Tocqueville and Guizot on democracy: from a type of society to a political regime

History of European Ideas 30 (1):61-82 (2004)
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Did Tocqueville treat democracy as a type of society, as a political regime, or in terms of their interactions? This paper argues against the assumption that Tocqueville's concept of this relationship remained constant over his three decades as a theorist. Beginning with his literal acceptance of Guizot's doctrinaire definition of democracy as an état social, Tocqueville then developed an eclectic political sociology. Without rejecting the significance of social organization for politics, he often reverted to Montesquieu's theory of the complex interaction between the social and political. Finally, after the Second Republic's violent end by the coup he had as a statesman sought to prevent, Tocqueville was disgusted by the pseudo-democratic Bonapartist arguments used by the Second Empire's apologists to legitimate it. His final position was that any adequate definition of democracy had to include, not only social equality, but also political liberty and the participation of citizens in a government incorporating a genuine political life



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