Comparing John Dewey And Alexis De Tocqueville Attitudes Toward American Political Institutions

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Comparing John Dewey and Alexis de Tocqueville attitudes toward American political institutions


While political institutions have spent much of their stories avoiding culture, several prominent theorists of culture, however, have turned their attention to addressing issue of democratic culture. This analysis begins with writings of Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville is credited with identifying strong link between civic associations and American democracy. Tocqueville also made many comments regarding about arts in American public and private life. Two other important theoretical relationship between art and democracy, Walt Whitman and John Dewey, also be examined before an analysis of recent debates that fall under rubric of "public culture'-debates that have their origin in work of earlier theorists.

Tocqueville's Thoughts on American Political Culture

Alexis de Tocqueville early 19th century exhibitions based on travel in political life ([1848] 1969) provide two important sets of observations to current concerns. French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville was all too aware of American democracy's shortcomings; such as the dangers of equality, the ignorance of public officials, and the tendency toward conformism. Yet he also recognized America's voluntarism had great power. Perhaps more than any other book, the democratic spirit is well described in Democracy in America, even though it was written in the 1850s.

During other periods, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Iro-quois, Tecumseh, slave rebels, Frederick Douglass, feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, abolitionists like David Walker and William Lloyd Garrison, and civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., have all added to the contested rise of democracy, and often cited the Declaration of Independence and founding principles along the way (Tocqueville, 40).

Lincoln picked up the theme that genuine democracy could exist only in a free labor society, yet increasingly the private power of contract regulates lives, as does election management that is outsourced from the control of the people to private corporations. Private law or contract is now the most common system in the world, and the laws created thereby need not be fair or support liberty or equality to be enforceable in courts. Montesquieu's philosophy that “government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another” is an echo of the fundamentals of freedom. Freedom is still deemed as it was by the founders, to be perfected in citizenship, but perpetually threatened by corruption, with government figuring paradoxically as the guarantor of freedom, yet also the principal source of corruption because of bribery, the corruptions of power, patronage, factions, wars, established churches, and the promotion of corporate interests.

Alexis de Tocqueville provides perhaps the best and simplest portrait of the American electorate, in his Democracy in America. The electorate is the citizen who belongs to an association, or club, or attends a town hall meeting or other forms of interpersonal interactions. It is this electorate that gives the theory of democracy its reality and it is this electorate that every campaigner wants to connect with. It is the job of the campaign worker to find the common links between the electorate and their communities, ...
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