Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 2 a: Of Individualism in Democratic Countries - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3
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chapter 2 a: Of Individualism in Democratic Countries - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3 
Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer. A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 3.
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Of Individualism in Democratic Countries
I have shown how, in centuries of equality, each man looked for his beliefs within himself; I want to show how, in these same centuries, he turns all his sentiments toward himself alone.
Individualismb is a recent expression given birth by a new idea. Our fathers knew only egoism.
Egoism is a passionate and exaggerated love of oneself, which leads man to view everything only in terms of himself alone and to prefer himself to everything.c
Individualism is a considered and peaceful sentiment that disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw to the side with his family and his friends; so that, after thus creating a small society for his own use, he willingly abandons the large society to itself.
Egoism is born out of blind instinct; individualism proceeds from an erroneous judgment rather than from a depraved sentiment. It has its source in failings of the mind as much as in vices of the heart.d
Egoism parches the seed of all virtues; individualism at first dries up only the source of public virtues, but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all the others and is finally absorbed into egoism.
Egoism is a vice as old as the world. It hardly belongs more to one form of society than to another.
Individualism is of democratic origin, and it threatens to develop as conditions become equal.
Among aristocratic peoples, families remain for centuries in the same condition, and often in the same place. That, so to speak, makes all generations contemporaries. A man almost always knows his ancestors and respects them; he believes he already sees his grandsons, and he loves them. He willingly assumes his duty toward both, and he often happens to sacrifice his personal enjoyments for these beings who are no more or who do not yet exist.
Aristocratic institutions have, moreover, the effect of tying each man closely to several of his fellow citizens.
Since classes are very distinct and unchanging within an aristocratic people, each class becomes for the one who is part of it a kind of small country, more visible and dearer than the large one.
Because, in aristocratic societies, all citizens are placed in fixed positions, some above others, each citizen always sees above him a man whose protection he needs, and below he finds another whose help he can claim.
So men who live in aristocratic centuries are almost always tied in a close way to something that is located outside of themselves, and they are often disposed to forget themselves. It is true that, in these same centuries, the general notion of fellow is obscure, and that you scarcely think to lay down your life for the cause of humanity; but you often sacrifice yourself for certain men.e
In democratic centuries, on the contrary, when the duties of each individual toward the species are much clearer, devotion toward one man [<or one class>] becomes more rare; the bond of human affections expands and relaxes.
Among democratic peoples, new families emerge constantly out of nothing, others constantly fall back into nothing, and all those that remain change face; the thread of time is broken at every moment, and the trace of the generations fades. You easily forget those who preceded you, and you have no idea about those who will follow you. Only those closest to you are of interest.
Since each class is coming closer to the others and is mingling with them, its members become indifferent and like strangers to each other. Aristocracy had made all citizens into a long chain that went from the peasant up to the king; democracy breaks the chain and sets each link apart.
As conditions become equal, a greater number of individuals will be found who, no longer rich enough or powerful enough to exercise a great influence over the fate of their fellows, have nonetheless acquired or preserved enough enlightenment and wealth to be able to be sufficient for themselves. The latter owe nothing to anyone, they expect nothing so to speak from anyone; they are always accustomed to consider themselves in isolation, and they readily imagine that their entire destiny is in their hands.
Thus, not only does democracy make each man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants from him and separates him from his contemporaries; it constantly leads him back toward himself alone and threatens finally to enclose him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.[*]
[a. ] Tocqueville had thought about beginning the 1840 Democracy with this chapter (see note a for p. 697).
[b. ] In the rubish, the chapter, which bears the title of individualism in democracies and of the means that the americans use to combat it, begins in this way: “I am not afraid to use new words when they are necessary to portray a new thing. Here the occasion to do so presents itself. Individualism is a recent expression . . .” (Rubish, 1).
The word individualism, which seems to echo the amour propre (self-love) of Rousseau, was not invented by Tocqueville, but he is largely responsible for its definition and its usage. The word appears for the first time in this volume. James T. Schleifer dated its first use as 24 April 1837 (see note u for pp. 709–10). The novelty of the word must not make us forget that Tocqueville several times used the expression individual egoism in a rather similar sense (as in note e of p. 511 in the second volume, and in p. 448, also in the second volume). During his 1835 voyage in England (Voyage en Angleterre, OC, V, 2, p. 60), Tocqueville also used another expression to designate almost the same idea. He spoke about the spirit of exclusion, a sentiment that “leads each man or each association of men to enjoy its advantages as much as possible by itself all alone, to withdraw as much as possible into its personality and not to allow whomever to see or to put a foot inside.” The interesting concept of collective individualism appears only in L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (OC, II, 1, p. 158).
Some of Tocqueville’s reading, the influence of Kergorlay (who knew Saint-Simonianism well), or the popularization of the word perhaps pushed Tocqueville afterward to use the word individualism. In his theory, the term is always accompanied by its opposite, the spirit of individuality, which Tocqueville defines in note 2 for p. 1179. Sometimes he also adopts the terms individual strength, spirit of independence, and individual independence.
Koenrad W. Swart (“Individualism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, 1826–1860,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 23, 1962, pp. 77–86) points out that Tocqueville perhaps borrowed the term from Saint-Simon. For a discussion of the ideas of Tocqueville on individualism, see Jean-Claude Lamberti, Tocqueville et les deux Démocraties (Paris: PUF, 1983), pp. 217–40, and La Notion d’individualisme chez Tocqueville (Paris: PUF, 1970); see James T. Schleifer, The Making of Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” pp. 252–57.
[c. ] In the manuscript: “prefer himself to all others.”
[d. ] “ ≠Egoism, vice of the heart.
“Individualism, of the mind ≠”(Rubish, 1).
[e. ] Aristocracy, which makes citizens depend on each other, leads them sometimes to great devotion, often to implacable hatreds. Democracy tends to make them indifferent to each other and disposes them to act as if they were alone.
Aristocracy forces man at every moment to go outside of himself in order to attend to others [v: interests other than his own], democracy constantly leads him back toward himself and threatens finally to enclose him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.
If democratic peoples abandon themselves immoderately to this tendency, it is easy to foresee that great evils will result for humanity.
[In the margin] Period of transition. Isolation much more complete. The hatreds of aristocracy and the indifference of democracy are combined. You isolate yourself by instinct and by will (Rubish, 1).
[[*] ] I believe that if I leave the piece that follows on the period of transition, it must simply be put there without making it a separate chapter.