Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist by Jon Elster

By Jon Elster

The e-book proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him at the start as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his prior paintings at the rationalization of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our realization this present day rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, lots of that are nonetheless helpful of additional exploration. Elster proposes a unique analyzing of Democracy in the USA within which the main explanatory variable is the swift monetary and political turnover instead of equality of wealth at any given time limit. He additionally deals a interpreting of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution as grounded within the mental family one of the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the the Aristocracy. regularly going past exegetical statement, he argues that Tocqueville is eminently worthy examining at the present time for his major and methodological insights.

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Alexis de Tocqueville, the First Social Scientist

The booklet proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him at first as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his past paintings at the rationalization 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, a lot of that are nonetheless important of extra exploration.

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DA, p. 720) The hatred that men bear toward privilege increases as privileges become rarer and less substantial, so that democratic passions seem to burn hottest precisely when they are most starved for fuel. . When all conditions are unequal, no inequality is great enough to be offensive, whereas the slightest dissimilarity seems shocking in the midst of general uniformity. The more complete the uniformity, the more unbearable the sight of inequality. . This hatred . . which animates democratic peoples against the most insignificant privileges, powerfully encourages the gradual concentration of all political rights in the hands of the sole representative of the state.

2) or, as economists would say, of an Assurance Game with incomplete information. As we shall see in Chapter 9, Tocqueville argued that this situation was a part of the general elite fragmentation that, when it was not engineered by the successive kings, at least worked to their benefit. INTR O D UC T I O N In the previous chapter I cited the classical trio of motives: interest, passion, and reason. It is fair to say that Tocqueville had little faith in reason or "virtue" as the original spring of behavior.

I I Within the bourgeoisie, tax exemptions "filled with envy all who did not share in them" (AR, p. 1 3 1 ) ' Across classes, "the system of ennoblements, far from diminishing the commoner's hatred of the nobleman, increased it beyond all measure. It was a hatred embittered by all the envy that the new noble inspired in his erstwhile equals" (AR, p. 1 28). But as in the text just cited (AR, p. 1 27), he also refers to economic envy within classes, adding that "in this system of collective taxation, each taxpayer had a direct and permanent interest in spying on his neighbors and informing the tax collector of any increase in their wealth.

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