Tocqueville's Understanding of “Conditions of Equality” and “Conditions of Inequality”⋆

in From Vienna to Chicago and Back

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780226776361
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226776385 | DOI:
Tocqueville's Understanding of “Conditions of Equality” and “Conditions of Inequality”⋆

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This chapter reports the understanding of “conditions of equality” and “conditions of inequality” by Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville has explained the great transformation from aristocracy to democracy. His approach to aristocracy is addressed, omitting for the time being the often discussed biographical aspect of his aristocratic origin. His L'ancien régíme et la révolution is also elaborated. It then suggests five dimensions or elements of the “conditions of equality,” characterizing the “état social” designated by Tocqueville as democracy. The absence or disappearance of “aristocracy” produces “conditions of equality” or democracy. Tocqueville's visionary genius intuitively grasped the mentality of restlessness in liberal western democracies, and his power of imagination seems limitless. He said that legal rights were particularly important at a time when religious beliefs were on the decline, the divine notion of rights disappeared, and with the changing of the “moeurs” the moral notion of rights is fading away as well.

Keywords: Alexis de Tocqueville; conditions of equality; conditions of inequality; aristocracy; democracy; legal rights

Chapter.  11446 words. 

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