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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Freedom and Equality as viewed by Alexis De Tocqueville

Freedom and Equality as viewed by Alexis De Tocqueville

The book Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville is considered by many scholars as an insightful and comprehensive book written about the status of US democracy. The main purpose of De Tocqueville in writing this book is to have a fresh idea of democracy in other lands after he had witnessed the failure of establishing a democratic government in France during his time. Until today, this book still remains as relevant today as it is before, tackling different issues of racism, social class, press, the judicial system and the government. Though the book covers a wide range of topics, De Tocqueville’s utmost discussion centers around the issue of freedom and equality as two important factors that help maintain democracy.

For De Tocqueville, the idea of freedom and equality are compatible with each other, because being equal is the road to being free. He asserts in his book that humans “cannot be absolutely equal without being entirely free” (541). De Tocqueville better illustrated his point by citing an example of an idealistic government where freedom and equality would blend perfectly. He said that when citizens have the power to take part in government decision-making, then they have the right and power to be equal with one another. In this kind of government, nobody can wield great tyrannical power, because each member of the society is perfectly free. This means therefore that men cannot oppress other men because they are absolutely equal. Yet this is only the positive point of having an equal and free society, according to De Tocqueville, because it is also important to assume freedom and equality in a negative sense. He stressed that the positive meaning of equality is “equal liberties,” but people should not also make a clear distinction that equality is also synonymous to uniformity. And this uniformity could exist in a tyrannical or despotic kind of government, according to De Tocqueville. This means that the desire to have an equal and free government could still exist and be satisfied even under a despotic government. Therefore, the challenge to have an ideal democratic government and desire for equal liberties could not easily achieved unless the despotic and tyrannical ideals are totally abolished unless being absolutely free and equal are the main ambitions of the society.

By comprehensively outlining the viewpoint of De Tocqueville, we can therefore deduce that the idea of a compatible freedom and equality is far from being simple. While it is necessary to have a certain amount of equality to achieve genuine liberty, a certain amount of liberty is also necessary to guard the government against the possible negative effects equality could bring to the society. As asserted by De Tocqueville, “there is only one effective remedy against the evils which equality may cause, and that is political liberty” (446). By doing so, the dynamics of freedom and equality could be less problematic in the long run. De Tocqueville cited United States as an example to how freedom and equality are being balanced by the government through the establishment of certain institutions and laws that safeguard the balance of freedom and equality. But he pointed out that the American government should be very careful in preserving the dynamics of freedom and equality, because if there would be an imbalance, it could pose a serious threat to democracy, leading to tyranny and despotism over time. Overall, De Tocqueville explained the meaning of freedom and equality in a deeper sense, but this is absolutely the right way to do so, because of the positive and negative effects these could bring to the government.

Work Cited

De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. 1969. New York: Anchor. Print.

More Essays on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America
1. The Dangers Facing American Democracy
2. Individualism and Self-Interest for Alexis de Tocqueville

This is a sample Tocqueville's Concept of Freedom and Equality from – the leading provider of reliable and affordable essay writing services and research paper writing services in the United States and the United Kingdom

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