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chapter 21 a: Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare 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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Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rareb
A people who has lived for centuries under the regime of castes and classes arrives at a democratic social state only through a long succession of more or less painful transformations, with the aid of violent efforts, and after numerous vicissitudes during which goods, opinions and power rapidly change place.
Even when this great revolution is finished, you see the revolutionary habits that it created still continue to exist, and profound agitation follows it.
Since all of this occurs at the moment when conditions are becoming equal, you conclude that a hidden connection and a secret bond exist between equality itself and revolutions, so that the one cannot exist without the others arising.
On this point, reasoning seems in agreement with experience.
Among a people where ranks are nearly equal no apparent bond unites men and holds them firmly in their place. No one among them has the permanent right or the power to command, and no one’s condition is to obey; but each man, finding himself provided with some enlightenment and some resources, can choose his path and walk apart from all his fellows.
The same causes that make citizens independent of each other push them each day toward new and restless desires, and goad them constantly.
So it seems natural to believe that, in a democratic society, ideas, things and men must eternally change forms and places, and that democratic centuries will be times of rapid and constant transformations.
Is that the case in fact? Does equality of conditions lead men in a habitual and permanent way toward revolutions? Does it contain some disturbing principle that prevents society from becoming settled and disposes citizens constantly to renew their laws, their doctrines and their mores? I do not believe so. The subject is important; I beg the reader to follow me closely.c
Nearly all the revolutions that have changed the face of peoples have been made in order to sanction or to destroy inequality. Take away the secondary causes that have produced the great agitations of men, you will almost always arrive at inequality. It is the poor who have wanted to steal the property of the rich, or the rich who have tried to put the poor in chains. So if you can establish a state of society in which each man has something to keep and little to take, you will have done a great deal for the peace of the world.
I am not unaware that, among a great democratic people, there are always very poor citizens and very rich citizens; but the poor, instead of forming the immense majority of the nation as always happens in aristocratic societies, are small in number, and the law has not tied them together by the bonds of an irremediable and hereditary misery.
The rich, on their side, are few and powerless; they do not have privileges that attract attention; their wealth itself, no longer incorporated in and represented by the land, is elusive and as if invisible. Just as there are no longer races of the poor, there are no longer races of the rich; the latter emerge each day from within the crowd, and return to it constantly. So they do not form a separate class that you can easily define and despoil; and since, moreover, the rich are attached by a thousand secret threads to the mass of their fellow citizens, the people can scarcely hope to strike them without hitting themselves. Between these two extremes of democratic societies, is found an innumerable multitude of almost similar men who, without being precisely rich or poor, possess enough property to desire order, and do not have enough property to arouse envy.
Those men are naturally enemies of violent movements; their immobility keeps at rest everything above and below them, and secures the social body in its settled position.
It isn’t that those same men are satisfied with their present fortune, or that they feel a natural horror for a revolution whose spoils they would share without experiencing its evils; on the contrary, they desire to become rich with unequaled ardor; but the difficulty is to know from whom to take the wealth. The same social state that constantly suggests desires to them contains those desires within necessary limits. It gives men more liberty to change and less interest in changing.d
Not only do men of democracies not naturally desire revolutions, but they fear them.
There is no revolution that does not more or less threaten acquired property. Most of those who inhabit democratic countries are property owners; they not only have properties; they live in the condition in which men attach the highest value to their property.e
If you attentively consider each one of the classes that compose society, it is easy to see that in no class are the passions that arise from property more ruthless and more tenacious than among the middle class.
Often the poor hardly worry about what they possess, because they suffer from what they lack much more than they enjoy the little that they have. The rich have many other passions to satisfy than that of wealth, and besides, the long and difficult use of a great fortune sometimes ends by making them as if insensitive to its sweet pleasures.
But the men who live in a comfort equally removed from opulence and from misery put an immense value on their property. Since they are still very close to poverty, they see its rigors close up, and fear them; between poverty and them, there is nothing except a small patrimony on which they soon fix their fears and their hopes. At every instant, they become more interested in their property because of the constant concerns that it gives them, and they become attached to it because of the daily efforts that they make to augment it. The idea of giving up the least part of it is unbearable to them, and they consider its complete loss as the greatest of misfortunes. Now, it is the number of these ardent and anxious small property owners that equality of conditions increases incessantly.
