SOCIOLOGY – Alexis De Tocqueville

Democracy was achieved by such a long arduous and heroic struggle that it can feel embarrassing even shameful to be pretty Disappointed by it Perhaps the best guy to such feelings and to Modern democracy in general is a 19th century French aristocrat [Alexis] De [Tocqueville] Photo Tocqueville Democracy was a highly exotic and new political option he’d been born in 1805 when Napoleon was the populist dictator of half of Europe But he prescient lee believed that democracy was going to be the future all over the world and so he wanted to know What would that be like? To find out he set out to America with a grant from the French government he arrived in New York together with his friend who [stabbed] a boomer in may of 1831 and then embarked on a nine-month journey around the new Nation after His journey he compiled his thoughts into one of the greatest works of political philosophy Democracy in America published in 1835 in The book De Tocqueville was particularly alive to the problematic and darker sides of Democracy five issues struck him in particular in France the society that the Tocqueville knew from childhood Making money didn’t appear at the Forefront of People’s Minds the poor had almost no chance of acquiring wealth and the tiny upper stratum of landed aristocrats Didn’t need [to] make any more money as a result for very different reasons [money] was not the way to judge a life However the Americans that de tocqueville met on his journey believed constantly that through hard work It was possible [to] make a fortune and to do so was entirely admirable and right Money seem to be quite simply the only achievement that Americans Respected for example the top fill observed that in America people believed that a book that did not sell well Just couldn’t be any good because the only test of goodness for any item was how much money it happens to make Democracy and capitalism had thus created seemingly equitable But also very flat an oppressive way for humans to judge each other In a chapter of democracy in America entitled why the Americans are often so restless in the midst of their prosperity? [de] Tocqueville sketched an enduring analysis of the relationship between high expectations and Dissatisfaction between political equality and envy he wrote when all the prerogatives of birth and fortune have been abolished When every profession is open to everyone an ambitious man May think it is easy to launch himself on a great career and feel that he has been called to no common destiny But this is a delusion which experience quickly Corrects when inequality is the general rule in Society the greatest inequalities attract, no attention But when everything is more or less level the slightest variation is noticed that is the reason for the strange Melancholy often haunting inhabitants of democracies in the Midst of abundance and of that disgust with life sometimes gripping them even in calm and easy circumstances the Old Rigid Hierarchical European system that had denied all hope of social movement to the poor was unjust in a thousand all too obvious ways to Tocqueville recognized But it had offered those on the lower rungs one notable freedom the freedom not to have to take the achievements of quite so many people in Society as Reference points, and then find themselves severely wanting in status and importance as a result Typically we think of democracy as being the opposite of Tyranny But de Tocqueville noticed that democracy could easily create its own specialized type of tyranny that of the majority Democratic culture he thought often ends up demonizing any assertion of difference an especially cultural superiority Even though such attitudes might be connected [with] real merit in a tyranny of the majority a society has an aggressive leveling instinct It’s regarded as a civic virtue to take on anyone who seems to be getting above Themselves and to cut them viciously down to size The Tocqueville was disturbed by the way in which in the [united] [States] people have no distinction Refused to think that anyone could be better than them just because they had say Trained to be a doctor for seven years or study the law for two decades or written some very good books [a] healthy and admirable reluctance to defer to people [too] easily Encouraged an unhelpful refusal to accept any kind of submission at all and yet as the Tocqueville saw it it simply must be the case that some people in society are wiser more intelligent kinder or more mature than others and Therefore should be listened to with special attention Democracy was the Tocqueville thought fatally biased towards mediocrity You suppose that democracy would encourage citizens to have an open mind however de Tocqueville came to the opposite conclusion That one could find few places with less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America trusting that their system was fair [and] just Americans simply gave up on critical thinking and put their faith in newspapers, and so called common [sense] instead Furthermore as this was a commercial society Americans were very conscious of not wanting to step too far out of line with their neighbors who might also be customers It was better to trot out cliches than to try to be original and never more so [than] when there was something to sell although to Tocqueville says a lot of really quite grim things about Democracy and America the top fill wasn’t anti-democratic or Anti-American he was just trying to show why living in a democracy could in some key ways be really quite annoying and frustrating He is teaching us the stoic lesson that certain pains just need to be expected don’t be too surprised or shocked Don’t come along with the wrong expectations Politics in a democracy [it’s] going to be pretty awful in some major ways. It’s not that we’re doing anything specifically wrong It’s just the price you pay and should be willing to pay when you give ultimate [authority] to everyone you

Comments 100

  • Please, do more videos about sociology.

  • so prophetic.

