restricted access Chapter 11.a Of the Particular Effects Produced by the Love of Material Enjoyments in Democratic Centuriesb
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935 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 1a Of the Particular Effects Produced by the Love of Material Enjoyments in Democratic Centuries b a. When an aristocracy gives itself to the passion for material enjoyments, it aims at extraordinary pleasures; it falls into a thousand excesses that shame human nature and disturb society. In democratic countries the taste for material enjoyments is a universal passion, constant, but contained. Everyone conceives it and gives himself to it constantly,but it leads no one to great excesses. Everyone seeks to satisfy the slightest needs easily and without cost rather than to obtain great pleasures. This type of passion for material enjoyments can be reconciled with order and to a certain point with religion and morality. It does not always debilitate souls, but it softens them and silently relaxes their springs of action (YTC, CVf, p. 30). b. Title in the rubish: of the different effects that the taste for material enjoyments produces in an aristocracy and in a democracy. At another place in the rubish: “that the taste for well-being and for material enjoyments in democracies is more tranquil, leads to less excess than in aristocracies and can be combined with a sort of spirit of order and morality. 2nd chapter. “Honest materialism” (Rubish, 1). In a letter addressed to an unidentified person, Tocqueville had expressed the same idea in this way: Author of all these revolutions, carried away himself by the movement that he brought about, the American of the United States ends by feeling pushed by an irresistible need for action; in Europe there are philosophers who preach human perfection ; for him, the possible has hardly any limit. To change is to improve; he has constantly before his eyes the image of indefinite perfection that throws deep within his heart an extraordinary restlessness and a great distaste for the present. Here, the enjoyments of the soul are not very important, the pleasures of imagination do not exist, but an immense door is open for achieving material happiness and each man rushes toward it. In order to reach it, you abandon parents, family, country; you try in the course of one life ten different roads to attain wealth. The same man has been priest, doctor, tradesman, farmer. I do not know if you live here more happily than elsewhere, but at least you feel 936 the love of material enjoyments You could believe, from whatprecedes,thattheloveof materialenjoyments must constantly lead the Americans towarddisorderinmorals,disturbfamilies and in the end compromise the fate of society itself. But this is not so; the passion for material enjoyments produces within democracies other effects than among aristocratic peoples. It sometimes happens that weariness with public affairs, the excess of wealth, the ruin of beliefs, the decadence of the State, little by little turn the heart of an aristocracy toward material enjoyments alone. At other times, the power [v. tyranny] of the prince or the weakness of the people, without robbing the nobles of their fortune, forces them to withdrawfrom power, and by closing the path to great undertakings to them, abandons them to the restlessness of their desires; they then fall heavily back onto themselves, and they seek in the enjoyments of the body to forget theirpast grandeur. When the members of an aristocratic body turn exclusively in this way toward material enjoyments, they usually gather at this point alone all the energy that the long habit of power gave them. To such men the pursuit of well-being is not enough; they require a sumptuous depravity and a dazzling corruption. They worshipthematerial magnificently and seem to vie with one another in their desire to excel in the art of making themselves into brutes. The more an aristocracy has been strong, glorious and free, the more it will appear depraved, and whatever the splendor of its virtues had been, I dare to predict it will always be surpassed by the brilliance of its vices.c The taste for material enjoyments does not lead democratic peoples to existence less; and you arrive at the great abyss without having had the time to notice the road that you followed. These men call themselves virtuous; I deny it. They are steady, that is all that I am able to say in their favor. They steal from the neighbor and respect his wife, which I can only explain to myself because they love money and do not have the timetomake love (Letter of 8 November 1831...