Thus, in democratic societies, the majority of citizens does not see clearly what it could gain from a revolution, and it feels at every instant and in a thousand ways what it could lose.f
I said, in another place in this work, how equality of conditions pushed men naturally toward industrial and commercial careers, and how it increased and diversified property in land; finally I showed how equality of conditions inspired in each man an ardent and constant desire to augment his well-being. There is nothing more contrary to revolutionary passions than all these things.
A revolution, in its final result, can happen to serve industry and commerce; but its first effect will almost always beg to ruin the industrialists and the merchants, because it cannot fail, first of all, to change the general state of consumption and to reverse temporarily the relation that existed between production and needs.
Moreover, I know nothing more opposed to revolutionary mores than commercial mores. Commerce is naturally hostile to all violent passions. It loves moderation, takes pleasure in compromises, very carefully flees from anger. It is patient, flexible, ingratiating, and it resorts to extreme means only when the most absolute necessity forces it to do so. Commerce makes men independent of each other; it gives them a high idea of their individual value; it leads them to want to conduct their own affairs, and teaches them to succeed in doing so; so it disposes them to liberty, but distances them from revolutions.
[≠Thus the effects of equality of conditions are diverse. Equality, making men independent of each other, puts them at full liberty to innovate and at the same time gives them tastes which need stability in order to be satisfied.≠]
In a revolution, the owners of personal propertyh have more to fear than all the others; for on the one hand, their property is often easy to seize, and on the other hand, at every moment it can disappear completely. This is less to be feared by owners of landed property who, while losing the income from their lands, hope at least throughout the vicissitudes, to keep the land itself. Consequently you see that the first are much more frightened than the second at the sight of revolutionary movements.
So peoples are less disposed to revolutions as personal property is multiplied and diversified among them and as the number of those who possess personal property becomes greater.
Moreover, whatever profession men embrace and whatever type of property they enjoy, one feature is common to all.
No one is fully satisfied with his present fortune, and everyone works hard every day, by a thousand diverse means, to augment it. Consider each one among them at whatever period of his life, and you will see him preoccupied with some new plans whose goal is to increase his comfort; do not speak to him about the interests and rights of humanity; this small domestic enterprise absorbs all of his thoughts for the moment and makes him wish to put public agitations off to another time.
That not only prevents them from making revolutions, but turns them away from wanting to do so. Violent political passions have little hold on men who have in this way attached their entire soul to the pursuit of well-being. The ardor that they give to small affairs calms them down about great ones.
It is true that from time to time in democratic societies enterprising and ambitious citizens arise whose immense desires cannot be satisfied by following the common path. These men love revolutions and call them forth; but they have great difficulty bringing them about, if extraordinary events do not come to their aid.
You do not struggle effectively against the spirit of your century and country; and one man, however powerful you suppose him to be, has difficulty getting his contemporaries to share sentiments and ideas that the whole of their desires and their sentiments reject. So once equality of conditions has become an old and uncontested fact and has stamped its character on mores, you must not believe that men easily allow themselves to rush into dangers following an imprudent leader or a bold innovator.
It is not that they resist him in an open way, with the aid of intelligent contrivances, or even by a premeditated plan to resist. They do not fight him with energy; sometimes they even applaud him, but they do not follow him. To his ardor, they secretly oppose their inertia; to his revolutionary instincts, their conservative interests; their stay-at-home tastes to his adventurous passions; their good sense to the flights of his genius; to his poetry, their prose. With a thousand efforts, he arouses them for one moment, and soon they escape him; and as if brought down by their own weight, they fall back. He exhausts himself, wanting to animate this indifferent and inattentive crowd, and he finally sees himself reduced to impotence, not because he is vanquished, but because he is alone.
I do not claim that men who live in democratic societies are naturally immobile; I think, on the contrary, that within such a society an eternal movement reigns and that no one knows rest; but I believe that men there become agitated within certain limits beyond which they hardly ever go. They vary, alter, or renew secondary things every day; they take great care not to touch principal ones. They love change; but they fear revolutions.
