Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 20 a: How Aristocracy Could Emerge from Industry b - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 3
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chapter 20 a: How Aristocracy Could Emerge from Industry 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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This bilingual edition of Tocqueville’s work contains a new English translation of the French critical edition published in 1990. The copyright to the French version is held by J. Vrin and it is not available online. The copyright to the English translation, the translator’s note, and index is held by Liberty Fund.
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How Aristocracy Could Emerge from Industryb
I showed how democracy favored the development of industry and immeasurably multiplied the number of industrialists; we are going to see in what roundabout way industry in turn could well lead men toward aristocracy.
It has been recognized that when a worker is occupied every day only with the same detail, the general production of the work is achieved more easily, more rapidly and more economically.
It has been recognized as well that the more an industry was undertaken on a large scale, with great capital and large credit, the less expensive its products were.c
These truths have been seen dimly for a long time, but they have been demonstrated in our time. They are already applied to several very important industries, and the smallest industries are successively making use of them.
I see nothing in the political world that should occupy the legislator more than these two new axioms of industrial science.
When an artisan devotes himself constantly and solely to the fabrication of a single object, he ends by acquitting himself of this work with a singular dexterity. But he loses, at the same time, the general ability to apply his mind to directing the work. Each day he becomes more skillful and less industrious, and you can say that in him the man becomes degraded as the worker improves.
What should you expect from a man who has used twenty years of his life making pinheads? And in his case, to what in the future can the powerful human intelligence, which has often stirred the world, be applied, if not to searching for the best way to make pinheads!
When a worker has in this way consumed a considerable portion of his existence, his thought has stopped forever near the daily object of his labor; his body has contracted certain fixed habits that he is no longer allowed to give up. In a word, he no longer belongs to himself, but to the profession that he chose. Laws and mores have in vain taken care to break down all the barriers around this man and to open for him in all directions a thousand different roads toward fortune; an industrial theory more powerful than mores and laws has bound him to an occupation and often to a place in society that he cannot leave. Amid the universal movement, it has made him immobile.
As the principle of the division of labor is more completely applied, the worker becomes weaker, more limited, and more dependent. The art makes progress, the artisan goes backward. On the other hand, as it becomes clearer that the larger the scale of manufacturing and the greater the capital, the more perfect and the less expensive the products of an industry are, very rich and very enlightened men arise to exploit industries that, until then, have been left to ignorant and poor artisans. The greatness of the necessary efforts and the immensity of the results to achieve attract them.
Thus, at the same time that industrial science constantly lowers the class of workers, it raises the class of masters.
While the worker applies his intelligence more and more to the study of a single detail, the master casts his sight every day over a broader whole, and his mind expands in proportion as that of the worker contracts. Soon nothing will be needed by the worker except physical strength without intelligence; the master needs knowledge, and almost genius to succeed. The one more and more resembles the administrator of a vast empire, and the other a brute.
So the master and the worker are not in any way similar here, and every day they differ more. They are no longer held together except as the two end links of a long chain. Each one occupies a place made for him and does not leave it. The one is in a continual, narrow and necessary dependence on the other, and seems born to obey, as the latter to command.
What is this, if not aristocracy?d
As conditions become more and more equal in the body of the nation, the need for manufactured objects becomes more general and increases, and an inexpensive price that puts these objects within reach of mediocre fortunes becomes a greater element of success.
So every day more opulent and more enlightened men are found who devote their wealth and their knowledge to industry and who seek, by opening great workshops and strictly dividing labor, to satisfy the new desires that appear on all sides.
Thus, as the mass of the nation turns to democracy, the particular class that is concerned with industry becomes more aristocratic. Men show themselves more and more similar in the nation and more and more different in the particular class, and inequality increases in the small society in proportion as it decreases in the large one.
In this way, when you go back to the source, it seems that you see aristocracy come by a natural effort from the very heart of democracy.
But that aristocracy does not resemble the aristocracies that preceded it.
You will notice first that, applying only to industry and to a few of the industrial professions, it is an exception, a monstrosity, within the whole of the social state.
The small aristocratic societies formed by certain industries amid the immense democracy of our time include, like the great aristocratic societies of former times, a few very opulent men and a multitude of very miserable ones.
These poor have few means to emerge from their condition and to become rich, but the rich constantly become poor, or leave trade after having realized their profits. Thus, the elements that form the class of the poor are more or less fixed; but the elements that compose the class of the rich are not. Truly speaking, although there are rich men, the class of the rich does not exist; for these rich men have neither spirit nor aims in common, nor shared traditions or shared hopes. So there are members, but not a corps.
Not only are the rich not united solidly with each other, but you can say that there is no true bond between the poor and the rich.
