Difference Between Tocqueville And Rousseau

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In a world where democracy is seen as a prevalent form of governance, where the majorities are supposed to be represented and have the ability to put forth their interests and ideas, it is hard to imagine how Tocqueville and Rousseau would react to our current state of affairs. However, their theories have helped to both shape the landscape of modern political thought or to provide an analysis for the past and present systems of government. The two authors address similar issues in terms of the role of the majority in a civil society, but the conclusions they draw differ. Tocqueville and Rousseau both argue for the existence of the sovereignty of the majority but Rousseau envisions a general will where the majority dominates over minorities,…show more content…
Rousseau’s theory of the Social Contract encompasses all individuals into one society to contribute to the general will. Therefore, even though the individuals might hold a different opinion than what is collectively decided, they are still a part of the sovereign, the collective that includes all people that enter into civil society and that as a whole expresses the general will of the people (Rousseau 165). The general will is thus made up of both the majorities and minorities existent in a society. Therefore, the most important function of the general will is to allow for the creation of laws that benefit the common interest. These laws must uphold the equality among citizens and individual freedom and owe their existence to the general will of the sovereign, but Rousseau acknowledges that sometimes the government is needed to enforce the laws. There is a difference in Rousseau’s argumentation between the will of all and the general will, as he says, “the latter regards only common interest, while the former has regard to private interests, and is merely a sum of particular wills” (Rousseau 172). He believes that the sovereign that creates the laws will not represent any private interests, since they are created by the general…show more content…
Rousseau believes that to know what the general will wants, the sovereign must have regular, periodic assemblies where individual citizens vote, not according to their own interests, but according to their conception of the general will at the moment. This is, in essence, the legislature that allows the opinion of the majority to be expressed, which translates into the general will. Tocqueville argues that the same process occurs in democratic countries, but interprets it as intrinsically flawed, by saying, “Of all political institutions, the legislature is the one that is most easily swayed by the will of the majority” (Tocqueville 98). It is here that Tocqueville elaborates on importance of the majority in government, and as the legislature is the body that creates the laws, and in essence determines the rules that citizens have to abide by, the majority rules the nation through representatives. The majority has, in Tocqueville’s opinion “equal control over the government as well as the governed” (Tocqueville 104). Therefore, both authors correlate the will of the majority to what is put into practice in a state, though in Rousseau’s case this is how he believes the government should be structured, while Tocqueville is simply

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