Although the Americans are constantly modifying or repealing some of their laws, they are very far from exhibiting revolutionary passions. By the promptness with which they stop and calm themselves down when public agitation begins to become threatening, even at the moment when passions seem the most excited, it is easy to discover that they fear a revolution as the greatest of misfortunes, and that each one among them is inwardly resolved to make great sacrifices to avoid it. There is no country in the world where the sentiment of property shows itself more active and more anxious than in the United States, and where the majority shows less of a tendency toward doctrines that threaten to alter in any manner whatsoever the constitution of property.j
I have often remarked that theories that are revolutionary by their nature, in that they can only be realized by a complete and sometimes sudden change in the state of property and persons, are infinitely less in favor in the United States than in the great monarchies of Europe. If a few men profess them, the mass rejects them with a kind of instinctive horror.
I am not afraid to say that most of the maxims that are customarily called democratic in France would be proscribed by the democracy of the United States. That is easily understood. In America, you have democratic ideas and passions; in Europe, we still have revolutionary passions and ideas.
If America ever experiences great revolutions, they will be brought about by the presence of Blacks on the soil of the United States: that is to say that it will be not equality of conditions, but on the contrary inequality of conditions that gives birth to them.
When conditions are equal, each man willingly becomes isolated within himself and forgets the public. If the legislators of democratic peoples did not seek to correct this fatal tendency or favored it, with the thought that this tendency diverts citizens from political passions and thus turns them away from revolutions, they could themselves end up producing the evil that they want to avoid. And a moment could arrive when the disorderly passions of a few men, making use of the unintelligent egoism and faint-heartedness of the greatest number, would end up forcing the social body to undergo strange vicissitudes.
I am not saying that democratic nations are safe from revolutions; I am only saying that the social state of these nations does not lead them to, but rather distances them from revolutions. Democratic peoples, left to themselves, do not easily become engaged in great adventures; they are carried toward revolutions only unknowingly; they sometimes undergo revolutions, but they do not make them. And I add that, when they have been permitted to acquire enlightenment and experience, they do not allow them to be made.n
I know well that in this matter public institutions themselves can do a great deal; they favor or restrain the instincts that arise from the social state. So I am not maintaining, I repeat, that a people is safe from revolution for the sole reason that, within it, conditions are equal; but I believe that, whatever the institutions of such a people, great revolutions there will always be infinitely less violent and rarer than is supposed; and I easily foresee such a political state that, combining with equality, would make society more stationary [<and more immobile>] than it has ever been in our West.
What I have just said about facts applies in part to ideas.
Two things are astonishing in the United States: the great mobility of most human actions and the singular fixity of certain principles. Men stir constantly, the human mind seems almost immobile.
Once an opinion has spread over the American soil and taken root, you could say that no power on earth is able to eradicate it. In the United States the general doctrines in matters of religion, philosophy, morals, and even of politics, do not vary, or at least they are only modified after a hidden and often imperceptible effort;o the crudest prejudices themselves fade only with an inconceivable slowness amid the friction repeated a thousand times between things and men.
I hear it said that it is in the nature and in the habits of democracies to change sentiments and thoughts at every moment. That is perhaps true of small democratic nations,[*] such as those of antiquity [added: or of the Middle Ages], which were gathered all together in the public square and then stirred up at the pleasure of an orator. I saw nothing similar within the great democratic people that occupies the opposite shores of our ocean. What struck me in the United States was the difficulty experienced in dis-abusing the majority of an idea that it has conceived and in detaching the majority from a man that it adopts. Writings or speeches can hardly succeed in doing so; experience alone achieves it in the end; sometimes experience must be repeated.p
This is astonishing at first view; a more attentive examination explains it.
[<≠It is ideas that, most often, produce facts, and in turn facts constantly modify ideas.≠>]
I do not believe that it is as easy as you imagine to uproot the prejudices of a democratic people; to change its beliefs; to substitute new religious, philosophical, political and moral principles for those that were once established; in a word, to make great and frequent intellectual revolutions. It is not that the human mind is idle there; it is in constant motion; but it exerts itself to vary infinitely the consequences of known principles and to discover new consequences rather than to seek new principles. It turns back on itself with agility, rather than rushing forward by a rapid and direct effort; it extends its sphere little by little by continuous and quick small movements; it does not shift ground suddenly.
Men equal in rights, in education, in fortune, and to say everything in a phrase, of similar condition, necessarily have almost similar needs, habits and tastes. Since they see matters in the same way, their mind is inclined naturally toward analogous ideas, and although each one of them can withdraw from his contemporaries and create his own beliefs, they end up, without knowing it and without wanting to, by finding themselves all with a certain number of common opinions.
