The Problems Of The Democracies

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Peter Guresky Dr. Wysocki Honors Constitution 12 December 2015 Tocqueville describes the problems which arise in the democracies, which in his time have begun to emerge in the world. For Tocqueville, the most serious threat to democracy is individualism, and the solution to this problem is self-interest well understood. Though individualism causes citizens to focus on a small circle of interest and sever himself from society at large, self-interest well understood teaches citizens about the advantages which civil and political associations have to offer; namely a broadening of one’s interest beyond oneself and the positive effects this will have on society. According to Tocqueville, the inclination of democratic citizens to retreat from public affairs is a cancerous and disastrous propensity. He writes, “Individualism is a mature and calm feeling, which disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellow-creatures; and to draw apart with his family and his friends; so that after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself” (618). As the results of this propensity, Tocqueville foresees the fate of America and other democratic nations as a world in which, “an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest . . . Above this
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