Summary Of Individualism In Tocqueville

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Register to read the introduction… He does this by describing selfishness as "a passionate and exaggerated love of self that causes man to relate everything to himself alone," and individualism as "a reflective and peaceable sentiment that disposes each citizen to . . . withdraw to one side with his family and friends" (p. 482). The way in which individualism caused people to separate from society with only their friends and family caused a problem, in that, by doing so a public conscience can not be established. Individualism leads to a slowdown of democratic culture and the results in such "fabric of time is torn at every moment and the trace of generations is effaced" (p. 483). If people are not careful equality of conditions can, over time, make "each man forget his ancestors . . . and threatens finally to confine him wholly in the solitude of his own heart" (p. …show more content…
. . that it sets in the hearts of all men at the same time: the love of well-being" (p. 422). Unfortunately this kind of passion usually manifests itself as an uncontrollable desire to acquire wealth and material things. "The taste for material enjoyments, must be considered the first source of this secret restiveness revealed in the actions of Americans and of the inconstancy of which they give daily examples" (p. 512). Although this kind of materialistic pursuit of wealth may appear to be true freedom for some, Tocqueville argues that it is in fact the manifestation of the middle class American’s overwhelming fear of death. "He who has confined his heart solely to the search for the goods of this world," Tocqueville observes, "is always in a hurry. . . . In addition to the goods that he possesses, at each instant he imagines a thousand others that death will prevent him from enjoying if he does not hasten" (p. 512). Equality of conditions awakens the inner feeling of hope and happiness in all people, but unchecked theses feelings can lead to an all consuming obsession with one’s own mortality that ignites and hinders passion which leads to "unceasing trepidation" compelling a person to "change his designs and his place at every moment" (p. …show more content…
Tocqueville described the way in which art and artists in America could not escape the desire to be relevant when he talked about how the work turned from depicting "sentiments and ideas" to "emotions and sensations" (p. 442). The embodiment of this, according to Tocqueville, is best illustrated by America’s obsession with theatre, which he regarded as "most natural to democratic peoples" (p. 467). He goes on to say "Most of those who attend the acting on the stage do not seek pleasures of the mind, but lively emotions of the heart. They do not expect to find a work of literature but a spectacle" (p. 467 / 468). This is the direct consequence to and result of the "practical, contested, and monotonous" (p. 448) lives that were created due to the emphasis that was placed on the materialistic growth we discussed earlier. Through television and film, this kind of spectacle, which Tocqueville criticized and ascribed to democratic societies, has reached a level of cultural relevance and depravity that he could have never

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