Democracy in America

Tocqueville: On the Omnipotence of the Majority and the Sustainability of a Democratic Republic College

How is it that, almost 180 years after it was written, Americans today still read Tocqueville as if it were the most essential piece of American political thought? Maybe it’s because it is.

When reading chapters 7 through 10 of Volume 1, Part 2 in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, it is important to realize not only the political ideas that Tocqueville is formulating, but also what he is saying about human nature and it’s relationship to political America. For a democratic government to be successful, Tocqueville argues, special focus must be placed upon the idea that something beyond the concept of a civic religiosity must exist, and that a political religion of equality and individualism are not enough to sustain democracy. A certain pietas or piety to something greater than a political creed needs to take shape in a democratic government. This piety in America, Tocqueville concludes, belongs to religion, and as long as Americans remain aware of this idea, they will have a very successful and sustainable democracy.

Tocqueville spends Chapters 7 and 8 describing the biggest threat to democracy in America—the omnipotence and tyranny of the majority—and how the political and social uniqueness of America successfully hampers...

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