Democracy in America

by

Alexis de Toqueville

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Democracy in America: Chapter 47 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tocqueville observes that when an American obtains education and funds, he buys land, becomes a pioneer, and only asks the state not to disturb him; Europeans, meanwhile, prefer to seek out public employment. This is because they despair of improving their lot alone, and find solace in a paid office—a system that Tocqueville criticizes as destructive of the spirit of independence and as leading to servility and unproductiveness. 
Tocqueville’s preference—at least as explained here—is for a “laissez-faire” system (ironically, the term comes from the French) in which the economy and social structure are left to their own devices rather than being directed by the government; he also tries to determine the reasons for Europe’s opposite preference.
Themes
Individualism and Materialism   Theme Icon
Politics, Customs, and Culture Theme Icon
In any official government, there are limited appointments, but the number of those who desire them is unlimited, leading to permanent opposition against the government—and perhaps even desire to overturn the constitution and change the rulers. The only solution is to teach people the art of being independent and providing for themselves.
Tocqueville examines the possible paradox that, when people come to rely on the government for employment and services, they grow to despise the government when they don’t receive those services.
Themes
Individualism and Materialism   Theme Icon
Politics, Customs, and Culture Theme Icon