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Post-class notes from Monday Sept. 14

jschlosser's picture


On Monday night (9/14), we raised a number of important questions that I hope we can continue investigating on our second class devoted to Tocqueville's Democracy in America. We noted and some of us admired the following:

1. The "arts of freedom" Tocqueville locates in localism, political equalitypublic education, and having a hand on the laws.

2. Tocqueville's attempt to educate democracy through the work of his book and its vision (perhaps utopian) of what democracy could or should look like.

We also pointed to some silences and gaps in Tocqueville's account:

1. Tocqueville's focus on New England and lack of attention to the slave-holding society in the South (not to mention the New Englanders' intertwinement with slavery).

2. How "aristocratic colors . . . peep through" (51 of LOA).

3. The limits and flaws of popular justice and the absolutism of democratic laws.

4. The lack of discussion of native peoples.

A few questions emerged from this discussion:

1. What is the difference between a mob and a popular movement?

2. How can organic political structures also be just and equal?

3. Why is America still on the table -- why don't we just give up on the whole project?



As our experimental essay writers for Monday frame class, I would encourage them to consider beginning with some of these questions. And I hope all of you will keep them in mind as you continue reading. Here also are the questions that I identified as relevant to the readings from Tocqueville:

1. What are the obstacles to Tocqueville’s arts of freedom?

2. What parts of American political institutions or culture or history preclude or limit freedom?

3. What tendencies or patterns?

I look forward to our next session!