Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Modernity and Its DiscontentsMaking and Unmaking the Bourgeois from Machiavelli to Bellow$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Steven B. Smith

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198393

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198393.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 07 July 2022

Tocqueville’s America

Tocqueville’s America

(p.197) Chapter 10 Tocqueville’s America
Modernity and Its Discontents

Steven B. Smith

Yale University Press

Tocqueville applied Rousseau’s critique of the Enlightenment to modern democracy. He saw in the age of equality the possibility of a new and unprecedented form of despotism arising out of long-standing trends toward administrative centralization. Tocqueville drew on Montesquieu’s theory of doux commerce to show how modernity would replace the old warrior ethic of glory in order to produce new habits based on individualism and an ethic of and “self-interest rightly understood.” This ethic was in turn the source of a distinctively modern pathology that leads people to flee from their own freedom in order to seek security and comfort from the state that had become a new kind of tutelary power. Tocqueville’s fears about this new kind of soft despotism were prescient. They were developed by twentieth-century thinkers, like Louis Hartz, Hannah Arendt, and Michael Oakeshott, concerned with the emergence of mass society and totalitarian political parties.

Keywords:   Administrative Despotism, Arendt, Hannah, Doux commerce, Hartz, Louis, Hirschman, Albert, Individualism, Mass Society, Montesquieu, Oakeshott, Michael, Philistine, Restlessness (inquietude), Self-Interest Rightly Understood, Tocqueville, Alexis de

Yale Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.