Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist - download pdf or read online

By Jon Elster

ISBN-10: 052151844X

ISBN-13: 9780521518444

The e-book proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him before everything as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his previous paintings at the clarification of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our awareness this present day rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, lots of that are nonetheless necessary of additional exploration. Elster proposes a singular studying of Democracy in the USA within which the foremost explanatory variable is the swift financial and political turnover instead of equality of wealth at any given cut-off date. He additionally deals a analyzing of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution as grounded within the mental family members one of the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the the Aristocracy. continually going past exegetical statement, he argues that Tocqueville is eminently worthy analyzing this day for his sizeable and methodological insights.

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This would induce a preference for state E over state A. " This amounts to a preference for state C over state A and perhaps even for state F over state A. Either of these would be forms of black envy, as would a preference for D over A. Since democratic citizens value lib­ erty, giving it up with no gain in income, as in a move from A to C, would be a form of black envy. Moving from A to F would require the willingness to suffer a loss of both liberty and income for the sake of equality. I believe we can safely assert that according to Tocqueville, members of the first group would (i) prefer B over A and (ii) prefer E over A.

It also seems possible that his reproach of Machiavelli for being, as it were, insufficiently Machiavellian (L, p. 3 62) may have been inspired by La RochefoucauId's Maxime 124. 77. • 47 48 Self-Interest and Individualism Tocqueville uses several recurring terms. First, there is "egoism," "a vice as old as the world" (DA, p. 5 8 5 ), which is "to societies what rust is to metal" (DA, p. 31 6). Next, there is "interest" without any qualification, usually in the sense of material interest. Third, there is the key idea of "enlightened interest" (literally: "interest properly under­ stood") .

60) Democratic peoples love equality in all ages, but there are times when their passion for it turns to frenzy. This happens when a long-threatened social hierarchy finally destroys itself in one last intestine struggle and the barriers that once separated citizens are finally knocked down. At such times men swoop down upon equality as upon conquered spoils and cling to it as a pre­ cious good that someone would snatch from their grasp. The passion for equal­ ity then inundates the human heart and fills it entirely.

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Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist by Jon Elster


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