  • I think these criticisms of democracy are more a result of De Tocqueville's aristocratic upbringing than legitimate faults in democracy. Everything he mentioned was fair and just and in a non-democratic society, the pleasures enjoyed by one person are suffered by 99 others.

  • Could you make a video underlining how democratic societies have changed from Tocqueville days till now? I think that would be very interesting.

  • faltou a legenga em português 🙁

  • Who's the seemingly significant dude at 4:28?

  • 1:00 "Democracy in America"
    1:17 Democracy breeds materialism
    2:18 Democracy breeds envy and shame
    3:50 the tyranny of the majority
    4:35 democracy turns us against authority
    5:20 democracy undermines freedom of mind

  • wow mind blowing book it must be, i have never really heard about tocqueville before this video, now i am gonna try to find his masterpiece to have a good read, thank you again the school of life

  • I never was in favor of democracy it does nothing but let the majority of the population rule over the minority the idea Society is a republic where your rights are protected from others no matter how much money they have or how many others there are opposing you you're still protected under a constitutional Republic.

  • It seems a modern mistake to believe the right to vote = democracy.

    We should look at sortition (I believe some experiments on this are being done in Ireland).

    Great video as always School of Life.

  • Part 6 America is great because of its religious ethos?

  • "The book that wasn't sold out is not good" its the same with this video 🙁 and it grieves me that although this video has 230,00 views at kmost doesnt mean that it is not a good video. School of Life thank you so much for making such wonderful videos! 🙂

  • The Constitution of the United States is like one of those beautiful creations of human diligence which give their inventors glory and riches but remain sterile in the hands of others.
    Contemporary Mexico has shown that—–De Toequeville

  • isn't this more political philosophy than sociology?

  • Whats up with the subtitels in English? His friend Gustave de Beaumont becomes "who stabbed a boomer" (at 0.53) – Sigh!

  • #3 is why America isn't a true democracy

  • #DemocracyInAmerica

  • How can anyone in their right mind criticize The School of Life. These videos are very good.

  • when we get Marx? lovely channel 😀

  • “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.” 
    ― Alexis de Tocqueville

    Thank you for helping to introduce more of the world to this great thinker.  Today, his writings on democracy read more like incredible prophecy than 19th century observations.  If only he could have lived long enough to witness that young, experimental democracy become the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. "The last great hope of earth" as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently described it.

  • Please School of Life, do more videos about Sociology

  • You should make one about Zygmunt Bauman

  • Please do a video on Harriet Martineau

  • Great video, however the points mentioned only go into the negative aspects pointed out in de Tocqueville's works. Although I do agree witht these points, the video does not go into any detail about the numerous positive arguemnts De Tocqueville made.

  • what are ur sources and references for this video ?

  • Great video but I also wish the video would have talked more about liberty. Liberty is a major theme of his work and how people are willing to sacrifice it in the idea of equality. It's something most seem to over look.

  • This sums up all my life problems. It's like a light has flipped on. Now the hard part, the problem is identified, but it's time to do something about them. Yikes!

  • Alexis de Toqueville was an apologist for the aristocratic class. quantifying merit based on economic achievement is exactly what he was advocating; shrouding it under platitudes and philosophical dogma does not makes him right. He like all of his contemporaries and harbingers, Adam Smith, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbs ext. were all obsequious lackeys justifying the status quo.

  • It's a good thing the U.S. is a republic and not a democracy. Also, de Tocqueville's criticisms of democracy were the less important parts of his work. Overall, he adored what he saw in the US, especially our deeply rooted sense of community, which has mostly faded since de Tocqueville's time.

  • His views on American Democracy are still spot on. Which is a shame, as it shows we still have some growing to do as a society.

  • What do you think about doing a video on Pierre Bourdieu?

  • Only faintly acknowledged in this video is de Tocqueville's membership of the ruling class in France. Viewing America through the aristocratic lens, he was content to characterize the static, rigid and quite significant economic stratification of his own country in positive and paternalistic terms (see, particularly, the amusingly complacent picture of Europeasants at the end of "Point 2"). His observations of the American character, mindset, materialism, and mistrust of intellectual attainment are quite perceptive, and remain firmly entrenched and difficult to alter.

  • this video does not seem like an accurate representation of democracy in america

  • The fourth one seems to be especially true of Americans I've noticed. It one of the things that have always annoyed me.

  • Your videos give me the will tout learn more and the means to know where to look. Thanks.
    There is a slight misuse of Tocqueville's last name. You should say "de Tocqueville" as "from the Tocqueville family" and only "Tocqueville" on other context. So for instance "Alexis de Tocqueville wrote…" is ok but "de Tocqueville wrote…" is not. It should be "Tocqueville wrote…"

  • Democracy is not democratic.