[The intellectual anarchy of democratic societies is more apparent than real. Men differ infinitely on questions of detail, but on the great principles they are in agreement.]
The more attentively I consider the effects of equality on the mind, the more I am persuaded that the intellectual anarchy of which we are witnesses is not, as some suppose, the natural state of democratic peoples.q I believe that the intellectual anarchy must instead be considered as an accident particular to their youth, and that it shows itself only during the period of transition when men have already broken the old bonds that tied them together, and still differ prodigiously by origin, education and mores; so that, having retained very diverse ideas, instincts and tastes, nothing prevents them any longer from bringing them forth. The principal opinions of men become similar as conditions become alike. Such seems to me to be the general and permanent fact; the rest is fortuitous and fleeting.r
I believe that rarely, in a democratic society, will a man come to imagine, at a single stroke, a system of ideas very removed from the one that his contemporaries have adopted; and if such an innovator appeared, I imagine that he would at first have great difficulty making himself heard and still more making himself believed.s
When conditions are almost the same, one man does not easily allow himself to be persuaded by another. Since all see each other very close up, since together they have learned the same things and lead the same life, they are not naturally disposed to take one among them as a guide and to follow him blindly; you hardly believe your fellow or your equal on his word.
It is not only confidence in the enlightenment of certain individuals that becomes weak among democratic nations; as I said elsewhere, the general idea of the intellectual superiority that any man can gain over all the others does not take long to grow dim.
As men become more alike, the dogma of the equality of minds insinuates itself little by little in their beliefs, and it becomes more difficult for an innovator, whoever he may be, to gain and to exercise a great power over the mind of a people. So in such societies, sudden intellectual revolutions are rare; for if you cast your eyes over the history of the world, you see that it is much less the strength of an argument than the authority of a name that has produced the great and rapid mutations of human opinions.
Note, moreover, that since the men who live in democratic societiest are not attached by any bond to each other, each one of them must be persuaded. While in aristocratic societies it is enough to be able to act on the mind of a few; all the others follow. If Luther had lived in a century of equality, and if he had not had lords and princes as an audience, he would perhaps have had more difficulty changing the face of Europe.
It is not that the men of democracies are naturally very convinced of the certitude of their opinions and very firm in their beliefs; they often have doubts that no one, in their view, can resolve. It sometimes happens in those times that the human mind would willingly change position; but, since nothing either pushes it strongly or directs it, it oscillates in place and does not move.1
When the confidence of a democratic people has been won, it is still a great matter to gain its attention. It is very difficult to make the men who live in democracies listen, when you are not talking to them about themselves.u They do not listen to the things that you say to them, because they are always very preoccupied with the things that they are doing.
There are, in fact, few idle men among democratic nations. Life there passes amid movement and noise, and men there are so occupied with acting that little time remains to them for thinking. What I want to note above all is that not only are they occupied, but they are passionate about their occupations. They are perpetually in action, and each one of their actions absorbs their soul; the heat that they bring to their affairs prevents them from catching fire about ideas.
I think that it is very difficult to excite the enthusiasm of a democratic people for any theory whatsoever that does not have a visible, direct and immediate connection to the daily conduct of life. So such a people does not easily abandon its ancient beliefs. For it is enthusiasm that hurls the human mind out of beaten paths and that creates great intellectual revolutions like great political revolutions.
Thus democratic peoples have neither the leisure nor the taste to go in search of new opinions. Even when they come to doubt those they possess, they nevertheless maintain them because it would require too much time and investigation for them to change their opinions; they keep them, not as certain, but as established.
There are still other and more powerful reasons that are opposed to a great change taking place easily in the doctrines of a democratic people. I have already pointed it out at the beginning of this book.
If, within such a people, individual influences are weak and almost nonexistent, the power exercised by the mass on the mind of each individual is very great. I have given the reasons for it elsewhere. What I want to say at this moment is that you would be wrong to believe that this depended solely on the form of government, and that the majority there had to lose its intellectual dominion with its political power.
In aristocracies men often have a greatness and a strength that is their own. When they find themselves in contradiction with the greatest number of their fellows, they withdraw within themselves, sustain and console themselves apart. It is not the same among democratic peoples. Among them, public favor seems as necessary as the air that you breathe, and to be in disagreement with the mass is, so to speak, not to live. The mass does not need to use laws to bend those who do not think as it does. It is enough to disapprove of them. The sentiment of their isolation and of their powerlessness overwhelms them immediately and reduces them to despair.
