Joseph Sobran:The National Review Years

Organizers: Paul van Geert, David Witherington, & Jan Boom

Regime Change Begins At Home:Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian

Social circumstances had unquestionably changed, but for most Liberals the changes had failed to diminish the practical advantages of the ballot as a means for moderating the influences of wealth and power. Mill and his wife thus fell singularly out of step with the main army of reformers, who persistently advocated this change until its final triumph under Gladstone in 1872. Competent studies of the electoral system in this period seem to support the practical utility of the ballot.

Anything Called a Program is Unconstitutional:Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian

Single Issues:Essays on the Crucial Social Issues

Soon, however, the political power of the clergy was founded, and began to extend itself: the clergy opened its ranks to all classes, to the poor and the rich, the villein and the lord; equality penetrated into the government through the church, and the being who as a serf must have vegetated in perpetual bondage, took his place as a priest in the midst of nobles, and not unfrequently above the heads of kings.

Let us recollect the situation of France seven hundred years ago, when the territory was divided amongst a small number of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the inhabitants: the right of governing descended with the family inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by which man could act on man; and landed property was the sole source of power.


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That part of which was first published, professes to treat of the political effects of Democracy: the second is devoted to its influence on society in the widest sense; on the relations of private life, on intellect, morals, and the habits and modes of feeling which constitute national character. The last is both a newer and a more difficult subject of inquiry than the first; there are fewer who are competent, or who will even think themselves competent, to judge M. de Tocqueville’s conclusions. But, we believe, no one, in the least entitled to an opinion, will refuse to him the praise of having probed the subject to a depth which had never before been sounded; of having carried forward the controversy into a wider and a loftier region of thought; and pointed out many questions essential to the subject which had not been before attended to: questions which he may or may not have solved, but of which, in any case, he has greatly facilitated the solution.

This depersonalization is depicted by the sociologist Robert E.

M. de Tocqueville has endeavoured to ascertain and discriminate the various properties and tendencies of Democracy, the separate relations in which it stands towards the different interests of society, and the different moral and social requisites of human nature. In the investigation he has and much which will be better done by those who come after him, and build upon his foundations. But he has earned the double honour of being the first to make the attempt, and of having done more towards the success of it than probably will ever again be done by any one individual. His method is, as that of a philosopher on such a subject must be—a combination of deduction with induction: his evidences are, laws of human nature, on the one hand; the example of America, and France, and other modern nations, so far as applicable, on the other. His conclusions never rest on either species of evidence alone, whatever he classes as an effect of Democracy, he has both ascertained to exist in those countries in which the state of society is democratic, and has also succeeded in connecting with Democracy by deductions that such would naturally be its influences upon beings constituted as mankind are, and placed in a world such as we know ours to be. If this be not the true Baconian and Newtonian method applied to society and government; if any better, or even any other be possible, M. de Tocqueville would be the first to say, if not, he is entitled to say to political theorists, whether calling themselves philosophers or practical men,

The result is that in the modern world...

The importance of M. de Tocqueville’s speculations is not to be estimated by the opinions which he has adopted, be these true or false. The value of his work is less in the conclusions, than in the mode of arriving at them. He has applied to the greatest question in the art and science of government, those principles and methods of philosophizing to which mankind are indebted for all the advances made by modern times in the other branches of the study of nature. It is not risking too much to affirm of these volumes, that they contain the first analytical inquiry into the . For the first time, that phenomenon is treated of as something which, being a reality in nature, and no mere mathematical or metaphysical abstraction, manifests itself by innumerable properties, not by some one only; and must be looked at in many aspects before it can be made the subject even of that modest and conjectural judgment, which is alone attainable respecting a fact at once so great and so new. Its consequences are by no means to be comprehended in one single description, nor in one summary verdict of approval or condemnation. So complicated and endless are their ramifications, that he who sees furthest into them will longest hesitate before finally pronouncing whether the good or the evil of its influence, on the whole, preponderates.