  • I have "Democracy in America" sitting on my bookshelf. I really should find the time to read it because SO MUCH OF THIS IS SOOO TRUE OF AMERICA AND AMERICANS!! (I live in NYC, by the way.)

  • The west should establish a caste system and limit the rampant herd – not empower it. Democracy is immoral and uncivilized preciely because it creates an oversocialized, materialistic popularity contest out of society. Humans are not exactly pleasant creatures so no more "human rights" please. Nature first.

  • It’s really sad that there are no women mentioned in this playlist on Sociology neither are there any blacks mentioned. It would be very helpful if you can include the others in this playlist.

  • Do a Simone Beauvoir video

  • A pure Democracy is basically mob rule. Diametrically opposite of a Constitutional republic governed by the rule of law.

  • 0:35 Napoleon a populist dictator? Loool English and american people, Go review History. Napoleon has liberated many european peoples from monarchs and kings, and straightened France after the castrophic consequences of the revolution..

  • Interessante

  • Thanks to your videos, I learned so many things and I'm actually using this channel to study. However, there are some mistakes some minor, some slightly bigger in some parts of English subtitles. It would be wonderful if you could look into it. Keep up the good work!

  • At around 1 minute & 56 seconds he says, "Money is the only achievement Americans respected."

  • your channel is awsome 🙂

  • There are a number DeTocquevillian insights which serve as principles in American politics, e.g., Judicial Review as a counter-majoritarian corrective.

  • this has to be one of the most biased POS clips I have ever watched. It also entirely wrong !!

  • De Tocqueville arrived in an America that was peopled by nearly a totality of people of European decent. Thus Democracy worked. If he traveled our country today he would find democracy to be the rule of the mob, the mob of non-whites, because the whites do not think as a group.

  • We are not a democracy fucking stop saying that, we are not.
    Constitutional republic !!!!!!!
    You keep saying democracy you perpetuate the lie

  • Can you do a video on why the Democrats and libtard left want to destroy our constitutional republic

  • I enjoy your videos but school of life is life

  • Regarding mediocrity I find myself wondering how he was basing his conclusion. How many different parts of the American democratic society did he in fact encounter? Compared to which countries or other societies is a democracy more abundant with mediocrity? I will take a look at his book with as open a mind as i can to get an idea but much of his perspective reminds me of elitism.

  • phoenixkhost Perhaps grandiose snapshots of contorted contemporary America is approaching/expressing a plutocracy at its’ essence? Excessively Laissez-faire Emersonian? 🌹 colour over soul denial?

  • Karl Marx's ideas do not have, and have never had, any merit whatsoever. Stop trying to push him. Even his contemporaries, including other socialists and anarchists, realized the murderous, totalitarian system those ideas would inevitably create. Seriously, read what Mikhail Bakunin (19th century Russian socialist/anarchist) wrote about Marx and his ideas. Then compare it to what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about the USSR. Bakunin predicted it all so well you'd think he was a time traveler.

    Also, this whole video is an incredibly misleading portrait of what de Toqueville actually thought and wrote. The idea that he painted a grim portrait is utter nonsense. He lauds Americans and his book is a largely optimistic depiction of Jacksonian democracy. He was especially impressed with our ability to self-organize (rather than rely on government figures to get stuff done) and writes about it in some length; at one point saying that the ability to form associations was our greatest national power. He also spoke very approvingly about the high level of citizen engagement at that time and observes a woodsman going to work with the Bible in one hand and the Federalist Papers in the other.

    An audio version of his book, Democracy in America, is available for free here: Listen to it and make up your own mind on what he said.

  • Agree with everything he said, except…the problem isn't democracy. It's Capitalism.

  • I think he was just talking about capitalism…

  • Capitalism only gives the illusion of social movement

  • FYI, if you say taco-ville, your teacher will consider quitting their job and almost die from the force of their face-palm. 8/8 ign would do again

  • If you spend a lot of money spreading ideas in the media to change the public's natrual views, how is that modern democracy? It is like giving them literally the rights to vote, choose who rules them but in exchange they control their minds and how they think. I consider it living proper life, being a good citizen and paying taxes. Most Americans don't vote, they simply don't care.

  • de Tocqueville assess America and Democracy from the perspective of a privileged aristocrat. Let's not forget that. What would be the assessment from a learned Bourgeois? Or, from a peasant? We rarely hear their voices from history, do we?

  • This can only be understood at a 0.75 playback speed lmao

  • Was America not to be a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy?

  • F*ck. This is common sense.

  • Just read the book

  • What the heck i have just seen..democracy!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • awesome video

  • School of Life I LOVE your videos, but am disturbed about the lack of people of color. How is that? Please make an effort: James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Elijah Anderson to name a few. And how about issues of race. Thank you!

