Aristocratic Notions vs. Democratic Nations

It must, in the first place, be acknowledged that the taste for ideal beauty, and the pleasure derived from the expression of it, are never so intense or so diffused among a democratic as among an aristocratic people. In aristocratic nations it sometimes happens that the body acts as it were spontaneously, while the higher faculties are bound and burdened by repose. Among these nations the people will often display poetic tastes, and their fancy sometimes ranges beyond and above what surrounds them.

But in democracies the love of physical gratification, the notion of bettering one’s condition, the excitement of competition, the charm of anticipated success, are so many spurs to urge men onward in the active professions they have embraced, without allowing them to deviate for an instant from the track. The main stress of the faculties is to this point. The imagination is not extinct, but its chief function is to devise what may be useful and to represent what is real. The principle of equality not only diverts men from the description of ideal beauty; it also diminishes the number of objects to be described.

Of Some Sources of Poetry Among Democratic Nations

Alexis De Tocqueville: Democracy in America, published 1835–1840

5 comments on “Aristocratic Notions vs. Democratic Nations

  1. “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”

    -Samuel Johnson, “Taxation No Tyranny”

    Like

  2. He thanks you, and says he could have done better.

    Like

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