Critique Of Liberalism: A Comparative Treatise Between Alexis De Tocqueville's Optimism, And The Subsequent Pessimism Of Carl Schmitt And Leo Strauss

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[Critique of Liberalism: A comparative treatise between Alexis de Tocqueville's optimism, and the subsequent pessimism of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss]



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The specific problem this paper faces is one of explanation: Tocqueville, the famous 19th century liberal and French commentator on America, takes a surprising and paradoxical stance on the role of religious authority in general, and Christian orthodoxy in particular, in both the United States and in modem liberal democracies per se. Despite endorsing what he himself calls the complete separation of church and state as found in Jacksonian America, Tocqueville also describes and celebrates the dominance of Christianity in American political society, going so far as to call Christianity the first political institution of the United States. In a work glorifying political decentralization, active citizenship, and resistance to majority tyranny, the author approves of a double standard by which individuals refrain from questioning religious authority and public actors fear to disobey it, lest public opinion condemn them for impiety. The purpose of this study is to Critique the Liberalism by comparing the treatise between Alexis de Tocqueville's optimism, and the pessimism of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss.

Table of Contents



Purpose of the Study11


Religion, Philosophy, and Intellectual Liberty12

Tocqueville's Milieu24

Pessimism of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss26

Ancient and Modern Liberty: Montesquieu and Constant42

Tocqueville's "Ancient Modern" Liberty53

"Modern" American Liberty69

The Perfection of Man78

Strict liberalism78


Research Design92

Data Collection Method92




Ethical Concerns95


Separation and Civil Religion123



Chapter 1: Introduction


Human action, according to Tocqueville, is almost always born "from a very general idea that men have conceived of God, of His relations with the human race, of the nature of their souls, and of their duties towards their fellows" (417).1 For the same reason that man is a political animal, he is also a philosophic and religious animal: virtually nothing he does can be explained without reference to a self-understanding derived from his apprehension of the social, political, and cosmic order of which his life forms a part. For this reason, the human mind is inclined to know and the will is inclined to embrace an "admirable order of all things" surpassing the existence of the individual (505). Even the materialist, who believes he has proved himself an animal, is filled with a pride that proves him human in this sense (519). Civic life, theoretical science, and religious faith all seek to satisfy the natural longing of the human soul to locate itself within a greater order. Though individual self-interest clearly offers itself as a fixed point in human nature (228), it is always accompanied by a ...
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