Prompt: Alexis de Tocqueville worried that “democracies” would become overly individualistic and succumb to “democratic despotism.” Yet Tocqueville believed that the United States had in his time successfully steered clear of this danger. If Tocqueville were alive today, would he revise his evaluation? In your answer you should:
- Explain Tocqueville’s concern. How exactly did he link “democracy” to “individualism,” and “individualism” to “democratic despotism.”
- Describe and explain the forces that Tocqueville saw in American government and society which checked the tendency towards individualism and democratic despotism.
- Imagine Tocqueville were alive today. Would he still be optimistic about the capacity of Americans to avoid the dangers he imagined? Is there evidence of growing individualism in the U.S.? Are the forces in American government and society which Tocqueville believed checked “individualism” and “democratic despotism” still operating, or have they withered?