without details. It is not too much length, too much length is the sin of many biographers. It praises his subject without being hagiographic and does not try to show that the feet of a man of high rank were still on the ground. Tocqueville had its blind spots, even its moral flaws, but none of us? Many of us have blind spots and moral flaws without adding to the store of human knowledge, as Tokville did.

The author describes very well the anxieties that characterize Tokville’s life, thoughts and actions, or rather the various dilemmas. What was remarkable about him was not so much the accuracy of his decisions as the fact that he searched them with intellectual honesty.

Thinking about political issues and events is not something that is easy or simple, rather than trying to fit them into a Protestant bed of preconceived notions. When faced with something new in the world we are always tempted to go back to the explanations and predictions that have served us well in the past: because, as eclipses tell us, there is nothing new under the sun. When we look at the rise of China, for example, we can reasonably assume that its economic success will automatically turn into political liberalization, at least in the end, without specifying when that end may come, thus protecting our perspective from danger. Possible refutation. Alternatively, we can say that without political liberalization, China will lose its economic dynamism – again, in the end. Both of these perspectives protect us from the uncomfortable thought that a kind of authoritarianism, in stark contrast to our political policy, can be very successful in practice, and permanently, in its own right. There is nothing more difficult to correct than the cherished worldview.

If there was one thing that Tokville did not have, it was Procustian in his thinking. When he went to America as a young man, he allowed his ideas to follow from his observations and not otherwise, as he did well. The fact that he had a hard time adapting his observations to an overall plan speaks volumes about him, as complex social realities should not be trapped by one or two principles.

Tocqueville was not a utopian: he did not believe that all political, social and economic desires could be combined. As a result, choosing between them will always be necessary, deciding which one was better As a whole. He believed that American democracy, as he had found, was not conducive to the production of the greatest masterwork of civilization, but that the production of the masterwork of civilization was not the goal of government or even civilization. Here, Talkville joins his utilitarianism with his great friend and critic John Stuart Mill. The greatest, or even greater, happiness of numbers was a more important criterion in judging the value of a government: and in this case the American Republic was undoubtedly higher, say, the Republic of Venice, although no one would deny that the latter was much more advanced than the former.

No one can remember the famous line Third Man, When the dictatorship in Florence was created by Michelangelo, the five-hundred-year-old democracy in Switzerland created the cuckoo clock. Tokville was famous for living up to the flaws of democratic consciousness, for example, the tendency to lean towards foolish or liberal sentiments, to promote harmony, to promote ambitious moderation, and so on. Freedom to associate with thousands of different purposes, however, as opposed to where it is found in America, will counteract these tendencies. In America, aristocracy, where Tokville believed, could, at least theoretically, be isolated from social monopolies. As it turns out, of course, you don’t need a title (Tokville has always refused to use it) to establish, Actually If not JudgmentAn elite.

Professor Junz does not disguise or diminish the greatest stains — from our current perspective উপর on Tokville’s record and reputation, such as his attitude towards the French conquest of Algeria and the colonies. The history of that conquest and of colonialism seems to be an ongoing sore point for France that the history of slavery has been for the United States; And it’s still a bit shocking to read Tokville’s attitude towards it.

Tokeville was not merely a patriot: he was a nationalist who believed that his country should play a leading role in world affairs, including the occupation of North Africa. Not to be outdone in this way, he said, would be to accept the middle ground of second-class dignity and ambition. He hoped that the French settlers in Algeria would become the pioneers of the western expansion of the United States, albeit less ruthless towards the aborigines. In justifying the French invasion, he noted that it was rarely the first time in the history of the world that a powerful nation or society had allotted land and property to another, which sounded psychologically logical to the modern ear: a genocide is not justified. Previous, even worse genocide.

At first, Tocqueville hoped that the local population and settlers would be able to live in harmony and even create a common cultural and biological identity, but then he read the Koran and came to the conclusion that Western and Islamic political views were so different and opposed. No such integration can ever take place. East was East and West was West, and the two will never be jailed. Nevertheless, Tokeville did not conclude from this that the Algerian adventure may not be such a good idea, perhaps because of the firm belief in the underlying technological and organizational superiority of Western society that would allow the French to dominate forever. In the end, the French were not defeated militarily but in terms of moral philosophy; They stopped believing what Tokville believed. It has strengthened Tokville’s belief in the importance of non-material causes in human affairs.

Tocqueville tried to put political philosophy or science into practice for some time and even became foreign minister for five months. But his experience as an intellectual in politics was not a happy one; And with Napoleon III Rebellion, Establishing an authoritarian regime although not an omnipotent regime, he retired from public life and concentrated on the last great intellectual project of his life, explaining why France failed to establish an American-type democracy, instead shifting or hanging over different periods. Revolutionary tensions with the highest demands and conservative authoritarian regimes. To this day, no one still hears the French say that France can only reform through revolution.

To answer his question, Tokville entered French social and economic history and came to the conclusion that revolution Before the letter It occurred long before the outbreak in 1789. But centrifugal forces in France (including the norm) were never balanced by centrifugal forces, as they were in the United States. Concentration, however, with the concentration of his energy, always brings his dissatisfaction and then the explosion of frustrating resistance. The movement ended directly before the epidemic of Kovid-19 Yellow vestFrance seemed to be heading for another period of political instability, after a long period of stagnation where the right and left governments followed a more or less uniform policy of doing nothing or doing more.

It will be interesting to know what Talkville will create in the current addition, in both France and the United States. In some ways, the two countries have merged, and the United States (or so it seems to me) has become like France in the concentration of power. It also seems to be following France in its militant secularism, presenting an intriguing scene of a strong opposition without any clericalism to oppose France.

No one will read this wonderful biography without taking a break to reflect on our current hardships. (Mr. Putin will enjoy the fairness of the French occupation of Tokville in Algeria.) Glad to read this, although I have one or two short jokes. The author only mentions Marquis de Castin as a lawyer. But it is inadequate and unfair. Kastin had several things in common with Tokville: both his grandfather and his father were afflicted with guillotine, and his mother survived the same fate only because of the fall of Robespierre. Kastin went to Russia in the East instead of the West in the West and was looking for evidence in favor of the royal dictatorship. He is a Democrat and has returned his great book, Russia in 1839Iron Curtain was as relevant to understanding the world behind the curtain as Tokville’s book was, Democracy in AmericaThe American experience has been enlightened.

I was shocked (twice) to read Charles von Bunsen’s description of German ambassador to St. James’ Court, because there was no such thing as a German political entity. Bunsen was the Prussian ambassador, not the German, the same thing at the time. I was interested in it for a mysterious reason: I once worked at a German hospital in London, whose patrons and donors were Baron von Bunsen and Tsar Nicholas I.

But these, as I said, are noisy. I read this biography with unpleasant joy and instruction, who will learn from the great thinkers how to make our way in the democratic world.

Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison physician and psychiatrist, contributing editor. City JournalAnd Dietrich Weissman Fellow of the Manhattan Institute.

His most recent book Prohibitions and other stories (Mirabeau Press, 2020).

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