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TocquevilleThe Aristocratic Sources of Liberty$
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Lucien Jaume

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152042

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152042.001.0001

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Attacking the French Tradition

Attacking the French Tradition

Popular Sovereignty Redefined in and Through Local Liberties

(p.21) 1 Attacking the French Tradition

Lucien Jaume

, Arthur Goldhammer
Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that traditionalists fail to realize the fact that for Tocqueville, the power of the people was above all a sociological and moral power, not an institutional one. Democracy in America offered an original conception of His Majesty the Majority, which was still called “the Public.” In Tocqueville's eyes, the various organs of decentralized government—the communes (dominated by great landowners) of which the monarchists dreamed, the associations of families in Lamennais, the “social authorities” exalted by Le Play and his followers—made sense only in this context. The Public was not a phantom conjured up by political dreams—a liberal illusion that in Le Play's view stemmed from “the so-called principles of 1789.” The Public was the new subject of history, or at any rate the quintessential totem of political action.

Keywords:   sociological power, moral power, public, political action, Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

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