They are not fixed in perpetuity next to each other; at every moment interest draws them closer and separates them. The worker depends in general on the master, but not on a particular master. These two men see each other at the factory and do not know each other elsewhere, and while they touch at one point, they remain very far apart at all others. The manufacturer asks the worker only for his work, and the worker expects from him only a salary. The one does not commit himself to protecting, nor the other to defending, and they are not linked in a permanent way, either by habit or by duty.
The aristocracy established by trade hardly ever settles amid the industrial population that it directs; its goal is not to govern the latter, but to make use of it.
An aristocracy thus constituted cannot have a great hold on those it employs; and if it manages to seize them for a moment, they soon escape. It does not know what it wants and cannot act.
The territorial aristocracy of past centuries was obligated by law, or believed itself obligated by mores, to come to the aid of those who served it and to relieve their miseries. But the manufacturing aristocracy of today, after impoverishing and brutalizing the men it uses, delivers them in times of crisis to public charity to be fed. This results naturally from what precedes. Between the worker and the master, contacts are frequent, but there is no true association.
I think that, everything considered, the manufacturing aristocracy that we see arising before our eyes is one of the harshest that has appeared on the earth; but at the same time it is one of the most limited and least dangerous.
Nonetheless, it is in this direction that the friends of democracy must with anxiety constantly turn their attention; for if permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy ever penetrate the world again, you can predict that they will come in through this door.
[a. ] Of the aristocratic make-up of some of the industries of today.
I showed how democracy favored the development of industry; I am going to show in what roundabout way industry in return leads back toward aristocracy.
It has been discovered in our time that when each worker was occupied only with the same detail, the work as a whole was more perfect.
It has been discovered as well that to do something with less expense, it is necessary to undertake it immediately on a very vast scale.
The first of the two discoveries lowers [v: ruins] and brutalizes the worker. The second constantly raises the master. They introduce the principles of aristocracy into the industrial class.
Now, as society in general becomes more democratic, since the need for inexpensive manufactured objects becomes more general and more intense, the two discoveries above apply more frequently and more rigorously.
So equality disappears from the small society as it becomes established in the large one (YTC, CVf, pp. 35-36).
Several ideas from this chapter come from the book of Viscount Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, Économie politique chrétienne, ou recherches sur la nature et les causes du paupérisme, en France et en Europe . . . (Paris: Paulin, 1834), 2 vols., which Tocqueville had used for his memoir on pauperism. Chapter XII of the first volume of Villeneuve-Bargemont’s book has precisely this title, “The New Feudalism,” and contains in germ the principal arguments of this chapter. See note s of p. 81 of the first volume.
[b. ] I do not know where to place this chapter. Three systems:
Every society begins with aristocracy; industry is subject to this law (Rubish, 2).
[c. ] In the margin, in the rubish: “<Now, these discoveries must be considered as the two sources from which aristocracy can escape once again to cover the world.> 2 July 1837” (Rubish, 2).
There is perhaps no point on which modern critics of Tocqueville are in more agreement than on his ignorance of the changes that took place in America and in Europe during the first half of the XIXth century in matters of industry, of the process of urbanization, and the little attention that he gave to steamboats, canals, railroads and other technical progress. The publication of his travel notes and the book of Seymour Drescher (Tocqueville and Beaumont on Social Reform, New York: Harper and Row, 1968) show, however, that his description of Manchester is largely devoted to the results of industrialization and that, far from being unaware of the problem, he knew about it and was preoccupied by it.
If Tocqueville evokes the problem of industrialization only rapidly, it is above all because the purpose of his work, like his anti-materialism, scarcely pushes him there. What interests him is the energy (acquiring money and the taste for material well-being) that creates industry and the effects that it produces (the new manufacturing aristocracy). According to Seymour Drescher again (Tocqueville and England, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964, pp. 60-61), the friendship of Senior would have had a real influence on Tocqueville’s ideas about the economy. See Voyage en Angleterre, OC, V, 2, especially pages 67-68 and 78-85.
[d. ] “Examine a bit practically the question of knowing how you could re-create an aristocracy of fortunes, bring together (illegible word), give privileges.
“Piece on the impossibility of a new aristocracy, 2nd vol., p. 425” (YTC, CVc, p. 55). This concerns p. 635 of the second volume.
[1. ] I use this modern word without understanding it well. The most natural meaning to give it is the independence of individual reason” (YTC, CVj, 1, pp. 10–11).
[1. ] These two principles are arranged in each century and among each people in various proportions; that is nearly the entire history of humanity (YTC, CVj, 1, pp. 3–5).
[1. ] ≠The chapters marked (a) are those that still leave me most unsatisfied and that must principally attract my attention at a last reading ≠(YTC, CVf, p. 1).
[1. ] To see again concerning this piece something analogous written in England in 1835 (Rubish, 1).
[1. ] Here the example of England. This class that ends by giving its instincts to a people, but that cannot take the aristocratic form away from it. Particular causes such as liberty, maritime commerce, openings to national industries that give this class more intense tastes for well-being (Rubish, 1).