Monday, December 4, 2006
Tocqueville's Times: With the publication of Democracy in America in 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville became one of France's most prominent political thinkers in the nineteenth century. He is often credited with fostering the notion of 'soft tyranny' in which the particular social conditions of a country effectively hinder any prospect of hope among its people. In general, Tocqueville believed that hope was the driving force behind all democratic institutions. And as such, whenever this all-encompassing hope is taken away from the people, liberal democracy fails. Examples of this failure can be seen in the Weimar Republic of Germany during the 1930s or in the French Third Republic during the 1940s. Hope for a better future essentially died in both of the aforementioned societies. As a result, fascist regimes were established to fill the void left by the departure of hope. Yet man cannot deceive himself with blind optimism for he will grow old and aloof prematurely. Tocqueville also enjoyed comparing the American and French Revolutions. For the most part, he saw the American Revolution as one of true freedom and ingenuity while he deemed the French Revolution nothing more than a radical farce. Ultimately, Tocqueville's work serves as a testament to what the loaded term of liberty really means.