Essay: Alexis Tocqueville Association Theory

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Alexis Tocqueville Association Theory and the Three Associations

Alexis Tocqueville's association theory is founded on three principles. The first is the principle of equal conditions. Equality is critical for the purpose of democracy. Tocqueville believes that every citizen is entitled to equal rights. This equality of conditions is the underlying foundation of democracy. Tocqueville was attracted to the equal conditions in the U.S. habitats. From the early centuries of America, there has been an atmosphere of social equality. During the aristocratic era in Europe, this equality was not a common phenomenon. Although this aristocracy is declining, it is being observed in some parts of Europe. In the aristocratic political and social era, distribution of power was based on birth and name. Wealth, political influence, and nobility were passed from one generation to the next. There were fixed social classes as no one moved up in these social classes. Therefore, democracy did not take hold in Europe because of this social class system. Because of the lack of social equality, democracy could not move from one generation to another. America did not have rigid or aristocratic social classes and had equality instead. In Tocqueville's view, this condition of equality served as the primary orchestrator of democracy. He says

"When citizens can associate only in certain instances, they regard association as a rare and unusual undertaking, and it seldom occurs to them to consider it," (p. 606).

The people's sovereignty is the second generative principle. The people's sovereignty is linked to equal conditions. People must be equal in order for them to be sovereign. According to Tocqueville, from time immemorial, the people's sovereignty has been a production principle among most of the American colonies. The people's sovereignty refers to the means of ruling by the people. Unlike the U.S., Europeans had loyalties to the monarchy and aristocracy. Americans were able to rule themselves because they were not subject to monarchy and aristocracy. The Anglo-Americans first established and maintained the sovereignty of the people. However, this was not the scenario before the American Revolution. Before this revolution, colonies of America exercised the people's sovereignty at the locality level. This was characterized by the new township of England. In Tocqueville's argument, he noted that local communities were precise on the new township of England and other areas, power stemmed from the people. Across all regions of England, town meetings enable people to reach one another, teaching men how to enjoy and use the power. According to him, the main source of the people's sovereignty is the townships.

Democracy inherits the people's sovereignty. Like equal conditions, if sovereignty is no existence, there will be no democracy of the people. In Tocqueville's theory, the people's sovereignty principle governs the entire system of politics in Anglo-American. Nations abiding by the principle of people's sovereignty ensure that each citizen has an equal share of authority and power. Therefore, the people's sovereignty is an integral element of democracy. Public opinion follows the pattern of the generative principle of the people's sovereignty. Democracy is driven by public opinion. It enables ideas to be enacted by changing ideas into daily realities. According to Tocqueville, this is the people's sovereignty dogma. Democracy is fueled through this dogma. It gives direction and purpose to politics and government. The dogma of the people's sovereignty offers direction to most actions done by human beings. If public opinion were non-existent, then democracy would not have a direction. Dysfunctional democracy is caused by lack of direction. This sense of purpose and direction enables public opinion to become a generative democratic principle. He shows that

"when a consolidated nation divides it sovereignty and transforms itself into a confederation, memories, customs and habits continue for a long time to vie with the laws, bestowing upon the central government….." (p.423).

While democracy looks on public opinion, at the same time it has the possibility of being detrimental. Tocqueville acknowledges that many people are likely to be categorized as the minority in tyrannies even in democratic societies. This means that the minority are expected to be persecuted by the ruling majority opinions. Tocqueville has issued a warning to the majority tyranny stating that the majority power in the U.S. is not only irresistible, but also preponderant. Further, the majority power supersedes all the powers that Europeans know. The majority tyranny fosters a paradox; the majority power is required to sustain democracy. On the other hand, the majority tyranny has the possibility of destroying democracy. It requires careful systems of balancing and checks for democracy to evade this challenge, but still, the majority tyranny would remain unavoidable.

Despite the detailed analysis of the majority tyranny, Tocqueville believes that democracy is the only way to a better future. He feels that modern nations are destined to democracy and that aristocracy and monarchies are soon going to disappear. The aristocratic negation has been represented by democracy. The explaining how democracy is spread, Tocqueville employed the term providential. This was his strategy of depicting a sense of divine triumph and predetermined history. For the cause of democracy to be victorious, the generative principles of the people's sovereignty, equal conditions, and public opinions must exist.

The relations between the principles

Tocqueville has focused on the U.S. In making estimates of his theories. He regards the U.S. As a nation that spearheaded the evolution of social equality. It seems that social equity in the U.S. has attained its natural limits. Contrary to the aristocratic society, social equity requires equal property distribution making for persistent diminishing properties, which in the end become dispersed. In America, circulation of wealth is based on inconceivable rapidity, and most generations do not experience the full advantage associated with having money.

According to Tocqueville, societies based on democracy are expected to become tyrannies with people turning away from public affairs, with governments becoming more centralized and public opinions developing into majority tyranny. He established various social forces in America allowing democratic people to enjoy freedom. This effect has been orchestrated by a number of factors including the lack of hostile powers in the neighborhood. The most important forces have been customs and laws. Among the factors, the principles of centralized townships, federal union and systems of the judiciary had pushed for the establishment of a common religion encouraging liberty, a common language, and better education. Comparing the effects of customs and laws, Tocqueville believes that the customs were more decisive. In addition, the development of nepotism is precipitated by the existence of free willed political associations and media freedom.

The works of Tocqueville are outstanding because he has attained conviction of the aristocratic transition to democracy and from unequal conditions for equality. The principle of equal conditions is a fact. This is because it qualifies as universal, regularly eluding human interferences, lasting and experiencing progress from efforts made by human beings. With the recent French revolution, the equal condition principle has been universally advancing. Tocqueville's work has been influenced by two major distinctions. The first variable is the distinction between democracy and aristocracy, and the second is the distinction between social conditions, centralized consistency, and the equality conditions. Because of the inexistence of social equality, democracy could not move from one generation to another. America did not have rigid or aristocratic social classes but had equality. In Tocqueville's view, this condition of equality served as the primary orchestrator of democracy. He confirms that

"One must be careful to distinguish the kind of permanent agitation that exists in a peaceful established democracy from the tumultuous revolutionary movements that almost always accompany the birth and development of a democratic society." (p. 523).

The importance of associations for democracy

Freedom of association by members of the society, students, and workers is the nerve center for the struggling democracy across the globe. This remains the core nerve of the society after achieving democracy. If freedom of association is non-existent, other freedoms are expected to lose their substance. Defending individual rights will be impossible if citizens are not allowed to organize themselves around common interests and needs. Labor experts argue that freedom of expression in a society that does not allow freedom of association is similar to having the freedom to speak in the wilderness. Leading political theorists argue that freedom of association is essential in developing civil society and strengthening democracy. In addition, it is vital to bulwark against the rising tyranny state. Typically, dictatorship perceives freedom in associations as threatening and targeting them for takeover, oppression, and closure. Totalitarian nations have destroyed all the existing major forms of freedom of associations but have coerced controlled state participation across institutions and mass campaigns of mobilization.

The UN adopted the universal human rights declaration explicitly protecting the right to join and form associations, as well as the freedom of association in trade unions, to be precise. Even prior to the establishment of the United Nations, global leaders had realized the importance of protecting the interest of workers. Peace negotiators at global conferences led to the end of major… [END OF PREVIEW]

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