Is Democracy the Right Form of Government? Is Democracy Necessary?June 26, 2021
It is possible to see in the determinations made by Tocqueville that democracy is not a political system that purely reflects the essence of human existence. When the behavioral practices of democratic societies are analyzed, it is seen that the conspicuous deficiency of this system stems from the fact that the numerical majority is always strong. According to Tocqueville, democracy can be dragged into a tendency to dominate the minority over a certain numerical superiority.
Irresistible majority power; in reality; It is the power of a formed public opinion that enables its expression and formation. Tocqueville’s assumption is that democracy is a system based on the majority of the people. While talking about the existence of this situation, he also mentions that “the majority have the right to govern the society due to the superiority of knowledge” (1962: 62). For this reason, Tocqueville describes the domination of the majority over the minority as the greatest weakness of the democratic system. It is possible to understand from Tocqueville’s writings that this situation also causes a paradox that disrupts the social-individual balance. Tocqueville’s determination that the tyranny of the majority could threaten individual freedoms, especially in the form of public opinion, formed the basis of many democracy and freedom discourses, especially Mill (Callinicos, 2005: 112).
Tocqueville senses the future dangers of democracy, the separation of the individual from society: “People do not mix with each other like peas in a can. For Tocqueville, the danger threatening American Democracy is the despotism of the majority. For the individual who knows no God but himself, there is only one value: number. History begins and ends in itself. The dominance of numbers” (Meriç, 2006: 106). As a matter of fact, despotism caused by democracy by some intellectuals, also mentioned by Tocqueville, is expressed with the concept of “atomized society” (Callinicos, 2005: 111).
Tocqueville sees conflict between social sciences in society as necessary in order to prevent democratic despotism. In this respect, a comparison is made between Tocqueville and Marx. But whereas Marx took classes as units of conflict, Tocqueville took local communities and associations as units of conflict. It wants to “establish a balance between the forces of conflict and agreement…” within a democratic society. At the same time, he sees the idea of civil society as “an essential guarantee against the power of the majority” (1962: 47).
“The majority in America have extraordinary operational and just as much intellectual power, once formed at a point (on a subject); now there is not a single obstacle that can stop him from going… Tocqueville argues not that oppression is completely dominant in America, but that there are no legal safeguards against such oppression. The irresistible majority power at stake; in reality; It is the power of a formed public opinion that ensures its expression and formation (Erdinç, 1997: 389390).
Tocqueville thus drew attention to the very important danger that democracy, which is based on the principle of equality of all, contains within itself due to its egalitarian nature. Tocqueville, who thinks that democracy has the potential to produce a despotism of its own, calls this “soft despotism”. Tocqueville, who stated that the administration, which gained the democratic majority, acted as a great protector, taking on the responsibility of making everyone happy as long as it held the power, created a soft despotism, and stated that in such a democracy, people were not aware that the power was in the hands of the minority group.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook