Download PDF by Jon Elster: Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist

By Jon Elster

ISBN-10: 052151844X

ISBN-13: 9780521518444

The e-book proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him before everything as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his previous paintings at the clarification of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our cognizance this present day rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, a lot of that are nonetheless worthwhile of additional exploration. Elster proposes a unique interpreting of Democracy in the USA within which the major explanatory variable is the quick fiscal and political turnover instead of equality of wealth at any given cut-off date. He additionally bargains a studying of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution as grounded within the mental kin one of the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the the Aristocracy. continuously going past exegetical remark, he argues that Tocqueville is eminently worthy analyzing this present day for his considerable and methodological insights.

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Tocqueville argued that (male) universal suffrage would ultimately prevail (see Ch. 6), but until that happened, limitation of the suffrage remained a bastion of privilege, perhaps the only one, in democracy. Even in this case he might have said that restrictions on suffrage are not privileges in the sense of the ancien regime, as the latter were ascribed rather than achieved. Anyone may in principle acquire property or learn to read, if these are required for the right to vote. French revolutionaries, for instance, used this argument after 1 7 8 9 to defend the restriction of the right to vote to taxpayers.

410). Elsewhere, however, he seems to say that envy increases with the distance that separates the envious individual from the one he envies. He asserts, for instance, that "the low-level official is on almost the same level as the people, while the high official stands above (domine) them. Hence the former can still excite their interest, but the latter begins to arouse their envy" (DA, p. 243 ). In his explanation of why "great revolutions will become rare" in the democratic age, he writes that "[i]n any great democratic people there will always be some citizens who are very poor and others who are very rich.

170• 70 Passions who are almost alike and who, while not exactly rich or poor, own enough property to want order but not enough to arouse envy" (DA, p. 748). While perhaps consistent with the complex theory of neighborhood envy, these passages do not really allow us to say that Tocqueville held that view. Among the effects of democratic envy, I have already cited the ten­ dency to envy-avoidance: the rich hide their wealth. Recall also Tocqueville's conjecture that the union might break up because of envy among the states.

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Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist by Jon Elster


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