Every time that conditions are equal, general opinion presses with an immense weight on the mind of each individual; opinion envelops, directs and oppresses it; that is due to the very constitution of the society much more than to its political laws. As all men resemble each other more, each one feels more and more weak in the face of all. Not finding anything that raises him very far above them and that distinguishes him from them, he mistrusts himself as soon as they fight him; not only does he doubt his strength, but he also comes to doubt his right, and he is very close to acknowledging that he is wrong, when the greatest number assert it. The majority does not need to constrain him; it convinces him.v
So in whatever way you organize the powers of a democratic society and balance them, it will always be very difficult to believe in what the mass rejects and to profess what it condemns.
This marvelously favors the stability of beliefs.
When an opinion has taken root among a democratic people and has become established in the mind of the greatest number, it then subsists by itself and perpetuates itself without effort, because no one attacks it. Those who had at first rejected it as false end by receiving it as general, and those who continue to combat it at the bottom of their hearts reveal nothing; they are very careful not to become engaged in a dangerous and useless struggle.
It is true that, when the majority of a democratic people changes opinion, it can at will bring about strange and sudden revolutions in the intellectual world; but it is very difficult for its opinion to change, and almost as difficult to notice that it has changed.
It sometimes happens that time, events or the individual and solitary effort of minds, end by shaking or by destroying a belief little by little without anything being outwardly visible. It is not fought openly. Men do not gather together to make war on it. Its partisans leave it quietly one by one; but each day a few abandon it, until finally it is shared only by a small number.
In this state, it still reigns.
Since its enemies continue to be silent, or communicate their thoughts only surreptitiously, they themselves are for a long time unable to be sure that a great revolution has taken place, and in doubt they remain immobile. They observe and they are silent. [<They still tremble before the power that no longer exists and yield in a cowardly way to an imaginary authority.>] The majority no longer believes; but it still has the appearance of believing, and this empty phantom of public opinion is enough to chill innovators and to keep them in silence and respect.
[≠That is seen in all centuries but particularly in democratic centuries.
Take liberty of the press away from a democratic nation and the human mind falls asleep.≠]
We live in a period that has seen the most rapid changes take place in the mind of men. It could happen, however, that soon the principal human opinions will be more stable than they have been in the preceding centuries of our history; this time has not come, but perhaps it is approaching.
As I examine more closely the natural needs and instincts of democratic peoples, I am persuaded that, if equality is ever established in a general and permanent way in the world, great intellectual and political revolutions will become very difficult and rarer than we suppose.w
Because the men of democracies appear always excited, uncertain, breathless, ready to change will and place, [<thoughts, careers]> you imagine that they are suddenly going to abolish their laws, to adopt new beliefs and to take up new mores. You do not consider that, if equality leads men to change, it suggests to them interests and tastes that need stability in order to be satisfied; it pushes them and, at the same time, stops them; it spurs them on and ties them to the earth; it inflames their desires and limits their strength.
This is what is not revealed at first. The passions that push citizens away from each other in a democracy appear by themselves. But you do not notice at first glance the hidden force that holds them back and gathers them together.
Will I dare to say it amid the ruins that surround me? What I dread most for the generations to come is not revolutions.x
If citizens continue to enclose themselves more and more narrowly within the circle of small domestic interests and to be agitated there without respite, you can fear that they will end by becoming as if impervious to these great and powerful public emotions that disturb peoples, but which develop and renew them. When I see property become so mobile, and the love of property so anxious and so ardent, I cannot prevent myself from fearing that men will reach the point of regarding every new theory as a danger, every innovation as an unfortunate trouble, every social progress as a first step toward a revolution, and that they will refuse entirely to move for fear that they would be carried away. I tremble, I confess, that they will finally allow themselves to be possessed so well by a cowardly love of present enjoyments, that the interest in their own future and that of their descendants will disappear, and that they will prefer to follow feebly the course of their destiny, than to make, if needed, a sudden and energetic effort to redress it.
You believe that the new societies are going to change face every day, and as for me, I fear that they will end by being too invariably fixed in the same institutions, the same prejudices, the same mores; so that humanity comes to a stop and becomes limited; that the mind eternally turns back on itself without producing new ideas; that man becomes exhausted in small solitary and sterile movements, and that, even while constantly moving, humanity no longer advances.
