Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 17 a: How, in Times of Equality and Doubt, It Is Important to Push Back the Goal of Human Actions b - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3
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chapter 17 a: How, in Times of Equality and Doubt, It Is Important to Push Back the Goal of Human Actions b - 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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How, in Times of Equality and Doubt, It Is Important to Push Back the Goal of Human Actionsb
In centuries of faith, the final aim of life is placed after life.
So men of those times, naturally and so to speak without wanting to, become accustomed to contemplating over a long period of years an unchanging goal toward which they march constantly, and they learn, by taking imperceptible steps forward, to repress a thousand small passing desires, the better to arrive at the satisfaction of this great and permanent desire that torments them. When the same men want to concern themselves with earthly things, these habits recur. They readily set for their actions here below a general and certain goal, toward which all their efforts are directed. You do not see them give themselves each day to new attempts; but they have settled plans that they do not grow weary of pursuing.
This explains why religious peoplesc have often accomplished such enduring things. By concerning themselves with the other world, they found the great secret of succeeding in this one.
Religions give the general habit of behaving with the future in view. In this they are no less useful to happiness in this life than to felicity in the other. It is one of their great political dimensions.
But, as the light of faith grows dim, the view of men narrows; and you would say that each day the goal of human actions appears closer to them.
Once they become accustomed to no longer being concerned about what must come after their life, you see them fall easily back into that complete and brutal indifference about the future that is only too suited to certain instincts of the human species. As soon as they have lost the custom of putting their principal hopes in the long run, they are naturally led to wanting to realize their slightest desires without delay, and it seems that, from the moment they lose hope of living eternally, they are disposed to act as if they had only a single day to exist.
In the centuries of unbelief, it is therefore always to be feared that men will constantly give themselves to the daily whims of their desires and that, renouncing entirely what cannot be acquired without long efforts, they will establish nothing great, peaceful and lasting.
If it happens that, among a people so disposed, the social state becomes democratic, the danger that I am pointing out increases.
[<In aristocracies, the fixity of conditions and the immobility of the social body direct the human mind toward the idea of the future and hold it there.>]
When each man seeks constantly to change place, when an immense competition is open to all, when wealth accumulates and disappears in a few moments amid the tumult of democracy, the idea of a sudden and easy fortune, of great possessions easily gained and lost, the image of chance in all its forms occurs to the human mind. The instability of the social state comes to favor the natural instability of desires. In the middle of these perpetual fluctuations of fate, the present grows; it hides the future that fades away, and men want to think only about the next day.
In these countries where by an unhappy coincidence irreligion and democracy meet, philosophers and those governing must apply themselves constantly to pushing back the goal of human actions in the eyes of men; that is their great concern.
While enclosing himself within the spirit of his century and his country, the moralist must learn to defend himself. May he try hard each day to show his contemporaries how, even amid the perpetual movement that surrounds them, it is easier than they suppose to conceive and to carry out long-term enterprises. May he make them see that, even though humanity has changed appearance, the methods by which men can obtain the prosperity of this world have remained the same, and that, among democratic peoples, as elsewhere, it is only by resisting a thousand small particular everyday desires that you can end up satisfying the general passion for happiness that torments.
The task of those who govern is not less marked out.
At all times it is important that those who govern nations conduct themselves with a view toward the future. But that is still more necessary in democratic and unbelieving centuries than in all others. By acting in this way, the leaders of democracies not only make public affairs prosper, but by their example they also teach individuals the art of conducting private affairs.
Above all they must try hard to banish chance, as much as possible, from the political world.
The sudden and unmerited elevation of a courtier produces only a passing impression in an aristocratic country, because the ensemble of institutions and beliefs usually forces men to move slowly along paths that they cannot leave.
But nothing is more pernicious than such examples offered to the view of a democratic people. Such examples end by hurrying the heart of a democratic people down a slope along which everything is dragging it. So it is principally in times of skepticism and equality that you must carefully avoid having the favor of the people, or that of the prince, granted or denied by chance, take the place of knowledge and services. It is to be hoped that every advance there appears to be the fruit of effort, so that there is no overly easy greatness, and that ambition is forced to set its sights on the goal for a long time before achieving it.
Governments must apply themselves to giving back to men this taste for the future that is no longer inspired by religion and the social state; and without saying so, they must teach citizens every day in a practical way that wealth, fame, and power are the rewards of work; that great successes are found at the end of long desires, and that nothing lasting is gained except what is acquired with pain.
When men become accustomed to foreseeing from a great distance what must happen to them here below, and to finding nourishment in hopes, it becomes difficult for them always to stop their thinking at the precise limits of life, and they are very close to going beyond those limits in order to cast their sight farther.
So I do not doubt that by making citizens accustomed to thinking about the future in this world, you lead them closer little by little, and without their knowing it, to religious beliefs.
Thus, the means that, to a certain point, allows men to do without religion, is perhaps, after all, the only one that remains to us for leading humanity back by a long detour toward faith.
[a. ] In centuries of faith, men become accustomed to directing all of their actions in this world with the other in view.
That gives them certain habits and leads them as well to set for themselves very distant goals in life and to march toward them obstinately.
In centuries of unbelief, on the contrary, men are naturally led to want to think only about the next day.
So the great matter for philosophers and for those who govern in the centuries of unbelief and democracy must be to push back the goal of human affairs in the eyes of men. Means that they can use to succeed in doing so (YTC, CVf, pp. 33–34).
[b. ] On the jacket of the rubish:
How, in centuries of democracy and doubt, all the effort of the social power must tend toward again giving men the taste for the future./
After all the chapters on material enjoyments. Democratic peoples have a general taste for easy and quick enjoyments. That is true of material enjoyments as well as others. So this idea must be treated separately from that of material enjoyments, but it must be treated after, because the predominance of the taste for material enjoyments is a great cause of the preeminence of the general taste for current enjoyments (Rubish, 1).
[c. ] The manuscript says: “most religious peoples.”