Democracy in America


Alexis de Toqueville

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Democracy in America: Chapter 45 Summary & Analysis

Tocqueville argues that although democracies are in a ceaseless state of fluctuation, the spectacle of such change eventually becomes monotonous and tiresome. In aristocracies, in turn, social conditions are static, but people’s passions, habits, and tastes are quite different. In democracies, people’s passions are mostly limited to or based on their love of wealth, and the means by which they seek wealth have a kind of family likeness as well. 
Paradoxically, Tocqueville argues that change and flux themselves can become boring and changeless, especially because the motivations for upward mobility are limited. As in other instances, Tocqueville tends to overstate his sense of Americans’ love of wealth above all else.
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In fact, Tocqueville argues, the entire world is gradually becoming characterized by the same ways of acting and thinking. As people lose the opinions and feelings of a class or local tradition, they become more alike, even if they don’t actively imitate each other. Tocqueville compares this process to travelers scattered throughout a forest, all converging on a single point.
Despite his sweeping generalizations, here Tocqueville makes what sounds like an argument for globalization, over a century before people would begin to talk about the “flattening” of the world as a result of political and economic conditions.
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