Tocqueville’s View of Political Associations

In democratic America, Tocqueville usually seeks to develop and maintain political freedom in conditions of equality. Throughout his work, Tocqueville usually emphasizes the relationship between the political association and the development of political freedom. Tocqueville observes that political associations are usually in defense of people against the despotic actions of the majority and also against the encroachment of royal power. In a country, as a citizen becomes individually weaker and consequently more incapable in isolation of preserving their freedom, then they will not be able to learn the art of uniting with those like him to defend them and ensure equality (Patrick, 2020). In this regard, associations are only formed in a civil life with an objective that is not political. The political associations that exist in the US form part of the details in the middle of an immense image that represents the sum associations available. Americans of all ages and conditions have minds that unite, not only for commercial and industrial purposes and associations in which everyone takes part, but also engage in religious, moral, and grave issues affecting society. Therefore, Americans use associations to engage in their daily activities, including political engagements.


Relationship between association and political freedom according to Tocqueville

First, Tocqueville states that ‘In democratic countries, knowledge on how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge and on its progress depends all the others’. In this statement, the same social state that renders associations to be a necessity in a democracy also makes people find it difficult to associate politically. According to Tocqueville, when several members of an aristocratic society associate with each other, then they easily succeed in doing what they ought to do since each of them brings their understanding of society to the association. In this regard, the fewer the association members, the greater the force to achieve their target goal as they can easily establish fixed rules. However, in political cycles, greater associations are inked to greater political force where the majority win in a democratic society. According to Hartman (2019), in democratic associations, people must associate in large numbers for them to have more power. There are many contemporaries in the American bureaucracy where such does not apply. They tend to judge as citizens become weak and incapable. The government is rendered more skillful and active in executing what the individuals cannot do, even in associations.

Secondly, Tocqueville states that ‘when people have a political life, the idea of associations and eagerness to form them are part of everybody’s everyday life. Whatever natural distaste men have for working in common. They are always ready to do so for the sake of the party. In other words, a government could take the place of the greatest American association within a union where several states have already attempted it. Further, the political power in a state could suffice in an innumerable multitude of smaller undertakings that the American citizens execute daily with the aid of the association called the government (Gannett Jr, 2022). In this regard, it is easy to foresee the time when a man by themselves would be alone and less in a state to be able to produce things that are most common and necessary in life. The task of social power will constantly increase with its efforts becoming better every day, either in commercial or political associations. The more asocial power exists in associations, the more particular people lose the idea of associating with each other, and hence the government has to come to their aid. Therefore, with public administration, all the social and economic factors would be under control since the citizens are more isolated as a consequence of extreme political divisions.

Thirdly, Tocqueville observes that ‘so one may think of political associations as a great free school to which all citizens come to be taught the general theory of association.’ In this regard, the citizens of the US are usually taught from infancy to always rely upon their own exertions as a way of restating the difficulties in life. In other words, the citizens usually look at social authority with mistrust and anxiety and only claim its assistance as their last resort. The US is regarded as a country where its citizens enjoy unlimited freedom of association for political purposes and is also a country where the continual exercise of the right of association has been introduced into civil life, which has seen all the advantages of civilization conferred and procured by all means (Patrick, 2020). In all nations where a political association has been prohibited, civil associations are not visible, and it is difficult that as a result of an event such as an accident, then it is associated with the smaller groupings. The greater the multiplicity of small affairs, the more people acquire facilitation in prosecuting greater understandings. Therefore, civil associations help facilitate political associations, but on the other hand, political associations can singly strengthen and improve associations for civil purposes.

free essay typer



Further, in civil life, every man can be happy to provide for their own needs, but in politics, men fancy greater associations and networks. Therefore, when people know public life, the nation of association and the wish of coalesce presents themselves every day to the minds of the whole community, whether natural repugnance may restrain men from acting in concert. In this case, the political life usually survives where there is the association and imparts the desire of a union that teaches how to combine the numbers to their advantage. According to Atanassow (2020), politics usually give rise to many associations, which is not the case in civil life and cannot draw such huge followings across the board. Also, in politics, opportunities present themselves every day through associations where certain individuals can benefit economically, and hence, political parties remain the greatest associations where the value of association is displayed. Therefore, powerless citizens do not anticipate the strength that they may acquire by uniting together, and this must be shown to them to make them understand. In this regard, it is often easier to collect and gather many people for public purposes than a few people who do not see interest in combining their efforts. In politics, men combine for greater undertakings, and they make use of the principle of association to make important decisions and help each other.

Overall, people can embark on a few civil partnerships without necessarily risking a portion of their possessions, and this is the case with all the trading companies. Based on arguments by Tocqueville, education helps people defend their independence and the right of association in the age of democracy. When all people are alike, it is easier to establish an all-powerful government, which means that the association will need a great deal of knowledge, intelligence, and skills to organize and maintain powers and create an independent citizen. Democracy in the US remains the single most important stamen about the American society and maybe the most democratic society. However, its democracy and association are not without criticism as the leading figures in American politics tended to benefit individually from the democracy and association. Therefore, when men are little versed in the art of association and lack knowledge about the principle rules, they become afraid and weak in society. In this case, the people will prefer driving themselves of a powerful instrument of success to run the risks that attend its use. The people will tend to be reluctant to join political associations, which appear to be a danger to the social and economic wellbeing. Therefore, political associations may be considered a large free school where all the community members learn the general principle of association, although not all political associations directly contribute to the progress of civil associations.


Patrick, J. C. M. (2020). Dana Villa,” Teachers of the People: Political Education in Rousseau, Hegel, Tocqueville, and Mill.”. Philosophy in Review40(4), 170-172.

Hartman, M. H. (2019). Tocqueville’s Centralization Well-Understood. The Tocqueville Review40(1), 163-183.

Gannett Jr, R. T. (2022). 5 Tocqueville and the Political Left in America. The Cambridge Companion to Democracy in America, 157.

Atanassow, E. (2020). Illiberal Democracy? A Tocquevillean Perspective. In The Emergence of Illiberalism (pp. 58-70). Routledge.