Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 17 a: How the Appearance of Society in the United States Is at the Very Same Time Agitated and Monotonous b - Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4
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chapter 17 a: How the Appearance of Society in the United States Is at the Very Same Time Agitated and Monotonous b - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition, vol. 4 
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. 4.
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How the Appearance of Society in the United States Is at the Very Same Time Agitated and Monotonousb
It seems that nothing is more appropriate for exciting and feeding curiosity than the appearance of the United States. Fortunes, ideas, laws vary constantly there. You would say that immobile nature itself is mobile, so much is it transformed every day under the hand of man.
In the long run, however, the sight of so agitated a society seems monotonous, and after contemplating for a while a tableau so changeable, the spectator becomes bored.
Among aristocratic peoples, each man is more or less fixed in his sphere; but men are prodigiously dissimilar; they have essentially different passions, ideas, habits and tastes. Nothing stirs, everything varies.
In democracies, on the contrary, all men are similar and do more or less similar things. They are subject, it is true, to great and continual vicissitudes; but, since the same successes and the same reverses recur continually, only the name of the actors is different; the play is the same. The appearance of American society is agitated, because men and things change constantly; and it is monotonous, because all the changes are the same.
The men who live in democratic times have many passions; but most of their passions end in the love of wealth or come from it. That is not because their souls are smaller, but because then the importance of money is really greater.c
When fellow citizens are all independent and indifferent, it is only by paying that you can obtain the cooperation of each one of them; this infinitely multiplies the use of wealth and increases its value.
Since the prestige that was attached to ancient things has disappeared, birth, state, profession no longer distinguish men, or scarcely distinguish them; there remains hardly anything except money that creates very visible differences between them and that can put a few of them beyond comparison. The distinction that arises from wealth is increased by the disappearance and lessening of all the other distinctions.
Among aristocratic peoples, money leads to only a few points on the vast circumference of desires; in democracies, it seems to lead to all.
So love of wealth, as principal or accessory, is usually found at the bottom of the actions of Americans; this gives all their passions a family air, and does not take long to make the tableau tiring.
This perpetual return of the same passion is monotonous; the particular procedures that this passion uses to become satisfied are monotonous as well.
In a sound and peaceful democracy, like that of the United States, where you cannot become rich either by war, or by public employment, or by political confiscations, love of wealth directs men principally toward industry. Now, industry, which often brings such great disturbances and such great disasters, can nonetheless prosper only with the aid of very regular habits and by a long succession of small, very uniform actions. Habits are all the more regular and actions more uniform as the passion is more intense. You can say that it is the very violence of their desires that makes the Americans so methodical. It disturbs their soul, but it makes their life orderly.
What I say about America applies, moreover, to nearly all the men of our times. Variety is disappearing from the human species; the same ways of acting, thinking and feeling are found in all the corners of the world.d That happens not only because all peoples are frequenting each other more and are copying each other more faithfully, but also because in each country men, putting aside more and more the ideas and sentiments particular to a caste, to a profession, to a family, come simultaneously to what is closest to the constitution of man, which is everywhere the same.e They thus become similar, although they do not imitate each other. They are like travelers spread throughout a large forest in which all roads lead to the same point. If all see the central point at the same time and turn their steps in this direction, they come imperceptibly closer to one another, without seeking each other, without seeing each other, without knowing each other, and finally they will be surprised to see themselves gathered in the same place.f All peoples who take as the aim of their studies and their imitation, not a particular man, but man himself, will end up by meeting with the same mores, like these travelers at the center point.
[a. ] “The appearance of American society is agitated because men and thingsconstantly change place. It is monotonous because all the changes are similar.
“There is in America truly speaking only a single passion, love of wealth, which is monotonous. For this passion to be satisfied, small regular and methodical actions are needed, which is also monotonous” (YTC, CVf, pp. 46-47).
[b. ] The jacket of the chapter bears this date: “≠4 January 1838.≠” It contains three loose sheets contained in a jacket on which you read: “rubish of the chapter entitled: how the appearance of society in the united states and the life of men is [sic ] at the very same time agitated and monotonous./
“This rubish contains more things than usual to see again.” Despite Tocqueville’s remark, the notes do not present many differences with the chapter. The other rubishalso contains notes and drafts of this chapter.
[e. ] After the prejudices of profession, caste, family have disappeared in order to yield to generative and general ideas, men are still divided by the prejudices of nation, which present the final obstacle to the boldness and generalization of thought, but this classification of human thought by nation cannot endure for long if several nations adopt a democratic social state at the same time. Since all these nations then take man himself as goal of their inquiry and since man is the same everywhere, a multitude of their ideas ends up by being similar, not because they imitate each other (which often happens), but because they are simultaneously coming closer to thesame thing without consulting about it.
[In the margin] The destruction of small sovereignties and the destruction of castes and of aristocratic ranks produce analogous effects; from them result a generalization of thought and a greater boldness to conceive new thoughts (Rubish, 2).
[f. ] “<This central point in philosophy is the study of man>” (Rubish, 2).