Rousseau and de Tocqueville on the Nature of Democracy Analytical Essay by scribbler

Rousseau and de Tocqueville on the Nature of Democracy
An analysis of the nature and requirements of democracy according to Rousseau and de Tocqueville.
# 153252 | 1,802 words | 4 sources | APA | 2013 | US
Published on May 09, 2013 in Political Science (Political Theory)

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This paper compares the political writings of Rousseau and de Tocqueville concerning the nature and requirements of democracy, and shows that democracy means two quite different things for the two men; for Rousseau it is the unfettered freedom of one's nature to be itself, while for de Tocqueville, it is the practical maintenance of the common good. The paper explores the relation between Rousseau and de Tocqueville, and examines in what way de Tocqueville's writings have been shaped by Rousseau's, and why de Tocqueville believes democracy can work under conditions in which Rousseau thinks it impossible.

The Social Contract and Slavery
Democracy in America, the Influence of Rousseau

From the Paper:

"Paul Johnson's critique of Rousseau's social doctrine is summed up neatly: "He undertook no social duties whatever, since 'my idea of happiness is...never to have to do anything I don't wish to do'" (1988, p.13). In fact, Rousseau's social doctrine becomes obvious by the third paragraph of The Social Contract, in which he details what is most naturally at the heart of all societies: the family. De Tocqueville's Catholicism would put him in full accord with Rousseau's initial point, as according to the Church the family is the structural basis of society. However, Rousseau elaborates upon his own idea of how family structure should be: "Children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved" (p. 14). Accordingly, there is no hint in Rousseau of the filial duty such as Shakespeare writes about in King Lear. For Rousseau, voluntary filial devotion is merely a matter of convention and is nothing natural whatsoever. Rousseau advocates a self-centred, self-serving naturalism, in which self-preservation is the highest order, writing of man that, "His first law is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own master (p. 14-15).""

Sample of Sources Used:

  • De Tocqueville, A. (1838). Democracy in America. (H. Reeve, Trans.). New York, NY: George Adlard. (Original work published 1835). Retrieved from
  • De Tocqueville, A. (1984). Democracy in America R. D. Heffner, (Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Mentor.
  • Johnson, P. (1988). Intellectuals. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
  • Rousseau, J. (2008). The Social Contract. (G. D. H. Cole, Trans.). New York, NY: Cosimo. (Original work published 1762).

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