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Oppressive American Democracy: The Prophecies of Tocqueville

Oppressive American democracy: The prophecies of Tocqueville.

Tocqueville is famous for his analysis of American democratic system; yet he is unknown for his criticism of this system, given that Self-celebration has become the new “opium of the people” in the west. At the time of Karl Marx, different minds, with different sensibilities, such as Edgar Poe, Chateaubriand, Gogol or Balzac, all conservative or monarchic, observe the coming of a new law, based on money, banality and tyranny of majority. I insist on these times because our changing world doesn’t change a lot. Its arrogant curtain of technology cannot mask its common reality.

Tocqueville seeming the most liberal among the group, I cannot resist the temptation to give his best sentences about the new age made in America.

Tocqueville prophesises a new kind of global despotism; it will replace that of aristocratic times founded on class, honour and poetry. He specifies this despotism will enslave the mind but not – or less – the body:

But it would seem that if despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and milder; it would degrade men without tormenting them…I think then that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever before existed in the world…

We all know that we live now in a global shopping centre controlled from sky-satellites, may we be in Dubai, London or Los Angeles. Trade is the ubiquitous present of the world and all great cities finish not to challenge, but to look each other. Well, Tocqueville had already under his eyes this weird and sinister sight:

I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavouring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives.

According to Tocqueville, we assist since the French revolution a rise of the state and all kind of administrations whose role is to solve any kind of worry, as long as neo-liberal rhetoricians allow it! As Nietzsche, who later denounces the coming last man, a petty-bourgeois era, to put it in Marxist terms, Tocqueville foresees a profit-driven humanity, involved in material concerns and completely -like in France- dependent of the state and its generous yet indebted activity.

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