Aristocrat, democrat : Alexis de Tocqueville, the tyranny of the majority, and the inevitability of democracy : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)
In light of the recent political and social turmoil in his home country, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States in 1831. He wished to learn from America's institutions, but most specifically he was interested in studying the overlying ideology of American life: democracy. Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America as an interpretive guide to democracy, using America - the most successful democratic nation to date - as an example. With his recommendations came also warnings, the most significant of which was Tocqueville's fear of the tyranny of the majority, i.e., the capacity of a majority of people to turn democracy into despotism through political and intellectual/psychological manipulation. What follows is an examination of this concept and an analysis of why Tocqueville felt as he did about the majority. Tocqueville was not distrustful of democracy because of the possibility of tyranny. Rather, he was cautious toward it, due to his ardent belief in the inevitability of democracy. Democracy in America shows Tocqueville wrestling with his aristocratic heritage, reconciling it with his faith in democracy and the need for stability in his home country.