[At the end of the manuscript of this chapter:
This piece interrupted the natural course of ideas. Put it in a note.y
<It is not only the results of revolutions that frighten democratic peoples. The extreme violence of revolutionary methods is repugnant to them.>[*]
I showed how equality of conditions, by making men alike, interested them mutually in their miseries and made their mores milder.
These habits of private life are found again in public life and prevent political passions [v: hatreds] from being too cruel and too implacable.
Here you must not confuse revolutions that are made to establish equality with those that take place after equality is established, and you must be very careful about applying to the second the character of the first.
Revolutions that are made to establish equality are almost always cruel because the struggle takes place between men who are already equal enough to be able to make war on each other and who are dissimilar enough to strike each other without pity.z
This harshness of sentiments no longer exists from the moment when citizens have become equal and alike. Among a democratic people the general and permanent mildness of mores imposes a certain restraint on the most intense political hatreds. Men willingly allow a revolution to go as far as injustice, but not as far as cruelty. The confiscation of property is repugnant to them, the sight of human blood is offensive to them; they allow you to oppress, but they do not want you to kill.
This softening of political passions is seen clearly in the United States. America is, I believe, the only country in the world where for the last fifty years not a single man has been condemned to death for a political offense. There have, nonetheless, been a few great political crimes; there has been no scaffold. It is true that several times in the United States and above all in more recent times, you have seen the population give itself to horrible excesses against Blacks and concerning slavery. But even that proves what I am asserting. The political passions of the Americans become barbaric only when an aristocratic institution is found (this is good but has already been said previously).]
[a. ] “This chapter would take a very long time to analyze; since I lack time, I leave it.” (YTC, CVf, p. 49).
On 15 May 1838 Tocqueville read this chapter to Corcelle and Ampère. The latter, noticing the influence of Rousseau and the tone of the Great Century, could not prevent himself from noting his sadness at seeing the turn that Tocqueville’s thought takes here (Correspondance avec Ampère, OC, XI, pp. xvi-xvii).
The theory of revolutions has had little commentary to this day. See Melvin Richter, “Tocqueville’s Contribution to the Theory of Revolution,” in C. Friedrich, ed., Revolution (New York: Atherton, 1966), pp. 75-121; and Irving Zeitlin, Liberty, Equality and Revolution in Alexis de Tocqueville (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971).
[b. ] On the jacket of the manuscript:
of revolutionary passions among democratic peoples./
≠why the americans seem so agitated and are so immobile./
why the americans make so many innovations and so few revolutions./≠
Take care while going over this chapter to point out better that I am speaking about a final and remote state and not about the times of transition in which we are still. That is necessary in order not to appear paradoxical./
Baugy, end of March 1838.
At the end of the chapter in the manuscript:
Note to leave at the head of the chapter. The spirit of the chapter must absolutely comply with it./
I can say very well, without putting myself in contradiction with myself, that equality does not lead men to great and sudden revolutions.
But I cannot say, without giving the lie to a thousand passages of this book and of the one that precedes it, that the natural tendency of equality is to make menimmobile.
Nor is that true.
Equality leads man to continual small changes and pushes him away from great revolutions; there is the truth.
What is true as well is that a multitude of these small movements that are taken for progress are not.
Man goes back and forth in place.
All that I can add is that there is such a political state that, combining with equality and profiting from this fear of revolutions natural to democratic peoples, would be able to make them entirely stationary./
In democratic societies, revolutions will be less frequent, less violent and less suddenthan you believe.
Perhaps it can even happen that society there becomes stationary.
There is the clear idea that must emerge from the chapter. More would be too much; less, too little.
[c. ] I must be very careful in all of this chapter because everything I say about the difficulty of revolutions depends prodigiously on the nature of political institutions. That will leap to the attention of the reader and he must not believe that he has discovered what I have not seen.
It is incontestable that autocracy, combining itself with equality of conditions, will make the most steady and the most somnolent of governments, but I do not know if you can say as much about equality combining with political liberty. I believe it nonetheless, everything considered and once permanent and peaceful equality has been established, but perhaps it will be necessary to make the distinction (Rubish, 2).
[d. ] The manuscript includes in this place the reference to note a. See note z for p. 1152.
