Tocqueville notes that as democracies continue to shrink social differences, workers can increasingly imagine themselves into the place of their employers, and they are increasingly successful in agitating for higher wages as a result. Wages and equality of social conditions rise as a result of one another, he argues. However, he finds an unfortunate exception in the manufacturing aristocracy that’s beginning to spring up, which is increasingly succeeding in keeping wages artificially low by keeping workers uneducated and limited to their single task, and by limiting competition. Manufacturing is thus the one industry where wages are ceasing to rise, creating a horrifying state of dependence—an exception to the general rule.
Turning to wages, Tocqueville seems to be in support of higher wages for workers, which will help shrink the gap between rich and poor so inherent in an aristocratic society. He returns to his discussion of wealth in manufacturing in order to examine another ominous and undesirable aspect of this new “democratic aristocracy”: the ways in which it keeps the poor firmly in their class and unable to enjoy the upward mobility that’s supposed to be one of the great advantages of democracy.