  • This commentary on de Tocqueville neglects to balance his observations on the Democracy component of "America" with the Republicanism elements under-girding as safeguards against the event horizon of democratic ideation. Without those republican principles "America" would have likely already collapsed as it nearly did in 1860 when South Carolina 'democratically' lead the state secession movement into a nation challenging civil war.

  • Then Donald Trump became President


  • Poderia ter legenda ne

  • Except the US wasn't based on majority rule and in fact, it's foundations are against "the tyrrany of the one, the few and the many". So it could not create majority tyrrany

  • Pretty sure you didn't actually read Democracy in America

  • thank you thank you

  • Peculiar video. The video is made as if Tocqueville was mostly disappointed with what he've seen in America. In reality, he admired the country and he mostly talked good about it. But for School of Life, the negative things were the main things that the French writer thought about America. Just talked about the way the death was treated, how the law were made, he admired the agitation and high implications of normal citizens in political debates and social philanthropy. SoL says nothing about it. This channel is biased. For instance, when they talk about Marx, they seldom talk about the consequences of its doctrine and the milion of deaths that produced. They have a sweetish discourse for it and it uses it as a place where we should look at in our days.

  • we can never have a sane economy/government of any type until we begin to separate instinct and ideas. in other words, until we stop channeling our instinctual primitive drives (sexual appetite and social status) through our economic/political/social structures. this is the key influence on any and all economics systems to date. even so-called egalitarian hunter-gatherer tribes took defeated rival's women as slaves. I can't tell you how much drama I have witnessed in the work place over people using sexual attractions as leverage. it's the friction between instinct and idea at the root of all mayhem. (instinct can be directed harmoniously, and religious sexual repression of such is a whole other toxic thing too complex for this comment section) ugh!

  • From ten to now Europeans will never understand the boundless American spirit…even now as they manage the decline of their empires, convert their churches to houses of ISLAMIC worship, and hand over the reigns of power to bureaucrats and socialist…they still have the nerve to look down their nose on us….

  • Vive la France

  • Alexis de Tocqueville knew exactly what he was talking about: We are being strangled by mediocrity. We are being suppressed by "equality", and oppressed by the "majority". No matter how wise, talented, or right you may be, if you can't show your fellow Americans a fat bank roll, you are of no interest to them at all!

  • >Democracy has been achieved.

    LAMO no.

  • He stabbed a boomer?

  • Les taupins montrez vous 🙂

  • Of course Democracy has its potential problems. Especially when the people abandon the principal of limited government. If we accept Democracy as just the manner in which government officials are selected, then it is a big improvement over a monarchy or oligarchy. But if government is unlimited in its purview and can collectively act the same as any King, then the risk of oppression is just as great, and perhaps actually greater. Benjamin Franklin said Democracy was two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.

  • De Tocqueville the multifaced criminal glorifies usa democracy BUT glorifies murder ,slavery, rape,colonial brutal rule
    Yes what France did in Africa especially in ALGERIA
    Just like Victor Hugo these so called intellectuals forget and side with genocide, war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by France Is longue.
    Please before you start with your crocodiles tears and victim like response.
    Educate your selves.
    Read. The criminal de Tocqueville letters from 1837- 1859

  • What are his majar contribution in comparative politics

  • This explains me(as American) and my love of European culture so much.

  • Why do so many of these videos conclude with essentialist defenses of the status quo and by encouraging a lazy, jejune "stoicism"?

  • In his Democracy in America, Tocqueville also forecast the preeminence of the United States and Russia as the two main global powers. In his book, he stated: "There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans. Each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world".

  • Democracy sucks.

  • I typically do not respond videos but I had to watch this for a class. I can say after watching this video it really help me to understand this. This made me want to read about it further. Thank you for the awesome video it help me understand it completely.

  • America is not a democracy, it’s a republic, if you can keep it

  • You are a lying piece of shit… You have totally lost my trust… you are totally misquoting de Tocqueville and left out his most important statement… THAT AMERICA IS GOOD BECAUSE AMERICA IS CHRISTIAN… You are a disgusting liar and I am unsubscribing and erasing anything you've previously said because you are an obvious fraud


  • what is this all about in a nutshell?

  • Man, this dude is needed in our generation


  • Democracy, as a form of government, is still a work in progress and will continue to evolve and adapt in ever-changing political and social landscapes.

  • This is the best episode.

  • Tocqueville had a lot of good things to say about American democracy too. His goal was not just to look at it's downsides but learn what lessons it had to offer and bring those principles which he deemed useful back to France.

  • I wonder if other contaiants follow the same psycology??! or if they have there own ppl???!!???

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