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By Jon Elster

The e-book proposes a brand new interpretation of Alexis de Tocqueville that perspectives him before everything as a social scientist instead of as a political theorist. Drawing on his past paintings at the rationalization of social habit, Elster argues that Tocqueville's major declare to our cognizance at the present time rests at the huge variety of exportable causal mechanisms to be present in his paintings, lots of that are nonetheless priceless of additional exploration. Elster proposes a singular analyzing of Democracy in the US within which the foremost explanatory variable is the quick fiscal and political turnover instead of equality of wealth at any given time limit. He additionally bargains a interpreting of The Ancien Régime and the Revolution as grounded within the mental family one of the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, and the the Aristocracy. always going past exegetical statement, he argues that Tocqueville is eminently worthy studying this present day for his important and methodological insights.

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By contrast, being governed by short-term interest can be a permanent feature of an individual: today I care only about today and tomorrow, tomorrow I will care only about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. For a subtle discussion of these issues, see White ( 1987), pp. 254-5 5 . 2 Unlike some o f the other founders o f sociology, Tocqueville does not explain religion by the social benefits it provides. His explanations rely throughout on the psychological benefits religion provides for the individual, the social benefits being non-explanatory.

Instead of blindly yielding to the ardor of his first desires, he has learned the art of combating them and has become accustomed to easily sacrificing the pleasure of the moment to the permanent interests of his entire life" (DA, p. 615). In several passages that I cited in Chapter I , Tocqueville asserts that democracies in general discourage long-term thinking. In another passage he refers to "the secret force by which equality causes the passion for material pleasures and the exclusive love of the present to predominate in the human heart" (DA, p.

When he uses one of the French terms for the latter expression ("interet passager" or "interet du moment"), it is most plausibly understood in the sense of short-lived interests. Although these may be little more than whims, they can also arise out of the passions, a key feature of which is precisely that they tend to induce temporary preference change (see below). " By contrast, being governed by short-term interest can be a permanent feature of an individual: today I care only about today and tomorrow, tomorrow I will care only about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

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