Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Breif Reflection on 'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville

It's interesting how classes from different departments have commonality. Last semester for a class on American Political Thought, de Tocqueville was a required text. When selections of his 1835/1840 work Democracy in America showed up as a reading and reflection assignment for a Media Law and Ethics class this semester, a visceral link was made - so much so that it inspired the undertaking of a massive credit course, an independent study course in the political science department, next semester. Specifically in the area of political communication, mass media, and voter behavior.  A bit social science-ie, but it should be enlightening, and a good way to round out the final semester (still, it's fun to play with the idea of staying on to get a minor in political science, just for shits and giggles). It's self-directed and one-on-one. A new experience to be sure.

It's surprising how many academic topics overlap, politics and (mass) communication particularly.

While in the thick of research and writing, it seemed prudent not to neglect this blog. Despite the expanse of time between entries, you, dear readers, are never far from thought; nor is the therapeutic release that's missing from writing here.

Anyway, the following is a (very) brief reflection on de Tocqueville's text. It got a "Well Done" by the professor, which is an achievement, because she is difficult to get approval from.

Reflection on 'Democracy in America' by Alexis de Tocqueville

In the chapters of Democracy in America provided, de Tocqueville discusses the factors that make America’s political and legal system unique compared to that of its foreign counterparts. At times in these selected chapters he seems to harbor idealistic notions of the potential for America’s new political and judicial system in the early 19th century.
De Toqueville attributes a decentralized government, in which the people, not an elite group or small collective, have more sway over the political and judicial operations of the country and are key to the order of the land. He states that this makes for a “less [...] regulated, less enlightened” (83) society and this broad reach, though boisterous, is perhaps less efficient. De Tocqueville positively credits the Constitution’s relatively rigid power, which is allowed by the people, and the wielding of its power by the judicial system, for granting the courts “immense political power” (92) over American society. 
In reflecting on the various aspects de Tocquevill observed in the American political and judicial environment, what may have seemed a nearly ideal situation in his eyes at the time, would perhaps seem altogether different in the modern age. As the country has grown since his time, decentralization may no longer seem so beneficial, as integral processes of politics and law have become burdensome due to it. The systems involved in effective law and politics have become weighed down in bureaucracy, ineffectual to progress. These issues can be attributed to a problem created by an extensive decentralized government spread out over a vast terrain and impeded by special interests of the very men claimed to have been elected by the people. Additionally, a growing culture of Constitutional reverence has worked to hinder aspects of social advancement.

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