The first time that I heard about Alexis de Tocqueville, I was in an eighth grade social studies class. The teacher was saying something like, “There was this guy, a French nobleman, who traveled around the United States in the 1800s, making observations. What he wrote was very interesting, because he was an outsider, looking at things from a different point of view.”
Soon after that, there were quotes in our social studies book from Alexis de Tocqueville, which I found to be boring and uninteresting. I will make up a quote right now, to simulate what these quotes were like: “…These people in America, whatever endeavors they are engaged in, whether farming, building, practicing a trade, or commerce, they realize their own rewards…” At the time, I thought, what an asshole, he is just stating the obvious everywhere he goes.
When I had a political science class in college, and they brought up Alexis de Tocqueville, I thought, “Oh no, I don’t want to hear this shit again.”
When I began writing my blog posts about Dickinson, North Dakota, I began to feel like I was Alexis de Tocqueville, stating the obvious and personally feeling that it was a profound observation: “There is a shortage of women in Dickinson, North Dakota, and a scarcity of attractive women. In other places, women are competitive about how they look, in order to attract men, but in Dickinson, there appears to be solidarity amongst the women, that they are all going to be overweight and unattractive, so that the men will not know the difference.”
Am I Alexis de Tocqueville reincarnated or something? I began to realize that what Alexis de Tocqueville was writing, might have seemed obvious, but if he had not called it out, it would have gone undocumented. What Alexis de Tocqueville was doing, was reporting exactly how things were, and also trying to explain why things were the way that they were. This is what I have been trying to do.
In briefly reading more about Alexis de Tocqueville prior to writing this blog post, I see now that he did have some very significant insight into the nature of people, individuals, society, and government. Now that I am older, I see all the subtle things that he was trying to detect in individuals and groups of individuals to determine what their thinking, beliefs, and motivations were.