Extreme Comparisons: From Democracy in American to the Colonization of Algeria

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Andreas HESS, University College Dublin, Ireland
Discussing Tocqueville' work and his lasting contributions, particularly in relation to comparisons, is impossible without some
(1) It is necessary to widen the horizon and that means first and foremost not to see Tocqueville in total isolation and as a solitary
figure. Due attention and respect needs to be paid to the work ofTocqueville's friend, travel companion and co-writer Gustave de
Beaumont, particularly his analysis of Ireland;
(2) It is equally important to give credit to Francois Furet's remark that Tocqueville's thought (and by implication Beaumont's) had an
existential dimension: how to maintain liberty in the light of new, and tendentially universal, democratic and egalitarian aspirations
and demands. This tension was the driving point in all their comparisons, including that between the US, France and Algeria and the UK and
Ireland (and, to a lesser extent, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the Caribbean and India).
(3) Finally, it is important to bear in mind what comparison could mean in terms of both hopes and realistic expectations and in
relation to the spawning of democratic ideas and the birth pangs of modern democracy.
In my paper I will focus on one extreme comparison to illustrate my case - that between the US (and the hope it generated) and that of
Algeria (including the initial hope and the disappointment which followed later). While the focus will clearly be on the US and Algeria
I will also attempt to bring other dimensions to bear on Tocqueville and Beaumont's analysis (their abolitionism, their take on political
economy, the social question, etc).