Why is the view on "Populism" of America by Alexis De Tocqueville, important? 

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thetall | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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The view on populism by Alexis De Tocqueville is important because it formed the foundation of a democratic state. Tocqueville established that for a state to be successful and be considered democratic it should place emphasis on five values which are liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez faire. Populism refers to the leadership institution’s appeal to the masses, especially the ordinary people.

In America, farmers who were the majority in certain areas had to rally together in order for their issues to be addressed at both the local and national levels. The farmers’ agitation for their voice to be heard is a good example of the power of Populism. These groups sought to access the nation’s wealth equally as compared to the elite who were seen to possess political power and control. Populists supported government intervention and control over national interests to restrict meddling by the elite. The ordinary citizens’ support of government in the United States has seen the country develop one of the most progressive and democratic political system in the world.

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skipperb | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Many scholars contend that Alexis de Tocqueville's study of the American Democratic system has more relevancy to modern times.

Mr. de Tocqueville observed the decline of the monarchy and aristocracy and the rise of democracies though he noted that the rise of democracy varied between various countries.

Although de Tocqueville praised America's emphasis on equality and participation in the political process, he felt that an overemphasis on materialism and individuality would weaken democracy and the ability to consider the common good.

Other scholars contend that Mr. de Tocqueville favored a mixed government that constrained the democratic process while bolstering individual rights and the rights of minorities.

Some scholars believe that the US Constitution's emphasis on the formation of two houses and the election process preserved a form of aristocracy to counter the effects of majority rule or populism. de Tocqueville's concerns regarding America’s individualistic tendencies and the loss of civic discourse may concern modern political scientists and some in the general public.


In Search of Tocqueville's Democracy


Tocqueville's Vision of Hhistory - Yale University Press


A Tocqueville for our time


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