[e. ] “There is no country in which I saw as much horror for the theory of agrarian law than in the United States” (Rubish, 2).
[f. ] On a loose sheet at the end of the manuscript of the chapter:
I wonder how, when citizens differ in opinion on so many points as they do among most democratic peoples, it happens nonetheless that a certain material order is established easily enough among them, and I explain it to myself.
In proportion as conditions become equal, the material order becomes a positive and visible interest for more individuals at the same time. Since everyone has something to lose and since no one has much to gain from great changes, it is tacitly agreed not to change beyond a certain measure. This is how the division of property moderates the spirit of change to which it gave birth. On the one hand, it pushes men toward innovations of all types; on the other, it holds them within the limits of certain innovations.
In democracies the natural taste of citizens perhaps leads them to disturb the State, but concern for their interest prevents them from doing so. These democraticsocieties are always agitated, rarely overturned. In aristocracies, on the contrary, where the opinions of men are naturally more similar and conditions as well as interests more different, a small event can lead to confusion in everything.
Perhaps here what I said about personal property.
[g. ] The manuscript says: “will be always.”
[h. ] “I said elsewhere that democracy pushed men toward commerce and industry and tended to augment personal wealth.
“Commercial habits in return are very favorable to the maintenance of democracy. Habit of repressing all too violent passions. Moderation. No anger. Compromises. Complicated and compromising interests in times of revolution.
“As for the effects of property in land, see note (m.n.o.)” (Rubish, 2).
Personal wealth (m.n.o.)./
How democracy tends to augment personal wealth. How it gives men a distaste for slow industries such as the cultivation of the land and pushes them toward commerce.
Political consequences of this. Idea of Damais: the man rich in capital in land risks in revolutions only his income; the man rich in personal capital risks, on the contrary, his entire existence. The one is much [more (ed.)] hostile to every appearance of trouble than the other. Many other consequences to draw from that. To look closely at this (YTC, CVa, p. 52).
[j. ] The Americans constantly change their opinions in detail, but they are more invincibly attached to certain opinions than any other people on earth. This [is (ed.)] a singularity that is very striking at first view and that can only be understood by thinking about the difficulty that men have in acting upon each other in democracies and in establishing entirely new beliefs in the minds of a great number of men.
[On the back] Great revolutions in ideas, very rare events under democracies.
Great revolutions in facts, something rarer still (Rubish, 2).
[k. ] The manuscript says: “In democratic centuries . . .”
[m. ] In an aristocratic country two or three powerful individuals join together and make a revolution. Among a democratic people millions of independent men must agree and associate in order to attain the same goal, which is that much more difficult since among these peoples the State is naturally more skilled and stronger and individuals more powerless and weaker than anywhere else.
Thus equality not only removes from men the taste for revolutions, to a certain point it takes the power away from them (Rubish, 2).
A note at the end of the manuscript explains:
There are two remarks ofÉdouard that I must make use of.
1. In political revolutions: in aristocracies it is the majority that has an interest in revolutions. In democracies, the minority. That is implied several times. Say it clearly.
2. In intellectual revolutions. All men, having a certain smattering of everything, imagine that they have nothing new to learn or to learn from anyone.
[n. ] To the side of a first version in the rough drafts:
“Perhaps here Athens and Florence./
“In this matter I would very much like people to stop citing to us, in relation to everything, the example of the democratic republics of Greece and Italy . . .” (Rubish, 2).
[o. ] “In metaphysics and in morals and in religion, authority seems to me more necessary and less offensive than in politics, in science and in the arts./
“If equality of con.-.-t.-ons [conditions? (ed.)] combined with autocracy, I think that the most immobile state of things that we have seen until now in our Europe would result” (Rubish, 2).
[[*] ] Show in a note there, in two words, that these were not democracies. Idle men.
[p. ] In the margin:
Show how what was called democracy in antiquity and in the Middle Ages had no real analogy with what we see in our times./
In Florence no middle class. Capitalists. Workers. No agricultural class. Manufacturing and dense population.
The same cause makes them conceive false opinions and makes them obstinately keep their false opinions. They adopt such opinions because they do not have the leisure to examine them carefully and they keep them because they do not want to take the trouble and the time to review them.
[q. ] On a sheet at the end of the manuscript of the chapter:
I must take great care not to fall into the improbable and the paradoxical and to appear to be conjuring up ghosts.
