Equality In America By Alexis De Tocqueville

1865 Words 7 Pages
From his extensive observations of the American people and their regime, Alexis De Tocqueville wrote the “the principle of equality has quietly penetrated deep into the institutions and manners of the country” (Tocqueville, 630). Tocqueville’s focus on the principle of equality in Democracy in America conveys his belief that the pursuit of equality lies deep in the soul of America, manifesting itself in many forms and ways in both theory and practice. Thus, the principle of equality greatly shapes and morphs life in the United States creating a unique form of people and institutions. The American pursuit of equality amongst its citizens cultivates a constant drive for greater material acquisition and furthers a desire for social mobility. As …show more content…
From its founding the United States carried a dual mandate and purpose to promote equality and to foster liberty. Equality cultivates similarity and pulls the individual in contrast to his or her neighbor whereas liberty inspires differences and separates the individual away from the other. This dual commitment to both and often contradictory ideals shapes a political culture and tradition that must reconcile these two ideals with each other. Tocqueville recognized the competing nature of these ideals stating, “equality promotes men to indulge propensities very dangerous to freedom” (Tocqueville, 698). Therefore, Tocqueville argues that Americans adopt equality more readily than liberty as equality contains materialistic benefits whereas liberty exists at a higher and less tangible level. By seeking greater equality in material terms, Americans sacrifice a portion of their freedom. Tocqueville argues that the lack clear defined goals of equality and the means to achieve brew further calls for equality as “it is therefore natural that love of equality should grow constantly with equality itself; everything done to satisfy it makes it grow” (Tocqueville, 673). Hence, equality as defined by the Americans holds an unquenchable drive that if unchecked leads to greater centralization of government to achieve it as citizens seek equality and government seeks uniformity. A government left uncheck lacks the ability to resist centralization in Tocqueville’s view as “every central government worships uniformity; uniformity saves it the trouble of inquiring into the infinite details” (Tocqueville, 673). Thereby the concern of America’s pursuit of equality emerges as the sustained placement of equality in terms of materialist value engagers liberty and allows for a “soft despotism” to rise where government preserves equality through the paternalistic

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