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ScholarOne - Tocqueville as Educator: Stirring the Democratic Soul
  • Luke Foster
Luke Foster
University of Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters

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Tocqueville builds up his psychology of democracy through his responses to Pascal, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Reading him in relation to these three predecessors therefore enables us to understand what he takes to be the characteristic vulnerabilities of the democratic mind---what he would call the democratic soul---and the educational remedies he prescribes. From Pascal, Tocqueville derives the insight that the human quest for autonomy can end in a new subjection to public opinion. From Montesquieu, he concludes that the pursuit of wealth is less of a safeguard for liberty than the aristocratic pursuit of honor. In Rousseau, he acknowledges the Emile's critique of bourgeois society but finds immanent contentment an inadequate solution for the dividedness of the democratic person. The education Tocqueville prescribes is designed to draw the citizen out to self-forgetting, aspiring to poetic grandeur rather than to self-possession. This pedagogy addresses our contemporary concern with training leaders who can be excellent without suffering from the arrogance that meritocracy cultivates.
26 Dec 2023Submitted to Advance
27 Mar 2024Published in Advance