Sunday, August 28, 2016

Perspicacity Regained: Democracy in America, Tocqueville

One of the most famous and most-cited instances of Tocqueville's farsightedness was which of the world's peoples would come ultimately to dominate the world, and to clash in the contest for dominion. Here is the passage:

There are, at the present time, two great nations in the world which seem to tend towards the same end, although they started from different points: I allude to the Russians and the Americans.
All other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits, and only to be charged with the maintenance of their power; but these are still in the act of growth; all the others are stopped, or continue to advance with extreme difficulty; these are proceeding with ease and with celerity along a path to which the human eye can assign no term. The American struggles against the natural obstacles which oppose him; the adversaries of the Russian are men; the former [i.e. the American] combats wilderness and savage life; the latter, [i.e. the Russian, confronts] civilization with all its weapons and its arts: the conquests of [the American] are therefore gained by the ploughshare; those of [the Russian] by the sword. (504)