Equality of conditions, giving individual reason a complete independence, must lead men toward intellectual anarchy and bring about continual revolutions inhuman opinions.
This is the first idea that presents itself, the common idea, the most likely idea at first view.
By examining things more closely, I discover that there are limits to this individual independence in democratic countries that I had not seen at first and which make me believe that beliefs must be more common and more stable than we judge at first glance.
That is already doing a great deal to lead the mind of the reader there.
But I want to aim still further and I am going even as far as imagining that the final result of democracy will be to make the human mind too immobile and human opinions too stable.
This idea is so extraordinary and so removed from the mind of the reader that I must make him see it only in the background and as an hypothesis.
Note in the rough drafts:
This idea that the democratic social state is anti-revolutionary so shocks acceptedideas that I must win over the mind of the reader little by little, and for that I must begin by saying that this social state is less revolutionary than is supposed. I begin there and by an imperceptible curve I arrive at saying that there is room to fear that it is not revolutionary enough. True idea, but which would seem paradoxical at first view.
[To the side] Finish and do not begin with intellectual revolutions. The perfection of the logical order would require beginning there, since facts arise from ideas; but if I put my fears about the stationary state after social and political revolutions, I would be thought far-fetched and would not be understood. After intellectual revolutions that will be understood (Rubish, 2).
[r. ] “Perhaps distinguish the democratic social state from democratic political institutions, equality of conditions from democracy strictly speaking.
“The one leads to stability, the other to revolutions.
“[To the side] Equality of conditions with free institutions is still not a revolutionary constitution; combined with monarchy, it is the most naturally immobile of all states” (Rubish, 2).
[s. ] In the margin: “Because the opinions of men are naturally similar, is it a reason for those opinions not to undergo a revolution?”
[t. ] The manuscript says: “democratic centuries.”
[1. ]If I try to find out what state of society is most favorable to great intellectual revolutions, I find that it is found somewhere between the complete equality of all citizens and the absolute separation of classes.
Under the regime of castes, the generations succeed each other without men changing place; some expect nothing more, others hope for nothing better. Imagination falls asleep amid this silence and this universal immobility, and the very idea of movement no longer occurs to the human mind.
When classes have been abolished and conditions have become almost equal, all men move constantly, but each one of them is isolated, independent and weak. This last state differs prodigiously from the first; it is, however, analogous on one point. Great revolutions of the human mind are very rare there.
But between these two extremes of the history of peoples, an intermediary age is found, a glorious and troubled period, when conditions are not so fixed that intelligence is asleep, and when conditions are unequal enough that men exercise a very great power over each other’s mind, and that a few can modify the beliefs of all. That is when powerful reformers arise and when new ideas suddenly change the face of the world.
[u. ] In the manuscript: “. . . when you are not talking to them about what has a visible and direct connection to the daily conduct of life, they ordinarily appear very distant. Their minds constantly escape you.”
[v. ] In the margin: “<The majority does not need political power to make life unbearable to the one who contradicts it.>”
[w. ] “I understand by great revolutions changes that profoundly modify the social state, the political constitution, the mores, the opinions of a people” (Rubish, 2).
[x. ] “Will I dare to say it? What I dread most for the generations to come is not great revolutions, but apathy” (Rubish, 2).
[y. ] In the margin: “<Where to place this idea which is necessary, but which can only be introduced with difficulty into an argument without interrupting it?
“R: In a note.
“Democracy not only distances men from revolutions by their interests but also by their tastes.>” The indications in the manuscript show that this piece should have been placed immediately before “I am not unaware . . .”
[[*] ] Is that true in a general way? What is more favorable to revolutionary methods than this maxim that the individual is nothing, society everything? What social state better permits giving yourself to those methods and applying them than the one in which the individual is in fact so weak that you can crush him with impunity?
[z. ] In the margin:
<What makes democratic revolutions milder is that the interests that they engage are or seem less great. Men are always cruel when their passions are violently excited by a great interest. This could be of use to me as a transition.>
(a) The same reason that causes men to have less interest in making great revolutions in democratic centuries than in others makes revolutions there milder and less complete. For what contributes most to inflame passions and to push them toward violence is the greatness of the goal that they pursue.
There is still another reason. I showed . . . [interrupted text (ed.)]”