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Political Engagement as Instrumental Good

Political Engagement as Instrumental Good

Tocqueville, Attention Deficit, and Energy

(p.83) Chapter 4 Political Engagement as Instrumental Good
Attention Deficit Democracy
Ben Berger
Princeton University Press

This chapter examines Alexis de Tocqueville's defense of political engagement as instrumental good. Tocqueville's insights on attention and energy and their importance for sustainable self-government comprise one of his more original—and overlooked—contributions to political theory. Tocqueville actually distinguishes between political and social engagement, explains why political attention and energy will probably founder in most liberal democracies, and proposes a number of avenues for resisting those tendencies. The chapter analyzes Tocqueville's views on political engagement and the obstacles it faces when citizens are free to invest their time and resources as they like. Drawing mostly from his book Democracy in America, the discussion focuses on his arguments regarding citizens' energies, individual and collective energy, the “doctrine of self-interest well understood,” political attention, township administration, and political and civil associations.

Keywords:   political engagement, Alexis de Tocqueville, instrumental good, attention, energy, democracy, self-interest, township administration, political associations, civil associations

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