Consider the works of Aristotle, de Tocqueville, and Emerson, who all write to define an ambiguous term such as "democracy" or to define the role of government in people's lives. Use the concepts developed in the work of the three previously named authors to answer the following questions. How is democracy defined in America? What are the precepts or assumptions American democracy is built on, and how are they manifested (or not present) in today's American Society? Create a definition based on the example and cite the three primary sources listed here as necessary to help evidence your claims.

Democracy is defined in Emerson's works and even in those of de Tocqueville primarily as a spirit of equality rather than a political system. All three writers approve this spirit, while all are wary of the dangers posed by democracy as a means of government. Aristotle's conception of democracy as a political system is participatory rather than representative.

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The idea of democracy that prevailed when Aristotle was writing is very different from that of Tocqueville and Emerson in the nineteenth century. Most importantly, Aristotle is considering a direct, participatory democracy, only feasible in a relatively small city state. He sees democracy as rule by the poor—better than tyranny,...

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The idea of democracy that prevailed when Aristotle was writing is very different from that of Tocqueville and Emerson in the nineteenth century. Most importantly, Aristotle is considering a direct, participatory democracy, only feasible in a relatively small city state. He sees democracy as rule by the poor—better than tyranny, but also an extreme and a form of deviant constitution. In Politics IV.11, he describes the best form of rule in which there are many rulers as a "polity," or rule by the moderately wealthy middle classes.

Although Aristotle was writing about participatory systems, his idea of a polity was very close to the notion of democracy widely held in Europe during the nineteenth century, in which enfranchisement depended on a property qualification. Tocqueville was particularly concerned about American democracy degenerating into demagoguery, or the tyranny of the majority. He believed that democracy had succeeded in America largely due to habits of mind and historical accidents rather than because it was instantiated into the founding documents. Emerson also regards democracy as a way of thinking about the world rather than purely a political system.

When you consider democracy in America, therefore, a simple definition such as "a system of government in which eligible voters select representatives to govern on their behalf" will be of little use. Of course, this is not describing any aspect of democracy as Aristotle would have understood it, but it also fails to capture the essence of de Tocqueville and Emerson's thinking.

The idea that one person is as good as another and all opinions should have equal weight is much closer to their conception. This notion is based on Puritan egalitarianism, the view that everyone is equal in the sight of God—or, at least, that all American citizens have this equality. This was certainly an important way of looking at democracy in the nineteenth century. It is what we mean when we describe Mark Twain or Walt Whitman as having a "democratic" spirit. You will have you own views on whether such a spirit is prevalent today.

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