Tocqueville And Young On Freedom Essay Research

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Tocqueville And Young On Freedom Essay, Research Paper The Conflict between Freedom and Equality Tocqueville noted the profound contrast between individual freedom and political freedom in his critique of American democracy. He observed that the people had a great passion for freedom and liberty, they were filled with beliefs rooted in idealism and founded by illusion. Americans also believed in a system based on equality. However, this equality, in theory, meant that extraordinary individuals were leveled down, while lesser people were brought up to a consistent level of equality. But freedom, stressing individualism, was rooted not in a consistent level, but celebrated differences among the people. Michael Young also analyzes this inherent incompatibility in the Rise of the

Meritocracy. However, Young views the phenomenon from the year 1958, he introduces a system which provides equality of opportunity but gives little recognition to freedom or individualism. People are only parts of a machine they have no use or individualism outside of the system. It is this mentality which spurs the crisis at the end of Young’s work. People want both ideals, but it seems to be a zero-sum game. The people now want “real equality” which recognizes each individual as important and different, in other words, individualism. It is this conflict of human ideals, which dooms the society of “the one” to failure. The overwhelming theme of Democracy in America is the exploration of equality in the American context. He focuses particularly on the attempt by

Americans to harmonize the ideas of equality and individual freedom. Tocqueville was convinced that this “American democracy” was destined to spread to the Old World. Because of this, he felt it was extremely important for his fellow Frenchmen to be aware of both the benefits and drawbacks of this new approach. Therefore, in his critique of the system he focuses on this conflict between freedom and equality because he sees it as a peculiar and vulnerable aspect of American political life. He seemed to think that the success of the American experiment put the rest of the world in a very precarious situation. While he was excited by the prospect of eliminating the aristocracy, he also feared that American democracy maybe in opposition to the greatest political ideal, liberty.

Tocqueville’s reverence for individual freedom is evident in his initial reactions to the American system. He perceives that American citizens seem very free because they are not bound by the limitations of a class, as in an aristocracy. In an aristocracy one would unlikely see working class people pursuing great wealth and power. The American people had an ambition that was very unfamiliar to Tocqueville, having come from a country with rigid class divisions. Everyone seemed to be doing as they pleased, without regard to social position. To Tocqueville it gave the illusion of great freedom, and at first he believed Americans did posses a great deal of freedom. However, he later realizes that it was in fact all an illusion. He had mistaken equality for freedom. Do to his

misperception he is able to write about why he made this mistake. This begins Tocqueville’s discussion on what distinguishes freedom from equality and how the two actually contrast in many ways. Addressing this theme he writes: “Although men cannot be absolutely equal without being entirely free, and consequently equality, in its most extreme form, must merge with freedom, there is good reason to distinguish one from the other. So men’s taste for freedom and their taste for equality are in fact distinct, and, I have no hesitation in adding, among democracies they are two unequal elements.” Tocqueville begins to realize the importance of his error to his understanding of the American political process. Americans appeared to be free because they all had some degree of